Negative Beliefs – A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Have you ever noticed how attached people can be to negative beliefs — especially the ones that are practically ruining their lives? Read this…

Sometimes when you try to help someone think more constructively, all you get is an argument. But in the logic of those arguments, you’ll find two glaring blind spots:

* The person underestimates (or denies) the COSTS of having the negative belief
* The person overestimates (or denies) the BENEFITS of having the negative belief

The person overestimates (or denies) the BENEFITS of having the negative belief The way to get rid of negative beliefs is to engage in an honest and thorough cost-benefit analysis. Ask yourself these simple questions: What are the benefits of holding this belief? And what are its real costs or downsides? We can easily release a negative belief when we learn that it is not truly beneficial or we find that the cost of maintaining it is too high.

When negative beliefs seem hard to shake, we are probably stuck on “good reasons” for holding onto them. The following objectively analyzes the benefits and costs of four of the most common “good reasons” for holding onto destructive negative beliefs.

It helps self-protection?

There is no question that self-protection and self-isolation will prevent certain bad things from happening. But fear and hiding surely create bad things as well.

For example, how helpful is it, really, to worry that people can hurt each other. . . and how harmful is it? The logical result of social fear is self-isolation. Would it really help you to be deprived of loving companionship?

And what about the other side of the coin, the part self-protection ruins — that people love each other. Wouldn’t a loving, trusting, healthy intimacy be good for you? Self-protection is the number one cause of problems in relationships. Where is your focus? You’re the one who has to live with the effects of your beliefs.

It pays to expect the worst?

How many times have we heard this grand argument for negative expectations: “If I prepare for the worst, I’ll never be disappointed, and I stand to be pleasantly surprised.” A benefit of sorts, perhaps.

But what about the cost? That pleasant surprise is nothing more than momentary relief from the habitual pain that comes from that “protective” habit of negative expectations. Is it wise to put oneself in the worst possible position in life just to have nowhere to go but up?

And let us not forget that little problem called SELF-FULFILLING PROPHESY. Since we get what we expect, it’s safer not to expect the worst.

Justifying and rationalizing?

We sometimes try to dodge responsibility for our own attitudinal or behavioral flaws by making the world or the people in it bad and wrong.

Example: A husband irritates his wife by staying out with the boys too much. He justifies his actions by saying, “I’m not insensitive; women are intolerant.” That negative belief relieves his guilt but hurts his marriage.

Usually, the reason we don’t correct our negative thoughts and behaviors is that we want the problems that negative beliefs create. Problems become solutions when they seem to help us in some way. In the case of the insensitive man, the “problem” of his wife’s irritation gives him an excuse to reject the challenge of being a loving companion in his marriage. Obviously, that is a vicious circle. Correcting flaws works much better than trying to justify them.

Example: A famous coach used to say that players exhibited different responses when reviewing films of the game. Average players only wanted to see their good moves over and over so they could gloat. The best players wanted to see their mistakes replayed — so they could correct them.

People who are willing to own their problems are in a good position to grow. They can adjust their behaviors and belief systems so that their world naturally responds to them better.

Refusing love?

Due to the influence of self-protective logic, people are often unwilling to accept love’s basic requirements — sensitivity, responsibility, and commitment. Naturally, the ego is threatened by the obligation to love, because loving requires letting go of ego. And the ego is also threatened by being loved, because receiving love brings up the feeling of obligation to love in return.

A handy way to get out of something is to say you are not fit for it. Therefore, when we have some problem with the implications of being loving, we tend to say, “Oh, I’m not all that loving.” We may even down play the love we feel. With all that denial, we may escape having to love, but sadly, we lower our self esteem at the same time.

Another way to avoid loving is to question the worthiness of other people: “You are not worthy of love.” That way, we generate negative images of others. In the long run, we only tarnish our self image and our image of others — all for the single purpose of escaping the obligations of love.

There’s only one way to get off the treadmill of negative beliefs and compensation: accept the wonderful responsibilities we sought to avoid before. Why fight it? We know that it is best simply to love. When we heartily embrace love, our negative beliefs, justifications, and so many other problems lose their purpose. And having no reason to be, they fade away. Wouldn’t you fade away, if you had no purpose? Your purpose is to love.