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More than anything, more than even genetics, your beliefs dictate your world view and behavior. In order to understand why you’re so doggone attached to your current, wrongheaded beliefs, you have to understand their purpose and where they come from.
In THE BELIEVING BRAIN, author Michael Shermer spells out the answer, “Our brains evolved to connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen. These meaningful patterns become beliefs, and these beliefs shape our understanding of reality. Once beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs.” (NY Times Books, 2011, p. 5) By the way, we call this confirmation seeking “confirmation bias.”
It’s not only people whose brains are geared to connect the dots. When my cat spots or smells her pet carrier, she hightails it under the sofa. She’s figured out that each time we put her into it, she has a crummy time. In truth, most of our lives are based on unconscious dot-connection and meaning-making. This is especially true when, as children, everything is new to us and we want to make sense of the world. To do this, we automatically pair up random events though they don’t necessarily belong together.
For example, say you were raised in a family in which Dad was more interested in drinking than in parenting you well, and Mom was domineering, self-centered, and critical. What meaning might you make about yourself in this environment? Most likely that you didn’t matter much and weren’t lovable. Believing this would keep you prepared for your parents’ behavior toward you and make sense of their actions based on the assumption they don’t treat you well because you’re not worth it. Remember, though, it’s not as if you were sitting around as a child pondering this issue. You automatically jumped to this conclusion from repetitive episodes of neglect and mistreatment.
But, now as an adult, you can easily see that you made the wrong meaning of the situation, can’t you? The truth is that your parents were incompetent at taking care of you and you were always lovable, worthy of care, and a normal little kid. Why are you afraid to see this truth? So many of my clients understand intellectually that they made the wrong meaning of parental mistreatment, but have yet to shake childhood beliefs about it. It’s imperative that you understand what holds you back from seeing reality. Having beliefs that you’re lovable and worthy of happiness and health is key to becoming a “normal” eater. I dare say you won’t be able to maintain this goal without it.
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