This is the first post of a three part series on my thinking about beliefs.
Beliefs are difficult to think about. There are all kinds of definitions as to what a belief is. The one I often use is a quote from Edward de Bono a renowned thinker. "At its most powerful a belief is a perception that forces us to look at the world in such a way that the perception is validated."
The following diagram represents my perspective on how beliefs come about. It starts with a feeling that we have. We then tend to look at our current experiences; that is what is going on in our world at that time, and we naturally assume that they are the cause for that feeling. This is our perception of the causal connection between the feeling and the experience. The next time we have a similar feeling with a similar experience we reinforce our perception (our belief).
As the accumulation of experiences that we match to a particular feeling increases the stronger our certainty that our perception is correct; it is our truth. A belief then is something about which we have the feeling it is true and is so self-evident that the idea of questioning it is just not thought about.
Over time we add supporting beliefs that support the central core belief. The next diagram represents a single belief with the light blue circle being the core belief. The other shapes represent the supporting beliefs.
We want to belong to our family group as it is essential to our survival. Our parents believe that we should be silent around adults as a sign of being well brought up and properly respectful. We are disciplined by being forced to go to our room or to stand facing the corner until we say that we will behave properly next time. This is repeated until we learn to be silent and are rewarded by being praised by our parents when our behavior is proper. These repeated experiences forms the connection between our experiences, our feelings and our results. Our perception matches our beliefs.
Later on we start school and want very much to be part of the group. We quickly find out that speaking out in the classroom gets the disapproval of the teacher. Now we form a secondary belief that expressing ourselves in school is bad behavior and we tack it on to the original belief. Similarly it could happen with our playmate groups, team sports and so on with the accumulated experiences teaching us that the belief is true. Our perception of how the world works is firmly validated and the belief is firmly rooted as part of our survival mechanism.
Now we cannot see any evidence that the belief is incorrect in any way as our perception filters out any contradiction to the belief. We simply ignore them.
The second post will be on the Fallacy of Limiting Beliefs and the third post on the Number 1 Myth of Self-Help Programs. Stay tuned.