The Rule About Beliefs

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Unhealthy beliefs about our­selves and the world, instilled in child­hood, become rigid rules that may need to be vio­lated. Fam­ily dic­tums such as, “don’t talk about it”, “don’t share feel­ings”, or “it’s self­ish to take care of your­self,” are some of the old beliefs that have ruled us and must be chal­lenged if we are to find inner peace. We can expect, and even cel­e­brate, uncom­fort­able feel­ings when they come up for us, learn­ing to see them as oppor­tu­ni­ties for free­ing our­selves of the painful beliefs that keep us trapped in negative patterns of behaviour.

Some­times we sim­ply need to sit with an uncom­fort­able feel­ing such as guilt, with­out act­ing on it. Guilt does not nec­es­sar­ily imply that we have behaved wrong or uneth­i­cally. Guilt is often a learned response. Some­times guilt just means that we’ve bro­ken a dys­func­tional family pattern.

I am reminded of a story I often hear among ther­a­peu­tic cir­cles about the way to cook a ham.

A lit­tle girl noticed her mother cut­ting the butt end off the ham to cook it for the fam­ily hol­i­day din­ner and asked, “Why do you cut off the end to cook it?” The mother with­out giv­ing it a moment’s thought, replied, “Why, this is the way my mother always cooked a ham, so I know it’s the right way to do it!” Well, the lit­tle girls grand­mother hap­pened to live close by, so she vis­ited her and asked her the same ques­tion, “Grandma, why do you cut the butt end off the ham before you cook it?” Her grand­mother replied that her mother had taught her to cook a ham like that. Great granny hap­pened to be vis­it­ing for the hol­i­day so the lit­tle girl went to her and asked the same ques­tion — and this time she got the “real” answer  “Child, when I was cook­ing hams back then, I only owned one bak­ing pan and it was too small to hold a whole ham so I would cut the butt end off the ham to make it fit!”

This is how it happens. We fol­low, with­out ques­tion, fam­ily dic­tums and inter­nal­ized beliefs that create noth­ing but misery.

A comfort zone in hell.

A wealthy man died and knocked on the pearly gates. Saint Peter opened the door and asked him what he desired. The rich man said, “I would like a first-class room with a good view of the earth, my favourite foods every day, and also the daily paper”

Saint Peter hesitated, but the rich man was adamant. Saint Peter shrugged his shoulders and gave him a first class room with a good view of the earth, and brought him his favourite foods and the daily paper. He said well “here is what you wanted, I will be back in a thousand years.” Then he left and locked the door.

After the thousand years had passed, he returned and looked into the room through the peephole. “There you are at last”, cried the rich man. “This heaven is a terrible place”.

Saint Peter shook his head and looked at him with pity. “You are mistaken” he said “You chose hell”

When we hold on to the past we create as many problems for ourselves as trying to control the future, holding onto the past limits our freedom. Nothing changes or grows in the comfort zone, rather it stagnates. It becomes a living hell. It should come as no surprise that the majority of people in the world would rather be miserable than experience joy or happiness, such that therapy and personal development is often ridiculed or demeaned. Playing safe to avoid problems does not provide any security or protection, it simply limits our experience. If we have courage and faith to leave the comfort zone, challenge the beliefs we inherited or learnt there is a strong possibility that we will indeed experience something different, what surprises people who take those brave steps out of their comfort zone is that what they experience is often far better, not because life has suddenly become easier, as our perception of life changes the results are surprising because it is different from what we could contrive or wish from the comfort zone. A whole new world of possibilities open up to us, this is heaven.