What do you believe in?

What is a belief and why do beliefs matter?

Belief is nothing more than a thought that we keep thinking, whether we are aware of it or not. Why do we keep thinking the same thought at the exclusion of all other thoughts?
Because we find evidence of its validity over and over again. When your thought or belief is validated you will not question it, not doubt it and it may remain fixed and stable for as long as its validity is maintained. You would ask “If we find evidence of its validity over and over again, doesn’t it mean that it is true? ”

Here we enter the realm of the “what was first, chicken or egg” argument.
Do my beliefs create my reality or are my beliefs a consequence of the observed reality?

To understand that, let’s look at beliefs and how they are formed more closely.

As babies, we come into this world without experience and a defined worldview. With time we start making conclusions as a result of gained experience and the observations we make of others, the most influential being our immediate family or caretakers.

Some of you, believing in reincarnation or past lives will argue that even as babies we come with already pre-set beliefs or imprints that are ready to be activated when certain triggers are presented.
But let’s not entertain that argument here for now.

As babies, we are very sensitive to our environment and are eager to learn everything we can from it. We pick up every cue from our parents, every reaction, tone of voice, volume, and emotional undertone, trying to mold ourselves into their view of reality because our survival depends on it.

People under hypnosis report that even as babies, still in a womb they can feel and react to their parent’s emotions and sounds outside the womb. They can feel when the mother is happy or upset, can hear when the parents are arguing, can hear music playing, distinguish between people’s voices, and even at that stage of life start making conclusions and forming beliefs.

Babies will try to adopt their parents’ beliefs because their survival depends on learning the ways of life and who else can teach a child better than their parents?
Beliefs adopted from our parents and other authority figures may go unquestioned for the rest of our lives, and even if you might say in despair “ I will never be like my father” or “ I will never make the mistakes my mother made” we find ourselves repeating their patterns and mistakes over and over again.

Because very often, it is the subconscious that drives the behaviors, not the rational conscious mind.
Science tells us that most of the time we operate from the subconscious; making decisions, reacting to triggers, and acting out of habitual patterns.

Our subconscious beliefs and habitual patterns may remain unconscious, meaning we are not aware of them.
Have you ever reacted to something seemingly benign in a completely out-of-character matter? Maybe you exploded at the question you were asked or slammed the door on your partner who didn’t say “good morning” or smashed an electronic device that was being too slow. After that incident, you might feel embarrassed or ashamed for overreacting in this way.

You might say “I was triggered” but what triggered you and why?

To answer this question I invite you to look at how beliefs are formed and what are the prerequisites for forming a belief.
For this illustration, I would like to focus on a belief that we would call negative, something that is not life-affirming and helpful.

There are several components needed to form a belief.

  1. Direct experience of a particular event or indirect observation of an event.

For example, as a child, you visit your friend’s house where you play with your friend’s toys. When it is time to leave, you have a really hard time parting with the toys begging your mom to take them with you. But your mom says you must give them back and you do and then you leave.

When you ask your mom to buy you the toys you loved so much, your mom says “We can’t afford them”

2. Emotional response to what is experienced during and after the event and your parents/caretakers’ response to your emotions.

You feel very sad and start crying. At that moment you are heartbroken and you feel inconsolable.
Your parents respond to you being devastated and heartbroken with impatience and irritability. They say “You should not want other people’s things and should be happy with what you’ve got”. The more you cry, the more irritated they get, giving you a time-out in the end that they know you hate.

3. A certain conclusion is being made.

You feel confused and start concluding that nice things are not for you, that you should not want them, and maybe you don’t even deserve them since you made your parents angry and upset.

4. Repeated experiences of similar events that make you think and feel the same.

Experiences like asking for things from your parents and getting a “no”, comparing yourself and what you have with other people, being teased at school for having old toys or clothes.

All of those incidents add more and more evidence to the already- made conclusion.
What used to be just a single thought, becomes solidified and soon turns into a belief.

“ I don’t deserve to have what I want” What I want is not available to me”, “wanting things is bad”, “I am bad for wanting nice things”

And now, you are an adult, those childhood experiences are long forgotten but for some reason, you never seem to have what you want, every time there is an opportunity to have what you desire, somehow you seem to sabotage it and it slips right out of your hands.

You think you just have bad luck or you are not disciplined enough or lack skills or that people don’t appreciate you enough but in reality, the subconscious is running the show, like an invisible puppeteer pulling invisible strings, making you behave in ways you don’t want to.
As we see from this example, the subconscious belief from the past is not apparent, and not visible to the conscious mind, but it has visible effects in the present.

You might procrastinate and do anything else other than focus on what you need to accomplish to move towards your goals, or you might seem to always be late for important meetings and lose the deals, or get cold feet at the last minute you are about to make progress in something important for you. There will always be something because no matter how much you want something, another part of you believes that it is not safe to have it.

Because they are not apparent and easily identifiable, subconscious beliefs are not very easy to change.

To make matters worse, what is called a “confirmation bias” comes into play where we tend to interpret new information as a confirmation of our existing beliefs. We will tend to focus on and as a result, see more of what we believe in.

If we take a previous example of a child forming a belief “ I can’t have nice things”, as an adult this person may have an experience of gaining something good only for it to be taken away shortly after, resulting in great suffering, hence reinforcing the original belief “I can’t have nice things”

If you are curious about why a particular conclusion is made in the first place, why a child made that conclusion instead of a different one, it is a valid question. After all, there are examples of two siblings raised by the same family in the same environment having different beliefs and even different perceptions of the events.

Why that happens is not well understood and might be the result of individual character differences and gene expressions.
Some people are more sensitive and might take things more personally while others are more tough-skinned and are less affected.

But most often than not, children from the same family will adopt similar beliefs and have similar patterns simply because the child’s underdeveloped brain and nervous system at that time lack the capacity for critical thinking and self-regulation, which makes it easy for a child to take everything personally.

So, do my beliefs create my reality or are they a consequence of the observed reality? Both are true.

We form our beliefs as a consequence of the observed reality in childhood when we can’t process our feelings in a healthy way and then see the manifestation of those beliefs later in life, creating our reality with the set of beliefs already in place.

Have you ever heard the phrase “What happens to us doesn’t matter, it is the meaning we attach to what happened that determines our happiness or unhappiness.
And while I completely agree with this statement, when we are very young, vulnerable, and dependent on our parents to survive, very often the meaning that we attach to painful events is far from being positive or even neutral.

So, what do we do with our subconscious beliefs? How do we become aware of them and change them?

The first thing to understand is that your beliefs are not your enemy. Your mind is not trying to make you feel bad, not trying to sabotage your success, it is actually trying to help. But it is acting on old information, old outdated beliefs, what helped you cope in the past, it is not aware that everything has changed in your life, that you have changed. It wants to help you and needs your guidance.

Many rules of the mind show us how the mind works.
One of them is “ The mind will always move you in the direction of pleasure, away from pain”
The problem is that the mind doesn’t always agree with you on what is pleasure and what is pain. Your conscious mind might want one thing, while your subconscious wants another. Your conscious mind wants to succeed, while your subconscious believes that success brings pain. Your conscious mind wants to find love while your subconscious is terrified of rejection.

In our previous example of a little child, one part of him, his conscious mind wants him to have what he wants, while the other part that is in the subconscious is scared of disappointing his parents.
Hence, the mind chooses the lesser pain.

Very often, instead of moving you towards pleasure and away from pain, your mind moves you towards less pain, away from more pain.

The pain of being disapproved of, criticized, and ultimately not loved by his parents is way worse than the pain of not getting what he wants.

So, how do we become aware of unconscious beliefs?

Any subconscious belief will find its manifestation in behaviors, habits, thoughts, and feelings of everyday life.
It is important to observe your unwanted habits and patterns and ask yourself some questions like:

  • What do I have to believe about myself to engage in this behavior/ habit/relationship?
  • Does this belief help me?
  • What do I want to believe instead?
  • If I stop this behavior/start a new behavior what would happen?
  • What am I getting from this pattern/habit/behavior? The answer may come as a thought or a feeling. You might get it right away or it might take time. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get an answer right away, it might take time to connect to that part of you and gain its trust enough to start communicating with you.

After all, you have probably pushed it away and rejected it in yourself for years.
But with some time and commitment, you will get an answer. With awareness comes freedom. But it only comes when you decide to act on your awareness. Changing familiar patterns and habits, changing self-talk, and treating yourself with compassion and understanding will surely bring the desired results.

Changing beliefs might bring with it a lot of discomfort. After all, the mind loves what is familiar and hates what is unfamiliar. Stepping into unknown territory feels scary to the brain and it might trigger resistance.

But the more uncomfortable it feels the more you need to step into it and consciously work with it. Be patient and compassionate with yourself and you will get there.
The journey is way worth it in the end.

2 thoughts on “What do you believe in?”

  1. Love your blog! Everyone should know this. Your entire closing paragraph resonated personally “…the more uncomfortable it feels the more you need to step into it and consciously work with it.”… Thank you.

Comments are closed.