A politician claims widespread fraud with no evidence to support his claim, yet many believe him. How can this be?
From birth we are bombarded with dogma: Merriam Webster defines dogma as “a point of view put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds.” We are conditioned early on, for better or worse, to believe.
Believing provides many emotional benefits.
If we believe the world is essentially good, we feel less stress and greater wellbeing. All the unknowns in life can be explained with a belief. Beliefs tell us what to do when and why. They provide a moral and ethical basis to operate from; they are essentially operating programs that tell us how to interpret life. As such, people often ask: “What should I believe? How should I look at this?”
Behind every belief is a fear.
If you think about it, the only reason anyone adopts a belief is to alleviate a terrible fear. The parent says to the child: “Do what I say, or you will be punished.” This, “What I say” also includes how the parent feels about him or herself – the nonverbal parts of awareness that cause us to react to others unconsciously, i.e., “What you said made me feel like trailer trash.” Obviously, I could not make you feel like trailer trash if you did not already believe that you were.
Beliefs are all self-reinforcing.
If you believe a latte will calm, and reward you, it will. Not only that, but anything anyone does or says to dissuade you from your belief only intrenches you more. You become a “Latte-ite” and look for others to join you. You form groups of latte-ite’s, and that only distracts you from discovering the real source of your stress: It is always another belief, like, “I’m not good enough.” So, behind every belief there is always another belief that counteracts your first belief, such as, “I am good enough. I’m even better than anyone else.” All this complexity works against your own function. It takes a lot of energy to balance “I am good enough” against “I’m not good enough.” It is important to note that neither of these beliefs, that consume so much of your time and energy, have anything to do with who you are. What would it be like to go through life without any beliefs at all? Or should I say, actively observing yourself to see if what you just did was an automatic reaction, and then tracing your reaction to a belief. Having discovered the belief, like: “We should always be loving and kind,” not reinforce it – allow it to wither and die. What you are left with is your naked self. Why don’t you effervesce with love and kindness without your belief? The more you look at the why of what you do, the less you relate in a prescribed way. You begin seeing the fear behind your belief, and you begin to separate who you are from your conditioned self. You become less rigid and controlled, more open and accepting – loving if you will.
David Hoefer is an unlicensed psychotherapist specializing in depression.
He is in private practice at DenverDepressionHelp.com in Denver, and Lakewood, Colorado. He can be reached at 720 404 9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org; davidhoefer.com.