Thursday, September 23, 2010

Process work

“Know thyself”. This is a simple axiom which has been passed down to us through the ages. It sounds simple but how well do you really know yourself? Most of us know ourselves by summaries of ourselves. “I’m a good person” or “I’m quiet and reserved.” To really know yourself and to begin to make changes in your life, you really must know yourself beyond the surface summary level. The term used for this type of transformational activity is “process work”.

Process work is any formalized activity that causes us to examine and alter the processes that we use to navigate the world and how we present our self to the world. It is really about getting into “our stuff” (beliefs/fears/issues/judgments/etc) and working through them to release what doesn’t work and expand upon or add what does. Any type of healing work, talk therapy (psychology) or self-help work that we use to transform issues in our lives is process work.


The thing with doing this type of internal process work is that you may engage in it for a specific issue but the more you learn about why this is an issue for you the more you learn that it’s usually bigger than you thought. For example you may go into therapy because you feel depressed but once you really get into the emotional causes of your depression you realize that it’s not just because you just had a break-up or lost your job, it’s much deeper. Once you take an honest look at yourself and your life and all that needs to change, it can be overwhelming. It can also be frustrating because you feel the changes you need to make in yourself to be happy are not possible within the framework of your current life. Process work is challenging but it is essential for our social, emotional, mental and spiritual growth.

The challenging part about process work is that it will require us to change patterns in our lives and issues in our belief system. When we run into issues which challenge our beliefs, our natural instinct is to judge the issue as wrong and dismiss it because it isn’t in alignment with our beliefs and surly our beliefs are can’t be wrong! All too often however the belief is where the problem is and that is what needs to change. Until we really know and understand our beliefs however we can’t ever begin to change them.


Our belief system begins forming while we are still in the womb. These beliefs are forming at a very unconscious level and are based upon energy we receive during our gestation period. If our mothers are living in fear or abusive relationships, resentful of the pregnancy or highly stressed, the fetus receives these emotions and the unconscious belief that “the world isn’t safe” gets a foothold. Every event that happens from that point forward will be perceived through that “unsafe” filter.

If we unconsciously hold the belief that the world is an unsafe place, we will engage the world very differently than we would if we felt fully safe and supported. Two people could experience the same event but their belief that the world is safe or unsafe will color their experience and cause them to see the parts of the experience that confirm their belief system. We don’t tend to focus on things that disprove our beliefs because it’s all happening at the subconscious level. Our beliefs then begin to create our realities. If I believe the world is unsafe then I will fear everything and live my life based upon that fear response. Eventually my limited world will close in on me and I will be held hostage in my self-created prison of fear.


So then if our beliefs create our realities at the subconscious level and we are unhappy with the way life is going for us, how do we begin to change? We can’t change what we don’t know about. To begin the process of change we have to be willing to take an honest look at our belief system to find and release the limiting beliefs. The following exercise is a way for you to engage a process to bring out the unconscious beliefs that you are holding so that you can begin to see them and bring them into your conscious mind.

Take a blank sheet of paper and write “I believe…” at the top of it. Begin writing everything that you believe as it comes to you. Just make quick notes without explanation at this point but be honest with yourself. Start with the easy ones but notice the others that surface when you write one down. Don’t edit or judge yourself, just write a few words about each belief as it surfaces and stay with the process. Don’t be afraid to write down the ones that scare you or that you feel you’d be judged by if you spoke it out loud. Only you will see this paper. If it scares you too much to write it down, it’s probably causing a great many problems without your awareness. Write it down BECAUSE it scares/saddens/angers or triggers some other powerful emotion within you. Don’t worry about processing these issues for now otherwise you’ll find a way to run from the deeper issues which will begin surfacing after you stop writing the fluffy beliefs that you like. Don’t stop this process until the page is full on the front and back. Push yourself to fill the page and if the energy is there a second or third page. Each time you write one thing down and bring it into your conscious mind this way, more beliefs will surface with it so write them down too and keep the process flowing.

Allow yourself to observe yourself engaging in the process and notice what beliefs surface there. If “rules” arise (“I should use good grammar”, “I must use good penmanship”, “I shouldn’t write negative things”) make a note of them too. Each of these items is a reflection of a belief (you must use good grammar all the time, write precisely or only focus on love and light) that you hold consciously or unconsciously. Thoughts that come with “should” or “must” or words like that originate from some belief you are holding about why you should or must do something. These are the small, controlling and limiting beliefs that we’re searching for with this exercise.


Begin this process when you can set aside at least 30 uninterrupted minutes to an hour for it. Try and stay with the process once you begin it until you can’t take any more. Starting and stopping breaks the flow so push yourself to continue, especially once you hit the first “that’s all” point. It’s very easy to write furiously for 2 or 3 minutes and then talk yourself into being done. Force yourself to stay with the process for the minimum amount of time that you’ve set aside even if you have periods where nothing seems to be surfacing. Allow yourself to sit in that silence and wait. Use blank paper if possible so that you don’t have lines to follow but rather you have unbound space to work in with no rules. Commit to the process of just writing the belief without limiting or judging yourself or doing anything beyond simply writing down what you believe to be true no matter how trivial, petty, embarrassing or seemingly unrelated to anything in your life it is.

Remember to examine all levels here including personal, family, societal, religious and/or professional beliefs. All of the beliefs from any area of your life are having an impact on all areas of your life whether you see it directly or not. For now, just write the belief itself and don’t worry about rationalizing it, understanding it or processing it. This exercise is only about bringing that which is held in your unconscious mind into your conscious mind. Use as many sheets of paper as you need to get it all out and don’t worry about duplicates for now…just let it flow. Save the paper(s) for the process work that’s ahead in upcoming blog entries. If more beliefs surface after you feel that you are done, add them. The more beliefs you can bring from your unconscious mind into your conscious mind the more effective this process will be. Please don’t limit or judge yourself with this process.

What do you really believe and what beliefs have been given to you or imposed upon you?


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