Tag Archives: Beliefs

Soldiers in LockstepThere has been so much written and expressed about beliefs. We often find ourselves talking about unshakable beliefs or that someone’s belief has carried them through their hard times. We use the word excessively when defending our position or trying to make a point. It’s also almost always at the root of how we describe ourselves to others second only to our career and the functional capacity others see us in. But are beliefs truly cast in stone? Are they something that are unshakable? Are they truly something we can say that we’d die for? Or is that just lip service spoken to stay in line with what’s expected of us echoing all the way back to when our parents made us swear to keep the rules or promise to behave in a way that would earn and keep their love and respect? And even after all those commitments and dedications to what we’ve been taught to believe, do we even know what the word means let alone where it actually comes from? I think not. Most of us are just parroting what we’ve been told is true and have been blackmailed into aligning ourselves with what we’re told to accept as true and swear to uphold. We say our deepest wish is to “do right thing” and uphold our beliefs. But are they really ours or are they just something that we’re trained into accepting as true by others under threat of losing their emotional and physical support? Is our need to belong so much stronger than our wish to grow and express ourselves and what we believe? Truly, what IS a belief? Where does it come from? And why would we swear to uphold it? The word and its meanings are entwined in an internal dance between our need to belong and our desire to express ourselves combined with our perceived personal accountability underlying any choice we make relative to which way we lean.

EinsteinWhen most of us speak of a belief, we hold an underlying assumption that something is true. But what does that actually mean? How does it relate to how we see and live our lives? For some of us our acceptance of what we consider to be true is based on the assumptions the groups we belong to hold. For others, it’s what we’ve been told by someone whom we’ve either trusted or feared. For others of us, it is what scientists qualify as being true by tangible methods of testing. For others of us, it’s based on our own personal experience. What confuses the issue even more is that we can hold a varied combination of these validations based on the situations we find ourselves in and the level of confidence we have in our own ability to assess what is true and our truth concerning others. Yet we’re still no closer to clarifying what a belief actually is. Bottom line is that we choose what we accept as being true for us and for others. We only have two ways of validating what can be accepted as being true. We personally experience something for ourselves or we accept something as being true because we’ve been told by someone we trust and/or fear. Simply put, we base our decision on what comes from within us or from outside of us. In our culture we have been taught, almost exclusively, that the validity of what is true comes from outside of ourselves. Generally, in order to remain in the good graces of any group we belong to, we must acquiesce to the general consensus. But to assume this does massive harm to our trust in our own experiences. We now come back to the idea that a belief is one of choice. Do we accept what we feel, have experienced and seen, felt and tasted or do we rely on what we’re told by others who most influence the groups we belong to and who will either boycott, excommunicate, eject or withhold support from us if we disagree with them, essentially, weakening or even disarming their influence over the group? It is because of this second scenario why I’ve included those whom we fear with those whom we trust.

Monkey & TigerOur ability to choose comes simply from living in a mostly tangible polarized world where everything is arranged in terms of pairs of opposites offering contrast which is needed for any choice. We all have the ability to choose.Imagine two monkeys who could rationalize. Does a monkey in the grass go for a tasty morsel while a tiger is stalking him or does he climb a tree to prevent being eaten? If he climbs the tree, he many never know of the danger of the tiger, unless he’s told by the second monkey in the tree, whom he trusts and who has personally had a life threatening experience with the tiger and escaped. If the first monkey runs after hearing from the second monkey, they’d both be in the tree; one because of his personal experience and one because he’s been told. Which reason is more valid for now being in the tree? Does the first monkey who climbed the tree now have a belief that he’d be eaten by the tiger if he didn’t climb? Or is that just hearsay? Does the second monkey in the tree have the belief that the tiger would eat him because of his own experience? That’s his assumption based on his own experience. What if the second monkey told the first monkey not to worry because he wanted to eliminate the second monkey as competition from pursuing his possible mate? What if the first monkey on the ground trusted him and then was eaten by the tiger? Now, what is really true? What is now believed? We human monkeys do this all the time to each other. Each of our truths are personal, subjective and experiential. There is no “absolute” truth. The validity of it is assigned from within the perceiver. Trusting ourselves will always be true for us. Trusting what others tell us is sometimes true and sometimes dubious. We can’t always know the difference. Our choice is most securely based when our own experience is the basis for choosing rather than the hearsay of others or even from a large group; even science. On some level we always know our own motivation. Not always so for knowing others. So let’s refine our definition. A belief is our choice based on either whom we trust, our own experience or simply the accepted hearsay of others. Which validation we use for what we accept as being true depends on whom we were trained by to trust more in our childhood; ourselves or our parents. We Book Burningwould expect that in growing up that we would learn to trust ourselves exclusively. We can see that our contemporary culture teaches and purports that we trust ourselves but in reality only accepts and expects our trusting of the status quo if only for the validation, security and the “good of the group.”This usually unperceived double standard has caused tremendous confusion in issues between personal and group accountability.

Once we choose to accept something as true, will it always be so? If we’re always having new experiences and adding to or reframing our beliefs after each new experience, how could it be so?If others are also having new experiences and changing their beliefs and what they tell us based on their new assessments and awareness of themselves and us, how could they not change? Beliefs are fluid. They move and change within us as we grow more aware broadening our own experience and awareness. They establish a constantly expanding framework of reference points for our understanding of the world and for us to operate within it while assessing who we are and how far we’ve come. Now we are faced with the uncomfortable Chess pawnquestion of what happens when people are “unable” or refuse to change their beliefs even in the face of the overwhelming evidence of their own experience? Since expanding our awareness almost always leads to changing our beliefs we must conclude that unalterable beliefs suspend awareness. Think about this for a moment and just let that sink in…

Let’s look a little deeper at an added dimension. This comes, not so much from familial training, but from how we perceive our inner and outer world and when awareness is active.

When we’re having an experience, we’re in the moment. When we think about an experience, we’re no longer having it or, at the least, we’re unaware of its continuing movement. The same is true of beliefs. Beliefs are made up of thoughts and the memory of decisions we’ve made about our prior experiences. When we’re using our thinking (introverted activity), our awareness of the outside world is switched off. We’re often “lost in our thoughts” or in daydream mode so we’re often unaware as to what’s going on around us. The same is true when we’re expressing (extroverted activity) our beliefs. We can become so involved in what we want to say that we may become oblivious to the reactions of others. So, our awareness of the outer world is switched off while we’re thinking or expressing much like the flow in a fire hose. If water is Cell phone distractionshooting out, nothing can track back in unless the flow of moving water is shut off. Based on this we can say that when we’re thinking or expressing our beliefs, we are NOT in the moment. We’re self-absorbed and unaware. Conversely, we can say that when we are in the moment, the mind is quiet. Hence, meditation is being in the moment.

So when we say that someone is “closed minded,” what we mean is that someone is totally absorbed with thinking about or expressing their beliefs based on their prior experiences and the decisions they’ve made concerning them. They are neither open nor listening to you or anyone else. While they’re thinking or expressing, they’re unaware.

So let’s return to our title. Absolute beliefs corrupt absolutely. When someone is solid or unchangeable in their beliefs there is one perceived advantage to those of us who are relating to them. If we know their beliefs, we know where they stand and where we stand concerning the subject of those beliefs. We feel relatively secure and generally know what to expect of them. Bottom line; both of us feel in control. They adhere to their beliefs and we know what to expect in relating to them. But when we both need to be in control, we are not allowing ourselves to open to new experiences related to those beliefs. We also actively work at recreating the prior experiences involved in creating them. For many of us who don’t attempt to control the world based on our beliefs, we find those people who do a danger to themselves and, often, to others not to mention the frustration created in our dealing with them. These Crusades-2type of people dedicated to controlling their environment and others are most often found in disciplines of a religious nature based on scripture written ages ago by others who have chosen beliefs that resonate to an archaic time in our social development. We call these people “true believers.” The danger exists in the fact that unchangeable beliefs cuts them, and sometimes us, off from the universal current. Then, our emotional and spiritual growth becomes severely impaired if not halted.

It’s not just “true believers” that cut off this flow. We also do it to ourselves when we accept truths about ourselves that are essentially only the opinions and perceptions of those who raised us that might be contrary to what we innately feel about ourselves. It’s imperative that changing from accepting the truths and beliefs of our parents and elders must change toward establishing beliefs about ourselves based on our own experiences if we are to emotionally and spiritually mature and broaden our awareness. There are no conclusions about our growth; only our current arrivals at stages of awareness destined to move on to broader perspectives. Absolute beliefs are a poison to our well-being. The beliefs we establish operate best when fluid and changeable based on our own individual experience and are dropped when they no longer serve our higher nature.

judges-2These days judgment is a dirty word. This gets confusing for many of us especially when we feel that we are simply expressing an opinion. What is it that someone might feel that would lead them to assume that what we say, simply as an opinion, is a dispersion on their character? To understand this we have to look at a couple of definitions and how someone might interpret them differently from what they might have originally been intended to mean.

Let’s start simple and from our own perspective. What is an opinion and why might we need to have one, let alone express it?

To know what we want or don’t want, to know what we understand or don’t and in order to compare and express them we must first have a starting point; that is some place we can refer back to in order to know where we stand with them. This is where the definition of opinion comes into play. In its conventional meaning it’s defined as a chosen belief about our personal experience and what we think about it. We then use this opinion or belief to compare with newly occurring circumstances and experiences in order to understand how they might fit in with our lives and the things we prefer. So, essentially an opinion is a statement that reflects a decision about what we’d want or like in our lives. It’s when we communicate our opinions, beliefs and preferences to others that the responses, ours and theirs, get “sticky.”

DeterminationBefore we can go into others’ reactions to our opinions, let me ask you a question. When someone does or says something over which you get angry, do you blame them for making you angry or do you simply recognize it as your own reaction to something that you have no control over? This may be a subtle distinction but it makes a big difference on how you view someone else’s opinion about something; especially if it concerns you. That being said and left for you to digest a bit, let’s change gears and come back at this later from another side of things.

In our Western culture we have slowly become more and more accustomed to taking how we value ourselves from who and what are external to us. That is, we have our government, the media, the news, the internet, magazines, reality shows, our peer groups, our parents and more, all of whom are bombarding us with how we should be, what we should want and how we should act. There is an unconscious or subliminal benefit to being told who we should be and how we should act. If the rules of life come from outside of us, how can we be responsible or accountable for the conditions we encounter? This may relieve our pressure in making decisions but it also steals our personal power. Based on this we can say that our personal power is very much dependent on how accountable we are for our own successes and failures. If we are successful at something are we successful because the world says we are or are we so because we say so based on our own beliefs? We can’t have it both ways. Underlying it all we must all choose who is accountable for our successes and our failures. We can’t choose us for just our successes and then them for our failures. It must be one or the other. So, is it us or them?

In letting the world determine our value, we may have relieved ourselves of accountability but what it is that we have to realize is that our personal power has gone with it. So, how does this work? When we blame the world for what it is that we don’t have or can’t do, we give away our personal power. This way, whomever gets the blame also gets the credit. Now, being aware of this popular but unfortunate tendency of most people, let’s return to talking about opinions.

The best way to understand the dynamics of what occurs is to observe an example. So, let’s start with something easy; just a comment made between friends.

Teacher Conference-2As a teacher is speaking to a mother at a school function she tells her that she shouldn’t be letting her sixteen year old daughter go out on a school night. This seems like a simple enough statement but there may be many things happening underneath the conversation on the parts of both women. Let’s first look at the mother.

If the mother is comfortable in her Self-Trust and who she is, she will probably just take the statement as an opinion and nothing more. If she is diminished or lacking in Self-Trust, other things are more likely to take place. The statement will trigger thoughts and feelings on either a conscious or unconscious level or in a combination of both. A lesser amount or even a lack of Self-Trust will make her more susceptible toward sensing the teacher’s assessment as a judgment about her quality of mothering. The teacher’s assessment might just be a statement of her position but the mother will, more than likely take her statement as a judgment. I see a judgment as the same as an assessment but with a moral component expressing a personal opinion as to whether what she is doing is seen as “good” or “bad.”

When the teacher makes her statement a couple of things will happen. First, the mother will feel anger or resentment toward the teacher. This will rise within her suddenly and involuntarily. Then, she will react with a fight or flight response depending on how sensitive she has become to being self-conscious in her early training. She will respond with either a quick retort to put the teacher on the defensive or she will assume a diminished posture reflecting the “bad little girl” she had been chastised as throughout her childhood. Mind you, this may seem like an extreme or way out analysis of the situation on my part due to the fact that her outer reactions might not be as obvious in the mother’s response but her intensity, visible or not, has a direct correlation to the amount of Self-Trust that she was able to retain or rebuild through and after her childhood training. The more she was able to retain, the less concern or intensity will be present in her reaction. For the mother who had not retained her spirit throughout her childhood training and who was “broken,” much like over-training a horse, the Scolding-Leftunderlying feeling will be one of sadness or maybe even helplessness with a need to prevent the “exposure” of her perceived unworthiness. We should also realize that the anger she feels can be seen as a coping mechanism used to compensate for her perception of losing face and/or losing control. Now, let’s take a look at the teacher and her reactions.

You might think that the teacher’s reaction might be different but if she also suffers from diminished Self-Trust, whether through childhood training or through difficult and intimidating interactions with her boss, she may also present the same “symptoms” but with one exception. Because she is employed in a position of some authority, especially since it is connected to training children, the visibility of her discomfort will be a lot less obvious under the cover of her assumed authority. A second benefit dynamic to that authority will allow her to mitigate any of the effects of her diminished Self-Trust by resting in the assumed power and “license” given her profession. However, when she deals with her boss, she may feel the same perceived unworthiness the mother felt with her if her Self-Trust was also diminished in her childhood. If her Self-Trust is at a healthy level, even with her boss, her confidence would remain unaffected.

So, back to my original question: When does opinion or assessment become judgment? It is when our diminished or lack of Self-Trust and confidence leaves us feeling defensive of our own perceived inadequacy impelling us to take an ordinary statement of opinion from another as a slight or an offense.

My assessment of the interaction between the mother and the teacher may seem extreme or convoluted but we have to realize that we all take the feelings and impressions of our personal value created during childhood and allow them to be submerged below a tidal wave of socially acceptable behaviors designed to save face, minimize the exposure of our our emotional distresses and to fit us into what appears to others to be a smooth and structured social rapport. Because that social rapport only deals with life from an outwardly tangible perspective we are often left in a quandary understanding what to do with our feelings and beliefs about ourselves when they conflict with our expected contemporary customs. To make things more difficult for us, many of us don’t even realize what we are feeling when we do interact. With the progressive dissolution of the family and losing our role models, our distress in not knowing what to do with our in-congruent feelings has become even more acute. The only solution I see strongwoman-2toward alleviating our perceived inadequacies “earned” in childhood is to work at building our Self-Trust and confidence so as not to make us susceptible to taking the world’s opinions about us to heart through seeing them as judgments. Then, even what might have been intentionally levied against us as a judgment will fall away from us as a simple opinion.