Three Disempowering Beliefs... Authority as Truth...Guilt ...and Need.


Whilst standing on a friend's balcony overlooking the financial centre of London, I listened as the credit crunch situation was being explained to me. This was from the perspective of someone who understands this arena, from within the financial world. My friend proffered the observation, ‘...there are always adjustments in the economy...'. I reflected on this statement and what it would mean to the various levels of people across the world. Behind those words were pre suppositions that meant different things dependent on a person's situation. A market adjustment to a person involved in the higher echelons of the financial industry may mean no new shoes that week. To a person at the bottom of the financial eco system; it may mean bankruptcy, loss of their homes, perhaps a break up of a relationship as the stress of financial hardship takes hold. It is systems theory in action. Moreover, it will continue to happen unless people learn to understand the role they are playing in the economic system. Paradoxically banks need people to engage in debt for them to continue to operate. A certain level of society are going to keep experiencing the same thing over and over unless they learn to change behaviours. It is helpful to change these three beliefs if you want to change unhelpful behaviours.

· That Authority represents the truth
· That you should feel guilty
· That you need certain ‘things’ to be happy
. The belief that Authority represents Truth.

It is if you like part of the checks and balances of any system, when a dollar is produced by the Federal Reserve in America, it comes with debt built in. From what I can gather, this debt is passed through the system, and like any system in the Universe; if there is behaviour which carries risk, it will collapse.. So if adjustments are a part of the economic system, why are we subjected to it and not warned earlier. Why do the governments and those in authority not tell us to change our behaviour before disaster strikes? Because it is not in their interest to do so; there is an implicit system goal of getting more. Regardless of the results further down the chain, the people at the top need you to keep on spending. It is similar to chain letters that promise money if you get more people involved. It is an unsustainable business model because it always reaches a threshold point, and collapses. But people in authority will not change anything; quite the opposite; they are at the top of the pyramid... They always win in the end!

It is even hidden in the language the authorities use, it is known as sleight of mouth in NLP terms. The term adjustment does not give you any idea of what it actually means to the people at the bottom of the system. When authorities present recession in terms like ‘adjustment’ it disguises the true impact further down and if they don’t acknowledge the effects they don’t have to worry about it. They just point fingers at the victims and say ‘they’ behaved irresponsibly; and must now pay the consequences. David Weinberger, fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society said ...

’it would be in everyone's interest if we had more truth and less authority, more humility and less institutional arrogance’.

‘We cannot continue along the same lines because the same problems will trigger the same disasters’
French President Nicolas Sarkozy

We could do with going out there and learning the truth of the situation, and not allow authority to dictate their truth on us. Authority is in the hands of those that stand the most to gain. They do not have any use for your truth, they use the veneer of power to make you believe you should comply. Like sheep, people at the bottom of the pyramid; keep allowing marketing to dictate their behaviour and accept the debt the wolves offer them. They do this because they want to believe that authority e.g. corporations, religions et al; are good and wise. This then relieves them of the burden of thinking for themselves and responsibility as they continue to consume. Organisational/ Systems guru, Peter Senge points to the fact that leaders who attempt to change the situation often face resistance which is a response by the system. This is because

...’the norm is entrenched because the distribution of authority and control is entrenched’.

Make truth your authority as opposed to believing that authority is truth. Become your own expert on what will work for you, and not follow Authority blindly. Any system which is run by humans is always going to be inherently flawed because humans are involved (unless we have a major shift in consciousness). Authority’s mission in life is to control its resources, you are a resource for the system; which leads onto the next disempowering belief...

The belief we should experience Guilt

When caught in a situation like on the wrong end of the credit crunch or divorced, people often feel guilty. As Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn points out. ..

‘That’s always the way it is. It don’t make no difference if you do right or wrong. A man’s conscience just goes for him’.

Twenty years later Sigmund Freud came to the same conclusion. Freud realised that this is the result of a struggle between the ego and the superego. Guilt is an experience that occurs when a person believes- whether justified or not - that he or she has violated a standard and is responsible. So are you responsible if you fail in a financial system in which the rules are not made explicit, when you are in fact encouraged to play to lose by authority?

Are you responsible for failing at a relationship when you have not been taught in schools how to ‘do marriage’?

Most people do not know what is really going on in themselves, in their relationships and in the world around them. Most of us are busy trying to secure a position of respectability according to norms created by institutions; the majority of which use guilt as a means of control. People do not know this because there are no classes at school which inform them of who they are and how the real world operates. The problem with guilt is that it also carries with it feelings of self pity and helplessness. When you are in this emotional state you are focussed on what is wrong and not on what is possible. Real guilt would actually be short lived, because if you are feeling guilty, you can immediately stop what you are doing and then the guilty feelings will go away. You would feel better but what actually happens is that we experience what Family Therapist Homer McDonald calls Pseudo guilt; and it is very destructive. We become addicted to our pain because our damaged ego (which wants to be seen as perfect) gets strokes from this pain. To continue makes us focus on what we did wrong and where the attention goes is where our energy goes.

The belief we Need things and people to make us happy.

If we see everything as a need in order to experience happiness; we become disempowered. It prevents us from letting go of things when necessary. We waste energy trying to preserve the status quo, and become slaves to our so called ‘needs’. The more adaptable a person is, the more success that person will experience. If you have to adapt due to circumstances; then if you can do so without the pain of loss, you will recover faster. Possessions and money do not make you happy; in fact no sooner have you had a raise than you want another one. Need for a thing is an insatiable beast one that can never be satisfied without a change in beliefs about what really makes you happy. The more you need something you will find the less you get of it. The less you desperately need something, the more attractive you become. If you find a partner pulling away from you in a relationship, the more you show them that you do not need them, the more they will come back towards you. Everything is a preference, you prefer to have the latest ‘stuff’; you would prefer to be in a happy relationship with your partner...But you don’t need it to be happy, all the stuff of the world is an illusion anyway. You never truly are in control and as soon as you stop needing to be in control the more you seem to attract into your life the things which give you pleasure.

Martin Seligman who developed Positive Psychology did research into what makes people happy. He realised that simply taking pain away from a person, did not necessarily make them happier; Freud also said ‘Insight is not healing’ but was only half the journey. You have to go in the complete opposite direction, you have to focus on some worthwhile goal, develop a purpose in life which you are passionate about. By doing this you are not focussed on how bad you feel or how terrible the situation is. You are focussed on how you can overcome the challenges and make a positive difference to the world.

What Seligman found was that happy people have three attributes in common.

· Meaning... They have a purpose to create something or make a positive difference in the world. This is thought to be the highest order emotional need by psychologist Abraham Maslow and it is at the top of Maslow’s Emotional Hierarchy. When we find a meaning or purpose we are at our most motivated. This Seligman determined is the most important attribute to happiness. Viktor Frankle, the developer of Logo therapy, also discovered that the people who had a strong reason or purpose in life, had a better survival rate in the Nazi death camps. Those who simply focussed on how bad a situation they were in, simply gave up and died.

· Engagement... Being in a state of performance where time flies past is engagement. It is doing something which enhances what Positive Psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi describes as flow. By doing work which is in alignment with your natural talents and passions is the way to experience engagement. Dr. Seligman found this to be the second most important way to experience more happiness in your life.

· Pleasure... People, it was determined, who experienced a lot of pleasure in life were often successful, were usually in a committed relationship and had lots of friends who acted as a support network. To experience pleasure and have the ‘stuff’ which comes from being successful is actually the icing on the cake. Having all the money in the world will not guarantee happiness for long if you are not able to find a purpose in life. One of the ways to experience more pleasure now, is to become more mindful. We are often in what is known as a state of performance momentum. We are so ‘busy being busy’ we do not take time to truly appreciate what is good about our situation now. By taking time to really appreciate what is good about our environment, our loved ones, even stopping to appreciate what a good job we have done washing the dishes; are all ways of experiencing more pleasure.

The only thing we really need to do in life is breathe, and we shouldn’t rely on others and circumstances to make us happy. By changing these three disempowering beliefs, we will find ourselves at a new level of freedom and joy. Self awareness and self acceptance leads to confidence. If we combine that with rational thinking it will lead to self empowerment. People, who are in touch with themselves and reality, do not waste time feeling bad. Instead they appreciate what is already here and focus on what they can do to move forward in life with passion and joy.


Martin Murphy

 'Make Confidence a Matter of Choice'


The Performance Consultant

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