Mental Health

The Truth About Hidden Beliefs

The Truth About Hidden Beliefs
Published: 2021-05-27
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In sports, there is tremendous pressure to win. At times, it can be too easy for athletes to feel discouraged and have trouble seeing their potential success. However, ending up in this mental state can set into motion a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading to losing streaks and slumps. 

If you find yourself in that place, there's a solution that can get you out of it—and prevent you from sliding into that hole in the future. 

In the 1950s, a psychologist called Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Therapy. It was the basis for what we now call Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is commonly used in the treatment of depression, anxiety and various other disorders. It deals with how our thoughts affect our emotions. If we change our thoughts, we can change our emotional responses. But there's another important element missing from that equation and it changes everything.

Ellis understood this and developed the ABC Theory: A is the action or event, which leads to B, your belief about the action, which leads to C, the consequent emotion about (and response to) the event. Ellis said that we think we skip from A to C, e.g. this particular thing happens and this is how you feel about it, which will dictate your response to the situation. 

But that is not how it works. Hidden somewhere in between the event and the emotion, there is a belief about the event, and this is what will directly and immediately affect what you think and how you feel, which will then produce your response.

Therefore, if you want to change your thoughts and behaviours, first you must identify the belief that is behind them. This is what gives you the power to change your outcomes and your life.

As simple as this seems to be, this is one of the most empowering pieces of information you can ever possess.

As an example of just how powerful this theory can be, let's look at how two people might respond to the same situation. Person A grew up in an environment of positivity, encouragement and praise. Insults and criticism were not acceptable and were seen as abusive and inappropriate. Person B grew up in a strict home with a father who was controlling, unfeeling, and believed in corporal punishment. 

Let's say both of these people get the same new coach, who is a tyrant. Condescending, demanding, shouting, disrespectful—a real bully. The coach screams an insult directly into each of their faces. Person A is shocked, offended, and fires the coach. Person B sees the coach as a great leader who will push him to do his best and thinks he's terrific.

Did the screaming insult cause Person A to fire the coach? No. It was that person's belief about it that caused him to kick the coach's @$$ to the curb. 

Likewise with Person B. Did the insult make him think the coach is great? No, he believed it was for his benefit so was quite happy to continue with the coach. And hand out referrals.

When you're not performing as well as you'd like, pay attention to what you believe about it. Are your thoughts loaded with negative self-talk? Are you putting yourself down? Developing a defeatist attitude? 

If you have damaging beliefs about a less-than-stellar performance, your thoughts and choices could make matters worse. It's important to pay attention to the thoughts you think; they are the key to discovering hidden beliefs that might not be doing you any favours, not just in terms of your performance but in other aspects of your life. 

Our beliefs shape our thoughts. Our thoughts shape our choices. And our choices shape our lives. If you're not happy with your performance or if you've found yourself in a losing streak or a slump, it could be helpful to see if you can identify any self-sabotaging beliefs that are causing trouble.

Noticing them is Step One. Deliberately inserting more positive and encouraging thoughts that can start to change them is Step Two. 

Once you start working to change those damaging beliefs, you may well find that you begin to feel better and your performance will improve once again.

Go on. Give it a try. And see just how little it can take to make a big difference in your life.