Belief problem v. Workable Attitude

As I described in the section on theories of responding to psychological suffering, I belong to the school of thought that believes that it is your response to yourself and your environment that determines your sense of wellbeing. It is not your circumstances themselves, but rather your interpretation of them and your beliefs about them that determines how you think, feel, and act.

I call those thoughts that drive ineffective behavior “belief problems.”

Various psychologists throughout the years have used different terms for the same problem. They are called cognitive distortions, negative schemas, problematic scripts, and over-used defense mechanisms in other schools of thought.

I use the term belief problem because I want it to cue you to remember that your thought, feeling, sensation, or situation are not your problem. They may cause you pain but they don’t cause your suffering. If you recognize that it is human nature to experience pain and you let the moments of pain occur without resistance, your suffering will decrease over time.

I also like the term belief problem because it speaks to the foundational parts of who you are. Typically when people talk about their beliefs, they are referring to a particular set of religious, moral, political or lifestyle indicators that dictate their behavior and give them a group with whom to identify. What I am concerned with here the more set of automatic responses that individuals naturally develop as the result of unexamined assumptions about the way you should relate to your mind, your body, other people, and your values. 

Everyone has these assumptions and some assumptions are much more effective than others. Whether you have ineffective automatic assumptions because of unexamined dysfunctional styles of relating in your family of origin, traumatic experience, or a long-standing anxiety disorder at whose mercy you have been suffering, you can learn to identify and change your automatic assumptions.

The opposite of a belief problem is a workable attitude. Having a workable attitude requires your acknowledgement of how your attitude influences determines your life.

The word workable is more helpful than “good” (as in good attitude), because the word good is judgmental without being especially helpful.

The word workable should cue you to think, “When I think this way, does it help me live based on my values, or does it make it harder for me to live according to my goals?”