So far in examining your thoughts you've seen how your interpretations of what happens to you are separate from the events themselves. You've also delved a little into seeing how some of your beliefs about how the how world works are created.
This week, it's time to look at how those stories and beliefs affect you and how they influence what you create and even what you filter out as you see the world around you.
You see in the world what you've already decided you want to see
The main concept for today is behavioral confirmation. Behavioral confirmation says that seeing the world in the way you do affects how you present yourself and the actions you put out. The people around you then react and respond to that presentation in a way that confirms your existing way of seeing things. In other words, what you believe affects what you put out and what you put out affects how others respond. And how others respond influences what you believe.
You then exist within a self-fulfilling feedback loop where your existing beliefs are constantly confirmed to be true. This is not only because many people will naturally mirror back what you put out but also because your beliefs affect your mental filter. The world may be full of positive comments about you but if your belief is that only negative feedback is important , then your mind actually filters out the positive and, instead focuses its attention on the events or people that confirm your existing belief to be true.
"It's only a thought and a thought can be changed." -- Louise Hay
For example, Bob goes out with Nancy and has a great time. It really seemed that she had a great time as well. But, when Bob goes to schedule another date, Nancy won't even return his calls. This happened with the last woman he asked out as well and now Bob makes the connection that all women are dishonest. His belief shifts. And sure enough, as he asks more women out, he sees this behavior again and again. He is hugely frustrated and starts to think, "Nice guys just can't win." And then, sure enough, he begins to see ...
The Bob example above is really common. The truth is, despite what Bob has come to believe, the world is actually full of good, honest women that he could be asking out. The difficulty here is seeing how his belief changed his focus and actually started leading him to pick out women who would validate what he already believes. In a room of ten women, nine may be the opposite of what he believes to be true. Because of his filter, however, those women may not even be on his radar. He may talk to everyone but his interaction with the one woman who validates his belief will be picked up as the most meaningful.
The issue is the story Bob told himself about those first women and the beliefs he created because of those experiences. He could have viewed them as exceptions to the rule and moved on but he made them be the rule. He took instances about two specific women and applied those beliefs globally to all women. One or two women cannot possibly represent the attitudes, beliefs, and ways of being for all women in the world. Logically, that is evident but our minds want to make sense of the world so the likelihood of over-generalizing based on just a few limited experiences is strong for most people.
When you see the feedback loop for what it is, you can make real changes
To see this, think about how Bob's first response that "All women are dishonest" would affect how he interacts with women. He won't act the same around someone when he goes into the interaction thinking that they are probably dishonest. He will be more guarded, cautious, or even entering into things with a certain degree of pessimism. Even if he tries to hide it, these thoughts in the back of his mind will show through. People don't mask their inner thoughts as well as they think they do.
Bob's behavior then creates a response in the women. They may mirror back that cautiousness, guardedness, and even the pessimism. That distance created is highly likely to create the exact response that only serves to validate his belief. He then becomes stuck in the feedback loop.
What if Bob had instead decided those two women were exceptions to the rule and thought, "There are definitely good women out there," and "Not wanting to see me again is definitely their loss and not mine?" Would that have created a different set of future circumstances? Yes and yes again.
Believing that good women are out there and that the issue was theirs and not his, Bob's interactions with future women will remain open. He won't have that need to be pulled back or emotionally guarded for fear of being hurt. And, he will be approaching new women with a sense of optimism. When he puts that consciously -- or even unconsciously -- out there, it will be reflected back and he becomes more likely to see and get positive responses from the women he wants to meet.
The key to getting out of the negative behavioral confirmation feedback loop is to consciously choose another belief that will create what you want. It's being able to see what way of thinking when reflected back will move things in better directions or even generate the situations you most want to have happen.
Seeing the consequences of your beliefs
To examine this in yourself, pull out the list you created about your beliefs last week. Look at your list and see the positive and negative feedback loops and what they are creating in your life.
To help with this, for each of the beliefs you listed, ask yourself:
1. How does this belief affect your behavior? How does believing this change what you put out into the world? Similar to the Bob example, be specific about what behaviors each belief creates in you.
2. How do you see this belief mirrored back from others? What do you see in how other people act toward you that can actually be seen as coming from you or only serving to validate what you already believe?
3. Are there exceptions to this belief? Take a moment to see if there are moments in your own history which contradict the belief you are examining.
Next week, we will drill even further down to label and then dispute the thoughts that are unhealthy or unhelpful. For now, concentrate on seeing the feedback loops created by your current ways of thinking. Really examine and see how what you believe actually creates the world around you.
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