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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

How do you change old, damaging beliefs?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (30801points) September 15th, 2010

Growing up gay in a rabidly fundamentalist, evangelical Christian household was hard at times and terrifying at others. We went to church 3 times each week, and the idea that LGBT people are unlovable, irredeemable, and subhuman was deeply instilled in my psyche.

Often times, when people talk about old beliefs, they use the term old tapes playing. “I’ve got old tapes playing” is the cliche that I think of when I start to think negatively about my life and situation. These old tapes tell me I’m useless and that I’m even unworthy to be alive.

For those who have been through similar damaging experiences, how have you overcome the negative self-images and detrimental self-talk?

What steps did you take in your attempt to win out over the loud voices berating yourself?

Did you have an action plan?

What positive things did you do?

I’m looking for tools I can use to get rid of these useless old voices in my head that do nothing but drag me down.

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17 Answers

Seek's avatar

I just force myself to remember that I only get this one life. This is it. I need to be as happy as I can be now, because I don’t get another whack at it.

I’d much rather be the happy one, than the group that is so miserable in their own situation that they find satisfaction trying to drag others down.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I was in therapy for years to overcome the “old tapes” and two things really helped me out. They’re cliched, but they worked for me.
1. Positive self talk
2. I made a list of good qualities about myself, and good things I have done, that to some seemed bad.
Good Luck.

TexasDude's avatar

Sometimes you have to dive right into whatever action or belief was previously demonized.

I was raised with some pretty unhealthy conceptions of love, relationships, and sexuality. After a lot of personal torment, I dove into my first real relationship, and while it wasn’t technically successful, it erased the damage that had been done by my upbringing. This sort of strategy is obviously not applicable to every situation you might find yourself in, but sometimes facing the vilified issue that has been tormenting you face to face helps. It seems like you’ve already done that, though, so like @JilltheTooth, keep up the positive self talk. Convince yourself that you are right.

marinelife's avatar

Therapy can help. Lacking that, you can read and do the work suggested in Self Parenting, which is very helpful at slowing down and changing your inner dialogues.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@marinelife Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll look for it.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I grew up fundy, too, @hawaii_jake, so I hear you. Look at the people who told you the things they told you in your mind, as if they were in front of you and you didn’t know them.

Then see their situation. I doubt that they’re happy. Do you think they’re happy? People who follow rigid fundamentalist beliefs are usually very unhappy and frightened. They didn’t tell you those things because they actively hated you. They thought they were helping you (and themselves). They’re scared and unsure how to handle the grey areas of life. Just by the fact that you recognize that these are old tapes has put you ahead of that way of thinking, so congratulate yourself on that. We need the conflict inside us to push us to grow.

Every time you feel sad or afraid and those scary old thoughts come in your head, remember what it is you know now about yourself and about life, and change that thought as quickly as you can to something positive about yourself and who you are. You didn’t start out in life having those beliefs, they were taught to you, and as such, can be un-taught, even though it might take a while to unravel all this stuff.

The fact that you’re sad is the conflict between your higher self that knows these old beliefs have to be put aside or else you won’t grow, and the little kid in you who fears losing the “love” of your relatives who taught you this. I’m going through the same thing, but regarding different issues, and some days are a bigger struggle than others, but it’s all for the best.

Austinlad's avatar

These are issues you’re not going to be able to solve just by reading books or asking others’ opinions. My advice would be to seek professional group and/or one-on-one therapy. What I’ve learned is that those old tapes can never be completely erased, but through hard theraputic work and with time, one can learn how to keep from letting them run your life.

kevbo's avatar

I’ve taken to literally regarding that sort of negative energy as a collective of demons, and when I realize/remember they are demons (and not the light that is me), I tell them to go away. It’s not a permanent fix, but there’s definitely some power in it.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Absolutely fascinating article on this topic in the Boston Globe earlier this summer. The Cliff Notes version: you can’t change people’s minds with facts. People don’t want to admit they’re wrong.

iamthemob's avatar

@BarnacleBill – AMAZING link. Thanks.

I was about to state something along the lines of “not with reasoned argument” but that article says it all.

What I would say is that personal experience is probably the best remedy. Assumptions I’ve found are best dealt with by letting people experience the opposite for themselves. That’s kind of why I like the series “30 Days.” But of course, sudden immersion isn’t the answer. Gradual introduction massages the reaction most people have against having deep-seeded beliefs proven wrong.

prolificus's avatar

Similar background. Tools I used:

- Long walks in my sacred space (chatted with, yelled at, argued, and listened to Spirit. Thought and reflected. Allowed the earth to affect and heal me.)
– Chats with ministers of various denominations to get different points of view.
– Blogged my process for about a year (very helpful).
– Made new friends and kept some of the old ones.
– Bio-feedback (helped me to pay attention to how my body reacts to my thoughts).
– Read / listened to various books, including: Stranger at the Gate (Mel White), The Power of Now and Stillness Speaks (Eckhart Tolle), and Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son (Kevin Jennings).
– Therapy and medication.
– Research (I did some academic work towards creating a theology of human sexuality. Also, I studied NT Greek and Christian Bible and theology. I integrated this with academic studies of social science, psychology, and multicultural ed. This whole process helps me to think for myself).

All these tools I continue to use in one form or another. It’s a never-ending process of integration. Cass Identity Model talks about the different stages of LGBT identity development, with integration being the capstone. The reality, I’m learning, is that it’s never-ending. I do not believe one wakes up one morning with everything integrated and made complete. Old, damaging beliefs will crop up even when least expected. I think the more healthy we become, though, the more aware we are of damaging beliefs. I think it’s a healthy person who is able to see. ;-)

One more thing.. another trick I use is to imagine my thoughts and beliefs stored in a filing cabinet (I worked as a file clerk for a short time, so it’s easy for me to imagine tons of cabinets in my head). I think of thought management as file management – whether it’s on paper or digital (I think of my computer’s file system, too). Almost every document (thought) has an expiration date and needs to be destroyed, archived, or recycled. This is a very visual process for me, and allows me to treat my thoughts/beliefs in a concrete manner. I try to keep my desktop (menu of thoughts) and system tray (open thoughts) tidy.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@prolificus : Different background, here, but we all have issues. You’re filing cabinet visualization is a brilliant idea, and I can’t wait to start implementing it for my own stuff. Thank You!

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@BarnacleBill & @iamthemob : I’m not sure you two read all the details to the question. I’m sorry if the title to the question is misleading, but we’re talking about dealing with psychological issues. I don’t get how the article you linked relates to the OP.

iamthemob's avatar

@hawaii_jake – You’re right – my post was regarding situations where the belief wasn’t internalized (i.e., where one was trying to get rid of beliefs about others).

But I think that the message works if you flip the assumption, too. How much of your negative self image is tied up with the church…and what does that make you feel about the church? Again, personal experience does a lot to challenge our assumptions, and in the end help us heal. Have you tried going to church again? It’s in many ways like an abusive relationship, the situation you described…for me, facing what judged me and seeing it’s imperfections (or how it has changed or can be different) goes a lot towards helping me heal. In so many ways, getting closure with the church may be helpful.

Of course, it really depends on where you are in your life now.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@iamthemob : I’ve got closure with religion, but those old thought patterns persist when I feel blue. It’s hard to reprogram years of emotional abuse, which is honestly what I think I was subjected to. In my opinion, they raped my soul.

nebule's avatar

I am still in counselling trying to challenge my beliefs. It is indeed a long and hard process but I do feel that self-parenting is the answer for me… connecting with myself and learning to love myself…it’s so difficult sometimes to even identify the beliefs that are running around in your head. All the best xxx

JustmeAman's avatar

Here is a small part of my life and what I have learned. When we are born we begin to make judgements based on enviornment, teachings and what happens to us. Then when a big negative happens we react to it and then store that story in our minds. The next time something comes up in your life like the negative thing you don’t think about it you react immediately to it. Therefore you bring your past and project it into your future. That is why you see people doing the same thing over and over. The women that pick men that abuse them and it becomes a never ending cycle. If you become aware of your stories and then stop the action and clear the past you end up with NOTHING. What can you create or make from Nothing? Anything you want. So then you create for yourself a new action to a negative event in your life and get out of the phase you were stuck in. It is very powerful and makes you totally responsible for your life.

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