Core beliefs

Hypnotherapy Core Beliefs

Beliefs Rules Living Commands

Change your core beliefs with hypnotic suggestions

Some problem behaviors are triggered by a specific event or situation. Other times, clients have behaviors which they recognize are not helpful, but which are not associated with a particular time, place or event. These behaviors may in fact be based on core beliefs.

Each person has an unconscious view of themselves which governs all of their behavior. To a large extent this determines your personality.  If you believe that everyone is out to screw you, then you will behave as if this is true, and that behavior becomes part of your normal personality. So your core personality is based on a set of beliefs.

Core beliefs play a key role in the maintenance of long term problems. If you want to change your behavior then you have to change your core beliefs.

Core Personal beliefs are stable and consistent over time, but can be altered. These beliefs are context dependent: they do not necessarily apply equally to every part of a person's life.

For example, you can believe one thing about yourself in the work environment, and believe something quite different about yourself in the home environment. Beliefs can be changed by hypnotic suggestions.

See also NLP Cognitive Filtering


Core Beliefs are formed early.

Indulgers and Discouragers

Some beliefs are formed as a result of repeatedly being told something by parents, teachers and other authority figures. You can be told repeatedly that you are a very special little girl and everybody loves you no matter what and that belief will stay with that little girl her whole life. Or you can be told that you are useless and will never amount to anything and you will go through life never amounting to anything. You can also be told indirectly. The indirection can be done in words: the child says "Mummy, what's an astronaut?" and is crushed by the reply "Don't worry about it, you'll never be one". Or it can be done by implication - a mother who makes it clear that she is happiest when Johnny is playing quietly in the hall is sending the message "you're not important enough for me" and little Johnny carries that belief all through his adult life. He may try to overcompensate and become a nuclear submarine commander or a mountain climber in order to get Mum's approval, or he may decide that all he can do is to try to be useful but invisible and become a bus driver or a shop assistant.

Direct Experience

Beliefs are also formed directly by childhood experience, where the child is involved in a situation and learns how things usually work out in that situation. Children are extremely good at picking up erroneous beliefs. When I was small my family lived in an apartment block. Each Sunday I was dragged along to visit sick relatives. These relatives all lived in the suburbs in small houses. To this day I associate houses without stairs with decay and illness. Children are the centre of their world in their early years, and believe that everything that happens, happens because of them. Many adults are walking around today filled with a permanent feeling of guilt based on the child's belief that Daddy left Mommy because the child was bad.

Child Centered Logic

Children have very little logical ability. When a trusted adult tells them about something or someone else, the child will just internalize it without question. What they are told becomes a fixed belief. This is how biases and cultural values are transmitted. Mummy may tell her daughter that 'good girls don't do that sort of thing' to keep the little girl safe, but it becomes a problem when the little girl takes that belief into her marriage.

Unconscious Imitation

Children are also very impressionable and will automatically imitate things. They pick up cultural values, ways of talking, ways of thinking and specific beliefs from other people. These are usually stated as rules, often unconsciously. Very few people can tell you the rules for constructing a valid English sentence, but they know instantly when one is not valid. Everyone has internalised the incredibly complicated rules of English and did it automatically and unconsciously. So it should be no surprise if a man gets depressed on losing his job. The child absorbed the belief from Daddy that the man of the house brings in the money and also learned from Mummy that the man next door was no good because he didn't work. That belief is at the root of the problem.


Knowing how beliefs are formed lets you know how to undo them. When you first meet a client, beliefs are the things that you should listen carefully for. How does this client define himself? What does she say about her abilities? What is the client's view of the world we live in?

Learning the client's belief system is the first step to identifying where they can be helped. Once you know what negative beliefs the client has about themselves then you will know where to aim hypnotic suggestions.

Types of beliefs

Personal beliefs are either about yourself or about the world you live in, but the categories always overlap to some extent.

Personal Beliefs have a powerful effect on maintaining problem conditions because they determine to a large extent what the person thinks, notices and remembers. A powerful core belief can wipe out all attempts at change. For effective hypnotherapy, every direct suggestion needs to be aimed at one of the following areas:

BELIEFSummary of the belief
IDENTITYBeliefs about what you are.
BEHAVIOURBeliefs about your actions in given situations
CAPABILITYBeliefs about what you could do.
RULESBeliefs about how to deal with the world.
EXPECTATIONSBeliefs about what other people are like.
WORLD VIEWBeliefs about how the world is.



Beliefs about what you are.

This set of beliefs makes up your identity. These are beliefs that do not need evidence, they do not depend on activity to validate them, these beliefs just are. These beliefs are things like

I am a loser, I am no good, I am stupid, I am a happy person, I am attractive to men, I have a great sense of direction, I am a natural cook, I am no good with names, I am....

Each of these defines how you behave in different situations. Some beliefs apply to every situation, "I am a loser" for example, but even a loser can be a hero to his kids, so the roles are never absolute.

When someone says to me 'I am no good with names", I challenge them to give me two examples. Usually,  they are unable to tell me. They say "I just know it,.... I just am no good with names".

They cannot point to specific instances where they were worse than anyone else. They just believe it without proof. It's part of who they are.

These beliefs can be difficult to change. When challenged by evidence to the contrary, it is often the evidence that gets changed, not the belief. No matter how many times they get lost, some people still go on believing they have a great sense of direction.

These beliefs are changed by using hypnotic logic and repeated direct suggestions.


Beliefs about your actions in given situations

These beliefs reflect what you have learned about the world and how to react to particular situations. These beliefs are a sort of shorthand that stop you having to think about what to do next. They are usually the result of the person overgeneralising.

They take some element of the current situation, match it to an unrelated situation, and react to that. Many people report behaving almost as if they are on automatic pilot in some situations and feel unable to vary their behaviour, even though they at some level recognise that what they doing is not right.

For example when criticized by somebody else, some people automatically feel they must be to blame, they drag up old feelings of shame and inadequacy, even though they know the criticism is unfounded and unfair.

They then fumble and apologise and feel unable to defend themselves. This then calls up old feelings of resentment, being picked on, etc., and these then trigger anger, sulks, withdrawal or other inappropriate behaviour.

What is happening is that the criticism triggers memories of a similar situation at an early age and the response that got them out of it. They continue to re-use this response inappropriately.

After having behaved like this thousands of times this response has become ingrained and automatic and they accept their reaction as being natural and right.

These beliefs can be changed once they have been examined. As soon as the person varies their behaviour even a little they have broken the automatic response. It is fairly easy to persuade people to modify their automatic behaviours through hypnotic suggestion.


Beliefs about what you could do.

These beliefs are determined by how flexible your other beliefs are, your capability for change. These beliefs determine what you can do, what you can allow yourself to do. People often build self limiting barriers around themselves for no particularly good reason.

Most people believe they are not good with names, despite never having tried to find out if they are better or worse than everybody else. A way of getting out of social embarrassment becomes a core belief.

Many other beliefs were formed in social situations where the person was rewarded by acceptance by a group for denigrating themselves in order to fit in. How many intelligent adults are in low grade jobs because they once said "Oh, I am not good at sums", just so they could be one of the gang?

Millions of women say "I just can't understand computers, they are too complicated for me" but can operate sophisticated sewing machines and have no problem handling family dynamics while negotiating rush hour traffic.

These beliefs are easy to change. Most beliefs about capability have formed almost by default, the person has never really tested their own abilities but fear of the unknown keeps them from even trying.


Beliefs about how to deal with the world.

We all use rules to tell us how to behave: what to buy, who to talk to, what to wear, what to eat, how to eat, when to relax. If we had to think about these things afresh each day we would never actually get through the day.

Rules are internalised versions of our world view, and exist largely unquestioned. The world views we live by are often outdated, irrelevant, illogical and unreasonable.
In hypnosis the therapist can use direct suggestion to install new rules about how to behave in a certain situation, about what to notice in a certain environment, about what is important in dealing with other people. These suggestions can easily replace existing rules because rules are not as ingrained as core beliefs.

We are accustomed to replacing one rule with another. When the new rule is installed during trance, it seems to the subconscious that it has always been there and is obeyed without question.


Beliefs about what other people are like.

These beliefs are generalization formed by interaction with family members at an early age. The child gets hurt in various ways and forms a conclusion that acts as a shorthand determining how to behave with others.

Beliefs about others include things like "Men can't be trusted." and "Everyone is always looking for faults in me". Using these beliefs prevents the person from interacting normally with other people. Similarly, Expectations interact with World views: if you believe other people operate on the principle of "Never give a sucker an easy break" then your own behaviour will include suspicion and lack of trust.

Expectations are often bound up with beliefs about the self, for example "Everyone is always criticising me because I am no good", or "People will see I am no good and will reject me". Negative beliefs like these reinforce each other.


Beliefs about how the world is.

Global views are easily summed up. Phrases such as "Life's a bitch and then you die" or "Nothing is ever easy for me" are typical. Personal Life views can include "Effort does not pay off" or 'Quitters never win'.

These are beliefs that apply in every situation. People are seldom aware of the extent to which these global beliefs and attitudes affect their everyday thinking and behaviour. Global beliefs are insidious because the person is constantly looking for evidence so that they can prove the belief is correct.

Global beliefs are not based on rational evidence and so can be changed by reframing in hypnosis.

Targeting Beliefs in Therapy

Personal Beliefs like those listed above can last a very long time because they are constantly reinforced through the process of selective attention. Every situation that supports the belief is remembered, everything that contradicts the belief is either ignored or distorted.

Knowing how beliefs are formed lets me know how to undo them. When I first meet a client, beliefs are the things that I listen carefully for. How does this client define himself? What does she say about her abilities? What is the client's view of the world they live in?

Learning the client's belief system is the first step to identifying where they can be helped. Once I know what negative beliefs the client has about themselves then I know where to aim hypnotic suggestions.

Examples of Direct Suggestions aimed at changing core beliefs

IdentityYou are secure and confident in every situation.
IdentityAnd repeat in your mind, now... I'm a do-it-now kinda guy.
CapabilityBeing comfortable when meeting people is something you can learn.
CapabilityAs this session comes an end… you will find yourself feeling stronger… more powerful…. different.… and with a deep feeling that something has changed… you have rediscovered your natural confidence… you remember how to be confident…  you know what to do in every situation… are already changing in many ways.
BehaviourIn the days and weeks coming up, you will be free to explore new opportunities and new relationships.
RuleConfidence is everyone's right... confidence is your right... confidence is the right attitude of mind... confidence is a matter of believing in yourself believing in yourself.
RuleIf you believe you can, you can.
ExpectationsYou can reach out to others to ask for help... other people are pleased to be asked... asking for help affirms your relationship... give people an opportunity to get to know you... asking for help is a sign of strength... a willingness to reach out ... a willingness to experience change... and others respect that... and they will respect you for asking.


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