Memory, Belief and Emotion
Early Years and Poorly Worded Questions
In the early years of TPM, it was mistakenly believed that the lie-based core belief was contained within the memory itself. This is no longer taught. There were even questions used at that time designed to send the person looking for the “painful memory”. Now we realize that there are no painful memories, that is, those that produce pain, as it is only lies which we currently believe that produce pain. It is what I believe now that is causing me to feel what I feel. When I remember bad things occurring, I may indeed feel badly, but it is not because of the memory. It is only because of the belief that I now have.
My current belief is like glasses through which I interpret the memory. I also interpret current situations using the same lie-based glasses. As long as I wear these glasses, I will feel “bad,” both when I look at the memory and when I look at the present situation.
If indeed the memory was the problem, I could not fix it. Memory cannot be changed. Our memory serves a very important place in TPM. It is not the source of our pain and does not contain our current lie-based belief. It may well hold the memory of what we believed at the time of the life experience, but it does not contain the belief that is now producing the pain in our lives. The core belief that was established at the time of the event is not a memory. It has traveled along with us through time and is ever present and always available to be used to interpret the next life situation.
We do possess a memory of what we believed and will continue to have this memory, even after we know the truth. The memory of what we believed holds no emotional influence. It is the current core belief that we embraced, and have carried ever since, that continues to hamper our walk.
Freedom comes not by “healing the memory”, but by identifying the lie that we currently believe and then receiving the Lord’s true perspective. When this occurs ‘the glasses’ fall off and the “eyes of our heart” are opened, so that we may see with clarity.
If we believe a lie within our hearts, the consequences will be much the same as if it were true.
Our core belief (heart belief) not only dictates what we feel, it also wields great influence on our choices and behavior. This is why, when we believe a lie, the outcome can be the same as though it were true. For example, if I believe that I am worthless, this belief will dictate how I live my life. I may be an underachiever because there would be no reason to try to be better, or I may go the opposite direction and overachieve to disprove my worthlessness. If I was abused sexually as a child and believe that I am dirty and shameful, I may resist sexual intimacy with my spouse because when I participate I feel badly.
Our beliefs shape our lives and conform us into their likeness. The Apostle Paul warned the church of Rome of this when he said, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (Rom. 12:2). When we know the truth within our hearts, it results in mind renewal and transformation. If we believe a lie, it will conform us into its definition.
heart belief is distinct from memory
Everything we feel, think, and believe originated somewhere in the past within the context of a life experience. This includes our heart or core belief. Even though it was learned in the context of a life experience which immediately became a memory once it occurred, our heart belief is distinct from memory. Our heart belief has traveled forward with us all along the way and is ever present, always available to interpret life as it is happening. What we currently believe with our heart is our current belief, not a part of any memory of what we believed at the time of the past experience.
Because we understand that our core/heart belief produces the emotion we feel in any given circumstance, we are able to use this to help us identify which core belief we are using to interpret the present moment. If we try to identify our core belief through logic and reason while remaining focused on the present situation, we are unlikely to find our way. We need the original context where we learned the core belief, in order to rightly understand how we came to believe what we believe.
This does not mean that we are looking in the memory for the core belief, but only using the memory to help us understand how we came to our current beliefs. It is what we are currently believing that is causing us to feel what we feel in the present.
Without the earlier memory, we only have the present situation in which to find meaning for what we feel, thus we are likely to blame whomever is in the room at the time for our ‘bad’ feelings. The current life situation cannot answer the question, “How did I come to believe what I believe that is causing me to feel what I am feeling?” Without the earlier context—now our memory—we are limited in the way we can interpret the current situation. This is why we say things like, “You make me feel ______.” This statement is not true, but does reflect how easy it is to come to a wrong conclusion when we lack accurate information.
Our core belief—from which we operate—was basically in place by the time we reached our early teen years. We don’t feel worthless and rejected because our spouse complains about our actions or because our boss questions our work. Even if other people’s motives are cruel, demeaning or unjust, their behavior is not the reason why we feel as we do. We feel bad because we are interpreting the moment through the the belief we learned many years before and have carried forward as our current belief.
It is highly unlikely that our conscious and logical minds will make any connection between what we felt in either situation and a lie-based core belief that we adopted, when we were harshly criticized in baseball practice, as an eight year old. This is precisely why emotion is so important. My current emotion is neurologically connected to the exact belief that needs to be replaced with truth. This belief is linked with every time and place where I used it to interpret life—especially the original point of entry. It is helpful to think of emotion as a smoke trail that is being produced by the fires of our experiential core beliefs. If you are trying to find the fire, follow the smoke trail.
Memory, in and of itself, is unable to produce any emotion
All of our current lie-based core beliefs were established in the context of life experiences. Even so, neither the memory of a life event nor the memory of what we initially believed at the time of the experience, is the source of the feelings we currently have. We may remember believing something at the time of the event, but it is not the memory of having believed it doesn’t cause what we feel. This is why we do not work through a memory looking for the lie, but rather we use the memory to help us to understand what we currently believe, how we came to believe it, and why we feel what we feel.
For example, we may remember believing, “I am worthless” when we were harshly treated by our playmates on the ball field. However, neither the memory of the event, nor the memory of the belief, is causing the current problem. The problem that we face today is not what we remember believing, but what we currently believe. It may indeed be the same belief, “I am worthless,” but the memory of the belief and what we presently believe are not the same.
Our bad feelings are rooted in what we currently believe to be true. Anything we feel when we look at a memory is coming from our current lie-based core belief and not the memory itself.
This is an important distinction to make as we seek to apply the TPM Process. We do not “go to” a memory in order find the core belief, but rather we remember in order to help us to identify what we believe in the present. The memory can help us do this. It can help us understand how we came to believe what we believe and why we feel what we feel when our spouse or boss criticizes us.
People who misunderstand this concept may mistakenly think the memory has the power to cause us to feel things. They can sometimes view the memory as almost “alive” and active. They refer to such memories as “painful” memories, when in fact the memory produces no pain in and of itself. The memory, like our current situations, trigger the lie-based pain we carry. Sometimes we think of the memory as though it were almost present tense. For example, some facilitators, when asking the MEMORY Box questions (or when making up their own), use the third person “he or she” (for example, “What is the little girl feeling now?” “How does that make her feel?” Why does she feel that way?”) instead of always keeping it in the present and in the second person: “You.” The little girl in the memory does not feel anything. The fact is, the “little girl or boy” does not exist. They are recorded memory and nothing more. They do not feel, see, hear touch or do anything. The person sitting in the chair in front of you does have these abilities. Looking at a memory as if there is life in it encourages dissociation from one’s feelings.
If the person describes the memory as the “little girl or boy,” then they may indeed be using this viewpoint as a solution to something. If you suspect the person might be in the SOLUTION Box, ask the questions designed for dealing with a solution. Example: (First Solution Box question): “If you were to consider not viewing the memory as “him or her, or he or she” but rather as “I and me,” do you sense any hesitancy or resistance to do so?” If they say that they do not, then they should change in their use of words. If they continue saying “she, he, him or her,” then you can return to the first question and help them to understand what you are asking. If they say they do feel some manner of hesitation or resistance, then continue by asking the remaining questions and follow protocol.
Memory is Not the Source of the Negative Emotion
It is also important to know that the emotional pain we currently feel is not coming from the memory of what happened to us, but rather from the current belief we hold. When we focus on our present emotion, we are not following it to the memory, but rather allowing what we feel to surface a memory by way of association. So rather than our going to a memory, our memory is coming to us.
Our current belief was established in a life experience that is now our memory. However, this memory does not contain the belief we currently hold. We feel what we currently believe and not what we remember believing.
The emotion we feel when we remember something is not because of the memory but, rather, because we view the event through the “lens” of what we currently believe. The belief that we initially learned as a child has become our current core belief. The memory became fixed in time, whereas the belief has traveled along with us. So now, when we look at the current situation through the lens of our current belief, we feel the same as the way we felt when we were on playground where we missed the catch and were shamed by our fellow team mates. The reason that the memory still feels ‘bad’ is because we remember it through the same lie-based glasses. When our boss criticizes us, we feel ‘bad’ for the same reason that the memory feels ‘bad’ – because of our current core belief. When this lie is replaced with God’s perspective, both our current situation and our memory will feel peaceful and calm.