Personal Development: Insecurity and Self-Doubt

We all lament the inconsistencies of everyday life. We are rude to the people we love, yet civil to people we know nothing about. We make the right choice and then over-ride it to our own disadvantage. What determines our desire for consistency in the first place? What are the barriers that keep us from being as consistent and as predictable as we’d like ourselves to be?

Our lives would be smoother and less problematic if we could answer these questions. We could stop saying, “I don’t know what got into me.” If we knew, we would not do it all over again next time. Some people consistently give up their seat on the subway for a pregnant woman or give change to the homeless. Others consistently do not. We didn’t have to weigh the merits of the case. We just go along with what is programmed deep down inside of us. For many, the answer lies in the rear view mirror, looking back at the beliefs we developed in the past. These beliefs keep us on a track, even if we don’t like the path we are on. In any given situation our beliefs formed from past experiences, kick in and draw parallels based on vague similarities.

In counseling, I find value in looking at the consistencies and inconsistencies in a client’s life. They could find them if only they knew where to look. For example, I can understand that a man may date or marry the same kind of woman because they are all consistent with his observations of a female role model growing up. He acquired certain beliefs about what a woman is and does. These beliefs shape his expectations of what his wants and needs are in a compatible partner for marriage. If a mother is critical and demanding, he will be attracted to women whom act in similar ways. His agenda is not a happy marriage. His agenda is based on a constellation of underlying beliefs that maintain and perpetuate the continuity of childhood patterns from the past into the present and future. And it all goes on below the level of conscious awareness.

His friends may say he is “consistently inconsistent,” or that he is “predictably unpredictable.” My approach is to reveal these negative consistencies to the individual. As an adult we have the power to make new choices, using our adult judgment to consciously replace these unhealthy beliefs from the past with healthy one in the present. This is extremely valuable since the same processes that determine our beliefs toward a partner, shape work, play, success, trust and many other aspects of our adult lifestyle. I define the word lifestyle as one’s way of moving through life. This includes the ways we cope with the tasks of love, work, and friendship. Our lifestyle is our way of solving problems of everyday life as they arise. However, only some of us have been adequately prepared to develop an adult lifestyle.

We learned well from competent, self-respecting role models. We acquired some healthy, constructive beliefs such as, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want them to do unto you.” This sort of belief facilitates the functional interactions of a civilized society. But we have learned many things from people and have been given conflicting information. Thus, we have our inconsistencies too.

Under the stress of a situation in the present, these old beliefs from our past come to the surface and predispose us to behave in ways that seem out of character. We have a temper tantrum. But the situation passes and we resume our prevailing lifestyle. Our everyday personality re-emerges and life goes on until the next bump in the road.

Our beliefs have dimensions. In addition to the healthy-unhealthy dimension, there is also the intensity dimension ranging from weak to powerful. When we say we have a strong impulse to hit someone that is a belief kicking in and trying to control our behavior. When we say we are fighting a strong temptation, we are talking about an intense belief that is predisposing us to behave in ways we know we should not behave.

Our beliefs do not exist in a vacuum. They are not chaotic. The conflict is between our emotional beliefs and our rational thought processes. The intensity of the belief is directly proportional to the intensity of the early recollection in which it is embedded. They are in the service of our self-doubt. If the beliefs are highly intense, they will overthrow the self-respecting part of our nature and bring about the self-destruction that the insecure part of us believes we deserve. So the pressure to succumb crushes the worthwhile part. It is a battle between two aspects of our personality. Our adult, civilized, mature thought processes are in direct opposition to the childish, immature beliefs from our personal development.

My approach to personal problem solving is to help clients identify the sources of their unhealthy beliefs, which arise from their thoughts, emotions and behaviors that give rise to the complaints they want to resolve. In my view, the issue is not the complaint. The real issue is the constellation of old beliefs that are creating the problem in the present. My task is to find out what these old beliefs are and where they came from. To do this, I ask: “When else have you felt this way?” or “What does this remind you of?” and in their answer a treasure chest of buried beliefs rises to the surface.

Once I see where these beliefs are coming from, half of the mystery of the unwanted behavior is solved. The rest of the solution consists in helping clients find out what they can choose to do instead of what they have been doing. We solve that part of the mystery by giving people small tasks to do in their everyday lives. This is called doing your homework. Each time they do their homework, they learn a little more about themselves. Each success gives rise to stronger, healthier beliefs that crowd out and replaces the negative ones. As a result, the person becomes more consistently consistent.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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