Are you aware that you operate under certain beliefs and assumptions that help you to make sense of this world and your life experiences, and that also guide you as you maneuver through each day? Perhaps you’re very much aware of the fact that you have such a framework—often referred to as a world view. For example, you may believe that you were put on this earth for a God-given purpose. Hence, you’re striving to understand and adhere to what that purpose is. You’re open to examining things that happen to you because you believe they have lessons to teach you and indeed, may be guiding you towards new directions you need to now be taking.

You may also deal with life’s problems and setbacks well because you see them as developing your ability to cope with what may yet lie ahead on this path you believe you’re being asked to follow—by a higher power that you may refer to as your higher self, the universe, or God, for example. Furthermore, you may believe that even tragedy offers newfound opportunity if you’ll but look for it and seize it.

Hand-Me-Down Beliefs or Your Own?

Even if you can not relate to what you’ve just read, you’re undoubtedly operating in accordance with certain beliefs and assumptions—likely handed down by significant adults during your childhood. Then again, they could come from conclusions you drew as a result of experiences during that phase of your life. So, whether you are aware of it or not, you think about other people, the world and how it operates, as well as your position as a system within larger systems—such as your family, your community, and your country—in certain ways that others may not because they had different experiences and were handed other beliefs.

Since the smoothness of your early life was largely dependent upon your ability to please the significant adults in your life, or to adopt and live in accordance with their beliefs, it is not surprising that you operate automatically in accordance with these beliefs. Also, since it is important that, as citizens of this country we all adhere to certain beliefs so as to remain productive and law-abiding members of our society, it has likely been helpful that you’ve clung to beliefs taught by teachers and others.

Still, while there are guidelines as to what is considered reasonable or rational thinking and behavior within our country, there is nevertheless a considerable range of beliefs and assumptions under which you could operate and still remain an upstanding citizen of both our country and the world. Sure, there may be some folks out there who will judge you as unreasonable for clinging to beliefs and assumptions that clash with their own. But just because they don’t realize that by being open to evaluating their beliefs and assumptions, or by modifying their personal world view, that their lives could offer them more possibilities than they can imagine for themselves today, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do so.

That said, even if you have been operating under a world view that you believe has been serving you well, it may be time to re-evaluate its appropriateness for both your life today and where you want to be tomorrow. After all, these are challenging times for many people throughout the world. You may need to change up some beliefs and assumptions so you can still notice and embrace life’s possibilities at a time when negativity may seem ready to engulf you. On another note, if you have doubts about continuing to walk the path you were committed to previously, it may be time to consider some remodeling.

You may become more self-aware by striving to continually examine your thoughts, your emotions, and your behaviors. So, shall we look more closely as to how you can use these to direct you in ways you’ve perhaps not considered before?

Listening to your Mind—or Not?

Many people experience their minds as something akin to committees of people chattering and arguing anyway in their heads. They hardly know how to proceed because of all the conflicting messages their minds feed them. Hopefully, though, this is not your situation—or that you have a somewhat calmer mind most of the time, at least. Assuming this to be the case, or that typically one thought at a time seems to jump forth, you may still be wondering if you should listen to it or not. In other words, should you trust that all thoughts that come to mind are essentially your friends and hence, will serve you well?

People who suffer from the mental disorder, schizophrenia, often come to realize that their minds feed them many thoughts that need to be disregarded. Someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, on the other hand, may believe that his thoughts (the majority of narcissists are men) are perfectly fine while indeed, they create havoc and emotional pain for those who must interact with him—or who suffer the consequences of his choices made as a businessman, for instance. The person who develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD following a traumatic event may have once been able to trust his or her thoughts, but now realizes because the brain was changed by trauma, it is no longer a good idea to do so—that whereas some of the individual’s thinking may be right on, other thoughts fall into that category known in twelve-step programs as “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” instead.

Even if you have a calm brain and a world view that has served you well, just as you may want to stay attuned to the functioning of your seemingly well-running car, you’ll want to review your automatic thoughts and how they’re continuing to serve you. After all, thoughts can fuel emotions—that can fuel behaviors that may prove detrimental and take you away from the path you intended to follow.

Let’s look at an example of this, shall we?

Justin and his Relationship with his Verbally Abusive Boss

Let’s say that I man named Justin continually feels angry at the put-downs of a verbally abusive boss because Justin knows these simply are not true. Nonetheless, in his mind, Justin keeps thinking or telling himself that he has no choice but to accept his boss’s verbal abuse because he could never find another job, or develop a business, that would provide the income he currently makes—and furthermore, he is absolutely convinced he needs to survive financially, too.

Justin’s has strived to control his thoughts in such a way as to help him cope with a difficult situation—and he has successfully done so for awhile now. However, in recent weeks, he has become aware of even more constant churning sensations in his stomach. And the truth is, they have become more vicious during the past week. But then, the extent of Justin’s boss’s abuse has been worsening—not only towards Justin, but towards all the people his boss supervises. But then, this executive is an equal opportunity abuser.

Justin may want to stop and think about what his anxiety may be trying to tell him. Could it be there to awaken him to the fact that this is a very destructive situation? That it may be time to face his fears and move on nonetheless since this job and this boss are just too destructive to his well-being? In fact, how can he live in accordance with his highest self—how can Justin let this self shine forth—when he is being verbally and emotionally abused regularly by another? It is nearly impossible for most people.

So, would it be preferable for Justin to give himself an opportunity to experience something better?

Listening to Your Emotions versus Blindly Following Them

It can be painful to face up to a new truth that feelings or an emotional response seem to be asking that you attend to now. If you are facing such a struggle currently, you may want to consider that on down the road, things may well become more painful or worse yet if you don’t heed the message and act. Remember, most problems don’t just go away. Rather, they typically grow worse—or they create new problems such as physical health issues. Therefore, you’ll want to listen to you’re emotional warning system and take any action that it seems to be asking of you.

Does this mean you should blindly follow your emotions? Well, not exactly. In fact, let’s use another example to demonstrate why not.

Anger-ridden Lori

Let’s say that a woman named Lori, who has problems with anger, has been guided by the belief that she should just blindly follow her emotions. She has never stopped to consider if this is in her best interest, or whether this is leading her closer or farther away from being the person she wants to become—or living the type of life she has imagined for herself since youth. Indeed, Lori wants to lead a purpose-driven life versus one where she merely reacts to whatever life tosses her way, but her displays of anger seem to be derailing versus helping her.

A therapist has been helping Lori evaluate if her emotional responses are serving her or not—if they are helping her move forward toward that purposeful life she now seeks. After becoming more self-aware, Lori was able to admit that blindly following her emotions not only keeps her from progressing on this path, but she is also hurting those she professes to love by letting anger spew forth on them regularly. As a result, Lori has now decided that she will change her belief—to no longer allow her emotions to rule but instead, to merely evaluate them for the lessons they can provide with regard to fears and hurts she needs to acknowledge. After all, Lori’s therapist taught her that one of these emotions alone—or the two of them occurring together—typically will fuel anger.

Soon, Lori discovered that because she’d changed her belief, she had also caused the self-talk or chattering in her head to change. As a result, her emotional reaction came to change, too. Of course, because her emotional reaction changed, Lori’s behavior changed as well. She no longer was forever exploding like a volcano, spewing forth her anger on everyone in her midst.

With her therapist’s help, Lori came to realize that she got the message from her parents to act on your emotions. Perhaps this isn’t surprising since both of her parents were alcoholics who did exactly that. Lori also cane to realize that her anger stemmed from the pain of always being called “worthless” or “not good enough” by her impaired and angry parents. Then, as an adult, she had often been crippled by fear as she sought to pursue various goals—which Lori came to realize were fed by that same parental message of not being good enough. Once Lori became aware of this, because she had come to believe that all people are worthy because they are human beings walking this earth, she decided that she could certainly pursue the path she believed she was now being asked to walk—to work with children of alcoholics. Because Lori, with only a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, knew that she had more to learn if she wanted to best serve these children, she decided she’d go back to school to attain a Master’s degree. With that degree in hand, she’d then certainly be good enough to walk this new life path.

Are You seeking to Understand the Lessons to be Learned from Your Emotional Reactions?

Can you now better appreciate how important it is to pay attention to your emotional responses and any messages they may be seeking to deliver? Remember, your emotions can be a warning system—there to help protect you or remind you that there are changes you need to be making to move forth with your life and purpose. The anxiety or emotional pain, for example, may become severe enough that they seem impossible to ignore because, indeed, you aren’t supposed to be ignoring them! They are there to awaken you to the fact it is time to take action—to make some changes in yourself or your life.

Some people will not be brave enough to do this. Rather, they will try to avoid what is being asked of them by abusing substances, for example. Some will seek emotional pain relief through non-stop involvement in activities— which could include over-shopping or sexual acting-out. Many try to calm their emotions through overeating.

What you want to strive for instead is a balance between emotion and thinking. In other words, do not subtract either from the equation but instead, evaluate both your thoughts and your feelings regularly to become more self-aware. And, just in case you believe that you are the victim of your genetics and brain, realize that you can modify your brain through changing your thoughts and behavior. That’s why Cognitive-behavioral Therapy works.

How could this be, you may be thinking? Well, change your beliefs and indeed, you will change your self-talk. Alter your self-talk and indeed, your emotional responses to life events will soon change. Furthermore, after your emotional response, and soon your behavior will change, too.

Have you ever heard of the concept of cognitive dissonance? Humans have a need to have their beliefs and their behaviors in alignment. Thus, if you change one so that it is no longer in alignment with the other—there is dissonance—ultimately, you will be driven to change the other.

Hopefully, now you’ll be more capable of keeping your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions aligned so that they continually lead you toward a purpose-filled life. After all, you should soon feel calmer and hence, be better attuned to any inner guidance—or you’ll perceive and seize opportunities put before you that you were undoubtedly inclined to miss when you weren’t so self-aware.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Diane England, Self-Growth’s Official Guide to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, is a licensed clinical social worker who is also the author of “The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Relationship: How to Support Your Partner and Keep Your Relationship Healthy.” This self-help book was designated one of the “BEST BOOKS OF 2009” by the “Library Journal.” Because Dr. England has worked with military members and their families overseas, including during wartime, she is happy to report that she’s a media partner for the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement's “Military Healthcare Convention and Conference” which will be held June 22-25, 2010 in San Antonio. For more information about this conference as well as Dr. England and her book, go to

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