Challenging Limiting Beliefs using CBT

Last week I wrote about how we defend our limiting and unhelpful beliefs. This week let’s look at a way to start challenging these beliefs more directly. CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) is an approach that has some great exercises to help with this. This discipline works well in partnership with NLP techniques as there are many cross overs in the processes and exercises used in both.

The exercise I plan to share with you  today is about building a strong argument that challenges the limiting belief on a conscious level, next week we will add in an NLP technique that works on the unconscious level.

I am going to use one of my own out dated limiting beliefs;

“No matter what I do I can’t seem to lose weight!”

This is a belief that sometimes I believed 100% but on other days I would give myself hard time in a different way! I would beat myself up by saying my thinking didn’t make sense!

The good news! I no longer accept this belief as valid and 100% reject it! You can do the same with your limiting beliefs too.

To use this technique you ask yourself  a number of questions. I suggest you write the belief down on a piece of paper and then write down the questions with your answers.

  1. Is the belief untrue or inconsistent with reality? Remember last week I mentioned how important consistency is for us? This question helps us shake the foundations of the “old” consistency by challenging it. The idea is to find some evidence that counters your belief either completely or partially. Using my example, well there had been times when I had lost weight even though I put it on again. Secondly when I did actually monitor what I ate and/or exercised regularly I did lose weight. Thirdly even when I wasn’t “trying” to lose weight the number on my scales varied from day to day and sometimes the number went down!
  2. Is the belief rigid? With my example much of the challenges above apply to this question too. The idea with this question is to challenge whether the rules of the belief apply all the time or just some of the time or in certain contexts. To use a different example, “I must feel loved before I can lose weight” is a very rigid and confining belief. If you were to substitute the word “must” with “want” and the word “before” with “as” and remove the word “can” things start to change. “I want to feel loved as I lose weight” or what about “I can have a healthy weight independent of feeling loved”. These subtle changes in wording help to change how we process the belief and what kind of evidence we now look for. In NLP terms the original belief phrase had created a Cause and Effect relationship that in order to lose weight the person must feel loved. This too can be challenged.
  3. Is the belief extreme? Well in my case, yes it was. My phrasing was all or nothing terminology “no matter what I do” is a pretty extreme statement. Using the second example above we can also see there is an extreme element to the Cause and Effect aspects of the belief. By checking how extreme a belief is we can start to recognise how unlikely it is that it could be true consistently.
  4. Is the belief illogical? I’m guessing you are starting to get the idea now. My belief example makes no sense what so ever when you consider the physic of energy in/energy out.  If the amount of calories I was consuming was less than the calories I was expending then I would shed pounds unless there was some medical problem preventing that from happening. I didn’t have a medical problem thus my belief was illogical.  If we apply this to the second example as well it is possible to see that there is no logical connection between feeling loved and losing weight. It is a connection that a person has constructed for themselves that is not logical. You can challenge the logic of this further if you consider that some people become skinny in the extreme when they feel unloved because they have made a different connection between love and weight. Other people drink, take drugs, shop, withdraw, have tantrums etc instead. All of these other strategies are equally illogical!
  5. Is the belief unhelpful? In many ways we have already been looking at this in previous blogs however let’s do it again. Consider how does this belief help you? How does it hinder you? Remember when we talked about ecology a limiting belief may help you in unexpected ways. Part of the journey to change a limiting belief is to find healthy alternate ways to get that help. With this exercise make sure you are really clear about how the belief is hindering you. In my example holding the belief meant I often just gave up. I would get angry and go into a “it’s not fair!” spiral. I would use the belief as an excuse or a way to lie to myself. I would often believe I had been eating healthily but I was in fact lying to myself. With the second example we might be denying love that is in our life already, we might be rejecting people because we don’t think we deserve the love, we might be isolating ourselves because we are afraid of rejection and so many other things. I spoke to a man once who broke off his engagement to the woman he loved because he didn’t believe it was possible for her to love him because of his size. She did but he didn’t believe it because of how he felt about himself.

Let me know how you get on with this exercise and next week we’ll add in something else.

Finally this week, I’d like to remind you about some new one day workshops I am starting. They are NLP CPD (Continuous Professional/Personal Development) days aimed at anyone with NLP Practitioner or above. The day will be designed around demonstrating some of the techniques you have already learnt and then coaching you to develop your skills further. The first one is scheduled for 9th April in Bedfordshire. I already have six people booked so contact me direct if you want more details as places will be limited to allow as much personal coaching as possible. Contact me in the first instance by email

Happy Easter

About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
This entry was posted in CBT, Cognitive Behahaviour Therapy, NLP, Weight loss and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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