When we dream during our sleep, we live in another world. Although everything seems real in our dream, it is a false reality. Everything we hear, see, and do is false, a mere figment of our imagination. Imagine never awakening from your dream and never knowing the real world. It’s a horrible thought isn’t it? Yet, many people have never awakened. They are trapped in an imaginary dream world and don’t know it.
How did it happen? They have accepted the opinions of others and made them their own. The opinions we hold become our beliefs, and those beliefs become the principles that we live by. For example, if I believe that everyone is out to get me and I live in a hostile world, I will act ruthlessly in order to survive. And if I believe I live in a friendly world populated with caring people, I will act differently, won’t I?
Have you ever met a beautiful woman who thought she was ‘ugly’ or ‘too fat’? What about intelligent men who think they are stupid? Or people who think they ‘cannot do anything right’? All these people are prisoners in a strange make believe land, the dominion of opinion.
The effect of living by false beliefs is devastating. Wonderful human beings are stripped of their potential and robbed of their talent because of the lies they have been told by others and the lies they tell themselves. Those who are awake have always understood this. For example, over 2,000 years ago, Marcus Antonius (aka Mark Antony or Mark Anthony) said, “Opinion is the main thing which does harm or good in the world. It is our false opinions that ruin us.”
Yes, our false opinions ruin us and damn us. But opinions that are based on facts, reason, and logic lift us to paradise. How do we discover reality, the truth, and our true self? Not by seeking them, but by letting go of our false beliefs. Those who are awake know of their unlimited potential and cultivate it. Those who are asleep are tragic figures living out their lives in the confines of their prison cells.
Is a rat cute or hideous? It depends on our opinion. It depends on what we believe. IT IS WHAT WE THINK IT IS. If I think it is repulsive, I may run from it, but if I think it’s cute, I may delight in its presence. Reality is the raw material we use to create our experiences. The tools we use to shape and mold that material are our thoughts.
Let’s look at an example. I go to a party and meet someone who speaks French and tells me in broken English, “If you teach me English, I will teach you French.” Depending on my opinions and beliefs, I may treat this event as an opportunity or merely brush it aside. If I tell myself that I am ‘too busy’ to learn or ‘cannot’ learn another language, I will decline the offer, thereby making my belief become true. But if I tell myself that it will be fun and open up a new world, I will eagerly jump at the chance and take him up on his offer. And this decision will create an entirely different reality.
In the first case described above, I live in a prison cell. The walls of my cell are the thoughts “I HAVE NO TIME” or “I AM INCAPABLE of learning a foreign language.” I am too busy and have no time? Nonsense! Of course I have time, I’m alive, aren’t I? Isn’t time and life the same thing? Not only do I have time, but I have choice. I can choose how I spend my time. For instance, I can go to the tavern with my buddies and whine about how powerless I am and how unfair life is. Or I can use time to better myself, empower myself, and reach my dreams.
How do we break free from our limiting thoughts? How do we terminate our self-imposed prison sentence? The first step is to become aware of our false beliefs. What follows is a useful technique to unearth your self-defeating thoughts. Begin by asking yourself, what are my personal secrets? What am I hiding from others? What causes me to feel shame, guilt, regret, fear, anger, or resentment? Write a list of your negative feelings and the causes for each feeling. For example, “I feel resentment because my co-workers treat me unfairly and don’t invite me to their after work get-togethers.”
Negative feelings (emotions) are linked to negative thoughts. As soon as we change our thoughts, we change our feelings. Bear this is mind as we proceed in the exercise. Now that you’ve listed your negative thoughts and their causes, realize that the causes you have indicated are nothing other than OPINIONS, not facts, not reality. It’s time to rub your eyes and wake up from your dream.
The next step is fun. Pretend that you are a world-renowned attorney arguing against your false beliefs, and punch holes in your irrational thoughts. Ask yourself, for example, why do I imagine my co-workers have singled me out and made a deliberate decision to treat me ‘unfairly’? Isn’t such a scenario unlikely? As a powerful attorney, offer proof that it isn’t so by giving examples of times that they treated you well. If things changed after that, was it because they changed or because YOU changed. If you’re always nit-picking and complaining, why would they want to invite you to their get-togethers?
And when you say the world is unfair, don’t you mean that when things don’t go your way, you are disappointed? Isn’t your resentment caused by childish demands that the world conform to you? Such thoughts are unreasonable and only succeed in holding you back. Welcome the challenges that life throws at you and look for the good in every situation. When you do so, all your ‘problems’ will disappear of their own accord.
Avoid the mistake of personalizing everything. Just because someone expresses displeasure at something you have done, it doesn’t mean they are expressing displeasure in YOU. If you’ve made a mistake, correct your behavior and learn from it. But don’t use it to condemn yourself and feel unworthy, unloved, and unaccepted. Drop your false opinions and allow your true self to shine through.
In your relationships, avoid being needy. Don’t be desperate for the friendship of others. Rather than seeking friends, seek to be a friend. When you think of others instead of yourself, everything falls into place without any effort on your part. When we live in harmony with others, we reinforce our positive opinions of the world and ourselves.
I’ll end by quoting from the book, “The Magic of Believing” by Claude M. Bristol (1891 ~ 1951), “Every person is the creation of himself, the image of his own thinking and believing. As individuals think and believe, so they are.” So, what are you going to do about it?