Iceberg Beliefs

Much of what guides our emotional, stress-addled responses to things aren’t conscious—they’re beliefs that loom far larger beneath the surface of our minds and our lives than we realize.

They’re beliefs that sit so far below the surface and have been there so long that we don’t even know they’re there (and if we do, we only see the tip of it, and not the whole thing). They govern your ideas about how the world should work, and how things should be, such as “being successful is more important than anything else,” and “there’s not enough love to go around.” You might intellectually know these aren’t actually true, but your subconscious didn’t get the memo. And so they can trip us up because we don’t realize we’re operating from that position—and it limits us.

Icebergs typically fall in three realms:

  • The Achievement World: School, work, careers, bosses, colleagues. An example of an iceberg belief here would be “Being successful matters most” or, a particularly damaging one, “I can’t succeed if someone else does.” You can see how buying into these ideas is going to make it very hard to a) go easy on yourself and b) support others.
  • The Social World: Relationships, intimate partners, children, in-laws. An example of an iceberg here would be “There’s not enough love to go around.” Talk about setting yourself up for jealousy, disappointment, and need.
  • The World of Control: Expectations, planning, circumstance, and action. And what can really punch a hole in your boat here? “I must always be in charge.” Or, one of our favorites: “I AM in charge. Of everything. And if I’m not, I will flounder and die.” Of course, you may not have ever said that in so many words, but if you dive down deep enough, you’ll find something like this at its core. You can see how this would create more stress in your life!

You can’t expect to dislodge these icebergs in one or even five days. But the first step is being aware that they are there, then trying to understand how they got there and whether or not they actually hold up to the life you have now and the person you are now.