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Are Your Beliefs Holding You Back?

595702_14433699Your Belief System: The Longer-Shorter Path

In the last post, we focused on coping skills and strategies, which are the emotional scaffolding upon which your life reconstruction can begin.

In this post we’ll discuss your general belief system. This may include beliefs about who you are, how much self-determination you believe you have, spirituality/religious beliefs, what your life is truly about, and so on. These are the foundation upon which your life actually rests.

A dysfunctional belief system is a set belief or group of beliefs that impair an individual’s ability to function in a mentally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically healthy manner.

A competent therapist can help you smooth out the rough edges of aspects of your dysfunctional belief system. It is crucial that your therapist have some respect for your spiritual and cultural beliefs, and the ability to help you strengthen the positive aspects of your general belief system, while helping you steer clear of beliefs that are clearly damaging.

In truth, this can be difficult when patients and therapists have different world-views. What seems like a biased view, is experienced by the “biased” person to be a healthy view of reality. Problems will occur when you or your therapist believe that your viewpoints are “plain vanilla” and the other person’s view is “biased.”

Keep in mind: Everyone has his or her own way of making sense of the world in which we live. Even within cultures and religions, there are as many individual ways of experiencing the belief system as there are individuals.

Our viewpoints are shaped by our upbringing, personality, education, and so on. No one escapes bias. And, like the Emperor’s New Clothes, sometimes the so-called biased individual with whom no one agrees, might actually be closer to the truth. (And sometimes, not.)

The line between perceived bias and flawed beliefs can be extremely fine. However, if we return to the definition: A dysfunctional belief system is a set belief or group of beliefs that impair an individual’s ability to function in a mentally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically healthy manner, we can see that the word “healthy” is key.

Most often the areas of our belief system we need to work on are what we believe about ourselves and our lives.

Questions to ask include: Do you believe in yourself? What do you think your strengths are? Do you have control over your life? What about control over your thoughts and feelings? Do you believe you are trapped and cannot change yourself or your life, or do you feel hopeful for the future?

In general, if you are able to function in your community, in your work environment, in your family, in your social life, in a way that doesn’t cause you (or others) emotional ill-health or physical ill-health, then at least some of the fundamentals of your belief system may be in “working order.”

Most people can make inroads into understanding themselves better and changing their behavior, feelings, and thoughts in a year or less in therapy—if their therapist knows how to help them. Understanding, and if necessary refining basic belief system before moving into the realms of exploring the past and the present.

Are Your Beliefs Holding You Back?

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2016). Are Your Beliefs Holding You Back?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Jun 2016
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