The Problem with Authority
As a child you were at the mercy of others to take care of you at home and in school.
Many of these people you looked up to - literally, because they were twice as big as you. And it’s likely one of these authority figures told you at one point in time that you were stupid or worthless or incapable.
The brain tends to overweight negative comments, so even if you had a lot of positive feedback from others, if “you’re stupid!” was said just once in the right context by the right person, it’s easy to believe it… for the rest of your life.
I’ve worked with many clients who were told they couldn’t do math by their curmudgeon third grade teacher, and here they are 38 years laters still believing they can’t do math.
If you want to help people, you have to learn how to deal with belief patterns like this.
If a person feels worthless, it’s a hole in a bucket that no amount of worth can fill.
Now how most people try to change these belief patterns doesn’t work. What they do is convince you to the contrary with evidence of how smart and capable you’ve been in other areas, and how you just have to believe in yourself and blah blah blah. The problem with this is its mismatch with the person’s internal reality.
It plays out like this:
They feel worthless. You tell them they aren’t worthless. They still feel worthless and now also misunderstood. And it makes sense. How could you understand someone so worthless?
A better way to start dealing with belief patterns is acknowledging them.
Client: “I feel worthless.”
You: “You feel worthless.”
I’m not kidding! If you do nothing else, reflecting back to someone how they feel will at least make that person feel heard, which lays the foundation of understanding. If someone is starting to feel understood then soon they will offer up to you more insight than they will to others, because they feel safe being vulnerable with you.
Practice reflecting first until you get a good, natural feel of it. Then you can take it up a step.
Client: “I feel worthless.”
You: “It doesn’t seem like anything you do matters.”
This is called active listening - you are now reflecting back to the person their state, but through different words that mean about the same thing.
This is likely to get you more insight quicker from your client because unlike simply mirroring a statement, the person can help “correct” you in the minor inconsistencies between your statement and theirs - and their corrections are gold when it comes to helping break a limiting belief pattern.
Then what? Well, let’s get good at what I just shared with you here. If you do active listening, you’re ahead of 99% of the population. Most don’t even listen at all, and the few that do are passive in listening, just waiting to jump in and take over.
I’ve sat in conversations that went 40+ minutes where all I did was active listening. Many times the conversations ended like this:
Client: “So what do you think I should do?”
Me: “What do you think you should do?”
Client: “Well, I think it makes sense to…”
Me: “I agree. Do that and just make sure to [1-2 minutes of guidance].”
Client: “Wow thanks. This might’ve been the best coaching call I’ve ever had.”
The key was I didn’t fight the limiting belief. I let it come out, unpack itself and then, once the charge from it was gone, the real work could begin. And the real work is usually minimal because the person knew what needed to be done anyway. The limiting belief was just getting in the way.