Limiting Beliefs – 7/31/2017

Why talk about limiting beliefs?

Questions that I am struggling with:

  • What can we do to avoid being emotional abused by a toxic person?
    • How can we treat them with compassion and still protect ourselves?
    • Too many people think that a toxic person is anyone who doesn’t think like them.
  • What approaches does the Dharma provide to help me deal with a toxic person and if so how?
  • How do the four foundations of mindfulness help me?
  • What are limiting beliefs and how can they help.
    • Teacher Certification program went over the first 3 foundations of mindfulness and the next topic was limiting beliefs.
    • Mark Coleman quoted Byron Katie in his book
    • Tara Brach quoted Byron Katie in her book and in her lectures.
  • Can RAIN help me?
    • Is the “I” in rain a meditation or a contemplation?
  • How can forgiveness fit in with toxic people?

What is the fundamental problem that Dharma helps us with.

  • All life is an illusion
    • Our “story about reality” becomes reality. We have delusions and these delusions are based on reality but are never the whole truth.
    • Example: 13-year-old is jilted by boyfriend or girlfriend.
      • The truth: It is not fair.   They should be unhappy.   Their emotions are justified but they may not be helpful.
      • What can be worse than the breakup would be the delusion that:
        • Their life is over.
        • That they cannot and will not find love again.
        • Taking revenge may not be a constructive solution.
        • Not trusting anyone of the opposite sex.
      • Our “story about toxic people” are just stories. There is a basis in reality our task is to find out what are our delusions.
      • Our task with toxic people is to find our own delusions. We first need to change ourselves and how we interact with them.
      • Expecting the toxic person to change is not likely to work unless we change ourselves and even then, it might not work.
        • We need a strategy that causes US the least pain and suffering and at the same time seeks to treat the other with compassion.
      • Khetsun Sanghpo: “Whenever you are unhappy, it is because of the mistaken mind”.
        • What is wrong about the way we treat and react to toxic people.
        • How can we come out of our deluded state?
      • The Dharma is about changing ourselves. Increasing our resilience to difficult situations that will happen in everyone’s life.

Four foundations of mindfulness

  • Ginger gave talk about 4 foundations of mindfulness
    • Body
    • Feelings-pleasant, neutral or unpleasant
    • Mind-moods
    • Fourth foundation of mindfulness? (Please let me know your understanding if my best guess is wrong.)
      • When you truly understand the 4 noble truths, the 8-fold path and seven factors of enlightenment intellectually you can apply it to moment by moment experience.
        • That’s desire arising.
        • That’s aversion.
        • Those thoughts are not the right view
        • I do not have the right understanding
      • Is the fourth foundation of mindfulness a meditation or a contemplation?
    • How are the four foundations of mindfulness helpful.
      • Calmness and clarity in spite of the toxic person are the benefit of the first three foundations.
      • The fourth foundation challenges us to question what is going on.
      • Example: Aversion
        • We want to be treated by respect and the toxic person is not doing it
        • If we are confident in ourselves what difference does it make what they say? Their words are just sounds.
        • There is no self why should we defend it?
        • The problem with a toxic relationship can be that we do not want confrontation or we want to be the good guy and the other knows how to take advantage of us.

Recommended Reading

Byron Katie – “Loving What Is: Four Questions”

Amazon – Brian Johnson – Big Ideas from the book

Video –

  • “Love what is”
    • It is insane to argue with reality.
    • When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time.
    • Trying to make reality different than it is, is like trying to make a cat bark.
  • Whose business are you in?
    • Yours, G-d’s or someone else.
    • Someone else should be a certain way.
    • Just focus on your business.
  • Compassionate Alarm Clock
    • When we are stressed it is a wakeup call.
    • We know that we have to do the work.
  • Lens on a projector
    • When there is a speck of dust on the lens of a movie projector.
    • You can’t change the distorted image by changing the screen but only by changing the lint on the screen.
    • You must clean the lens.
    • The analogy is that we are the lens and project onto reality. But we try to change others and g-d’s work.
  • Every story we tell has a “should” in it.
    • Change the theme
    • Quit opposing what is happening.
  • If you think that someone else is creating your problems then you are insane.
  • Focus on the problems that you can solve.
    • Do the dishes!

The following is based on a lecture by Tara Brach about limiting beliefs.   Tara’s talk was based on the work of Byron Katie.   Byron Katie had 4 questions Tara has 6 questions.


  • Fear based beliefs lead to anger, depression, fear, hurt and anxiety
  • When you have FEAR based beliefs then:
    • You are either attached to those beliefs OR you are challenging and inquiring about them.
    • Fears can dissipate under inspection.

Question 1 – What am I believing?

In what follows I am using examples of what thought patterns would be like if you are dealing with a truly toxic person

  • Beliefs – Examples
    • “I am a victim”
    • “I can’t get out of this mess”
    • “The other is toxic”
    • “It’s all his fault”
    • I cannot escape these problems.
    • I have to tolerate these problems.
    • I should accept the pain because I want to be compassionate.
    • It’s my fault because I didn’t set up boundaries earlier. I have been a willing victim.

Question 2 – Is it true?


  • “I am a victim”
    • Only because I let myself be one.
    • He may be a victim also and needs to be treated with care and respect.
  • “I can’t get out of this mess”
    • Yes you can.
      • You can get out of the relationship.
      • You can set boundaries.
      • You can make sure that the person knows how you feel.
    • “The other is toxic”
      • I perceive him to be toxic because I care about what he says.
      • I don’t have to take some of the things that he says personally.
      • The other is also wounded or he wouldn’t behave the way that he is behaving. I need to have empathy for him.
    • “It’s all his fault”
      • I could have set boundaries earlier.
      • I should have communicated my concerns
      • He is trapped by the emotional trauma he experienced in his early years.
    • I cannot escape these problems. / I have to tolerate these problems.
      • I can stop the relationship.
      • There will be negative consequences but the consequences are better than staying in the relationship.

Question 3 – What is it like to live with this belief?

  • What is the felt sense in the body?
  • How has this belief influenced how I feel about myself? Others?
  • Example: being with toxic people
    • Fear of being with them even when they are not there.
    • Tension in my chest when they are near or I think about them.
    • When I respond in anger I feel guilt
    • When I don’t respond I feel abused.

Question 4 – What does the vulnerability (Hurt, Fear) under the belief need?

  • Example with toxic person
    • Need to be treated with respect.
    • Need to be listened to and validated.

Question 5 – What stops me from letting go of this belief?

Understanding why you are clinging to the belief can expose your unconscious strategies.

  • Example toxic person
    • I want to be the good guy and rejecting anyone makes me feel that I am not compassionate.

Question 6 – What would my life be like without this belief?

  • Example of the toxic person.
    • I would not be bullied and disrespected and abused anymore.

RAIN – The “I” in rain is this investigation

  • Recognize the felt sense in the body
    • It is not recognizing that the other is toxic.
  • Allow
    • It is allowing the senses in the body to be.
    • We are allowing ourselves to feel hurt.
    • It is NOT allowing the other to be emotionally abusive.
  • Investigate – allows a pause to think before your react.
    • We are investigating our feelings and bodily sensations.
      • Where have we felt like this before.
      • What other things trigger this.
  • Non-Identify or Nurture
    • We don’t identify with the story about the toxic person.
    • The story is often that we are a victim. That story feeds anger.   We just experience anger as a felt sense in the body.  As we focus on bodily experience the story line dissipates and we can find peace.


  • It is NOT that what the toxic person has done is right or should be tolerated.
  • Forgiveness is a way of freeing ourselves from emotions and actions that could be self-destructive: For example anger and revenge.
  • I found that it was helpful to repeat the word “Empathy” rather than “Forgiveness” while picturing the toxic person. I find that empathy for the toxic person dissipate the anger.

Guided Reflection: Catching Beliefs on the Fly

P. 136 True Refuge – Tara Brach

  • You can develop your mindfulness muscles for “catching beliefs” by experimenting with situations that bring up moderate, rather than full-blown, emotional reactivity.
    • When you feel calm, identify and write down several situations that regularly produce anxiety, irritation, or discouragement. Some examples: “communicating with my boss,” “getting my son ready for school,” “being caught in rush-hour traffic,” “approaching a deadline for a project,” “feeling fatigued at work,” “being criticized by my partner.”
    • With your belief inventory on hand, take some time to reflect on each situation. Ask yourself, “What am I believing?” You might need to ask several times, “What am I really believing?” or “What is the most disturbing thing that I’m believing?” in order to uncover the most basic form of the belief. Write it down, trying to capture the belief in a few easy-to-remember words: “Believing I’m falling short,” “Believing I’ll be punished (rejected) if I fail,” “Believing I have to try harder to be okay.”
  • Set your intention to be mindful when the situations you identified arise. See if it is possible to pause in the midst of them and recognize what you are believing. Notice if this shifts how you feel or gives you fresh choices as to how you respond.
  • At your own pace, you might tag new situations for “catching beliefs.” As you become more confident in your capacity to meet your beliefs and feelings with mindfulness, you will be able to practice with increasingly charged situations.