We all have beliefs. They help us make sense of things that happen in a world that’s far beyond our comprehension. You might consider beliefs a human coping mechanism to keep us in a game where we don’t remember how things work or why we even thought we wanted to play this game.
Our beliefs are the stories we come up with to give us a bit of security in a confounding situation. Comforting fact: As we grow in consciousness, we also grow in our ability to understand more elements of the game. And as we gain greater understanding, we begin to realize that some of our beliefs actually are untrue.
Our beliefs can be surprising…
Sometimes it is surprising—and a relief—to discover a belief that has been hanging out in your unconscious for years. That was the case for me a while back when I discovered a deeply-held belief that women should not show they’re smarter than the men around them. Whaaat!!? How did that get there?
As I thought about it, I realized it was the prevailing cultural attitude when I was growing up in the 1950s. I am pretty sure I’m not the only little girl who took that on as one of the rules of the game and subconsciously played accordingly, all the while thinking we were liberated.
This discovery came as a total surprise. I had no idea I was holding that belief. And yet, it had a profound effect on my attitudes and behaviours, prompting me to downplay my abilities in subtle ways. Flying under the radar was one of them.
Beliefs can be surprisingly powerful…
Not all beliefs are unconscious, though. You might be aware of a belief and confidently live accordingly for years. Then one day you learn that it does not hold true. That can be disconcerting, to say the least. This happened to my husband at a Christmas dinner long ago.
His parents had traveled two thousand miles to visit and we wanted to make the meal extra-special by serving all their traditional foods. Husband said Brussels sprouts were a favourite, always on the Christmas table. I’d never cooked sprouts because I knew he didn’t like them, so I got out the Joy of Cooking, found instructions, and bought two baskets of lovely fresh sprouts with the holiday shopping.
On the day, I was in the kitchen carefully cross-cutting the stems so they would cook evenly, when mom-in-law walked in. She looked at the good-sized pot of sprouts and said, “You don’t need to cook many for us.” Really?!
Turns out neither she nor dad-in-law actually liked them. When I asked why she always served them at Christmas, she said, “Because I thought it was good for the boys to learn to eat them.”
I thought it was funny. Husband was not amused. Something he had believed all his life had been definitively disproved. He felt as if the rug has been pulled out from under him. I didn’t expect that. It was just a vegetable, after all. That’s when i learned that beliefs are about more than facts.
Many things can come up for us when we have been dis-illusioned. We may feel betrayed. Duped. Made a fool of. Our security is disrupted. We aren’t sure what to trust any more. It will be different, depending on the person and the illusion. But there is an emotional component to be aware of whenever beliefs are challenged.
Maturing as conscious humans…
It is a confronting moment for most of us… to come to an awareness that something we thought was true actually is not. Revisiting and reconsidering our beliefs is part of the maturation process.
It helps to recognize how beliefs become part of our psyche to begin with.
When you arrived in this body, there was a lot to figure out, starting with how to operate the body parts and do all the required functions—moving the appendages to navigate around physical space, getting nourishment into your body, expressing what you needed in ways they could understand. And then the more subtle, really tricky challenge—navigating the expectations, customs, and strange practices of the culture you had landed in.
Psychologists say that children are like sponges in the first seven years, picking up all kinds of information from their environment. And we also know that the human mind is adept at filling in the blanks and jumping to conclusions when the incoming information is unclear or incomplete. It is no wonder that we have all adopted various beliefs as fact. They helped us make sense of our world at a level we could understand.
Beliefs aren’t meant to be held forever…
As we move through life, it’s useful to remember that beliefs aren’t necessarily true, but they did serve a purpose when we adopted them, often at a young and impressionable age.
However, things change. We change.
We’ll navigate more easily through the game of human life if we are open to the possibility that our beliefs may not be true. That there may be another explanation for what we were experiencing if we view the situation from a more expansive perspective.
Awareness is the starting point…
Beliefs shape our behaviours, so you can find clues by observing yourself in action. If something you do doesn’t sit well with you, here’s a potent exploratory question: What must I believe in order to have acted that way?
Recognize your outdated beliefs…
Once you’ve identified a belief, see if you can understand what purpose it served in the beginning. That will help you decided if you wish to continue holding it or not. If not, thank it for its years of service, and let it go.
Then move on…
Look for a new perspective, one that will serve you better in your current state of greater awareness.
And hold your newly-formed belief lightly in case you outgrow it in the future.
Well worth the time…
- How to change your limiting beliefs for more success Dr. Irum Tahir TEDxNormal
- Change your mindset, change the game. Dr. Alia Crum | TEDxTraverseCity
- How to Make Stress Your Friend Kelly Mcgonigal | TEDGlobal
- Stages of Development of Consciousness Integral Theory, Ken Wilber