Belief Systems

I read an article today in Times of India which inspired me to think about certain things. Here are my thoughts on ‘Belief Systems’ and how I think about them.

Before we start off, let’s do some definitions:

1. Situation: Situation is any single activity, process that is out there. You can basically define the world around you as a huge set of situations that are happening simultaneously. For example: Your car broke down, Someone complimented you etc.

Situation

2. Emotion: This is the feeling that gets generated within us. This is within us. Emotions usually form in response to something outside – ‘situation’. We do have the ability to create a emotion without any outside stimulus but that’s for another blog post. Usually everyone of us function the default way – i.e., we generate emotions in response to situations.

Emotion

So, the generic thinking is that we have matching emotions to situations in life. But that’s not totally true. The truth is a little bit deeper. See we don’t usually generate emotions to the situations – if that is true we would be overwhelmed. What we usually do is – we generate a emotion based upon what we think/feel/guage the situation is. Please read that carefully, because there lies the solution to everything we are looking for. So, we generate emotions in relation to a situation based up on what we think about the situation. It could be one thought or it could be a bunch of thoughts.

So it would look something like this:

Emotion -> Situation

So, to take our earlier example: My car broke down: My feeling towards it is panic, bad and scary. I have heard horrible stories about how people got in trouble when their car broke down and now this situation is genrating emotions in me based up on what I think about my car breaking down. To take the other example: I might feel better and it would make my day if someone passed on a compliment to me. I could also totally flip out if I have a different thoughts associated with ‘compliment situation’.

So, all these thoughts/feelings we have towards situations combinedly form our Belief System. Our belief system is the most influential part of our system. We function with our belief system.

Belief System

When people live a life of auto pilot, they totally don’t see their belief system at all. All they see is the situation and the emotion just flows. So let’s get back to emotions. What happens over a period of time with our emotions is – we form habit out of them. So, a couple of times my car breaks down and my default behavior is to panic. In this mode I am not even aware of my emotions. I see a situation and I just take a short cut with a habit.

Habitual response to Situation

So why is it such a big deal to know/see our belief system? Because if you can see it then it means you can also change it. Most of the time people attack the problem at a wrong level. They think it’s a habit problem. They try to fix the habit. For example: people trying to quit smoking habit. Then some go one level deeper – emotions level. This is where people try to go to a Therapist. Talking it out, good counsellor, life coach etc. This works for some, but not that effective.

I think and believe that if I want to solve something or fix something in my behavior, it’s always effective at my belief level. This is so empowering. I am the one who is looking at my belief system and changing it. I admit this is not that easy to do. But this is the only effective way.

So, how does one see one’s belief systems?

1. Meditation. A lot of people think that meditation will lead one to state of Godliness, holiness, nirvana etc. All these are misconceptions based on the rituals centered around the actual act of meditation. What meditation actually does to us (I am referring to any form of meditation) is it makes us aware of our Belief System. This is so powerful that we don’t even realize it. What we usually feel is better and better as we meditate every day. Over a period of time we realize that we have become a better person. What actually happened is that over a period of time when we meditated we have become aware of our belief system and have mended it. So, now when the car breaks down – I don’t freak out. I take a deep breath and think how I can resolve the situation.

Meditation

2. Journaling: Any form of honest journaling acts as a mirror to our soul. I learned the most effective journaling method from the book called “The Artist’s way“. It goes like this. When you wake up in the morning, the first thing you do is write 3 pages/sides. It could be anything. It could be your dreams, fears, tears, complaints, appreciations etc. It’s a mind dump. You don’t even have to read back/check what you wrote. What happens is – initially I was able to write 5 pages. Then slowly I wrote about everything that I could think of. I had to dig deeper in. And once I start doing this consistently – over a period of time I get a feel of my own belief system.

Journaling

3. Reading good books. Books open up our thinking and let new ideas, thoughts to sprout in our mind. Reading a good collection of books definitely tells a lot about our thinking patterns. One quick glance at what kind of books we like tells us a lot about our Belief Systems. By reading a lot of books we usually provide a lot of fodder to our brains based on which our belief systems are built.

Books

4. Feedback from Environment. This is usually our friends, colleagues, peers and elders. One need to engage in healthy conversations to learn more about one’s belief system. Only by taking it out in a secure environment of our friends our belief systems get updated and hardened. Keeping our eyes and ears open for good feedback from our friends will help us re-structure our belief systems constructively.

Friends

Now you may wonder – will becoming aware of my belief system gives me enough power to change it? Yes it does. Like I said, it’s very empowering and it may sound hard but our souls are tuned in such a way that they always choose the best for us. Once the mind becomes aware of the belief system, once it see the fallacy behind some of our beliefs- it consults/defaults to the souls way – which is the best way for us.

So, discovering our belief system is the best gift we can give to us. It’s the best thing that has happened to me. I have been following this from the past 8 months and I still learn so many new things about my belief system. So, depending up on how much stuff we have within us it will take more and more time. But this is most effective way of re-constructing our worlds.

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Inspiration from the article: “The answers are within” in Sunday Times of India on 13th Jan, 2008, by Paul Countinho.

Diagrams using Omnigraffle Pro

Photos from Flickr’s Creative Common licensed stream.

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