Bill Cottringer

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.” ~Philip K. Dick.

Beliefs are what drive and explain human behavior. They reassure us the truth of something and justify our thinking, feeling and acting in our minds, hearts and hands. But it is odd that we don’t seem to have a very complete understanding of beliefs and the power they have in themselves, apart from the person believing them. The idea is easy to see, like seeing the power an automobile has, apart from the collection of its individual parts ranging from a gas pedal to the drive shaft and everything before, after or in between. This is the older Gestalt principle of German Psychology, which tells us that the whole is greater than the mere summary of its parts. All political parties, military organizations, groups, sports and work teams, and even marriages flourish by applying the wisdom of this principle.

But it is always hard to see past what we are looking at, to understand what we are really seeing—how to see the real truth in what we believe and how to better manage a wrong belief based on the wrong perspective. That is because we are too close to our beliefs to understand them very well, much like trying to see our own faces without the use of mirrors or other reflection means, or for our own teeth to bite themselves. This is downright impossible, and yet we continue to believe it is possible, maybe because we don’t know any other way to solve this annoying paradox in life.

The bigger context of beliefs has to do with our common human search for the truth in understanding the mystery of life with the end goal of discovering the great treasure of authentic happiness. However, this fundamental truth is well-hidden in the classical paradox of how to have your cake and eat it too. There are many different definitions of this paradox-solving treasure and paths in life we choose to travel to get to it in our quest, but all can be viewed as either “this way” or “that way,” when all is said and done in our dualistic minds. “This way,” which we are all tempted to choose first, is the shorter path to the low-hanging, easy-picking fruit, which are the simple beliefs in what is true, without going any further. The half-truths are very tempting to be taken as the whole truth and that is what most often happens.

The opposite “that way,” which we aren’t inclined to want to travel until “this way” ends in a dead end and we find we are unhappily empty-handed, even from all our diligent efforts to be full-handed. Going “that way”—past the simplicity we see first, and then onto the complexity behind and ahead and everywhere, including the unknown and unseen—takes great trust, courage and fortitude, maybe even obsessiveness and unwillingness to ever give up (just like this sentence is doing). As with trying to grow old gracefully, “that way” is certainly not a journey for the faint-hearted.

The two kinds of beliefs we have then, are from “this path” or “that path.” To manage these beliefs instead of allowing them to be the bus driver, we must begin to understand their origin and nature. The best way to understand anything is to look at it from the best perspective, or viewpoint. This includes being able to see something from all directions—forward and backward, above and below, and inside-out. This best perspective is only found at the end of “that way.” To know this requires questioning the truth of our current perspective to realize maybe we haven’t walked quite far enough. But pride and ego always win out and we fall back on this path being good enough, even worth fighting and dying for in defending an incomplete belief of the half-truth of something.

Fear is the prevalent product of traveling “this way” too long. And that is what is happening right now with the election results in our recent presidential race, as well as the war on Terrorism. And just maybe all this is happening for all of us to be able to finally see our own faces and begin to understand the two types of beliefs so that we can begin to get to the best perspective that has all the answers in the complete resolution. What we will end up seeing is what makes up the great story of life which tells of the cumulative conflicts we will forever be faced with in life: Us vs. life, us vs. them and us vs. us. This is what living life is all about—learning how to reconcile the world of opposites we over-created in our dualistic minds going “this way.” It is time to consider going “that way” in continuing our journey.

If you were expecting to be given the answer to the major conflict of conflicts we are currently embroiled in, then you are going to be disappointed, still believing this belief path you are on is the right one. On the other hand, if any of this or that seems to make sense as two different sides of the same coin to get to the best perspective in the middle, then you are probably already there and it is time to share your treasure as I am trying to do in this brief article. And, if you are intrigued by any of these ideas, I highly recommend reading the older 1940 book, “The Meaning of Happiness” by the late Alan Watts, my own silent mentor who nudged me towards “that way.”

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the scenic mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), and “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), and Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or