What we believe shapes our reality.
So, to create change in our lives, we must change our beliefs. There’s no way around this. Whether feel stuck in a goal we are chasing or want to get beyond a persistent problem in our lives, eventually, we will have to change our beliefs about some part of the situation.
Beliefs are intricately linked to past memories and experiences.
So, to change our beliefs, we can begin by changing how we relate to the events in our past. An effective way to do that is by using mental visualization to shift the various aspects of how we experience a memory. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) refers to this as the submodalities, the fine distinctions from our senses that give meaning to an experience.
Examples of submodalities include:
In this talk, Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman explains how the brain creates meaning from our experiences and how we can override it. Here are the key points:
This exercise involves first disassociating from the submodalities associated with the memory (the imagery, the sound, the feelings, etc.). Disassociation is a process of stepping outside of a thought or memory to decrease the emotional intensity. Then, in the second part of the exercise, we visualize a preferred version of ourselves while amplifying the new submodalities of this experience.
You can think of this practice as “mental editing.” Here are the steps.
Ideally, pick a belief holding you back—something directly tied to a specific goal or outcome you want to manifest in your life. The key here is to make sure the belief you choose limits you in some meaningful way.
Bring to mind all the details of the memory. See what you saw, hear what you heard, and feel what you felt. But don’t go too deep down the rabbit hole. Hold the memory for no more than a minute and try to remain unattached to it like you are sitting in a theater casually observing your memory on a movie screen.
Next, drain all the color from the image until it is in black and white, like a very old movie.
Imagine everything you heard becoming lower in volume until the scene is muted.
Imagine floating out of the scene from the memory like you are moving up and away from it. As you float, see the back of your head as you move further and further away.
As you keep floating away from the memory, see the entire memory getting smaller and smaller. Keep shrinking it in size, making it as blurry as you can.
Now, abruptly clear your mind of the past memory and what you were visualizing in the previous steps, and visualize what you prefer to believe instead. Who do you prefer to be?
To figure out what new belief you want to create, think of that goal or outcome you want to manifest in your life and ask yourself: What would I have to believe is true in order for me to have this kind of experience?
See yourself acting “as if” — embodying the characteristics of the person who has this new belief you created in the previous step. What are you doing? How do you move? What do you see, feel, and hear?
Heighten all your senses and feelings, and visualize everything in full color. You can also adjust your body posture to align your physiology with this preferred version of you.
Keep running through this scene in your mind. The goal is to dial up the intensity as much as possible.
Like any mind technique, rewriting past memories requires commitment, consistent practice, and a light-hearted demeanor. Focus on having fun with it instead of focusing on whether the technique is working or not.
After all, you are changing your brain; what can be more fun than that?
In that same talk referenced earlier, Andrew Huberman puts it like this.
Change your brain by remembering the idea of play…
Why are kids so good passive learners? Because in everything they do, they are playing while giving it all their energy…
You want your brain to change, stay light, stay loose, but give it everything you’ve got.
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