Doesn’t it sound amazing to skip over the hard stuff and move right into the positive, feel good stuff? We all desire that, in fact our brains are wired for it. But it’s a costly choice, as it will keep you repeating your unconscious choices over and over (and feeling less than ideal feelings, if not downright awful feelings).
So often we don’t want to sit with our negative, not consciously chosen experiences.
We would prefer to skip right to the intentional work: choosing what we want to believe, how we want to feel, and what we want to be doing. It’s sooo tempting, I know. BUT. The unconscious stuff is always there, and until we shine a light of awareness on it, we will keep doing the same things over and over. And frustrating the crap out of ourselves in the process.
Our unconscious beliefs are like the attic in a house. Filled with stuff, old stuff in fact, that we haven’t taken a good look at in a long time.
Choosing not to work on our unconscious thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and actions is like going up to the attic, turning the lights on, getting freaked out and overwhelmed, then turning the lights off and leaving. You try really hard not to think about what might be up there and choose to focus instead on what you can see.
Instead, you try everything you can think to feel better and to avoid your messy attic. You might replace your living room couch, redo the stairs that go up to the attic, paint your house a new color, even redo your kitchen. Now everything you can see is pristine and beautiful, but you know that your attic is still a cluttered, cobweb mess. Maybe there are even boxes filled to the ceiling with your off ‘stuff’ (aka beliefs, memories, behaviors and actions, self-doubt, cycles you can’t seem to break). Often, these are things that we feel tortured by. That we can’t seem to change no matter how hard we try.
So how do you start to change this messy attic you avoid?
- First, you become familiar with the process of just acknowledging that this attic exists and it’s not good or bad. There is no reason (or benefit) to feel shame, guilt, or remorse about what’s in the attic, how long you’ve had it, what you’ve done to avoid facing it, etc. You’re a human with a past and lots of familial and societal conditioning. Your attic is actually filled with all the ways that you’ve learned to survive, and maybe thrive in some areas of your life. They’ve gotten you to where you are. But those coping mechanisms and old beliefs are no longer serving you and they won’t take you where you want to go.
“What got you here won’t get you there.”Marshall Goldsmith
- Once you’re comfortable acknowledging that you have a messy attic, the next step is to go into the attic, turn the lights on, and pick one box to open up. You’re going to decide which ‘box’ (topic) you’re going to work with first. It might be:
- a life choice
- something you regret
- a habit you can’t seem to change
- a memory
- an old limiting belief
- a persistent feeling that isn’t serving you
- why you believe you’re unworthy
- a food binging cycle
- a belief that is holding you back from going for what you really want
- a money habit that isn’t serving you
Once you’ve determined the topic, you’re going to open the box and look at each item.
Here are some questions to consider gain awareness:
- How has this habit/action/belief benefitted me in my life?
- How has this habit/action/belief negatively impacted my life?
- What is the cost of continuing to believe or practice this?
- Do I believe what this old belief/habit/action is telling me?
- What do I believe about myself when I do this habit/action/belief?
- What else is true?
- How do I feel when I believe this?
- What is my result when I take this action?
IMPORTANT: don’t skip ^this^ step! This inquiry work is vital and what will allow you the awareness to choose differently going forward.
- Once you’ve explored your past of this habit/action/belief, you can ask yourself what you want to do/believe/act instead. Some questions to guide you in deciding:
- How do I want to show up instead?
- What if I already knew what to do?
- What if nothing has gone wrong?
- What advice would my future self give me?
- What do I want to make this past action mean?
- What do I want to believe instead?
- How do I want to show up instead?
- What do I want to believe about myself?
This step is about deciding if you like your reasons for doing or believing your past choices and choosing whether you want to keep them or replace them with something new.
Working through your unconscious beliefs is as easy as going up to the attic and sifting through one box at a time, it’s a process.
You don’t go up and clean out the whole attic at once (if you do, I bet you’d never go up there again). It’s a practice. Can you be patient and love the practice? While having full faith that you are creating exactly who you want to be, and showing up for yourself now, before you’re there yet?
Once the unpacking work is done, you can decide what you want to think, feel, and do to replace that old belief/action/habit. But not until you’ve done the unpacking first. It’s so much richer to do the excavation work first, I promise. The discovery process is what will free you up to choose for yourself who you want to be, how you want to show up, and what you want to believe.