Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Changing the Balance of Evidence

In the last blog (Evidence on Your Radar Screen) I discussed how automatic it can become to catch and collect piles of “evidence” that seems to support how we already think and feel. Even though this supposed evidence automatically hits the radar screen and lands on the old pile, we still have the opportunity to mentally grab it off of there, think about it in a different way, and toss it off to the side somewhere instead of letting it stick (Self-talking to Peace and Happiness). In this manner, over time, very little additional evidence will get added to this old pile, which then gives us a better opportunity to shift the balance of evidence in a different direction.

The way to create a new and more beneficial pile of evidence that is counter to the old beliefs is to make a conscious effort to notice and catch any life event, feeling, or interaction that could serve as evidence for this new pile. If a person works persistently at noticing these alternative pieces of evidence, that person can gradually expand the size and sensitivity of their new radar screen and can collect piles of counter evidence that in time can start to feel convincing in its proof of a different and more beneficial set of beliefs.

For example, let’s say that for years, someone’s old radar screen had registered every time that something had gone poorly in their life and that after accumulating so much "evidence", this now discouraged person had come to believe that in fact, things never went well for them and that life was usually miserable.  To change the balance of evidence and create a different belief and feeling, this person would instead begin to  intentionally catch and hang onto every example of something going well (or even reasonably decent) in their life. This is a challenging process, because as I stated in the last blog, people tend to overlook the more minor examples of counter evidence, and they tend to mentally swat away the more obvious examples by attributing them to luck, coincidence, or random acts. It therefore takes considerable conscious effort to both notice and collect this counter evidence and to store it in a new pile.

One way to more quickly build evidence for the new beliefs is for a person to rehearse the messages that they’d like to believe in but don’t currently. For example, a person might feel that little goes well in their life or that they aren’t very good at most things, or another person might constantly tell themselves how stressful their life is, that they’ll never get everything done, and that they are overwhelmed.

Instead of perpetuating these old messages and beliefs, they would intentionally rehearse an alternative set of messages. The first person could practice telling themselves that they do some things well and that there are good things that happen in their life. The second person would rehearse messages that their life is manageable, that they are competent and can get things done, and that they can feel at peace and aren’t going to get themselves stressed about things that aren’t that big a deal.

And the key then is for the person to be aware of anything that occurs each day that could serve as evidence for this new set of beliefs that they are trying to establish, and to catch and hang onto this evidence tenaciously. If somebody stood in front of a mirror and rehearsed 20 times that they felt strong and confident and that things were going to go well that day, this rehearsal could make that person feel at least a little more like this might be true; but if they actually noticed every example during the day of something good that happened or something that they did well and felt even a little bit confident about, they would greatly reinforce their messages and make them land and stick in that new pile of evidence.

Initially, of course, these counter messages that the person is rehearsing and counter evidence that they are collecting often feel like something they are just telling themselves in their head that they don’t really believe. And that is correct…….of course they don’t really believe it…..they will still believe the giant pile of old, false evidence that seems to indicate something different. That old pile is HUGE; it still outweighs the new pile. The key is to stick with this process, because in time, the new pile of evidence starts to get bigger and to carry more weight, the old pile begins to shrink, and the person will make a connection between what they are trying to convince themselves of in their head and will truly believe it and feel it in their heart.

If you did the self-observation I mentioned last time and noticed your old piles of evidence, then this week focus your awareness instead at catching the evidence that could be counter to the old pile. In the manner that I've discussed previously, talk yourself through the old, automatic things that hit you and discard those, don't let them stick on the old pile, and instead collect evidence into the biggest pile that you can for the new messages that you are rehearsing and would like to believe in and feel more deeply.

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