Deeply held beliefs. Icebergs.
Before we think about those icebergs in our own lives, how did you do on your homework? Are those ABC’s and DE’s more easily recognizable? Are you finding that you are stopping and thinking about – what evidence you are basing your thoughts on? – are there other possible explanations? – do you need to ask more questions to get more information? – do you need to clarify? I hope so! Give yourself a hug! Any efforts are to be rewarded! Even one ABCDE during the week is a step forward! Hooray for you! You are growing in your resiliency abilities! Can you feel your number line hopping to the right?
How about reading a Gospel story or 7? Did you notice qualities in Jesus Christ that hinted at His resiliency? I read a few. (I never ask of others what I myself am not willing to do.)
In the story of the leapers (Luke 7:11-19) I noticed He did not step back or cringe as the others likely did. He demonstrated good emotional regulation and impulse control. He also showed empathy in His treatment of them. He healed them! He is able, and He knew it. Self-efficacy. I lean toward realistic optimism being shown in His lack of “come back and thank me”, and yet when one did come back to praise God and thank Him, He accepted this, and pointed out only one came back to thank God. It does not appear to me that He was overly optimistic to begin with, and that He already knew this one would give thanks. I back this up with His lack of tantruming over the others not coming back. He just seems to point it out as a lesson – the Samaritan, not the Jews, came back to give thanks to God. This also indicates to me that He was able to accurately identify the causes of why and why not the lepers came back to thank Him. Causal analysis. He moved on and not only appears to have more deeply healed/saved the one leper, but moves on, reaching out to others later. This current situation did not discourage Him from continuing to reach out. This lesson serves as a reminder to me of my duty to increasingly take control over my emotions and impulses through discerning thought, to act upon my empathy in ways I am uniquely able, and to continue to reach out, in spite of how I feel about my last encounter. (That’s a hard one for me!)
Thank you, Creator, for sharing with humanity the ability to imagine. It allows us to place ourselves there with You in these recorded scenes, employing each of our senses. Thank you for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, our Teacher and Guide, in which I am confident leans us towards accuracy in our sensory experience of each scene. I am so grateful because it allows me to more deeply know You, love You, and serve You.
Deeply Held Beliefs: Also known as icebergs. Have you seen an iceberg in person? I have. I was awestruck by the turquoise glow. I had seen photos, but somehow I had not believed the color??? I don’t know. I do know that I was seriously awestruck by the magnificent beauty before me.
I remember in grad school one of my professors likened our deeply held beliefs to an iceberg. What we see on the surface is small in comparison to the mass and depth that we cannot see, floating silently underneath the calm waters. It is THIS mass that determines the course our iceberg takes. So, if life is water, these beliefs push and pull us along the course of our lives. Doesn’t that make it important to understand what these beliefs are? Rather than be pushed or pulled along in life like a victim, isn’t it better to adjust the sails and set the course? Scripture would indicate that it is.
Remember I asked if after working through an event, examining your immediate, automatic thoughts, the resulting feelings/emotions, disputing thoughts with evidence and then choosing more effective, balanced, realistic thoughts… if after all of that, did you still find yourself experiencing the same negative, unhelpful feelings? This happens sometimes when what is going on is deeper… lying underneath our immediate awareness.
(It can also happen if a person is not correctly discerning thoughts from feelings. This is where a counselor who is trained and practiced in this discipline is helpful. A life coach can help you leap forward faster in mastering this process!)
What lurks beneath is that deeply held belief system that we learn as children through modeling and through experience. These are beliefs about the world and about our selfs that often move us along the sea of life without our knowledge or understanding. To address this, we need quiet time before God, allowing Him to gently show us the pieces we are ready to chip away.
“And you, …, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought… “ [1Ch 28:9 NIV]
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” [Psa 139:23 NIV]
It also helps to have someone who is trained or very wise to recognize themes.
“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” [Pro 20:5 NIV]
To take a literary stance, deeply held beliefs are like themes. Themes – reoccurring, unifying subjects or ideas that help us to understand a work better. Reoccurring situations can be thought of as the symbols – objects that represent or suggest important concepts that inform and expand appreciation and understanding of a work. Losing patience after your child spills his milk may be a symbol. Losing patience over and over is likely a theme. The deeply held belief may be that a child of a certain age ought not spill milk. It may also be that you ought not have to clean up spilled milk. Think about the difference.
Understanding our deeply held beliefs about our self – what we should or ought to do or not do – and about the world – how it ought or should operate or ought not – allows us to chip away at the underlying ice. We can work at shedding those beliefs that are no longer helpful to our growth. Other times it is prudent to allow God to melt away those dysfunctional beliefs with His warmth.
Recognizing our underlying beliefs allows us to take immediate action by adjusting our sails and plotting the course of our life realistically, intentionally, purposefully.
So if you have done your ABCDE’s and still find yourself in the negative, pull away into a solitary place and work alongside God to look for symbols and the themes they point to. Then go back and work on your disputation and debate, and on to choosing a more realistic thought (B). This may come easy to an introvert. To an extrovert, it will be more difficult. This is where a trusted friend may come in handy – to bounce off of them the thought, look for symbols and themes in other situations, and see if sorting can lead to the underlying beliefs.
(I admit some frustration in writing about this rather than working alongside the individual to DO this. This is hard stuff, deep stuff.)
Let’s take losing patience as an example, since I used it for the spilled milk. While examining other areas I lose patience in (this is absolutely fictional), in addition to the symbol of milk, I notice symbols of dirty dishes, half-empty glasses left around the house, and stains on the carpet. All of these are symbols of times I lost my patience (again, fictional). What is the theme? Spilling? Dirty? If I tried to use “dirt happens” as my debate against the thought (which might be “He has no respect for me when he leaves dirty dishes!”) I will likely be left feeling still … unenergized. This will be ineffective, rather than effective, thinking. (for this example) I might be tempted to click away from this blog. 😉
BUT if I look at all of these symbols and look for a theme… perhaps the theme of impatience is more similar among the situations, right? So what is impatience? Anger. Frustration. What underlies anger? Anger usually happens when we believe a right has been violated. So what is this right I may feel has been violated? Perhaps, after some time, I realize I have a secret belief that I have the right to expect others to clean up after themselves. I mean RIGHT. It’s deep, baby. No wonder I lose patience. (fictional, people!) cough
Now we can move back to debate. Do I really have a right to expect others to clean up after themselves? I may want them to, but that is different than I expect them to. If I change my belief to “I want him to clean up after himself,” I am likely to feel less anger. It won’t be gone, but the edge is off. Now what can I do about it? Recognize that perhaps I was falling into the trap of jumping to conclusions? What can I do instead? I can share my wants. “I want you to clean up after yourself.” I can challenge my expectations. Do I really have the right to expect others to clean up after themselves? Do we not each have a God-given free will, for better or for worse? Do I want someone coming along and place their expectations on me and bend me to their own will? No. So then, how can I extend the same freedom I want for myself, to others. From here I can move on to communicate my thoughts and feelings accurately, and listen for and discuss solutions that are realistic. It takes time and much effort to chip away at those underlying beliefs. Once we recognize an iceberg in our inner life, we can make purposeful, intentional, healthy steps towards managing it – through recognizing it, or through chipping, melting, or navigation.
Deeply held beliefs are deep and hidden for a reason. I in no way want the reader to mistake this process of discovery as simple! There is so much involved in examining and discovering underlying beliefs, that it really is prudent to hire a professional. They can help move you quickly and effectively along this process in comparison to doing it on your own!
Some common unhealthy Christian icebergs are
*all things that happen are for the good. (Misquoted Scripture!)
*God ordains evil. (Twisted and flipped Scripture!)
*God blesses (with material & financial prosperity) those who follow Him (Misunderstood Scripture!)
…and so on.
Recognize any of them?
Continue working through your ABCDE’s but pay attention to those situations where you are left feeling out of proportion. In other words, where your feelings are disproportionate or unfitting to your thoughts – where the feelings and emotions seem more than normal or less than normal or not what would normally be felt – where you are left with lingering negative, unhelpful emotions. I am talking about those feelings that paralyze us, or that take control of us like a strong wind blowing us off course. If you cannot get to the next step, look for icebergs. Remember, sometimes negative emotions are absolutely appropriate!
In short: if you are paralyzed, have mismatched feelings, or disproportionate feelings, check for icebergs.
Some deep questions to ask yourself:
What does this situation really mean to me?
What is the worst part of this situation?
What do I think this says about me?
If your week does not include an appropriate scenario for examining deeply held beliefs, take time to revisit a situation in your life where you did find yourself experiencing perplexing emotions. Try looking for an iceberg!
Note: Not all icebergs, or deeply held beliefs, are bad. Some are quite beautiful. However, understanding what your deeper beliefs are and how they guide you through the waters of life are an important part of growth in understanding. It is more important than ever for Christians to understand themselves deeply! If we cannot understand our deep waters, we cannot begin to truly understand, and love, others.
Feel free to contact me with questions or comments. I will do my best to answer in a timely manner. You can do this using my contact form or via Facebook.