Tag Archives: thoughts

Changing Beliefs: What to expect from the brain

I can say with a great deal of certainty that I know the cause and cure of all psychological stress. But it’s extremely important to remember that the process of growing out of psychological stress is just that: a process. Just because I understand precisely what it is which triggers and fixes it does not mean I have suddenly gained some superhuman ability to flick a switch in my brain and have all worries, anxiety and frustrations snap out of existence. In all honesty, I probably currently experience a higher level of stress than some people who don’t understand stress at all. How could this be the case?

Well, the human brain works via networks of cells called neurons, and it is these cells which  correlate with our thoughts and beliefs. So, when we have certain thought patterns, in our brain electrical impulses travel along certain neural pathways.  When we learn new ways of thinking, we create new pathways and essentially begin to rewire the circuits within the brain.

But this is a gradual process, and the old thought patterns and their neural pathways don’t completely disappear from brain – if they did we wouldn’t be able to remember how we used to think. These old networks of neurons will still get triggered by situations in life. It is a process of slowly decreasing the activity of the old pathways, and increasing the activity on the new ones.

For example, take a person with a phobia of elevators. This person’s brain is obviously wired to believe going inside an elevator represents a threat, and must be avoided at all costs. Now, let’s say this person goes to a counsellor and receives information which completely convinces him or her to believe that it was a mistake to view elevators as a threat, and that they are actually quite harmless. What would happen if this person tries to go inside an elevator now? Well, most likely they would have a panic attack as soon as they attempted to get in the lift, because their subconscious brain would remember how scared they were last time they were in an elevator. The new beliefs about elevators would not yet be strong enough to override the old ones, because the brain has been using those old and well-worn neural pathways for some time. But the difference is, now the person might have learnt some reasonings from the therapist to apply to the old thoughts and start taking the first steps towards new thought patterns. This is how change in the brain takes place.

In my life, having experienced an anxiety disorder for many years, I still encounter situations where I get quite anxious. But now, whenever I am anxious, or having a panic attack, I have understandings I can apply to start to neutralize that stress. The key word here is APPLY. Applying does not mean “stopping negative thoughts”. Applying means having negative thoughts and then beginning a process of addressing them. I can often see in my mind quite clearly the beliefs and thoughts behind the stress, and these old thoughts pop in all the time. It is these beliefs which I will examine and disprove on this blog.

 

What are beliefs?

 

So if this blog is mostly about beliefs, and all stress is caused by beliefs, the first question that must be asked is what are beliefs?

Some people regard beliefs as simply religious beliefs. Others will say beliefs are inherently subjective and hence are different to things like facts. All these people are simply expressing their beliefs about beliefs! A belief can be defined as a person’s views, opinions, conclusions or thoughts about something. It is their answer to the question “what do you reckon?”.

But the most accurate word the describe a belief is “understanding”. A belief is an understanding. Such an understanding consists of the data which has enabled the construction of of the understanding.  And it is this logical construction of the data which qualifies the understanding to be labelled as accurate by the person possessing the understanding. Of course, this does not necessarily mean the understanding is correct, but the person will believe it is. Here’s some examples of beliefs:

I believe that is a tree I just walked past.

I believe that I am not a good swimmer.

I believe that the feeling I’m currently having is anger.

I believe that I should stop procrastinating so much.

I believe the thing I am hearing is a car driving past.

I believe this illness I have is detrimental to my life.

I believe the problem with the world is that there is too much hate.

I believe that scientific research is always accurate.

I believe that life is about letting go of rigid beliefs.

I believe that I need to believe that I am a valuable and worthy person.

I believe people push their beliefs around to0 much.

I believe today is Tuesday.

The human mind is governed completely by beliefs. Beliefs govern our assessment and response to events. And so our actions, behaviour, habits and personality are all a result of the things we believe.  Our emotions are also governed by beliefs, and even our memories are simply our beliefs on what has happened in the past. No form of communication between people can ever take place without beliefs being involved. In fact, without beliefs you couldn’t even move a muscle in your body! There would be nothing to govern what movement to make!!!!

 The mind holds a vast system of thousands upon thousands of beliefs, all held in a priority format of differing importanceThis system of priorities makes sure we are always attending to what we believe has the most importance. For example, I might believe that I really should go to the gym as I haven’t been there in a long time. But I might also believe that right now the more important priority is to rest. So despite believing I should go to the gym, my actions are dictated by what I think the priority is – in this case resting.

Beliefs are the only factor within the human psyche which can be psychologically worked on and addressed. But since so many of these beliefs are deeply hidden away within the subconscious brain, people can be totally unaware of the many beliefs involved in their decision making. Next time you make a decision, try asking yourself “what made me decide that?”.