Is it healthier not to rely on BELIEFS?
Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain
We have dealt with the issue of beliefs on several occasions. However, as it is of vital importance for our well-being, we are briefly going to go into more detail on this topic. We already know that we normally treat our thoughts as if they were true. It is true that we are prepared to change some of them if we find a better explanation. However, we tend to keep beliefs of any kind as sacrosanct, because they form part of the foundation on which we build our place in the world and also our behaviour and that always provides security. However, we believe in many things that do not have any basis. We believe in urban myths like the fact that there are crocodiles in the sewers in some countries, that the Great Wall of China can be seen from space or that a Japanese strike is carried out by working harder and producing surplus stock. None of these beliefs is true, but we believe them because we have heard them from people or media that we have faith in. The beliefs we have about ourselves or other people or issues may also be mistaken, the result of social, religious or political conventions or purely the result of our misinterpreted experiences. Do you believe that women are the weaker sex? This may sound like nonsense to many people today. However, there are still societies where women are treated and treat themselves as if it were the case. These examples are easy to accept, but I want to ask you whether it would be easy to accept that we are not as we believe, or that many of our beliefs are mistaken. Just as nobody now would believe that the Earth is flat – as they did for so long – based on studies and continual questioning, that is what we should do with our own fragile beliefs. Why? If my beliefs are misguided, does this not lead me to adopt certain kinds of behaviour that are not very effective and to feel bad? Regardless of whether I believe I am fantastic, or not much good, that belief shapes my behaviour, how I feel and perceive myself in relation to others and my ability to deal with life’s challenges, do you not agree? Maybe I believe that I have not been a good mother/father or a perfect and devoted mother/father. How will I behave and feel? What relationship will I establish with my family and children? Will my belief let me see reality as it is or will I just see it coloured by this belief? And if I believe that I am an efficient and responsible worker and I am dismissed as a result of repeated mistakes at work, will I be open to understanding what my mistakes were or will I become depressed and annoyed blaming the management for lying or having some hidden agenda? Based on the blindness of my beliefs, can I be open to seeing the reality and learning from what has happened? Will I not fight against any reality that is opposed to my beliefs? My beliefs restrict me in many aspects of my life as they are like blinkers that only let me see a reality that is partial and distorted by what I believe in advance about what will happen and about myself. These attitudes based on not questioning my beliefs, have effects that are not very healthy for me nor for my relationships. Our beliefs are transformed into self-fulfilling prophecies. If I believe that I do not have the ability to speak in public. I will never want to expose myself to that situation. If I believe that my colleagues are better trained than me, it may be that I will always delegate certain tasks to them and, thereby never learn to do them myself. If I believe that because I did not study I should take on lousy jobs all my life, I will limit my own professional development. If I have had an emotionally difficult life, I may believe that I do not deserve to be loved or accepted and I will feel crippled and unable to receive or show affection. If I believe that I do not have the time or money to have children, we already know how I will behave. If I believe that I am too old for certain matters, who knows how many things I will miss out on and how empty my life will be! Have you seen any of your beliefs reflected in these simple examples? I invite you to check what your beliefs are about your abilities, opportunities etc. Observe how they shape your behaviour, feelings, thoughts and relationships. Question the truth of those beliefs and act accordingly! Do not limit yourself!