The Power of Belief: Your Key to Freedom & Peace – Part One

“Men!”, Terri exclaimed, her eyes red and swollen from crying. “I’m so tired of having my heart broken. Why can’t I just find a man who’ll love me the way I want him to?”, she asked no one in particular. “What’s wrong with me?”, she cried.

She just learned that her fiancé was still seeing his former girlfriend and had been lying to her. And this was just one more in a long string of betrayals for Terri. She just didn’t know if she could take another one, but here it was. This could mean the end of her engagement if they didn’t get this sorted out. But, she felt so hopeless – and wasn’t even sure she wanted to sort it out.

Reading this, it is easy to feel that Terri has been “done to” one more time. Yet, sympathizing with her about how bad men are does not empower her to see her part in creating her circumstances. And, more importantly, changing them.

The best way for Terri to reclaim her power and dignity in this situation – and that is to look at the beliefs within her that helped to create this painful event. Your rerlationships reflect your beliefs about relationships and about yourself. Until she can discover the beliefs within her that have contributed to her string of betrayals, she will never know lasting peace of mind in her relationships with men.

Your beliefs are fundamental to your sense of self and the world. You are oriented to the world through the medium of your beliefs. Many of your beliefs are so close to you that you can’t even see them. You are essentially embedded within them and experience them as who you are and how the world is.

For Terri, at least one of the beliefs she has is that she cannot find a man who “will love her the way she wants him to.” She probably also has beliefs about men being untrustworthy liars. The problem is that these troubling beliefs lie deep within her subconscious mind, well below her everyday awareness.

An important part of becoming enlightened is simply learning to observe your beliefs, without judgment. “But, if my beliefs are hidden in my subconscious mind, how can I observe them?”, you might well ask. One of the best ways to do that is by looking at your experience and asking yourself, “What beliefs would a person have to have to create an experience like this?”

In Terri’s case, what beliefs could create her experience of betrayal and being lied to? We mentioned two possibilities; I can’t find a man who will love me the way I want and men are untrustworthy liars. It’s also possible that Terri has a belief that she is not lovable and/or does not deserve a lasting, loving relationship. Or that love doesn’t last. Or the men she loves don’t love her.

Your experiences in life are born in your consciousness, from the seeds of belief. If you plant tomato seeds in a garden, do you expect to get corn? Of course not! The problem with the beliefs planted in your consciousness is that, for the most part, you don’t remember planting them because they were planted long ago in your childhood. So, by the time they appear in the garden of your experience, they appear to come out of nowhere. Unless you can identify the seeds of belief that have been planted in your mind and begin to uproot them and plant new ones, they will continue to produce their predictable results.

Dr. Milton Rokeach, a renowned psychologist, distinguished five different kinds of beliefs.

  1. Basic beliefs that are socially shared, e.g., “We all need to eat in order to live.” These kinds of beliefs tend to be facts about our universal experience as human beings.
  2. Personal beliefs that are not socially shared, e.g., “I can never do anything right.” or “I am God’s gift to women.” These beliefs are concerned with self-identity and one’s view of the world and are completely subjective. These kinds of beliefs are assessments and may or may not have anything to do with reality.
  3. Authority beliefs are those that are outside our direct experience. They result from others whose authority we assess as credible, e.g., “CNN is the most accurate news network.”
  4. Derived beliefs are a variation of authority beliefs in that they rely on identification with the authority. This is how we acquire beliefs from our culture, religion, and our family, e.g., “Suicide attacks on our enemies is justified because martyrdom is good and we have no other means of defense.”
  5. Inconsequential beliefs are simply a matter of preference and personal taste, e.g., “Steve Martin is a funnier comedian than Billy Crystal.” They are opinions.

The negative beliefs that are worthy of changing are in numbers 2, 3 and 4 – personal beliefs that determine self-identity and world view, authority beliefs that we accept from others we see as more informed, and derived beliefs from authorities with whom we are identified.

Now that we have identified the kinds of beliefs and which ones are subject to change, in next month’s edition we will talk about the process of belief change. We will work with Terri’s beliefs and show you how you can use the same tools to identify and change your undesirable beliefs.

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