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Do Limiting Beliefs Lead to Addiction?

Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to see other people’s limiting beliefs? Put another way, how often have you been frustrated by loved ones stuck in self-imposed limitations?

Perhaps you can see a friend’s potential so clearly, and it drives you crazy that she keeps getting in her own way. But then one day you realize: Wait a minute, I do the same thing. I tell myself that this will be the last drink, the last pill, and I know it’s a lie. I don’t get help, even though I need it. Why do I do this?

Why do smart people struggle with addiction? There are many answers to that question, but one of them is that limiting beliefs keep them bound. As Schopenhauer observed, “Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

The good news is, when you let go of your limiting beliefs, you expand your sense of possibility and jump-start your recovery too. This post will empower you to recognize and forgive the limiting beliefs that underlie your addiction.

Where Do Limiting Beliefs Come From?

So, what are limiting beliefs? Limiting beliefs are those thoughts which constrain us in some way. Limiting beliefs hold us back and block us from the lives we want. They’re the ones that constrain us from fulfilling our potential and showing up with integrity, authenticity, and courage.

Limiting beliefs are ideas that we acquire based on incorrect conclusions about the nature of reality. Often, they include words such as “always” and “never.” They tend to be generalizations about what we can and cannot do.

Examples of limiting beliefs include:

  • I could never quit my job, no matter how much I hate it.
  • Life is not supposed to be fun or enjoyable.
  • No matter what I do, it’s not good enough.
  • I’m a screw up.
  • I have to stay close with these people, even if they abuse me.
  • There’s no point in me speaking up.
  • I can’t trust anyone.
  • It’s never going to get better.

These beliefs arise from many different sources, including family, peers, culture, and society as a whole. We adapt most of our subconscious and strongly-held limiting beliefs fairly early in life.

To understand why this is the case, let’s look at the way the human mind develops. For the first seven years of our lives, our brain waves are primarily delta and theta waves. These wave states are linked with subconscious activity (as opposed to alpha and beta, which are linked with conscious thought processing). When we’re very young, our brain waves are more in keeping with hypnosis than with rational adult thought. This has implications for the rest of our lives.

Dr. Bruce Lipton, retired professor, researcher, and bestselling author of The Biology of Belief, refers to our first seven years of life as “recording” time. He says that we build our subconscious programming by observing key figures in our lives and making sense of how the world works based on those observations.

Dr. Lipton notes that our first seven years of life is the time when we learn how to answer this crucial question: “What are the rules and how do you behave?

Which Limiting Beliefs Link Up With Addiction?

Though any limiting belief has the power to keep you feeling frustrated and trapped, the most powerfully confining ones are shame-based. Limiting beliefs involving shame undermine our sense of innate worthiness and value. If we received and internalized these messages at a young age, they hold us back until we heal them.

Shame sounds like this:

  • I’m bad.
  • I’m broken and defective.
  • There’s something really wrong with me, deep down.
  • I’m rotten at the core.
  • I don’t deserve love.
  • I don’t deserve good things.

Shame is different from healthy guilt; the latter arises when we do something that is outside of our own moral code and we feel remorseful and culpable. Guilt arises when we’ve done something we consider bad. By contrast, shame arises when we consider ourselves as bad.

Research tells us that a high level of shame is one of the primary precursors for substance abuse and addiction. As Dr. Brene Brown notes, “Shame [is] highly correlated with addiction, depression, eating disorders, violence, bullying and aggression. Guilt? Inversely correlated with those.”

We know that shame and addiction are highly correlated; if we’re able to let go of our shame and our belief in our own unworthiness, we’re empowered to recover from addiction as well.

How to Let Go of Limiting Beliefs

If limiting, shame-based beliefs are plaguing your life and contributing to your addiction, it’s time to manage your mind.

Here’s how to begin. First, identify your limiting beliefs. Look for:

  • Rules you have for your life that cause pain when you think of them
  • Generalizations about the way the world works
  • Words such as “always” and “never”
  • Ideas that underlie your judgments – to get at these, look at your judgments, and then ask, “Why?” For example, maybe your judgment is, “I’m an idiot for getting a wrong answer on that test.” If you ask yourself why, you might encounter a limiting belief such as, “I should never make a mistake,” or, “If I make a mistake, no one will love me anymore.”

Next, forgive yourself for holding the limiting belief. It’s very important to do this work in a space of kindness, so before you fill in the blanks, get grounded and peaceful. Tap into the gentleness you’d feel for a newborn baby, or a beloved pet.

Once you’ve connected to that compassion within yourself, here’s a helpful framework for self-forgiveness:

“I forgive myself for accepting the limiting belief that  _____________ {your limiting belief}, and the truth going forward for me is _________________.” {your new belief}

In the second blank, fill in what unconditional love would say.

Examples might include:

  • I am worthy.
  • I am loved.
  • I have a right to be here.
  • I am strong.
  • I am kind.
  • I have a lot to offer.

Finally, practice that new belief you’ve chosen for yourself. Work with it as a positive affirmation; repeat it to yourself, particularly just after you wake up in the morning and just before you go to sleep at night.

This helps you to reprogram your brain by allowing you to access those delta and theta brain states. You can make a recording of yourself reading your affirmations and play it as you fall asleep at night; this is a powerful way to create new subconscious programming.

Don’t Let Limiting Beliefs Hold You Back

Who could you be without your limiting beliefs? What might you do when you’re free from the familiar bonds of shame and self-loathing? It’s time to find out.

As Louise Hay notes, “If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you.”

And by contrast, if you forgive yourself for your limiting beliefs and rewrite them, you’re free to find a new, more expansive truth.


Images Courtesy of iStock


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