Thursday, January 20, 2011

Counter Beliefs

If you have identified shadow beliefs that are blocking your happiness, what can you do about it? If you recognize these shadow beliefs as habits, then you do what you would do to change any habit.

First, you become aware of it. You catch yourself when you fall into your habitual shadow thinking. Second, you are ready with a substitute or counter belief. Third, you substitute your counter belief every time you catch yourself in shadow thinking – every single time! Gradually, the counter belief will become your habitual belief.

The main thing is not to stress about it – we are trying to reduce stress! Just being aware of our shadow beliefs is a huge step in moving through whatever blocks those shadow beliefs present.

If you are unsure what a counter belief would be, you might start by just stating the opposite of the shadow belief. For example, if I feel unworthy to be happy, I could choose the belief that “I am worthy of joy,” or “I am a child of God, and have been promised great joy.”

One person said her shadow belief is that she has to make other people happy or they won’t like her. Counter beliefs could include “It’s not my job to make other people happy,” or “People like me for myself,” or “It’s okay if some people don’t like me.”

I wrote before about my shadow belief that I had to be vigilant all the time or something bad would happen. Counter beliefs could include “My vigilance does not control what happens,” or “Bad things [specifically the bad things I’m fantasizing about] are unlikely to happen,” or because my shadow belief was based on fear of imagined danger, “I am safe.”

The value of the counter belief is simply that it interrupts your habitual thought and substitutes a better thought, which will become a happier habit. So you might just play with a few until one catches your attention.

Another approach would be to use a generic counter belief, like one that comes from A Course in Miracles. “I can choose to see this differently.” I like this one a lot because you can use it anytime you find yourself fretting or stewing over something that is causing you unnecessary distress. Simply recognizing that there is another option frees us from the grip of our habitual shadow thinking.

Once the counter belief becomes habitual, you will notice the beneficial effect from this new habit permeating your life. And when you occasionally slip back into shadow thinking, you will be more quick to recognize it and switch back to your positive habit.

Remember that it takes about 21 days to establish a habit. If you are like me, your shadow beliefs have been around for a long time, so be patient and give yourself credit for making an effort to change them. It is worth the effort!


  1. Hi Galen,

    I think you have explained counter beliefs and how to ingrain them perfectly. I especially liked the 3 steps you included about how to make the counter belief a habit. Indeed, these were the steps I used from personal experience to overcome my own shadow beliefs. It was not easy, but after countless repetitions, I managed to change the way I used to think.

    Essentially I chose to focus on the solution instead of the problem and channeled all my thoughts and energy in that direction. By doing so, I gave my shadow beliefs no room to germinate and I took a pragmatic approach to resolving the issue at hand. When I resolved the issue, the source of my problems disappeared and so did my shadow beliefs. If the issue cannot be resolved, I do all I humanly can and leave the rest to God. After all, when you have given your all, there will be no more regrets or worries on your part.

    Thank you for sharing this article! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  2. Galen, fantastic post. I'm glad you included the part about creating a habit out of the belief. This is where it goes from a thought to an actual belief. The subconscious has to be formed, but once the thought is planted there and takes on a state of belief, it changes EVERYTHING about us. I really needed this today! You have no idea! Thank you for posting!

  3. Excellent perspective Galen! Whereas I find myself trying to "counter belief" a lot, it's definitely a work in progress. I find that instead of creating unwarranted stress on ourselves, just utter "this too shall pass", and build up the inner immunities for that which we cannot control.

    Nice piece!

  4. Irving, I like that--"giving shadow beliefs no room to germinate." Great phrase.

    Bryan, I'm so glad this was helpful today. As it turns out I needed it today, too!

    Terri, "this too shall pass" is a great generic counter belief, like "I can choose to see this differently." It's good to have something simple and quick to substitute. Great idea.

  5. Hi Galen,
    I love this! Establishing a counter beleif is really crucial. It's just another way to armour ourselves against the negativity. By using the counter beleifs we create a vibration or an energy that is positive and loving. I do this when I'm at the gym! The entire time I'm there I constantly say loving things to myself. I walk out of the gym a very different person than when I walked in. What a wonderful habit to incorporate into our lives!

  6. Dandy, I'm so pleased that you like this post since you were the inspiration for this one and the last one!

  7. Galen this is another magnificent post, you're right on the money as they say. I used to think negatively, live in fear and felt that I was to make others happy as well. Not anymore. Our minds are so powerful, what we choose to tell our mind eventually becomes our belief and our behavior exhibits the change.

    Some of this is covered in my Critical Thinking course, a course I believe we should all have to study in grade school!

    Have a great weekend!

  8. It is never easy to change one's core beliefs. However, if people want to develop different perspectives than the ones they don't presently enjoy, they have no choice but to change them. For example, take looking at rain as a negative. People in the Pacific Northwest, as you know, can become depressed by long periods of rain. Changing one's approach, such as by seeing the rain in the morning and getting excited at its beauty can alter a mindset for the better. "This is great! I hope it rains again tomorrow" brings about better mental health than crawling back under the covers.

  9. Galen: Great article and approach to get rid of the negative thinking that we may find ourselves falling into. I really appreciate the approach of immediately responding with a counter belief. And, you are so right that once you are aware that you have started thinking in the wrong direction, you are already well on the way to turning your thoughts around. Great advice.

  10. hmm... now I am wondering what my shadow beliefs are. Gotta sit down and think about this for a while. Thanks!

  11. I'm with Alida, I need to sit and focus on this for a bit. *sigh*


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