The Rule About Beliefs

December 12, 2014

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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.