- Why does this matter?
- What is a belief?
- What distinguishes belief from knowledge, and why is that a tricky distinction?
- How are beliefs formed?
- What is a subconscious belief? Core belief? Give examples.
- What are limiting beliefs? Why do we have them?
- Name five reasons that beliefs make such a powerful impact on our lives.
- Describe the idea that we are addicted to our beliefs.
- How are beliefs and identity related and unrelated?
- How, specifically, do beliefs impact our actions?
- How can it be true that beliefs impact our sensory experience?
Please Note: This is part of a series of related topics. Use the Related Content menu below to navigate within this section.
Why this Matters
Strongly held beliefs are in actuality one’s judge, jury and jailer, enforcing a sentence with no hope of parole; on the other hand, acquiring a new set of empowering beliefs and holding them loosely could be the grand liberator.– Paul Marko Ph.D.
Understanding how beliefs are formed (particularly the role of the subconscious), and the incredible power they wield, is fundamental to truth and discernment. Uncovering subconscious beliefs and changing those that don’t support you are critical practices in the pursuit of truth.
If hidden reservations or unconscious agendas lurk under the surface of your psyche, they can sabotage the arrow of your intention… That’s true whether your [goal] is to attract the perfect partner, to expand your business, or to go deeper in your yoga practice. So, at the beginning of an intentional process, it’s important to face your own reservations, feelings of not quite deserving what you think you want, or simply unprocessed emotions.– Sally Kempton
What is a Belief?
Most people don’t recognize that the beliefs that bind them to their version of reality are simply ideas and that these ideas could shield them from truth.– Paul Marko Ph.D.
- A belief is the acceptance that something is true or real — a feeling of trust, faith or confidence in someone or something. It’s an assumed truth.
- A belief is a state of mind: it’s a proposition that a person accepts as representing the way the world actually is. But it can be based on false propositions or misperceptions. (source)
- If evidence is obtained, then belief presumably becomes knowledge. However, beliefs will naturally cause us to find “proof” of our belief, making this differentiation between beliefs and knowledge a slippery slope. (More below.)
- Beliefs can help us to accept the unknown. And they can limit potential and cause pain.
How are Beliefs Formed?
The subconscious mind has fundamental programs of life that we acquire from our parents, our family, our community between the last trimester of pregnancy and the first seven years of life. Nature created [this process]… to download how to be a member of a family, a society and a culture by strictly observing other people. It’s actually a brain function that’s the equivalent of hypnosis. So the fundamental programs of the subconscious are not yours.– Dr. Bruce Lipton
- As Dr. Bruce Lipton explains, many beliefs were formed before the age of seven as a result of nature’s way of socializing a child.
- The beliefs that are passed on from family and community are deeply powerful because humans are innately aware of the need to be part of a group. (Kate Morgan)
- We usually believe that things can and will happen because they have previously happened.
- Beliefs will often be based on personal experience, despite the fact that personal experience is an extremely limited part of the entire realm of possibility and truth.
- And we come to believe what we repeatedly tell ourselves — often an unconscious process.
Such patterns… get created in our early years of development by subconsciously believing we will be more liked by others if we are more like others. This creates a psychological cocoon of human conditioning for the soul to inhabit until it is ready to awaken and expand into the light of its highest potential. Suffice it to say, the ego is the limiting beliefs, self-defeating choices, and narrow viewpoints of dormant consciousness.– Matt Kahn
Subconscious & Core Beliefs
For most people, beliefs form a mega-thick lens through which they view reality.– Paul Marko Ph.D.
- Some beliefs are particularly “deeply seeded” and may be hidden in the subconscious — that is, unrecognized by our waking consciousness. These are sometimes called core beliefs and refer to the subconscious “program” from which a person acts out their life.
- Core beliefs carry emotional attachments and have a major impact on thoughts and actions.
- Because they are so ingrained, core beliefs can hinder development.
In the battle between your conscious desire and your unconscious tendencies, the latter will win more often than not… Your deepest driving desire determines your destiny. The pull of the unconscious and the vikalpas [beliefs that separate us from our Higher Self] that reside there are so powerful that no matter how worthy the goal or how hopeful you might be about attaining it, they have the potential to lead you not only away from your desires, but possibly to dark, even destructive, places.– Rod Stryker
- Some core (deeply seeded, foundational) beliefs (based on past conditioning and experiences) can thwart our individual growth (through our thought patterns, actions and experiences). These are referred to as limiting beliefs.
- The Sanskrit word, vikalpa, and the modern term, “limiting beliefs,” are basically pointing to the same thing.
- Examples: Everyone I love will leave me. If I put myself out there, people will laugh at me. It’s weak to ask for help. I’m ugly. I’m unlovable. It’ll never work because… Men should be… Women should be… I can’t. I’m not smart enough to…
Why Do We Have Limiting Beliefs?
- Every human being (whether in the most comfortable or the most unsafe environment) has adapted in numerous ways to simply feel safe and to survive.
- Every place has its rules and expectations (from families, social constructs, culture, religion, etc) that must be followed in order to be accepted. Since small humans instinctively know they must be accepted in order to survive, they adapt to those around them.
- Many such adaptations can be contrary to our organic temperament. In an effort to make sense of the disconnect between our inner and outer experience, we develop beliefs. Perfection is required in order to be loved. Being independent is dangerous.
- We are like the elephants who were captured when they were young and don’t realize they could now pull out the stakes which are holding them captive. We maintain the same adaptations and beliefs we learned at a young age, even though they no longer serve us.
Why They’re So Powerful
Here we cover five notable reasons why beliefs make such a powerful impact on our lives:
- Beliefs that may once have served a role remain unquestioned and severely limit our development.
- Some beliefs can become inseparable from the most basic concept of who we are: our self-concept, our identity.
- Thinking and beliefs are enmeshed.
- Beliefs guide actions which then reinforce beliefs.
- Beliefs and thoughts program our brains, and thus our five-senses reality.
The Ego Doesn’t Want any Disruptions to it’s Reality
Hardly a person on the planet seems interested in exploring the mental processes involved in belief acquisition and maintenance, let alone how one would go about changing their held and limiting beliefs. Why is this? I think it is because the ego, the part of the psyche that manages beliefs and assembles one’s perspective on reality, does not want any disruptions in the carefully woven fabric of beliefs that forms a custom made version of reality. Therefore, most of us stay steadfastly the same. We see the same world, live into the same shallow possibilities and cannot stretch our notion of reality to even imagine that there exists an escape route simply by loosening up on what we believe. The reality is that by knowing what you believe and being familiar with the various processes that gave you that worldview, you have a much better possibility of being able to work yourself free and help those around you expand their perspectives as well.– Paul Marko Ph.D.
- Beliefs formed early in life often remain unquestioned, even after they no longer serve us.
- The profound observation of elephants in captivity demonstrate this quite clearly:
When I was just a little boy, my parents took me to the circus. I wanted to see the elephants. These mighty creature [were] held in place with a stake. Elephants could tear a tree right out of the ground, and yet, a simple stake kept them in place. Well, I didn’t understand. And then, my father told me. He said the stakes were used when the elephants were just young, too small to pull them up, and that the animals never tried to pull them up again.– Westworld
Beliefs & Identity Become One
Some beliefs can become inseparable from the most basic concept of who we are: our self-concept, our identity.
We see a lot of the same brain systems involved when people think about who they are and about the beliefs that are most important to them… When your most deeply held beliefs are challenged, many of the most biologically basic brain systems, those responsible for protecting us, kick into high gear. These are things like the amygdala, which tells you when to be afraid, and the insula, the part of your brain that processes visceral feelings from the gut and tells you things like if you’re encountering food that’s bad for you. We have a strong motivation to defend those sacred values.– Jonas Kaplan, Professor of Psychology
Thinking & Beliefs Are Enmeshed
- Beliefs are like the roots of a tree. From the root beliefs come the branches of thought.
- For example: Everything will turn out alright in the end [thought] because I believe in myself and the goodness of others [belief].
- While beliefs lead to thinking particular thoughts, repeated thoughts lead to the development of beliefs. For example, compulsively repeated thoughts such as the following creates a pattern that can lead to a belief: “I am not good enough or smart enough. People don’t like me.”
Remember that such core beliefs tend to be out of the realm of consciousness, and thus may not at first seem “reasonable” or true to you even when at a “deeper level” you behave from this belief. But there’s a way to identify such deeper-level beliefs.
- When issues keep repeating and logic isn’t working, then delving into the subconscious can help to uncover the actual source of the blocks you’re experiencing. Then you can apply strategies to overcome and transform such core beliefs through a process of personal transformation that is also called the Hero’s Journey.
Beliefs Guide Actions
- Beliefs determine where we put our energy and focus, thus impacting our actions. And consider, for a moment, the power of our actions. It’s difficult to overstate their importance.
- Actions represent who we are and are the basis for how others perceive us. Our actions shape our very identity.
- As an example of how beliefs, actions and identity are related, consider how repeated negative self-talk becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy:
Repeated Thought – I can’t do this –>
Belief – I am not worthy –>
Action – Distraction, entertainment, addiction, other actions that are not in alignment with your dreams
Thought – My dreams aren’t reality because I am not worthy
Core Beliefs Affect How We Operate in the World
In thinking that you are ugly, you will no doubt struggle with your self-esteem and confidence. If you think everyone is better than you are at their job then you may well feel small and unimportant. If you consider that the world only wants to take from you, then you may find yourself reduced to cynicism, locked in a prism of seeing the world and its people in a negative way. This will affect what you offer to the world and what you are willing to give and share. Core beliefs affect what you achieve and how you operate in the world at large. Negative, and often inaccurate, core beliefs will drastically reduce your chances of joy and self-fulfillment in life.– Sheri Jacobson
Thoughts Program the Brain
Beliefs impact our thoughts, and thoughts “program” our brain and body.
- While many inspirational speakers, deep thinking philosophers and neuroscientists teach that our thoughts dictate our reality, it can be difficult to wrap your mind around.
- It seems to counter a common understanding of “objective reality.”
- So how can this possibly be true?
Every minute of every day, your body is physically reacting, literally changing, in response to the thoughts that run through your mind. It’s been proven over and over again that just thinking about something causes your brain to release neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that allow it to communicate with parts of itself and your nervous system. Neurotransmitters control virtually all of your body’s functions, from hormones to digestion to feeling happy, sad, or stressed.– Debbie Hampton
- You may think of your brain as the cause of your thoughts. Actually, beliefs lead to thinking patterns.
- And the real big life-changer: we can all learn to choose different thoughts (which then cause the brain to respond as noted above).
- Repeating certain thoughts, particularly when emotionally charged, effectively “programs” the brain. The brain looks for “proof” of the “input” it has received.
- A simple example is becoming very excited and interested in buying a green car. As you think the emotion-laden thoughts of what it would be like to have a green car, soon you’re noticing green cars throughout your day. Prior to this “thought programming” you never “saw” (noticed) green cars. This happens because your brain is responding to the input, which then alters your sensory experience.
The eye and brain work in a partnership to interpret conflicting signals from the outside world. Ultimately, we see whatever our brains think we should.– Denise Grady
For most people, beliefs form a mega thick lens through which they view reality. This distorting impairment only allows their senses to consider data that confirms what they already believe, forming the ultimate do-loop—a hamster’s wheel for the human mind. Therefore their strongly held beliefs shield them from much of the reality transpiring around them by filtering out all of that nasty data that does not support their notions of the way things are.– Paul Marko Ph.D.
There is No Objective Reality
The most foundational limiting belief is that reality is fixed when in fact there is no objective reality. Sages throughout history have taught that we have unlimited power to create and impact how we perceive the world, and quantum mechanics offers insight into how this can be.
Physicists Show that Reality Doesn’t Exist
Get ready to have your mind blown. According to an experiment led by two physicists… reality doesn’t exist. Turn on, tune in, and drop out man, because the world as you know it is all kinds of weird, at least on a quantum level.– Sean Hutchison
Sources & Resources
See here for a list of sources and resources for the entire Beliefs section.
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