The Trouble with Beliefs
By
Bill Cottringer

“Man is what he believes. ~ Anton Chekhov.

The main trouble with beliefs is that people take them, along with themselves and the certainty of their beliefs being true, too seriously. The other half of that problem is that it is a belief in one side being truer and better than the other, which makes the divide so painfully acute and destructive. Deeper yet, is the lack of understanding how beliefs are formed and reinforced and how they can be changed. Until basic paradigms of how life and time actually work become more inclusive than exclusive, there is nothing new that will appear under the sun, it just continues to be old and retold.

Most core beliefs involve a learned judgment that one thing is true while its opposite is false. Although we probably can’t understand the origin of how our consciousness created such an artificial division of a world of opposites, (maybe it came from seeing differences between night and day?), we can assign a plausible purpose of the molecular music our Yang and Yin minds play. This purpose is to unify the diversity in life and give animation to it towards unification of the original oneness—keeping the grand golden pendulum of the universe perpetually swinging back and forth, eternally. There is a time for all seasons.

For example, In religion, there is a discordant belief that either God exists or doesn’t. In American politics, there is a belief that the Republicans are either the savior of democracy or exploiter of the poor have-nots, whereas the Democrats are either the answer our country needs to improve the general welfare of the masses or the creator of mediocre social welfare that destroys capitalism and democracy. In the secular world, it seems to be more advantageous to be good looking, smart and wealthy, rather than not endowed with those things. But, at the end of the day, it is all these differences in people and things, that give life its living energy and wonderful meaning.

Judgment is always subjective and self-serving rather than being objective and good for us all. It is a personal judgment that one belief or the other and the judgment that the belief is truer than not, which exaggerates the divide and leaves us with an impossible choice to embrace a preferred side we believe in, or get dropped somewhere in between the crack. We unconsciously adopt a ‘do or die’ perspective that our chosen beliefs are correct and needed by everyone else too. That is a dreadful egocentric disaster that just makes the divide deeper and wider, and a gap that desperately needs closing.

An understanding of how we develop beliefs and how we can change them is a reasonable solution to this conundrum worth considering:

1. First of all, beliefs are not static intellectual concepts, but rather dynamic “hot stiff: intertwined by conscious or unconscious emotions and visualizations, and hardwired in the brain physiologically and biochemically. Beliefs help us to feel empowered by being certain we are in possession of important truths about how life and people operate. This serves as a much needed security blanket against the feared wisdom of insecurity.
2. We develop beliefs from what we see, hear, learn and experience with others—Our parents, siblings, friends, enemies, classmates, teachers, employers, coaches, fellow workers, books, movies, TV news and programming, social media and all of life in general. The truth of a belief is then reinforced each time we see, read, hear, or think it again, until the point of no return where we become certain that it must be true beyond any reasonable doubt, because anything else is unthinkable.
3. Beliefs always fall on one side of the divide or the other, as being truer, better, more enabling, productive, and more desirable, than false, worse, destructive or undesirable, as we assign to its opposite. However, this judgment choice is so buried in our brains that it is barely conscious and so socially conditioned, that in reality, free choice doesn’t have much to do with it. At least until we access mindfulness and awareness through a different path of time.
4. Once we “choose” to believe this or that, that judgment itself changes the brain’s biochemistry and forms a permanent neural pathway to be retrieved and remembered more easily that others in the queue. The more we experience the belief to be true, the more it becomes physiologically and psychologically fortified and virtually impervious to changing, even with the most compelling evidence against it.
5. And now we move into something very difficult to grasp, but well worth the effort in the spirit of bringing about needed change and restoring balance. This has to do with the opposite perception of time—being perceived as a mechanical movement from past to present to future vs. being only an ever-expanding now moment of eternity that has always been an integral part of the urstöff of the matrix of pure possibility being at the center point of all existence. Making this time paradigm shift changes everything and is the beginning of the level of mindfulness and awareness necessary to restore free will in choice-making right now.
6. Human beings have an evolutionary drive to seek the secretion of serotonin, which produces the highly desirable sense of well-being. This comes from the ventromedial prefrontal cortex responsible for emotions, rewards and self-representation. This event hides another helpful paradigm shift from a mindset of competitive, win-lose mentality to one of cooperation and win-win outcomes, but with the underlying acceptance of the necessity of both.
7. The biochemical brain changes reinforce the strength and duration of the belief and make it virtually impervious to change. There is really only one way to disbelieve the truth of a belief that has be reinforced so much, and this involves three change-producing behaviors:

a. Seriously questioning the value of making judgments that this side is better than that one, when they may just be different sides to the same coin. After all, you can’t have the beauty and mystique of rainbows without both the rain and the sunshine. You know you have arrived at the beginning of this critical change when you can be openminded enough to consider to the possibility of the impossibility of seeing Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler enjoying each other’s company in Heaven.
b. A commitment to the one driving purpose in life—to grow, learn and improve, putting all fears of insecurity and the blankets we cover it with, aside.
c. Open your mind to allow new experiences and perceptions in that will change brain chemistry, without judgments of course.

If in doubt of any of this try this little experiment. Think about this belief: “Joy and peace can be found NOWHERE.” Now change this belief to read “Joy and peace are NOW HERE.” What a difference a single space in words makes.

“I can believe things that are true and things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not.” ~Neil Gaiman, American Gods.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness; Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away (Another Dog’s Tale). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067 or ckuretdoc.comcast.net.