What Beliefs (or Rules) do you live by?

What believes or rules do you live by?

Many of those were given by your parents or built as a child and no longer serve you well. So find out what they are, and then work to change them

Sociologist, Morris Massey, describes that we build our beliefs and values in three stages in life:

  1. The imprint period from birth to about seven years old. During this time, you learn largely unconsciously from your parents.
  2. The modelling period occurs between the ages of 8-13 when you learn by consciously and unconsciously copying friends. Some of your most important values – core values – are formed when you’re around 10 years’ old.
  3. The socialisation period occurs between 14- 21 yrs. old. During this time, you acquire values that affect your relationships.

“A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Example Life Rules

Here is an example list of life rules taken from a number of different sources. It should give you a starting point to find your own. Tick which ones apply to you. Think about which ones you’d like to follow

Which Life Rules Match Yours?

  • Presuppositions from Neuro-linguistic Programming (McCartney, 2014)
    • Respect the other person’s model of the world
    • The Map is not the territory (i.e. what you see isn’t everything)
    • The Mind and Body form a linked system
    • There is no failure, only feedback
    • The meaning of your communication is the feedback you get
    • Choice is better than no choice
    • If what you are doing isn’t working, try something else
    • Behind every behaviour there is a positive intention
  • Emotional Invalidation Responses by parents (McCartney, 2014)
    • You shouldn’t feel that way – squelching the child’s feelings
    • What are you crying about? – Children can’t really respond to this question because they are overwhelmed and simply don’t know the answer. It makes distress and sadness as invalid
    • You’re exaggerating – it makes the child distrust their perceptions
    • That’s not true – Don’t be ridiculous
    • You’re just like your father (relative) – it invalidates their own identities
    • I wish you’d be more like such and such (relative) – it tells the child is not good enough
  • Negative rules or presuppositions might be:
    • Men don’t show emotion
    • You fail if you show anger
    • To be very clever (so I can take advantage of other people).
    • To get a lot of money (no matter what it takes).
    • Look after number one (yourself).
    • Do whatever I want (even if it is bad for me, hurts other people, or is illegal).
    • I just want to have fun.
    • See what you can get away with at work.
    • To get someone else to pay my bills.
    • To be very powerful and control the lives of a lot of other people.
    • To never admit to being wrong.
  • The Child’s Voice:
    • Mine is better than yours – e.g. as adults “at least my desk isn’t such as mess as hers”
    • I want yours – e.g. if a friend’s success gets to you
    • It’s Unfair – The feeling of unfairness can be even more important when it is about time rather than belongings
    • What about me –
    • Voices of Complaint: Temper tantrums and deep sulks
    • Tidy desk, idle mind
    • Respect others
  • Bible Based
    • We are made in God’s image
    • God has a purpose and plan for us
    • There is no condemnation in Christ
    • Jesus forgives sins
    • We forgive others, as God forgives us
    • We all sin, and fall short of the beauty of god
    • Judge not and be not judged
    • Hate the sin, not the sinner
    • I am worthy to my god
    • I am entitled to exist
    • I have my own identity
    • I am entitled to make mistakes and not be perfect
  • Unhelpful Parental voices:
    • Stop moaning and groaning and get on with it
    • Hurry up, or you’ll get left behind
    • Be careful. Make sure you get back safely
    • Don’t interrupt
    • You can’t just have whatever you want
    • Don’t be selfish
    • Don’t answer back
    • You’re on your own now
    • Wait your turn
    • Never an idle moment
    • If you’ve started it, finish it
    • You’re clumsy, silly, a cry- baby, irresponsible, bad
    • You’re in the way
  • Some positive thoughts and rules (James, 2008)
    • Your best is good enough
    • It is not your fault that you are who you are
    • Accept that the situation you are in is chosen by you, and you are a free agent with volition
    • Hope for the best and expect the worst
    • Don’t be scared of examining your failures as much as your successes
    • Don’t take responsibility for what is not your fault, or for others’ achievements
    • Embrace complexity
    • Tolerate contradictions
    • I will align my values with my life (i.e. I validate my views)
  • Some life rules can come from unhealthy parental messages: (Stewart, et al., 1987)
    • Don’t be (don’t exist) – “I wish I’d never had you”
    • Don’t be you – Parents wanted the other sex. Continual comparison to other kids. “you are just like … “, “why can’t you be like ….”
    • Don’t be a child – There’s only room for one kid around here – and that’s me “You’ re too old to … ”’big boys don’t cry”
    • Don’t grow up – Often the youngest: “stay my playmate”, “don’t leave me”
    • Don’t make it  – Parents are jealous of child’s success. Child may do well at class but not exams.
    • Don’t (do anything) – “Don’t do anything because anything you do is so dangerous that you’re safer doing nothing at all.”
    • Don’t be important – Parents: “I’ll put up with having you around, kid. just as long as you realise that you and your wants are not important around here.” /”Don’t ask for what you want”
    • Don’t belong –  Parents who tell others the child is “different from others”. “shy”, or “Difficult”. Parents may model the injunction through their own social ineptitude
    • Don’t be close – “Don’t be emotionally close”, Variant “don’t trust”, Alcoholic – “I’ll stay away from you in order to protect myself’. Later when others accept him. he’s got feelers out for signs of rejection.
    • Don’t be well (sane) – If parents are only around when child is ill – “To get attention I want around here. I have to be ill”. Or parents continually say, “This one isn’t strong”
    • Don’t think –  Parents mocking child’s work, or “When women want to get something from men. they can do it by switching off thinking and escalating feelings”. Variants
    • Don’t feel – Some feelings prohibited but others allowed: “Don’t feel fear”. “Big boys don’t cry” or “don’t feel what you feel. but feel what I feel” (e.g. “I’m hungry. what do you want to eat”)
    • You don’t count – “I hope this happens to you, so it won’t happen to me”. E.g. If you don’t belong, then I can etc.
    • A Human doing not a human being – you only count because of your results at school.
    • “What are you sad about; there’s no reason to be sad

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We all live by the rules society and culture gives us, rules we’ve developed from our childhood, and rules we choose to give us. In fact, anger comes from rules we hold dear being broken (“You can’t talk to me like that!”, or “People should keep promises”). Some of the ones you grow up with might affect your very own view of yourself (“You’ll never get anywhere”)

Using the list of life rules above, and any others that you identified from childhood what 7 or so life rules do you want to keep and which do you wish to discard?

Keep Discard



Resetting your Rules and Beliefs