Stagnant beliefs hold you in the past

Many people develop negative filters that are so powerful that I call them Stagnant Filters. Stagnant Filters are negative beliefs about yourself that are extremely dangerous.

Mrs. Gorman was seventy years old. She came to my office because she was depressed. She had worked as a waitress for fifty-five years and retired only when her legs would not let her do her job any longer. As I got to know Mrs. Gorman it was interesting that she had one entrenched stagnant belief through which she filtered most of her life.

Dr. Phil: It sounds like it is very hard for you to live on your social security.

Mrs. Gorman: It is. After my rent and the heat I don’t have enough for my medication. I never expected to live this long so I didn’t put any money away.

Dr. Phil: Any family?

Mrs. Gorman: I had a sister who died when she was twenty-eight. She had breast cancer you know. It runs in my family.

Dr. Phil: In your family?

Mrs. Gorman: My mother was a saint. She died of breast cancer when I was a little girl. My grandmother died young too, I think it was breast cancer, but no one really kept records back then.

Dr. Phil: How is your health?

Mrs. Gorman: I’m as fit as a fiddle. I’m never sick. A cold every now and then. If it wasn’t for my arthritis I’d be just dandy. I never thought I would live this long, with cancer in my family and all.

Dr. Phil: Are your friends helping out?

Mrs. Gorman: To tell you the truth, I’m not a very social person. I saw people at work. I never really had friends.

Dr. Phil: You seem to like people. I don’t understand.

Mrs. Gorman: It seems silly when I think about it now. But for years I have avoided making friends. I never married, but I had lots of fellas calling when I was young. It seems silly now ... but I thought I was going to die young. So I never let anyone get too close. I didn’t want to hurt them. It’s so hard when people you love die, you know. I thought God was going to take me any day.

Dr. Phil: Any day?

Mrs. Gorman: It sounds so silly, I know, but I always thought that I was going to die… in a day or two.

Mrs. Gorman taught me that she had lived her life waiting to wake up ill and find that she would die in a few days like her mother and sister did. Her stagnant belief kept her from making friends outside of her work acquaintances. I got to know Mrs. Gorman quite well over a few months. She was a wonderful lady with charm and grace. Unfortunately, she had been lonely for close to fifty years.

Often stagnant beliefs are imprinted on one’s mind very early. Over the years I have heard lots:

  • My mother always told me I was going to get fat.
  • My father always said I would amount to nothing.
  • I’ve never been good with numbers so I seem to get ripped off all the time.
  • My parents liked my sister because she was the smart one.
  • I only have bad luck!
  • Black people are lazy (racism is a stagnant belief that undermines the individual and the community).
  • Indians drink all the time.
  • I couldn’t learn that at my age.
  • There’s no one out there for me.
  • I’ve never done that…
  • No one in my family has ever…
  • It’s not really stealing, they won’t even miss it.

You need to understand your own stagnated beliefs so that you can control their influence over you. Earlier we talked about questioning authority. Within yourself, your thoughts are authoritative. You need to question them. Your individual power is controlled by your own perceptions.

Write down any of your own stagnant beliefs that cross your mind as you read over the list above?

Divest yourself of emotional baggage

Ali entered therapy because she was getting nothing done with her life. She was thirty and spent most of her time alone. She went to work, then went to an aerobics class, then she went home. She reported that she had no social life.

When I asked her why she had no social life she replied in a matter of fact way: “I was raped by a friend in college.”

She explained:

I used to be more outgoing. I went on lots of dates. When I left home and went off to school I was very active in stuff at school. I was always invited to all the parties. I got good grades and had lots of friends. At the end of the year party my sophomore year, I got real drunk. I got so drunk I really acted out. I passed out and I was raped. End of story, I was stupid. I don’t even know for sure who did it. A few days later, one of the other girls told me that she knew of three guys who were bragging about the great time they had with me. I never thought that it was more than one. I sat in my dorm room and cried for the rest of the day. I went to the school counseling center and they gave me tests, but the police said that they couldn’t do anything because I didn’t know who raped me.

I spent the summer at home hiding. I got angrier every day. I never told my mother. She wouldn’t have understood. I told her I was unhappy and I changed schools. I thought it would be all right. I would start over.

Now I just go to work and go home. I started to gain weight, so I started doing aerobics.

After a long pause:

My life was stolen from me. I wish I could find the bastards who raped me and tell them what they did was wrong ... show them that they ruined my life, that they deserve to burn in hell. I hope they will.

Eight years later, Ali was still living the horror of her rape. She had built a prison of fear, anger, hatred, and sorrow, and locked herself within it.