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Questioning Unquestioned Beliefs

Rainy Sunrise

This morning while walking my dog, it started to rain. This is unusual for late July. I took the opportunity to feel into it with all my senses. The smell of wet pavement and moist dirt. The feel of warm raindrops on my arms and face. The sound of the rain hitting leaves, skin and our path. I watched as the dark spots started blending together until everything was covered in a sheath of water. It was beautiful.

Any time it rains, I’m reminded of my high school swim team and one of the first times I questioned my previously unquestioned assumptions.

It was my sophomore year and we had practice two hours a day, every weekday during the season. Partway through one particular practice, it started to rain during timed laps. When I reached one side of the pool, I pulled myself out.

Coach said, “What are you doing?”

“It’s raining,” I replied.

“What, are you afraid you’re going to get wet?” he said.

This took me by surprise, especially since I stood there dripping pool water from my body as it mixed with the raindrops on the cement.

“It’s dangerous to swim while it’s raining,” I said, remembering all the times as a child that my mother would frantically yell at us to get out of the pool if rain started to fall.

“How do you figure that?” he asked.

I thought back to the fear behind my mother’s warning. She envisioned lightning striking the pool and electrocuting us.

“Lightning,” I said.

He looked up at the grey sky.

“Do you hear thunder?” he asked. “See any signs of lightning?”

“Well, no,” I said.

“Then get back in the pool,” he said. “If I think it might start thundering and lightning, I’ll end practice.”

I had never before questioned my behavior resulting from the combination of rain and swimming.

How many other areas of life do we take the fears of our parents and absorb them as our own? How often do we assume belief structures without ever questioning them? What actions do we take automatically without ever understanding why?

I know I still have a ton of unquestioned beliefs about money, relationships, career, gender roles and expectations (even as a feminist); the list goes on. I picked them up from culture, my parents, friends, community, etc. without even thinking about it.

I invite you to also question your own beliefs; especially the ones you’ve held since childhood and sound a lot like a parent’s voice in your mind. No harm can come from inquiry. It’s simply becoming curious about them.

Ask yourself: Is it true? Can I know for absolute certain that it is true?*

Then become curious about yourself and your behavior when you believe it. What do you do? How do you treat others? What are the resulting emotions? What happens because of this belief?

And then become curious about how you might react if you didn’t believe it. Would your behavior or emotions be the same or different? If different, how so?

Notice what changes, if anything. You might surprise yourself at what comes up.

If the original belief doesn’t serve you, try on alternate beliefs to see how those feel. Test out the opposite belief and see if you can find proof to support that the opposite could be true. Try on variations of it to see what feels most true – when YOU can decide your own truth rather than adopting others’ beliefs.

Let me know what comes up in the comments below! (And if you’d like a formal facilitation of this process, I’m also happy to schedule a coaching call to walk through it.)

 

*This process above is based on Byron Katie’s The Work.