The Role of Beliefs
A belief is the way we see and interpret the world. Mental patterns, internal programming and emotional responses to experiences are shaped by beliefs. Our beliefs strengthen us or tear us down - depending on how closely we align with them. For example, if we believe seeing a cat brings bad luck our mind shifts from neutral to doom. In this example we rationally understand black cats have no influence on whether or not we are lucky. Yet a belief system kicks into gear and imposes its own translations.
Our belief systems set up our energy to flow in a specific direction. We make choices and form communities, religions and groups based on our beliefs. When our beliefs are not accessible to us our energy is out of sorts. We experience emptiness, physical pain and hopelessness. We may believe everything in our lives revolves around a particular belief and then use it to justify reasons for our behaviors and attitudes. According to a "Psychology Today" article:
“Beliefs are literally the lens through which we view the world. Beliefs:
- influence perceptions.
- define what is good, bad, true, real and possible.
- skew perspective in positive or negative ways.
- direct and/or limit actions.
- shape character.
- affect relationships.
- establish a specific course to follow.
- determine health.
- harness or hijack passion.
- lower or raise the level of happiness.”
When others oppose our beliefs, conflict arises and judgments block attempts to be understanding and open-minded. Recall the last presidential election and how beliefs impacted friendships and family gatherings. A gym member remarked how hard it was to hang out in the locker room because he couldn’t stand hearing political opinions favoring the “other” candidate. He stopped talking to fellow members, convinced they were ignorant and foolish.
Beliefs promote false ideas of trust. Think about radical organizations whose members take their beliefs to extreme levels. They implicitly trust their community and leaders to uphold their shared beliefs at any cost. Their prejudiced beliefs guide their tactics and actions toward the rest of society. It doesn’t matter if others find them crazy, mean or inhumane.
Beliefs: Your Energetic Blueprint
Imagine your life as a pile of yellow sticky notes. Each note represents an idea, judgment, or experience collected over time. At the very bottom of the stack the first sticky note is a belief. From that point forward we add (usually not take away) sticky note after sticky note. By the time we’re adults the piles tower before us like giant skyscrapers.
Sticky skyscrapers can collapse. At age 40 Fred started to have panic attacks. They seemed to appear out of thin air. Doctors could not explain their onset nor predict when they would stop. They said the panic attacks might be chronic. The uncertainty of when an attack would occur and the potential for managing them longterm was draining Fred. The chills, chest pain, nausea and overall discomfort made him feel edgy all the time.
Fred sought guidance from a wellness coach to get him back on track. In counseling Fred examined his belief system based on his primary sticky notes. Here’s what Fred's notes revealed about his beliefs:
- Turning 40 equals old age and constant rejection.
- Getting older means the body is wasting away.
- His mom believed it shameful to get old and Fred had adopted her outlook.
- Society views older people as less attractive and less valuable.
Fred realized his beliefs had turned into a series of negative choices. In his late 30's Fred began to scour the Internet for anti-aging advice. In his searches he got distracted and clicked on websites describing the horrors of getting old. He even bought anti-aging products to lift his skin, took piles of vitamins to stay mentally fit, and bought inappropriate clothes to look younger. His irrational negative beliefs rose to the surface and superseded all other thoughts, behaviors and actions. With this much energy built up panic attacks soon showed up. Fred's beliefs around aging had caused an internal implosion in the form of panic.
Fred wanted to revamp his belief system. The four original sticky skyscrapers needed to be replaced. Using actual sticky notes he wrote down the following:
- Turning 40 is joyful.
- Getting older can be peaceful.
- Being older is something to celebrate.
- I am beautiful and loved regardless of age.
Throughout the day Fred accumulated sticky notes when he had a thought, idea, behavior or conversation that contributed to his new belief system. Conversely when an old belief popped up he had the opportunity to do something about it such as re-framing or looking in the mirror and smiling at himself.
Next Fred began to practice and embrace his changed beliefs with the same gusto he once had for the negative beliefs. He sought new energy to establish a flow of non-judgment, openness and respect for the aging process. Fred’s wellness coach suggested spending time with people from different age groups. Eventually he learned to appreciate the gifts each person offered regardless of their age or wrinkles.
Fred later began to notice our societal obsession with youth and its blatant disregard for older people. He decided he wanted no part in how society perceives or treats seniors. Fred now provides rides to seniors. His clients' appreciation and expressions of gratitude for his services melts his heart. These wise folks have taught him the value of living in the moment. Fred now accepts aging as a natural part of life.