Beliefs have a long and troubling history. There is more anguish and heartache created by beliefs than probably anything else.
So why do we have them and why do they persist?
Take A Step Back In Time
When an event occurs, we come up with an explanation. Explanations can be true or not. They may be validated or not. If I believe that the sun comes up only on Tuesdays, I will have a chance to determine whether my belief is accurate or not.
Let’s say that one day the sun comes up in the ancient human world. It is a beautiful day. The next day something good happens. Now let’s say the pattern repeats, and it repeats often enough that people come to believe that it is good when the sun comes out every day because the next day they will receive something good. So your group decides to do something about the daily sun schedule. it holds vigils and meetings to plead for the sun to come out only every other day. It creates a sun god with one eye reflecting the group’s desire to have the sun emerge on alternate days. It creates festivals and other events to celebrate the god. A temple is built and games and other social events are created to honor the god.
And so an explanation becomes the basis of a belief which then forms a society and its practices.
How Our Biology Cooperates With Beliefs
According to research our brains have a big say in what we do. They have been developed to ensure our survival.
Our early survival required that we live in groups since we were not strong enough to exist on our own. All groups create organizations, structures and a set of beliefs that the group subscribes to. Beliefs are often a form of social glue.
Our brains let us know when we are acting against social norms. They send us an error message, because according to our survivalist brain we are in danger when we act contrary to group mandates and expectations. Research shows that there is a real message in the brain that occurs when we “disobey” group norms.
The Effect Of Beliefs And Group Norms
Group norms will become entrenched – that’s inevitable. And we will build up structures and skills that support our belief structure. So what happens when we need to make a change. Perhaps we were just wrong, or perhaps conditions have changed.
Belief systems create their own realities, and are resistant to change not because people are intrinsically bad but because they have learned how to survive – no matter how awkwardly – in the existing system. The existing system and belief structure become a fence that prevents us from moving beyond them.
The Challenge Of Change
People are encouraged to believe that change is just a matter of changing your beliefs. That is not the case.
Change requires that we adapt our structures and skills. So when your brain isn’t warning you of danger, then your skills and structures may not support your desire for change. Change is to be taken seriously. It requires a serious commitment of time energy and resources. It needs time to develop and be assimilated.
Most of us have been taught that change should not be all that difficult. Perhaps that is one reason we do not always make the necessary investments of time and resources. We do not understand what is involved. Change is a big deal, and involves a lot of effort. It does not come easy, but does not have to be so difficult if you take it seriously.
It is to be expected that change may be a challenge for you. So if you have difficulty with it, do yourself a big favor – give yourself a break. Give yourself the time, resources and skill building to create the change you want and you will be successful.