Are Your Beliefs Your Friend or Foe? – By Diane England
Are you aware that you operate under certain beliefs and assumptions that help you to make sense of this world and your life experiences, and that also guide you as you maneuver through each day? For example, you may believe that you were put on this earth for a God-given purpose. Hence, you’re striving to understand and adhere to what that purpose is. You’re open to examining things that happen to you because you believe they have lessons to teach you and indeed, may be guiding you towards new directions you need to now be taking.
You may also deal with life’s problems and setbacks well because you see them as developing your ability to cope with what may yet lie ahead on this path you believe you’re being asked to follow. Furthermore, you may believe that even tragedy offers newfound opportunity if you’ll but look for it and seize it.
Hand-Me-Down Beliefs or Your Own?
Even if you cannot relate to what you’ve just read, you’re undoubtedly operating in accordance with certain beliefs and assumptions–likely handed down by significant adults during your childhood. Then again, they could come from conclusions you drew as a result of experiences during that phase of your life. So, whether you are aware of it or not, you think about other people, the world and how it operates, as well as your position as a system within larger systems–such as your family, your community, and your country–in certain ways that others may not because they had different experiences and were handed other beliefs.
Since the smoothness of your early life was largely dependent upon your ability to please the significant adults in your life, or to adopt and live in accordance with their beliefs, it is not surprising that you operate automatically in accordance with these beliefs. Also, since it is important that we all adhere to certain beliefs so as to remain productive and law-abiding members of our society, it has likely been helpful that you’ve clung to beliefs taught by teachers and others.
Still, while there are guidelines as to what is considered reasonable or rational thinking and behavior within our country, there is nevertheless a considerable range of beliefs and assumptions under which you could operate and still remain an upstanding citizen of both our country and the world.
That said, even if you have been operating under a world view that you believe has been serving you well, it may be time to re-evaluate its appropriateness for both your life today and where you want to be tomorrow. After all, these are challenging times for many people throughout the world. You may need to change up some beliefs and assumptions so you can still notice and embrace life’s possibilities at a time when negativity may seem ready to engulf you. On another note, if you have doubts about continuing to walk the path you were committed to previously, it may be time to consider some remodeling.
You may become more self-aware by striving to continually examine your thoughts, your emotions, and your behaviors. Let’s look more closely as to how you can use these to direct you in ways you’ve perhaps not considered before.
Listening to your Mind–or Not?
Many people experience their minds as something akin to committees of people chattering and arguing anyway in their heads. They hardly know how to proceed because of all the conflicting messages their minds feed them. Hopefully, though, this is not your situation. Assuming this to be the case, you may still be wondering if you should listen to it or not. In other words, should you trust that all thoughts that come to mind are essentially your friends and hence, will serve you well?
People who suffer from the mental disorder schizophrenia often come to realize that their minds feed them many thoughts that need to be disregarded. Someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, on the other hand, may believe that his thoughts (the majority of narcissists are men) are perfectly fine while indeed, they create havoc and emotional pain for those who must interact with him–or who suffer the consequences of his choices made as a businessman, for instance. The person who develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD following a traumatic event may have once been able to trust his or her thoughts, but now realizes because the brain was changed by trauma, it is no longer a good idea to do so–that whereas some of the individual’s thinking may be right on, other thoughts fall into that category known in twelve-step programs as “Stinkin’ Thinkin'” instead.
Even if you have a calm brain and a world view that has served you well, just as you may want to stay attuned to the functioning of your seemingly well-running car, you’ll want to review your automatic thoughts and how they’re continuing to serve you. After all, thoughts can fuel emotions–that can fuel behaviors that may prove detrimental and take you away from the path you intended to follow.
Listening to Your Emotions versus Blindly Following Them
It can be painful to face up to a new truth that feelings or an emotional response seem to be asking that you attend to now. If you are facing such a struggle currently, you may want to consider that on down the road, things may well become more painful or worse if you don’t heed the message and act. Remember, most problems don’t just go away. Rather, they typically grow worse–or they create new problems such as physical health issues. Therefore, you’ll want to listen to your emotional warning system and take any action that it seems to be asking of you.
Remember, your emotions are there to help protect you or remind you that there are changes you need to be making to move forth with your life and purpose. Anxiety or emotional pain, for example, may become severe enough that they seem impossible to ignore because, indeed, you aren’t supposed to be ignoring them! They are there to awaken you to the fact it is time to take action–to make some changes in yourself or your life.
Some people will not be brave enough to do this. Rather, they will try to avoid what is being asked of them by abusing substances, for example. Some will seek emotional pain relief through non-stop involvement in activities — which could include over-shopping, sexual acting-out, or overeating.
What you want to strive for instead is a balance between emotion and thinking. In other words, do not subtract either from the equation but instead evaluate both your thoughts and your feelings regularly to become more self-aware. And, just in case you believe that you are the victim of your genetics and brain, realize that you can modify your brain through changing your thoughts and behavior.
Change your beliefs and indeed, you will change your self-talk. Alter your self-talk and indeed, your emotional responses to life events will soon change. Alter your emotional response, and soon your behavior will change, too.
Humans have a need to have their beliefs and their behaviors in alignment. Thus, if you change one so that it is no longer in alignment with the other–there is dissonance–ultimately, you will be driven to change the other.
Hopefully, now you’ll be more capable of keeping your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions aligned so that they continually lead you toward a purpose-filled life. After all, you should soon feel calmer and hence, be better attuned to any inner guidance–or you’ll perceive and seize opportunities put before you that you were undoubtedly inclined to miss when you weren’t so self-aware.