Becoming Open to Doubt

In order to reevaluate and let go of existing beliefs that are interfering with the establishment of a new belief, we must become 'open to doubt' the existing belief. The experience of being open to doubt is the complement of being open to believe. Rather than thinking that some new belief might be true, when we are 'open to doubt' we are open to consider that some belief that we have been holding onto for a long time might not be the case. We think, "Maybe it is not valid, or no longer valid." "Perhaps it is not so important or necessary to believe it." "I have changed my belief about other things before." "What counter examples do I have that might call this old belief into question?" "If I view it from a larger perspective, what other possibilities do I become aware of?" "What is the positive purpose that this belief has served, and are there other ways to achieve that positive intention that are less limiting and more enriching?"

Becoming open to doubt typically involves reframing beliefs formulated in terms of the problem frame or failure frame so that they may be put back into an outcome frame or feedback frame. Sleight of Mouth patterns provide powerful verbal tools to help us reframe and become open to doubt existing, interfering beliefs.

5. The 'Museum of Personal History' - Remembering

What We 'Used to' Believe

When we stop believing something, we do not usually develop amnesia for the belief, or forget that we used to believe it. Rather, the emotional and psychological affect that the belief produces within us changes dramatically. We remember that we "used to" believe it, but know that it no longer has any meaningful influence on our thoughts or behavior - it no longer fits our criteria for "reality."

When we truly change a belief, we no longer need to exert any effort to deny or suppress the belief. Our relationship to it is more like the experience we have of seeing historical items in a museum. When we see Medieval weapons and torture instruments in a glass case at a museum, we are curious and reflective; not frightened, angry or disgusted. We know that people once used these weapons, but that we have gone beyond that now. In fact, it is important to remember the mistakes and limiting beliefs of our ancestors, so that we do not repeat them.

A similar experience happens with respect to our own discarded beliefs. We know that we 'used to believe' them, but now no longer believe them. The belief in Santa Claus is a classic example of this experience. Most adults (in cultures that celebrate Christmas) remember that, as children, they believed that the character "Santa Claus" lived at the North Pole and would ride through the sky on a magic sled to deliver gifts to children all over the world on Christmas Eve. When a person no longer believes in Santa Claus, he or she does not need to angrily and vehemently deny the existence of the fictitious character. Rather, one can look back on it nostalgically, and remember the positive intention of the belief to create the sense of magic and excitement.

Similarly, this is the way we recall other beliefs that we have let go of. We can remember them and think, "I used to believe that I (could not ride a bicycle, could not cross the street on my own, was not capable of establishing a healthy pattern of behavior, did not deserve to succeed, etc.), but I no longer believe it. It is no longer part of my reality. I have other ways to satisfy the positive intention and purpose of the old belief."

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