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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

3 Steps to Say Goodbye to Old Beliefs that Keep You Stuck

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 11th 2011

We all have beliefs about how things “should” be and as time goes on sometimes those beliefs don’t come to fruition. Maybe you thought prince charming would come sweep you off your feet only to find yourself sifting through profiles on the various internet dating sites. Or maybe you thought your family should all get along only to find old feuds turning into grudges with the other side unwilling to communicate. Or maybe life should be fair and it turns out it’s not. Whatever it is at some point we may have to face the grief over the loss of that belief.

When we think of grief, we often think of it in terms of someone dying and having to face the emotional impact of their loss. But grief is something we find ourselves going through whenever there is any death and that could also be the death of a belief or idea we’ve been clinging to.

There’s an emotional impact that happens when the reality of life doesn’t match our longstanding projections. There’s an immediate emotional dissonance that comes up in the form of sadness or anger. When we don’t accept the reality of the present moment it often turns into blame, “It’s their fault I haven’t been able to reach my dream” or blame turned inwards as shame or guilt, “what’s wrong with me, how come life didn’t turn out the way it should have?”

When we can understand the underlying belief that is driving these emotions, we can start to come to terms with the reality of the present moment. The belief was something that was learned somewhere either in our religious institutions, our culture, or perhaps by our parents. We don’t own this belief, it was planted and the reality of life is creating a dissonance with this idea in my mind that is creating an emotional impact.

When we can see the belief for what it is, we can start dressing the wound. It’s not meant to dispel the emotional grief, but rather to help us accept it, embrace it, and begin see the possibilities that lie before us. Maybe opening up to internet dating brings forward a pool of people where a future partner lies. Maybe letting go of the perfect family allows you to see the pain of the other party and leads to more empathy, compassion and connection. Maybe recognizing the fact that life isn’t fair shortens the period of discontent when you run into this again.

Here are a few steps to grieve your old beliefs:

  1. Recognize the belief – What is the belief you’ve been holding onto that doesn’t match reality? Where did you learn it? What is the reality?

  2. Connect to the emotion – What is the emotion that’s tied to the grief? Is it sadness, anger, or shame? Where do you feel it in your body? See if you can open up to it and hold it with a warm attention.

  3. Send kindness to yourself and another – Now, connect with your heart and take a moment to wish yourself well, that you feel at ease and safe from harm. If there’s another person involved wish them the same.

As you let go of the old beliefs you create space for new possibilities to emerge.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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