What are your Rules for Living? We all live by our own unwritten and unconscious rules every day of our lives. All of our actions and reactions are determined by these rules by which we live our lives. You may not realise that you are doing so, but you are interpreting the world you live in, and everything that happens in it, through the filters of your own personal rules, which are like your own moral code. Two people can have the same experience, but interpret it and react to it in completely different ways, as they are each following their own personal codes.
Getting to know what your own personal rules are can be immensely liberating. You will be better able to recognise and understand why you react in certain ways, why some things make you feel one way whilst they may make someone else feel another, and even how you can change the way you cope with things. You will find that you DO have options in how you deal with what life throws up. Learning to understand your own rules opens up so many more choices to you.
So how do you go about getting to know and understand your rules for living? A good therapist can help you, of course, and techniques including hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Transactional Analysis (TA) methods can be used to help you to uncover your rules and beliefs. Or you can do your own exploratory work. One way to do this is to think about some experiences in your life that have been bad or uncomfortable (don’t worry, this will help I promise you!). Often negative early life experiences can be very useful for this. Now think about what negative conclusions you have come to about yourself because of those experiences. An example might be “My parents frequently shouted at me when I was a child” and the negative conclusion might be “I was a bad child and I didn’t deserve my parents’ love“. This negative conclusion can be called your ‘Bottom Line’. Because, over time, you may have come to believe your bottom line to be true, you will have created rules for living that help you to deal with that bottom line belief, and to avoid further, similar pain. In the example above, for instance, a rule that has been adopted may be “I am not lovable, so I can expect to be rejected”. Someone living by this rule may find that they are unable to form lasting relationships, because they have a core belief that they will ultimately be rejected, so they may subconsciously seek out situations that allow this to happen. Or someone else with the same formative experience, and even the same core belief may respond in a way that causes them to avoid experiences that trigger their core belief, in this example, perhaps by avoiding close relationships altogether.
Rules for Living are created by the subconscious to help us and protect us. Your subconscious mind tries to protect you from situations that may be hurtful to you as they have been in the past. So each time a similar type of situation arises, the core belief will be triggered and your rule(s) will come into play. However, in trying to protect you with these rules, your subconscious is not allowing you to disprove the negative core belief. In fact the negative core belief is simply reinforced as time after time the same patterns emerge (as in the case of our example of rejection).
So next time you feel unhappy or dissatisfied with an outcome, or how you handled a situation, rewind back in your mind to see if you can identify any core beliefs, bottom lines or rules for living that may have been at work. Then get to work on changing them. Challenge your core belief – simply decide not to believe it. If that sounds daunting, try it just once, and you will find out how simple it can be. Have you heard the expression to act “as if”? Sometimes that’s all it takes – act as if you ARE confident when you’re not, act as if you CAN achieve something when you’re not sure about it. In other words, try ignoring your core belief for a change and see if that makes a difference to how things work out. If you do this, you may find that your rules become less valid. Once that happens, you will find that there are actually lots of options for how to handle a situation or react. Choose to react in a different way to how you normally would – just try it! Do this often enough and you will find that your rules become more flexible, and your core beliefs begin to change.
If you’d like help with this process I’d be very happy to talk to you. Just get in touch!
© Copyright Amanda Hart 2012