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Epictetus, a philosopher from around 2000 years ago is often quoted as saying,

“People are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.”

Psychological theorists Alfred Alder, Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck acknowledge the fundamental principal that how we feel and behave originates from our thoughts and beliefs. [1] In other words it is not events, situations or encounters that make us feel a certain way, rather it is our thoughts and beliefs about them that determines how we feel and act. 


“People and things do not upset us, rather we upset ourselves by believing that they can upset us,” Albert Ellis.

This is not to deny that events, situations and encounters can impact upon us, because they can, and we can experience grief  which is an adaption processe to change and loss. To become empowered it is an essential key though to understand the role of one’s beliefs and thoughts, and in addition to this, the underpinning core energies or motivating forces.


It is not just our conscious thoughts and beliefs, it is all of our subconscious beliefs. We function from the subconscious all of the time in everyday life, yet often we are not aware of what this hidden programming actually is. The subconscious mind is much more powerful than the conscious mind. It is a large repository of stimulus and response tapes formed from learned experiences and instincts which  play over and over in our lives with the same behavioural responses to life’s experiences. [2] 

We form our beliefs about ourselves in very early childhood, especially up until about the age of seven. While the human physical body is growing the primary data base of the mind, both conscious and subconscious is developing complete with frameworks, categories and topics from what is role modelled to us, and what we experience. Dr Jeffrey Young defines cognitive frameworks or schemas as “broad pervasive themes or patterns regarding oneself and one’s relationship with others, developed during childhood and elaborated throughout one’s lifetime.” [3] If you find unwanted patterns repeat in your life, or you sabotage acheiveing your goals, it is likely that an unhealthy schema is at play.

5. MWAlfred Alder was one of the first modern theorists to propose that we are not a victim of our personally or cognitive programming and acknowledged that we have the capacity to create change. To create this change requires a change in our thinking about what we believe about ourselves and the world. [4]

Even though there is interplay between our beliefs, feelings and behaviours, e.g. how one feels in response to an event can reinforce positively or negatively what one believes about it, beliefs are primarily causative.  The incredible thing is that we all have the capacity and power to change our thoughts and beliefs and in turn create change in our life.

             “We are what we believe we are,” C.S. Lewis.



[1] [4] Corey, G. (2009). Theory and Practice of Counselling Psychotherapy. (8th ed.).Belmont: Thompson Brooks/Cole.

[2] Lipton, B., H. (2015). Biology of Belief. Hay House Australia Pty. Ltd. Australia.

[3] Young, J., E., Klosko, J.,S., Weishaar, M.,E. (2006). Schema Therapy. New York: Guildford Press

For more information or to make an appointment contact Kate at Jesmry CounsellingPh: 02 60431232 Mobile: 0410046148   Email: kate@jesmry.com.au