I think, therefore I’m

She thought snorting crushed up Mentos and some Coke would be funny…

Most problems are rooted in a limiting belief. There are 5 components to a limiting belief: referent = [bad thing] —> problem. Let‘s take this negative statement, “I am stupid which is why no one likes me.” ‘I’ is the referent (subject of the sentence), ‘am’ is the equivalence (=), and ‘stupid’ is the [bad thing]. Next is the causation and problem. ‘Which is why’ indicates a cause-effect link between being stupid and no one liking them so it is the causation. And “no one likes me” is the problem.

When you’re helping someone break a limiting belief, you can try to ‘crack’ any of the negative components, generally being the [bad thing], the causation (—>), or the problem. To start with the example, you could come after the [bad thing] – ‘stupid’. This is what most people reflexively do by saying “you’re not stupid.” Disagreeing with their statement rarely works. Instead, it’s better to agree with it in some way. If you’re good friends, you can tease them about ‘being stupid’ until they laugh and defend themselves. Or you can agree with the positive of being ‘stupid’. This is a positive reframe and will vary based on the person you’re talking to. Someone might call themselves ‘stupid’ but really mean they blurt things out without thinking it all the way through. To them, you could say, “you’re an outspoken person who doesn’t mind being honest.” This can turn being ‘stupid’ into being ‘honest’.

Another component you can address is the causation (—>). In this example, it’s that ‘being stupid’ causes ‘no one to like you’. The easiest way to ‘crack’ causation logic is to explore counter-examples. Take this as the basic format: A —> B. Counter-examples would be any time A happens, and B doesn’t OR anytime B happens, and A doesn’t. A is ‘being stupid’ and B is ‘being unlikable’. Think of examples of A, not B: being stupid but likable. We probably all know people who aren’t the brightest but are very enjoyable to be around. You could point out some examples you know they know. Now, think of B, not A: being unlikable but smart. That’s also very easy to think of, since we all know some people who are like that.

Finally, you can address ‘the problem’. Here, it’s “no one likes me”. The most straightforward way to ‘cracking’ this is to reframe a key word in the problem, or question if it’s actually a problem. First, reframing key words. The easiest targets are any extreme words: no one, never, always, have to, must, every, etc. In this example, you can just reflect the statement back to them with a doubting tone, “no one likes you?” From there you can narrow the scope of the problem to ‘no one’ to ‘just some’. You could also reframe ‘likes’ to something else. “Maybe it’s not that people don’t like you, they just don’t know you so they don’t talk to you.” You can also reframe ‘me’. “Maybe it’s not you they don’t like, but something else.” – this could be anything else like talking at work or even they don’t like your taste in music but are fine with everything else. These reframes will be very specific to the actual situation happening. Finally, you can also question the problem. For example, if the people who don’t like you are jerks, do you really want their approval?

This approach of ‘cracking’ a limiting belief is often a big step towards finding new solutions. Limiting beliefs serve as walls that keep us locked in our problems. To break these walls down is to begin to move forward. Or laterally, or up, or down – any direction that’s outside their old rigid thinking.

Next post I’ll continue on this topic with a specific example for applying to chronic or persistent pain.

The United Strengths