At The Counseling Center we constantly deal with “belief systems.” These are very strongly held and complicated perspectives we form over time. They come from the parenting we have received, the teachers who have taught us, or from the circumstances surrounding positive and negative events that have impacted us along the way. Many of these “belief systems” may be functional and helpful in getting through the day, such as the belief that most people are not out to “get” us. On the other hand, they may be based on faulty reasoning or skewed emotions. For instance, over a lifetime of difficult experience one may come to believe that indeed people are generally out to get us.
We live our lives by these belief systems, so it is important that they be closely connected with reality. And part of the problem is that they are partially formed by unconscious content, things of which we are not even aware. For example, we may be driving ourselves at work to make more and more money because we grew up in a family with money problems and we are deathly afraid of being poor. We may think we just have a good work ethic, and no idea that this fear is driving us, and making us miserable.
Knowing these “belief systems” and submitting them to scrutiny with the help of a good therapist, can be very liberating and empowering. The person in therapy looks at difficult and painful truths in their lives with the therapist and tries to find the origin and content of the beliefs. The knowledge and questioning of these systems give us insight into how we may want to change them, and thereby live better lives. It is not easy to make the change, because they have formed so deeply over may years and many circumstances, but it is often very rewarding to do so.
Dr. Richard Shoup
Director, The Counseling Center
180 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, NY 10708