Research Paper By Betsey Sarris
(Transformational Coach, UNITED STATES)
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou May 29, 2014
1976 – 7th grade Science Class with Mrs. Deridere.
The bell rang ending period four and I was eager to get to the lunchroom for the weekly Friday special, sausage pizza! As I exited, Mrs. Deridere frowned and pointedly said, “Betsey, why do you always look so serious?”
I looked up, stared briefly, shrugged my shoulders, and walked away. She had no clue as to the enormity her question would have on me. I was exposed. And embarrassed. Exposed to be the worse of the two.
From then on, that 13-year-old me, made certain to wear a smile, make a joke, laugh along with others, laugh at herself and be almost everyone’s friend. Whatever was felt on the inside, would remain there. Locked and hidden away.
Mrs. Deridere’s innocent question confirmed that being “seen” wasn’t helpful, or safe. It certainly didn’t feel good. I made certain to put great effort into not showing what I was feeling and thinking. I became really good at it, too. So good, I fooled myself for years. At that quick moment at 13 years of age, I decided that wearing a mask was necessary. That other won’t know what I was thinking or feeling. They couldn’t know what happened last night, or the past weekend, or last year, or ever.
People seemed to like me. And I liked that they liked me! It made me feel worthy. But I had to be careful and make sure others didn’t see my worthlessness. My emptiness. They couldn’t know what I really was. That I was junk. Flawed. I needed to hide.
Instructions (to myself):
- Mask on.
- Don’t look serious.
- Be fun.
- Be funny.
- Look happy.
Sometimes I’m the mess. Sometimes I’m the broom. On the hardest days, I have to be both.- Rudy Francisco, Poet
Beliefs have roots. The depth of those roots, however profound they may be, determine the mess and effectiveness of any broom.
Whether you’re the mess, the broom, or both… tomorrow is a direct result of what you decide to do today. Megan Ortiz, LCSW
Have you ever heard the saying below?
I know you understand
What you think I said
But I’m not sure you realize
That what you HEARD
Is not what I meant.
When I think back about my 7th-grade experience, Mrs. Deridere’s seemingly innocent comment, sewed my wounds in place. How I interpreted her statement, or what I believed she said was inconsequential to what she may have meant to say. I was the recipient of her words and I didn’t question her comment. Whereas, I could have asked, “What did you mean by that?”
I never did. I didn’t inquire how she knew what was going on in my private life. I just thought she “knew”. I assumed she saw my inner pain. She knew and she saw me.
I was mortified. Silly right? But I was a kid. Kids process information on a personal and sometimes deeply level. At least I did.
Here’s the thing, Mrs. Deridere’s thoughts/beliefs about me will never be known. I can confidently say she had no idea what was going on in my life, or my head at that moment in time. How could she? (Trust me she didn’t).
Her comment may even have been out of concern. I was a good student. Maybe she saw more in me, in a positive way. Who knows? I never asked. But the damage was done.
There are times when what we hear is different, then what is actually said or meant by the person speaking.
It’s almost as if we filter what we hear based on what we think someone said or is going to say. Many of us do it, and sometimes often Others rarely do it.
For those rarely doing so, there’s a good chance they’ve pursued training on how to be better listeners. After all, most primary education systems do not offer a class entitled “How to be Better Listeners 101”.
In the diagram above, each colored funnel represents one member in a group.
The members may be siblings in the same household, students in one classroom, friends gathered together, religious assemblies, etc.
The top of the funnel represents their early lives, information received, observations, thoughts, and feelings experienced.
As children grow, incoming information (top of the funnel) trickles downward where it is filtered and deciphered as original or repeating experiences. In turn, children take that information, hold onto some of it, and let the other pass through. It’s a natural process of receiving information. Of importance, however, about this is that the bottom of the funnel forms and holds onto our memories and beliefs.
Think of a time when you recalled a memory that you had previously forgotten about. You could be in the middle of something, and suddenly your memory is sparked and you vividly recall an incident or feeling that happened long ago. And you think to yourself, “Wow. I can’t believe I remembered that. I forgot all about it.
This type of encounter within ourselves is an excellent example of a funneled experience. We lived it. We drew some type of conclusion, thought, or feeling from it. It remained in our funnel. We forgot about it. Until we didn’t.
The point is, the experience is attached to a thought or feeling, and that is what often forms our beliefs. And we have thousands upon thousands of beliefs stored. We just don’t recall them all.
Have you ever noticed you have strong feelings or beliefs about something in particular, but you’re not sure why?
This is the funnel. It’s our interwoven fabric. The stepping stones to our future.
The funnel holds our thoughts, actions, reactions, choices, and decisions.
Every day of our life, the funnel grows larger depending upon what passes through it.
Think of the netting (fabric) of a trampoline. Now picture a young girl bouncing on the trampoline. Each bounce represents a moment in time or a life experience.
Unless we move the trampoline, tighten or loosen the rigidity of the net, change the positions and weight distribution of our bodies while on the net, our bounce will not change much. The trampoline is at the bottom of our funnel. It’s our “fabric”.
How we “bounce” correlates to how we interpret and handle life.
The lower opening of the funnel determines what remains in the funnel (what it holds on to) and the widening upper piece catches the inflow as our filter determines what remains and serves as our learned experiences.
It is the fabric on which we base everything forthcoming.
As we age, additional information, experiences, thoughts enter the funnel. Again some remain and others exit out the bottom.
But how we go about life from the moment we awake – to the dreams we experience while asleep – rests in our funnel.
So what exactly is in these funnels of ours? What’s accurate? True? Real?
A misinterpretation? Are we the compilation of the fabric of our funnels?
Are all our thoughts, opinions, decisions, and outcomes governed by these funnels?
How much of our lives are “funnel driven”?
To what degree?
Do we like what’s in our funnels? Does it have to stay there?
It’s OUR funnel. OUR choice.
Don’t you think?
As young beings, we didn’t have a choice on what information trickled in and out of our funnels. However, as adults, we can choose what stays and what goes.
We can drain it from the bottom up. This is our choice.
We can choose how to think, live and go about our lives. As difficult as it may sometimes be, it’s our choice. Doing it however can be the difficult part.
People seek out helping professionals for numerous reasons. Some due to difficulty with interpersonal relationships and/or processing emotions. We can be our own worst enemies.
When in conversations, we often share thoughts, feelings, and opinions with others. It’s a natural process in the flow of conversation.
Additionally, conversations are often based on what we think or know to be true. Possibly what we heard if gossiping is involved. Or perhaps what we learned in a classroom or training session. Often it’s what we “heard somewhere”, what our mind concluded after an intake of information and/or life experiences.
Everything we hear is filtered through our brain/mind (the ie. funnel)
Everything. Each time we decipher the content of another’s words or writing, it gets filtered through the “funnel”. The funnel we’ve lived in since birth. It is simply how we process information. It’s unique to us, just like a fingerprint.
Funneled information or material, reconstitutes itself as “beliefs”.
Beliefs are often what current perceptions and future decisions are based upon.
Type the word “beliefs” in a google search engine and you’ll receive several definitions on its meaning and how beliefs are acquired. . Many individuals profess their life’s work solely on their beliefs. But what exactly is a belief?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines belief as:
a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing:
- Her belief in God; a belief in democracy
- I bought the table in the belief that it was an antique.
something that is accepted, considered to be true, or held as an opinion: something believed; an individual’s religious or political beliefs especially:
- A tenet or body of tenets held by a group.
- The beliefs of the Catholic Church.
conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon, especially when based on examination of evidence:
- Belief in the validity of scientific statements. (2)
Beliefs act like seeds, first taking root in our conscious minds as they feed off our environments and drive thoughts and actions. They are the fabric we clothe ourselves in and the weave of our daily lives. They set the pace for current and future life choices.
Our opinions, whether spoken outwardly or held in the recess of private thoughts, often determine outcomes. Beliefs exist as our internal software that sometimes morphe into our hard drive.
Nearly every current and future reaction/response is often the product of the collection of information held by our beliefs, or the beliefs of someone else.
Our hard drive and software navigate our paths as we continue to filter experiences and information through our original and ongoing environments.
Core beliefs are defined as fundamental, inflexible, absolute, and generalized beliefs that people hold about themselves, others, the world, and/or the future.
We use beliefs to help us understand the world around us. A person’s beliefs will guide them in their decision-making and response to situations. Beliefs are usually formed in childhood or any other significant formative experience. (3)
Beliefs = Power, or the illusion of Power?
There’s not always rhyme or reason to a belief. Sometimes we don’t know why we’ve come to believe – whatever it is – that we believe. Beliefs aren’t always founded on factual positive and/or negative origins. However, it’s safe to say they were born out of particular circumstances and those circumstances involved our primary family, friends, culture, religion, physical environment, etc. As young children when we’re most impressionable, beliefs often form without conscious memory.
Sources of Beliefs
- “Evidence - logical and rational formation of beliefs based on evidence that proves causation.
- Tradition - family and societal traditions.
- Authority - normally developed from a parent but could also be a religious leader, teacher, or any other person in authority.
- Association - beliefs can be formed through people or groups we associate with.
- Revelation - beliefs that are formed through ‘divine intervention” a hunch, inkling or sixth sense.”(4)
Numerous helping modalities exist and may assist in deciphering our belief systems and information. An individual can take steps to appraise its contents and allocate what stays and goes. We are the beholder of our beings. The clay is ours to shape and shift.
The remainder of this paper focuses on two methodologies specifically targeting “beliefs” and their origin.
A (Life) Coach should encompass the following in their practice:
- Building trust
- Active listening
- Asking open-ended questions
- Effective goal-setting
- Encouraging an outcome focus
- Fostering engagement with goals
- Providing support on the development journey
- Giving constructive feedback (as appropriate in a Coaching relationship)
- Strengths-spotting (5)
Life Coaching offers numerous modalities designed to assist clients in obtaining desired outcomes toward clarity, growth, enlightenment, and change. Participating in evidence-based self-help programs includes deep introspection and a willingness to be vulnerable and honest, at least with oneself.
What I know
A belief is what I’ve come to know as true. It can be a choice of sorts. Not necessarily because I “want” to believe something. Although that’s certainly possible. Beliefs are the product, outcome, or reality of something past or present. They’re based on something. The questions become, what is that something?
How much is that “something”, controlling an individual’s life?
Lion Goodman’s, “Clear Your Beliefs”, and Byron Katie’s, “The Work” are well-known modalities existing to address quality of life, an individual’s emotional dialogue, and mental health as it pertains to one’s beliefs. Although different in operation, they serve to free an individual of suffering, and self-sabotaging thoughts and actions. (6)
For some of our most important beliefs, we have no evidence at all, except that people we love and trust hold these beliefs.
Considering how little we know, the confidence we have in our beliefs is preposterous—and it is also essential. 2002 Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman
The illustration above is an excellent representation of The Work, by Byron Katie. As she walks individuals and sometimes groups through a four-question process asking them to recall a particularly stressful situation, she is guiding them through challenging their beliefs and knowledge. They are asked to share their thoughts and feelings as they progress. This process specifically targets beliefs. It targets the location of where our thoughts, opinions, and feelings such as anger, sadness, disappointment stem from.
Katie’s four seemingly simple questions zero in on whether a belief is true/authentic, or false/artificial.
Often, what magnanimously disturbs us interferes with daily living.
At times, these disturbances make our heads spin like Linda Blair’s when she played Regan MacNeil in the Exorcist! Or at least it feels like it!
Katie Byron forces us to question our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Questions focus on the origin and validity of thoughts.
The four specific questions used in her workshops are:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
For detailed instructions and more information, visit www.thework.com. (7)
Another evidence-based program targeting beliefs and their origin are by Lion Goodman, creator of “Clear Your Beliefs”. During a Youtube interview with Lucia Ferraro, Goodman stated his methodology for transforming beliefs lies at the core of the psyche. “Beliefs are the infrastructure of human consciousness. It’s like the Lego blocks that you build a tower with.” (8)
He further stated that as a Life Coach focusing on transitional and transformational change via self-inquisition, introspection, trial, and error, his goals for clients are to achieve their hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
“Our strongest and most deeply held beliefs are actually unconscious. They are at the root of all the habits and patterns in our life. But we’re only dimly aware of them, or not aware of them at all. Beliefs are at the core of every experience, decision, and pattern in our lives. There are many other terms for what we call BELIEFS:
- Meaning Maps
- Neural Pathways
- Personality Infrastructure
- Implicit Memories
- MindsetBeliefs are the literal foundational components of human consciousness. We build our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes upon that foundation.” (9)
In an email exchange with Lion Goodman in April of 2020, he shared his thoughts not only on how underlying beliefs play out in our lives, but also why Coaching is important in clearing out our “funnels” to lead healthier and authentic lives.
“Most people (in my experience) have this problem. I wondered about it for a long time, and by investigating deeply into the human psyche, came to this conclusion:
Whenever you commit to something new, whether it’s a program for internal change or a diet, or a career, your old beliefs (the ones that conflict with your new commitment) feel threatened, so they jump up and re-assert themselves, their reality.
This often sounds like inner voices expressing doubts (“I doubt whether this will work”), second thoughts (“Maybe I can’t afford this,”), self-criticism (“You’re lazy. Why bother?), self-abuse (“You don’t deserve to be happy!”), distractions (“Oooh! Look over there! That’s WAY more interesting!”), feelings of discomfort (“I’m bored. I’m hungry. I’m not feeling so good.”), and withdrawal (“I’m sleepy. Maybe a nice nap…”).
This is AUTOMATIC. It’s the mind’s machinery. They are survival mechanisms that you (unconsciously) put in place a long time ago to defend against something else that was more uncomfortable. For example, if you were called “dumb” or got laughed at in school, you could easily create the belief, and the habit pattern ‘If I study and learn I’ll still be dumb/wrong/laughed at/humiliated, so why bother?’
The key is to identify all of the past patterns, beliefs, and habits of mind that have been driving this pattern of reaction and behavior. Clear those up, and the pattern disappears. You can study, learn, and change without resistance or interference.
That’s why coaching is necessary, as you recognize. Your mind does not want to change, because it believes it’s protecting you from something bad. A coach on the outside of you can help get under this material. Your own mind will refuse to do so.”
Jack Canfield, author of the Success Principles wrote,
“The mind is a powerful instrument, it can deliver to you literally everything you want. But you first have to believe that what you want is possible. And belief is a choice. It is simply a thought you choose to think over and over until it becomes automatic.” (10)
Beliefs co-mingle with thoughts, decisions, actions, and interactions.
Whether they are underlying or overlying beliefs,
they are at the heart of most matters.