“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”
Am I that obvious?
Me and my long time friend and professional colleague, Sydney, were driving from the airport through the city, late at night and catching up on each others’ lives. I hadn’t seen Sydney for several years. We grew up in the same town, attended the same Catholic church and the same high school. He was now a social worker directing a local agency.
We chatted about the usual stuff: family, friends, funds and the future.
But Sydney was on edge…there was something bugging him but he wasn’t ready to raise it…at least not yet. He always had this habit of tapping on things with his fingers when he was holding back what was on his mind. I was watching him tapping the steering wheel as he drove.
Finally I said, “Sid, what’s on your mind…your tapping?”
He looked at me a little startled, “Am I that obvious?” he asked.
“Don’t you remember me teasing you about that over the years? I asked back.
“Actually I do!” Then he added, “We decided to change churches again last week when our priest was charged…do you know this is our third church in the last 18 months…what is going on? Can’t you trust anyone anymore? Have I been naive or stupid to keep believing these are just isolated incidents? And what am I teaching my kids? I feel so betrayed by my Church, even my God!”
I feel I am being abused…
“Wow!” I replied, “You are really upset about this!”
“Ken, I am not just angry…it’s like I feel I’m being abused for trying to hold on to my faith…my belief system…my religion!”
Sydney was experiencing a common event in everyone’s life…grief over the death of a limiting belief. People often wonder why we believe the things we do. And, the most common example cited is the various religious belief systems found throughout the world. The simple answer is each of us believes what we need to believe to make sense of our past life experiences. Our beliefs are ways of thinking which help us cope with our life.
It makes logical sense because of our unique life experiences…
Our beliefs make logical sense to us because of our unique life experiences. Here is the learning process in its simplest form. Think of a very young child. Let’s call her Sally. If from birth, Sally was consistently told by her parents, or those she trusted, that there are ’little men with sharp forks’ ready to hurt her inside every electrical wall socket, then Sally would tend to believe it. She would then avoid putting her little fingers or other small things, into the sockets.
Over time through repetition this belief becomes cemented into Sally’s belief system even in the face of new, contradictory information from other sources. Suppose now Sally is 7 years of age and one of her playmates, Billy, tells her that her belief is silly because ‘little men’ can’t fit inside little wall sockets.
And, Billy also adds, “There is electricity which will burn ya…but no little men.”
Sally would probably respond, “I can’t see any electricity and besides, my Mommy and Daddy told me so!” While Sally’s belief does not reflect science or common sense, it does reflect very accurately her life experiences so far. So she will hold that belief firmly.
This is the same process all humans have used to develop their personal belief system. Whether it is a belief the Toronto Maple Leafs are the best team in the NHL or a belief summer is the best season of the year or whether a belief there is a heaven or hell. This is the process we have all used to develop every one of our various beliefs which make up our entire belief system.
“Everyone believes what they need to believe to explain their life to themselves!”
–King Ayles, Author
Every belief protects us in some important way…
Beliefs are thinking strategies we all use to meet the demands of our environment and ensure our survival. So, all beliefs serve the same purpose, they protect us in some important way. It is because of our various belief systems, thinking strategies, that we have been able to survive and evolve to be where we are today as individuals and as a species.
So each person believes what they need to believe to explain to themselves their complete list of experiences in their life. As you add new experiences you continually adjust your belief system accordingly throughout your life.
The entire developmental learning process of human beliefs is made up of nine key steps which we have been using across our entire human history.
1 – It began with our genetic needs for safety in our environment which motivated us to seek pleasure (life) and avoid pain (death) to ensure our survival.
2 – So next, n to survive we explored nature to find ways to meet our needs
3 – We noticed specific things in nature caused pain, so we feared and avoided them.
4 – Many of these things we feared and avoided because we had no way to control them such as: thunder, lightning, earthquakes, floods, tornados, blizzards, and so on.
5 – To manage our fear, we hid or cowered before the power of these natural events and noticed they eventually changed, diminished or went away.
6 – We interpreted this change as reflecting an intelligence…an intelligent being who very powerful and controlled these events. So we moved our fear to this being we created. We gave human attributes to what were forces of nature. We personified natural events.
7 – We then decided we could negotiate with this intelligent being, this Grandly Organized Designer of nature – G.O.D. We created a bartering system, a “give and take” relationship. We gave respect in the hope of taking back our survival.
8 – We created many of these “gods” giving each one a special name, special powers, special symbols and special rituals depending on the culture.
9 – Over time, these names, symbols and rituals became part of the social and political systems of our cultures and so institutionalized.
This learning process has served us well…
The result of this learning process is we have over 200 religions today on our planet. This learning process has served our species well because it has enabled us to use this mental strategy to feel safe in nature and to evolve to where we are now.
As we gain more understanding of nature and its laws through science, it becomes less necessary to retain these mental strategies and instead we move to higher levels of awareness of how we fits into our natural environment.
“We have only the beliefs we need to grow our self!” – King Ayles, Author
The constant shift in religious membership…
Since religion is an important tool in human development and thinking, adherence to the various religious organizations will constantly change as each individual uses it as a tool for the evolution of their understanding of their role in nature.
Check it out yourself. If you doubt the role religion plays in human development, simply ask 10 people to describe “god” and you will get 10 different versions based on each person’s personal experience. Then ask for a description of Heaven, Utopia, Hell or Hades and notice the same diversity.
We each create our own version of a grandly organized design to feel safer…
Each person creates their own grandly organized design(er) who is the aspects or traits of themselves, both positive and negative, they are not ready to own yet. Being able to project them onto a god or devil enables us to feel safe and buy some time for learning.
Without this unconscious mental strategy for security and learning, many people feel they would not be able to cope with the challenges of their life. However, the truth is it is what motivates them to adapt, grow and evolve their sense of self.
Religion helps people learn to appreciate them selves and their life…
When one acknowledges everything in nature has a usefulness, it reminds us of the usefulness religion plays in our mental evolution. It also provides the vehicle for us to learn to appreciate the perfection of ourselves and own life. Interestingly, this is also the same goal of most religious belief systems.
Each of us is where we need to be to grow in self-appreciation…
Each person is in a different place due to their own experiences. Respect for others is honoring where they are in the evolution of their thinking. It is where they need to be at this point in their learning. They are on the same journey as you and I, just in a different place along the road.
Back to my conversation with Sidney…
Sydney and I had a long discussion about this learning process in our own past. We went way back to our childhood, family culture, school days, jobs and other events to trace the evolution of our own thinking strategies. We each shared specific events from our past which were significant in the development of what each of us believed today.
We were getting groggy even though we were on our third coffee, when Sid said,
“I have been struggling with so many of the beliefs I learned as a child which no longer fit for me…and not just religious ones…like when I watch the news on TV and see what is going on in other parts of the world…it really drives me to question a lot of things I have always assumed to be either right or wrong!”
“Sid, that sounds like me talking when I hear you say that!” I replied smiling.
How the world works…how nature works…
I added, “Maybe Sid it is just us learning new ways about how the world works…how nature works.”
“Yea…but if I have been feeling abused by my old beliefs and nature is driving me to update them all the time…where does it all end…what’s the value of doing that over and over again?” he asked, frustration passing over his face like a shadow going by.
“Maybe Sid it reminds us to appreciate wherever we were…because it worked for us then, and also, to appreciate wherever we are now…because it is still working and even wherever we are going next…just the privilege of being alive right now?” I said.
“So our limiting beliefs help us learn to appreciate our life…Ken, there’s a paradoxical beauty to that, is there not?” Sid said, his face softening into relaxation.
“There sure is and it is fine with me!” I responded with a smile.
“These are my last words to you. Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living and
your belief will help create the fact.” – William James, Psychologist
Next time we continue our exploration of abuse. If you have any specific questions about any mental heath issue, feel free to contact me.
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- Every belief is a temporary learning tools for your growth.
- Every belief reflects your life experience so far.
- Any limiting belief can feel abusive but this motivates you to evolve it.
- You develop beliefs to protect yourself and your survival.
- Your beliefs continually grow from your new experience.
- Your beliefs help you learn to appreciate your past, present and future.
- Your beliefs drive you to appreciate yourself and your life.