The Destructive Role of Doubt

One of the themes that crops up a lot in my work is the insidious effect of doubt. This habitual, negative questioning has huge impact on clients’ thinking, behavior and sense of what’s possible. It is of course essential to make thoughtful, well reasoned choices about our future. But, once we have made those choices and are moving forward in that direction, doubt will rarely, if ever, be helpful. And it will dependably undermine our best efforts to make change.

Many of us wear doubt like a protective cloak. Our thinking goes something like this: If I focus on all the things that could go wrong or get in the way of what I want to do, then I won’t have to be disappointed or let down if what I want doesn’t happen. After a while we become so practiced at thinking this way that it becomes our automatic way of viewing the world.  Unconsciously, we find ourselves looking for and (even worse) arguing for any reasons why what we're embarked on won’t work — why our health won’t improve, or our lives can’t be more joyful and fulfilling. Which, ironically, is pretty much guaranteed to ensure that our unconscious minds are busily undoing (aka sabotaging) any of the positive steps we might be taking to create positive changes for ourselves. It's like trying to drive our car with the brakes on.  If we move forward at all, progress will assuredly be harder and slower than it needs to be.

When doubt is operating under the surface like this, we’re often completely unaware of the destructive role it’s playing in our lives. And without awareness, we have no opportunity to see it for what it is; and no chance to make a different and more useful choice about how to look at our future.

It might be a valuable exercise to take on the role of detective when looking at these habitual responses around doubt:

  • Look for the clues that show us that doubt is influencing our default thinking (what are we really saying to ourselves about what's possible?)
  • Investigate what beliefs these doubts are attached to 
  • Ask ourselves if such beliefs are helpful or destructive
  • And, if the latter, consciously choose a different belief that focuses wholeheartedly on what we actually want, fully embracing the empowering qualities of trust and possibility — which, in turn, unleashes the full power of our unconscious mind to create the changes we so desire

The inspirational Helen Keller put it like this: Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend. Fullness of heart and expansiveness of mind are the perfect antidotes to doubt — the most fertile openings to everything that's possible in our lives.