SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares tools and skills to help change how you feel about past events in your life so you can move forward.
I went through a horrible divorce many years ago and it made me feel unwanted and unloved. I can’t seem to get past those feelings, and because of that I am not dating or trying to meet anyone. I think it’s a combination of being afraid, thinking I am not good enough, and being afraid of rejection. Is there anything I can do to get past those fears and move on?
There are some things you can do that would help you move forward and feel more courageous about dating. But before we get to that, I want to explain how our past experiences create beliefs, mental rules or policies that dictate our behavior in the future.
This process started when you were a small child and everything you saw or experienced created ideas and beliefs about who you are and how you fit in the world. But it's possible that many of these conclusions may not have been accurate.
It sounds like the divorce also prompted you to make some new beliefs about your value and relationships. You may have drawn conclusions that the rejection meant you aren’t good enough to deserve love. This isn’t a fact, though; it’s just a belief (or a subconscious policy or rule) you may have applied to the event.
The good news is while you can’t go back and change what happened, you can go back and change what it meant. This is where "time travel" comes in. You have the ability to visualize when you went through that experience and choose a different meaning around it. You can also change the beliefs it created.
To change the meaning of some of your past experiences, find some quiet time when you won't be interrupted and follow these steps:
1. Close your eyes and go back to the situation when you created these assumptions or beliefs about your value or your life. Sit in that place for a while and really feel the feelings that show up. What are the exact conclusions you drew at this time? How did you feel because of these conclusions? After you sit with that for a little while, stop and write the conclusions or beliefs down on paper. What meaning did you apply to the event?
2. Look at those beliefs and write down the ways those beliefs have served you or protected you. You may have held onto them because they served you in some way.
3. Now, think about what these beliefs have cost you. Write down all the damage they have done and how they have negatively affected your life.
4. Ask yourself, are these beliefs worth the cost or would you like to change them?
5. If you think your life would be better if you changed these limiting beliefs, what would you like to believe instead? How would you like to feel about yourself? How would you like to feel about your life?
6. If it would serve you to change these beliefs, try applying new meaning to the event in your past and choose new beliefs to draw from it.
Here's how to do this:
- Choose to believe that all humans have the same value no matter what happens to them. This means this event didn’t make you less than other people. It didn’t change your value at all.
- Choose to see this event as part of a perfect classroom experience that was in your life to help you learn and grow. Bad things also prompt growth, and you have the option to see this event as something to serve your growth if you want to. This would mean it was just a lesson experience and has no power to change your value or influence your worth.
- Can you think of 10 positives this experience has created in your life? How might it have been a blessing and made you stronger, wiser or more loving?
- If you chose to see this experience (your divorce, in this case) as something to help you grow, and if it doesn’t change your value or mean anything about who you are, how would you feel about it? How does it make you feel if the event doesn't affect your value or mean anything permanent about you?
- What would be some better beliefs, conclusions, or policies you could take from the event? You have to choose what everything means; and if you don’t consciously choose meaning, you will subconsciously choose meaning. So, I suggest choosing some meanings that make you feel better about yourself and your life. Take some time to write these new conclusions and beliefs down.
7. Now it’s time for some more time travel. Close your eyes again and go back to that time in your mind. This time apply the new meaning or beliefs and process the event with these new conclusions. Use your imagination to experience the event again with new beliefs. Spend some time here really feeling the new feelings that come from applying the new meanings.
8. Take some time to write down how you are going to choose to feel and process present experiences in light of the new meanings around the past that you have chosen.
You may want to repeat this process a few times, because the more you do it the more you will internalize your new chosen beliefs. According to the neuroscientist, Beau Lotto, in his book Deviate, your brain doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality. So, when you use visualization and process events in a more healthy way, you actually get the same benefits you would if you had really had the experience that way.
You may also have more courage to start dating if you choose to trust that your value is the same as everyone else’s, whether someone likes you or not, and trust in the universe that the right person will like you when the time is right.
You can do this.
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