Change your Beliefs, Change your Story
Many people assume that we are born with our beliefs, and we need to be unwavering in them. This is also true about our relationships and how we imagine they should be. Rather, beliefs are the thoughts that you have told yourself over and over again; so many times that you believe it to be true. So your beliefs about why things are the way they are in your relationship, or why your partner is the way they are, are stories you created in your own mind.
Even the deepest beliefs that we have about ourselves and the world are stories that we have created for ourselves. These belief-stories are molded by our childhood experiences, socialization, and every single experience we’ve ever had. Each experience that confirms our beliefs then helps to solidify and strengthen them that much more. The good news is that it’s possible to change both our beliefs and the stories we tell ourselves.
Rebuilding Your Beliefs to Create a Better Story
Your beliefs are like a foundation beneath a house. Like walls, floors, and doors are built upon a foundation, our beliefs hold up our world view, opinions, and how we process things. If that foundation isn’t solid, has cracks, or leans to one side, the home that rests upon it will not be solid and safe. Your beliefs about your relationships are like that foundation - but it doesn’t mean you can’t excavate and reconstruct it.
When you react to something based on your beliefs, you are creating a story about the person or the situation. However, if you are able to pull back to see the bigger picture, you will see that there isn’t only one possibility.
For example, if your partner retreats and seems to avoid conflict when it arises, you may tell yourself that they don’t care about you or the problem. You have created a meaning around the situation that may or may not be true. It feels like the truth, because of your foundational beliefs. Perhaps you saw this type of behaviour in your parents’ unhappy marriage. Or maybe a previous partner of yours acted this way and ended up breaking your heart.
By identifying certain beliefs that aren’t working for you, you can rebuild them in order to create a better story for yourself and your relationship.
How to Find the Bigger Picture
It is very empowering to take a step back to see what you have control over, and what you have the ability to change. It requires you to step back and see things from a wider lens, which can alter the story you tell yourself. One way to do this is to ask the question: “What am I doing that isn’t working?”
Asking questions about your own behavior doesn’t mean you are solely responsible for the relationship problems, and it is not meant to blame you. Rather, it is meant to open you up to possibilities, and help you learn more about yourself. Read more about asking yourself better questions
“Every time we ask a question, we’re generating a possible version of a life.” David Epston
When you ask yourself good questions about your perspective or your beliefs, you may come to some surprising conclusions. You might recognize that you need to let your partner know what you need more clearly. Or you may see that you need to establish clearer boundaries, or learn not to enter the “dance” of cyclical conflict.
Practice the Art of Conscious Relating
Conscious relating occurs when you are able to drop your preconceived beliefs, and relate from a place of awareness and authenticity. One way to start this practice is to imagine your internal stories as a movie.
Think of a story you tell yourself about your relationship, and instead imagine it being played out on a movie screen in front of you. You are sitting there, watching from the outside as an observer. Try and remove yourself even further from the story, and “watch” from up in the projector room as the story plays out. Is there a difference in the way you see things?
With practice, you can use this exercise when issues arise with your partner. Put the interaction on the screen and sit back in the theatre seat to watch the situation play out. Notice what the two of you are doing together. How are you contributing to this dance? What do you notice your partner does in reaction to what you do, and then how do you react? How do they respond next? Watch this dance play out, and see what new ideas come out of this expanded view of the problem.
Changing Beliefs Creates Possibility
As you practice expanding the picture, you will start to shift your beliefs as well. You may notice that you move from a belief that “things will never change unless my partner changes,” to “I can change my part and see what happens.”
You have the power to change your story from one of disempowerment to one of possibility.