by Marilee Danniman
If you are faced with a serious health problem, it’s one thing to tell yourself you hope you’ll get better. It’s quite another thing to know you will—really, deep down, know it.
Most of us have had times in life when we truly knew something was going right. These times can be brief moments—like a second in a softball game when the ball was flying right toward you and it seemed you had all the time in the world to let it drop into your glove. Or these times can be major events in life, like the feeling of knowing with certainty that you’ve chosen the right mate, and your future is going to work out fine. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to feel that way about your health problem, too? To be deeply and quietly confident that you WILL solve the problem?
In any of life’s endeavors, a belief is the beginning point that triggers actions, attitudes, and eventually results. What you believe determines how you feel, what you notice in your environment, and what you do. In a matter related to health, a positive belief has an effect that begins almost immediately.
Suppose you have received a medical diagnosis of a serious health condition. Your response to the news is to form the belief, “I can heal from this condition.” Just from this statement, your stress level goes down. All of the biochemical and physiological reactions to stress are reduced, and your body’s natural healing ability starts to be released.
You notice things around you that support your belief. You may find yourself discarding terms like “health problem” and replacing them with terms like “health challenge.” Words are powerful motivators. One definition of “challenge” is “a test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking.” When you use that word, you may feel a sense of rising to that challenge. (Note that “challenge” might be a good word for some people, but it may not be a comfortable fit for you. When the language you choose comes directly from the belief you hold, you will find the word that is right for you.)
Because you believe that you can heal from the condition— even if you don’t know how—you may start paying attention to information in the world around you about actions you can take to support your healing. You may learn about different approaches and options for this condition. You may be attracted to dietary or lifestyle changes that will be good for you. Your positive belief may affect the way you interact with health care professionals. All these things, and many more, can be triggered by your belief in a favorable outcome.
But there’s a catch. Most of us can’t conjure up a belief and make it real. Conscious decision about what you want to believe isn’t enough. For a belief to really serve you, it has to be something that rings true for you on every level, conscious and unconscious, down to the bone.
Unfortunately, the human mind is amazingly capable of confusing itself and sabotaging its own highest good. Thoughts and ideas embedded in our subconscious minds, often from earliest childhood, can interfere with our conscious wishes. If we try to paste a happy face over a deep-down feeling of fear or helplessness, this could create a whole new inner conflict and actually make matters worse.
Tim and Kris Hallbom, widely recognized experts in the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP, know the difference between just telling yourself something and really, deeply believing that thing to be true. They have created techniques that empower individuals to uncover their own hidden limiting beliefs, dismantle those beliefs, and replace them with new, positive beliefs.
What are limiting beliefs and why are they so destructive?
Tim Hallbom offers this example:
“Suppose that as a small child you were taught that ‘doctor knows best,’ a belief instilled when you were too young to know anything different. In the back of your mind you’ve had a lurking fear of disagreeing with any doctor. Now a doctor has told you you have a condition with a very poor cure rate, or the only cure is a treatment you find unacceptable. In other words, your belief leaves you with no choice and no guidance what to do.“
That’s just one example of a limiting belief, Tim says. Many other kinds of limiting beliefs can emerge in a health crisis. Self-worth is an issue that sometimes arises—beliefs like “I don’t deserve to get well,” “I’m not worth all this trouble,” or even “This is my punishment for wrongs I’ve done.”
Some people develop a fear of “false hope” or think back to memories of past failures, so that they come to believe they are not capable or competent to succeed at whatever their healing requires.
Family loyalty can work its way into beliefs: someone whose mother and grandmother both died of the same illness, and who now has that illness, may go so far as to believe that getting well would be disloyal to her family—“Who am I to get better if they didn’t?”
Beliefs like these lurk deep in our minds, where we tend not not to bring them to light. As long as they are not spoken out loud, not articulated consciously, they cannot be confronted or changed.
It’s easy to see how a limiting belief, gnawing away at an unconscious level, can interfere with an individual’s ability to heal.
The Hallboms’ work on beliefs and health incorporates techniques that address this concern. Through extensive research, training and testing, along with collaboration with other major leaders in the field of NLP, they have developed processes to overcome these limitations.
“What we call the Belief Change Process is a series of steps,” Kris Hallbom says. “First, we uncover the limiting belief so that it is stated explicitly; next, we dismantle the belief so it is nearly impossible to reconstruct; and finally, we replace it with a new, empowering belief. The new belief will be one generated by the person himself or herself, so that it fits fully and naturally with that person’s world view and values.”
In many cases the steps can be accomplished in a single session. The session takes the form of a highly structured interview. The practitioner uses a number of linguistic techniques to guide the person through the steps. These techniques are taught in seminars by the Hallboms all over the world.
“By teaching the belief change process, “ Tim says, “we are not only helping individuals to change their own limiting beliefs, we are enabling them to work with others and share this empowering technology.”
What is meant by “dismantling” a belief? In general terms, it means adding new information or evidence that the person has previously not noticed, so that it is not possible to continue to have the old belief. One example, taken from a real-life case, was a belief based on “family loyalty.” A woman had breast cancer. Other women in the family had died of that disease. This woman believed that if she recovered, it would be disloyal to their memory. When the hidden belief was uncovered, the guide observed that the “family loyalty” references were all in the past. “What about the future?” he asked. The woman instantly realized that this was not a future she wanted for her daughters, and that by ending the tradition she would be giving a gift of life to her family’s future generations. That insight made it literally impossible ever to go back to the old belief.
What about empowering beliefs? What are the characteristics of such a belief? To answer this question, the Hallboms have drawn on the rich base of wisdom that underlies the field of NLP. Having studied the structure of beliefs that lead to successful outcomes in health, they learned that certain key elements must be present to drive behavior toward a desired direction.
Three elements must be present—stated or implied— in a well-formed belief about health or healing. Those elements are:
1. It’s possible.
2. I’m capable.
3. I’m worth it.
“It’s possible:” In an empowering belief, it’s assumed that, within the world, it is possible to recover from this condition. Examples abound about people who recovered from serious illnesses when the percentages were against them. Even if 90 percent of people do not recover from the condition you have, that statistic shows that 10 percent do. Even for those conditions where recovery is not likely, we can look at the example of the late Christopher Reeve, who believed he would walk again. While he didn’t get that result, his powerful positive belief helped him to prolong his life, and he succeeded at making that life rich and meaningful and advancing the science of nervous system recovery.
“I’m capable.” An empowering belief suggests that you have capabilities and can use them. You may not know, at the outset of a healing process, what you will be required to do. You may not know whether you will be able to do it all. A well-formed belief may contain the idea that if you can’t do something today, you can learn to do it tomorrow, or get help doing it, or find another way to get it done. Such a belief will help you to face the challenge with confidence.
“I’m worth it.” A health issue can become a deep and life-changing experience, because it leads us to consider basic questions of self-worth. Often that questioning leads to the discovery of how valuable we have been to ourselves and others, so that we find within ourselves a new level of affirmation of our self-worth.
In addition to containing these three elements, an empowering belief must be one that looks, sounds and feels right to YOU and you alone. It must be stated in vocabulary that fits for YOU. It must be aligned with your other beliefs and values and with the outcome you desire from your healing process. It must provide you with a sense of motivation. As you work to develop this belief, only you can judge whether the statement you are constructing is exactly right or whether it still needs more refinement. The guide’s job is to lead and assist you.
“In applying these techniques,” the Hallboms say, “we make no judgements about any approach to health, healing or wellness. We have no opinion about whether to use conventional medicine, alternative medicine, or anything else. We certainly do not suggest that belief alone will cure your condition or that you don’t have to DO anything.
“What we hope,” Tim and Kris continue, “is that you will be able to give your health condition all the energy and attention it needs, free of inner conflicts that could divert your attention or sap your energy. Our contribution is to help you remove any roadblocks so you can indeed set all your resources in the right direction and look ahead to a future of abundant health.”
NLP is based on close observation of what we call “the structure of subjective experience.” We pay attention not just to WHAT you think or feel, but HOW you go about doing it— for example, what steps your mind takes to create a specific thought or feeling.