World Emotional Literacy League
World Emotional Literacy League



by Dr. Dean Van Leuven

2013 Conference Paper


The world as we perceive it - is seen through

our eyes - and the thoughts we have about what we see happening. 

We can change the world by changing our thoughts about it.  When we learn to change our basic beliefs about things, we have the capacity to look at life – and everything else that happens to us differently.  This process is referred to as changing our belief system.  When we do this, we even change the system of cause and effect. Once we’ve changed our view of the world, things will not work the same for us as they did before.   The same events that we were experiencing in the past will now inspire different responses than they did before, and thus different results.


The way we think is what determines how we feel. 


And we think the way we do because of our existing belief system.  If we want to change the way we feel, then we must change our beliefs.  You’ll be able to experience a new way of life if you can just alter your beliefs to encompass wonderful expectations of life.  This is because that what you believe will happen is what will happen.  Almost always we find the world to be the world we expect it to be.  So for the world to seem good to you, it is essential that you expect that it will be good.


We each have our own unique belief system, which is like a filter that new information passes through before it comes into our awareness.  It is an extremely complex system that contains all of the things that we have learned in our whole life.  These are all the beliefs that we have been taught and accept as being true.  Our beliefs determine how we think the world works and embodies the truths we hold to be self-evident and accept without question.  In order to make meaning out of any new input to our mind we always compare this new information to our existing belief system.


Our belief system will always make perfect sense to us – at least until we are troubled by the answers we are getting and begin to re-evaluate them.  This system is self-validating because it is the truth as we believe it to be. 


It is important to understand this if we hope to change the beliefs that trouble us.  Understanding the nature of our belief system will help us find the things we believe in that are not working for us; and that we want to change.  It will help us change to more positive and effective beliefs.


And what is our ultimate goal in terms of changing our belief system? 


It is to intensify and deeply feel our positive emotions. 


Our goal is not to suppress our feelings in order to get rid of fear or anger, because they would still exist under the surface – demanding that we deal with them in another way.  We don’t want to suppress our feelings in order to get rid of fear or anger, because the fear or anger would still be there - affecting our life.    Instead our objective is to fully experience our positive emotions.  We want to more frequently and fully experience our love-based emotions.  We want to have a belief system that will embrace the positive emotions.  Remember, we can make a choice about what emotions we want to feel, and the most rewarding choice is to more fully and frequently act out and feel love, so that we can enjoy life more fully.


The basic rule is this:  If your beliefs do not make you feel good and enjoy life more fully, then they are not working right for you.  They should then be evaluated for change. Open them up, examine them, turn them over, and determine if you want to keep them.  Try to see why they are not giving you the results you want.  Look for more effective beliefs to replace them with.


We are all doing the best we can in life.  We follow our beliefs, until we realize they are not working and need to be changed, and also realize that we have the power to change them.  When we decide that we can and do want to change a belief, it then becomes a matter of selecting a new belief and replacing the old one with the new one.  We break our old habitual way of responding by replacing it with new behavior that is more desirable.


It is not easy to change your way of looking at things.  The first step is to identify the beliefs that are getting in the way of your major goals.  The next is to decide what your overall perspective is to be.  Evaluate your whole belief system and see which beliefs are not working for you the way you would like them to work.  You can do this by pulling your beliefs out one at a time and looking at them.  By embracing the ones you want to keep, you make them stronger.  Look for irrational beliefs.  Challenge the ones that don’t give you good results, the ones that have negative emotions attached, or seem to produce unsatisfactory results. 


For example, you may hold a belief that you should always defend your brother’s actions whatever the situation.  Perhaps this has led you to defending your brother even when he has done something destructive. This in turn has led you to get angry with a teacher or neighbor.  If you change your belief from “I should always defend my brother” to “Let's try to find out what really happened here,” you would be able to shift your response from an angry to a neutral one.


You can develop more helpful beliefs by changing the ones that routinely lead to negative responses.  For example instead of the belief that “Things should be the way I want them to be,” a more helpful belief might be, “It will be nice if I can make things go the way I want, but if they don’t I can still accept them.”


If you want less fear or anger in your life, spend time thinking about

new less negative beliefs you can incorporate into your belief system. 


Trust the universe.  Move from a closed to an open system when viewing the nature of life and society.  Learn to take the world-view that all is one.  An American does not have more value than an Ethiopian.  See value in the points of view of others.  Consider moderation, balance, and open-mindedness.  A balanced view increases your choices.  See values and events in life as gray instead of black and white.  There is no one-way of looking at things and no right answer.  Always be aware of that. 


Look at your overall belief system.  Is it based on love or fear?   Which of your beliefs is fear or anger based?  You become what you think you are, and the world becomes what you think it is.  How do you see the world?  How do you see yourself in it?  How do you view your relationship with other people?


Remember that what we do, what we say, how we feel, is who we become.  If we want to be free of fear and anger we must think and act in accordance with beliefs that do not produce fear or anger.


Guidelines to Help You Create a Belief System that’s Free of Fear and Anger


1.   Choose to be caring of others.
2.   Do not see your interests as separate from those of other people.
3.   Realize that being helpful and caring of others is in your own best interest – because you’ll feel better and they will respond with love.   
4.   Know that when you give love, love is returned.


Characteristics of a Person who is One

with Himself/Herself, and One with the World


They trust in themselves and the universe.

They love and like themselves, and everything and everyone else.

What they say, think and do are in alignment.

They are not judgmental.

They are happy and always expressing joy.

They are not defensive.

They give generously of themselves.  Their attitude is: “How can I help?”


Work on changing your feelings and behaviors, as well as your thoughts.  Making changes in your feelings and behaviors involves numerous thinking processes.  You may need to make some deep philosophical changes in order to be the person you want to be.


Ask yourself, “What do I believe that makes me suffer?”  Ask yourself: “How open is my belief system?” 


Choose to let go of every goal where your peace of mind depends on other people changing.



Observing and Understanding Yourself


In order to know more about ourselves, we must develop the habit of observing how we react to all the messages sent to our brain. We can become observers of our own thoughts and actions so that we realize how certain thoughts trigger certain actions, and how those actions make us feel. This will allow us to know immediately when something has gone wrong—that is, when we are responding with anger instead of love.  Observing our thoughts and actions will also give us some clues about how to fix them when they are upsetting.



You can actually put a program in place in your mind that will function every time you open a mental file. This program will analyze the functioning of your brain by taking you through the following steps:


  1. Identify the message that came in.  
  2. Determinewhich of your files you accessed with the incoming information.
  3. Noticehow you processed the information once your memory files receive it.
  4. Notice what part of your brain processed the information. 
  5. Notice how the information you already have stored in your file affected how you felt about the information you received.
  6. Notice what action you took and whether or not the outcome was as you would like it to be.


Identify the Message


It is important to identify the sort of things that make you angry.  Ask yourself what messages make you angry, and acknowledge that these are your anger “triggers.” For example, an incoming message that triggers your anger might be: “I really get upset when someone talks too much in class.” or “I really get upset when my teacher gives me extra homework.”



Determine the “Belief” File You Accessed


Determine what it is in your belief and response system that produces the anger response.  For example, your belief system may have included the following: “Everything must be orderly and neat” or “I do not want to be late for dinner.”


Determine How You Processed the Message After Your Memory File Received It


What part of your brain processed the information?  Youremotional center?  Your thinking center?  How did the information you already have stored in that file affect howyou felt about the information you just received?For example, maybe you react with anger when things aren’t as neat as you think they should be; or maybe you respond from both your emotional center and your thinking center when you find you will not be home for dinner as planned, because you know it will upset your family’s plans as well as your own.


What Action Did You Take


What action did your angry response motivate you to take? For example,did you shout at your teacher for giving you extra homework?  Did you tell the teacher that he had no reason to treat you that way or that you don’t have enough time to do more homework?


Did You Find That Action Helpful or Not


Notice whether or not the outcome of your action was as you would have liked it to be. For example, in the above situation, you might have felt that the action you took madeyou feelboth upset and angry with everyone involved and really did nothing to solve the problem, because your teacher made you do the homework anyway.


Compare Your Response to How You Responded to a Similar Problem in the Past


Was your response appropriate for the present situation—or did you simply go into “automatic pilot” and use a response you’d used in the past because it was readily available in your “file” of responses? For instance, in the above example, wouldn’t it have gone better with your teacher if you had said to him that you really would like to do the homework but could he give you more time because your family had a special project that you had to help with?


Perception is not a fact. It is a mirror of our thoughts.  No two people see the world the same.  What you are doing in this process of observing yourself is finding out how you see the world.  Try to see how your problems overlap each other and are inter-related.  Try to see how your way of looking at things agrees with your entrenched beliefs.   Try to see how this way of thinking causes problems for you.


Especially pay attention to how you are feeling.  “Emotional awareness” is being aware of what feelings are actually occurring in your body.  Try to be more aware of your emotions and note how they make you feel.  See if your responses are in line with the way you think and act during the times when you are able to respond without feeling the emotion. Noticehow you feel about the things that happen; especially the events,statements, or behaviors that bother you.  Just the act of observing your emotions can take away some of the emotional charge.  Watch what you avoid doing because the accompanying emotions seem unpleasant to you.  Especially, notice when you are doing things that don’t agree with your own thinking.  When this happens, you are acting out of your emotional center.  You need to make yourself aware of this so that you can determine why it happened, and what you can do to change your response the next time.


Making the Most Accurate Call As a Self-Observer


Although our objective is to be as rational and objective as we possibly can in observing ourselves, this is not an easy thing to do.  Try to be objective, no labels and no judgments.  Don’t be tricked by your own prejudices and biases.  Take the time to become aware of your own prejudices and biases so you will recognize them when they arise.  It may help to ask yourself what are the other possible answers, or even, how would someone who has a different viewpoint see this event.


Examples of beliefs that do not produce anger

1.    In the great scheme of life, this event is not all that important.
2.    Life is just as it is. I am not the boss of life.
3.    I accept ambiguity and uncertainty.
4.    I am open-minded; I am tolerant of others’ ways and ideas.
5.    The goals that I am trying to achieve are just means, not ends.
6.    I am always open to creativity and originality.
7.    I take responsibility for my own direction in life.
8.    I accept any answer as possible, and possibly okay for others.
9.    I accept experimenting and risk-taking in myself and in others.
10.  I look to what is in my overall best interests for my life, not just what’s
      best for today.    


Guidelines to help you create a belief system that’s free of anger


  • Choose to be caring of others. 
  • Do not see your interests as separate from others. 
  • Realize that being helpful and caring of others is in your own best interest—because you’ll feel better and they will respond with love. 


Create Core beliefs that you can judge your other beliefs by,


Think about how you want your life to be and how you want to be in person.  Think about want you want to achieve in life.  In order to achieve these things it is important to build a belief system that supports your goals and rid yourself of beliefs that make these goals more difficult to achieve.


Examples of beliefs you may want to attain in order to

maximize a positive life existence



I believe that the world is fair. 

I believe that people want to be honest and good.

I believe that anything is possible.

I am oblivious to the complexities of life and am not upset by little things.

I am content to live simply.

I believe in the power of smiles, hugs, a kind word, truth, and peace.

I believe in dreams, imagination, humankind, and having fun.

I embrace, accept, and enjoy the world.

I give and accept  love.

I want to be remembered with a smile.



If some of these beliefs seem uncomfortable to you, try to determine why you feel that way.  Look at the positive side of that belief and see how it could benefit your life.


Pay attention to the beliefs you do accept. Work to align your other existing beliefs to be compatible with the ones you find acceptable.  


If your existing beliefs are in conflict, eliminate or modify the ones that contribute to negative feelings and actions.  You create internal stress when your own beliefs are in conflict with each other.


I want to have a peaceful and joyful life therefore I have developed specific beliefs that support that goal.  If you want to have a peaceful and joyful life then you will need to choose beliefs that support that goal.


My personal goal is to maximize my life experience.  In order to achieve that I have developed the following primary beliefs that use to evaluate my other existing beliefs that I find troubling and when I want to create a new belief about something.  I ask myself will the new belief I am creating meet all of these objectives.


Create your own list and review it periodically to see if it still meets your greatest goal and use it as a checklist whenever you are trying to create a new belief for yourself.

The Dean’s List

Principles for Peaceful and Joyful Living


Always honor your own truth

  • Speak only your truth.
  • Realize that it’s only your own truth and no one is obligated to accept it.
  • If you are not satisfied with the results plan to do it differently.
  • If you are not satisfied with your truth change it.


 Always honor the other person’s truth

  • Always listen fully to what they have to say.
  • To accept or reject their truth is always your choice.
  • Always ask yourself, do I want to be right or do I want to be happy.


 Trust and accept the world as a loving place

  • Always choose to look at everything in a loving way.
  • Always respond in a loving way.
  • Remember that what everyone wants most in this world is to be loved.


 Always keep things in perspective

  • The world works the way the world works.
  • What happened is what happened, don’t dramatize it.
  • Always ask yourself “In the greater scheme of things how important is this                   anyway?” 


 This life is a precious gift – Appreciate it

  • Always look for beauty in the world.
  • Do something good for the world.
  • This life is all that you have.  It is your job to maximize it.


© 2005 Dean Van Leuven                              








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