Break Free from Toxic Beliefs
We all have self-defeating responses to stress, and we do not like what they do to us or how they make us feel. Undoing such responses requires retraining the brain and replacing those toxic responses with better alternatives. Beliefs are like software programs that keep repeating the same commands until we choose to replace the unhealthy commands with more adaptive ones. By practicing this, we develop emotional resiliency to stress.
The following are examples of common toxic beliefs that may surface when we feel depressed. With each toxic belief are alternatives that can be practiced to counter the unhealthy belief and re-train the brain:
We are not saying that all alternative beliefs work all the time. We must be flexible. To become flexible, we need to learn to beat the toxic responses at their own game. But how?
1) If your automatic reaction is associated with sadness, helplessness, anxiety etc., then refuse to accept it
Take a moment, take a deep breath and refer to the list of alternative responses
Find one that works
It may feel forced in the beginning, but it will pay off with time and effort as learning new responses forms new neural pathways in your brain and lessens the temptation to fall back on old, toxic beliefs
This practice also increases your ability to practice mindfulness when toxic beliefs pop up
2) Break down the toxic response into manageable pieces
Start with a piece that you are ready to handle
Believing that there will always be a hump that is too difficult to overcome is another toxic belief that promotes apathy and inactivity
Remember, inertia is depression's best friend
Pushing yourself over even the smallest hump urges the brain to give up an old pattern for a new one
You are now letting in fresh impulses from the “source” or your true/core self
3) Stop fighting it so much
“I cannot be any other way” is a common cry and it can feel like the “good me” (i.e. happy and optimistic) and “bad me” (sad and depressed) are constantly warring against each other
The truth is, depression and anxiety can cast their shadow over everything
It feels like the “bad me” will always win in the end; that the good moments will only lead to another downfall, setback or relapse
When a war feels unwinnable, why fight it?
Exactly… try not fighting it. This can take its power away over time
You can even take it a step further by welcoming them in. Toxic beliefs feed off of the negative energy we attach to them. If you happily welcome them in, you may find that they dissipate that much faster because they are no longer being fed the energy they want
Similar to a Chinese finger trap, the initial reaction when your finger is stuck is to pull rapidly away in attempts to free your finer. The way to escape however, is to move towards the middle of the trap as the opening becomes enlarged and the finger can be freed
To challenge toxic responses, it is not always sufficient to only go inward. Our healing must combine inner and outer work. The lists below provide some examples of inner and outer work that can help to change what you think, feel and behave
Meditate · Examine your toxic beliefs · Learn new responses that are life-enhancing · Adopt a higher vision of your life · Stop fighting fear and believing that it is okay just because it is powerful · Don’t mistake mood for reality
Find fulfilling work · Reduce stressful conditions · Find people who share your inner values/don’t increase your toxic beliefs · Learn to forgive yourself · Adopt good sleeping habits · Exercise lightly once a day · Focus on relationships, not consumerism
We must reshape our lives on many levels, which we can only do consciously. The best news is that the REAL YOU is not depressed or anxious and never has been. By setting out on the path to find the real you, you will accomplish more than just healing your toxic beliefs.
You will emerge and see life in a new way!
Chopra, D., & Tanzi, R. E. (2013). Super brain: Unleashing the explosive power of your mind to maximize health, happiness, and spiritual well-being. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning.