Your Beliefs: Powerful, yes, but are they true?

“In all affairs, it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” 

- Bertrand Russell 

I think it is wise to question your beliefs from time to time.  When you look at your beliefs do you rationally know why you hold a particular belief?  What if you are wrong?

How Beliefs Are Formed

Your brain is a belief engine.  We are pattern-seeking primates.  In other words, your brain naturally connects the dots in your environment.  Point (A) appears to connect to Point (B) and through association learning, we establish a neural connection.  As with the classically conditioned Pavlov’s dogs, we form the same learned associations.  When random patterns are determined in the loop, it can complicate matters.  We may create a connection between two points which is, in fact, false.  An example would be to go to any casino and observe the slot machines.  Most of us think that the slot machines operate on a random basis because they appear to be random.  When in fact, they have precisely programmed algorithms which determine when a payout occurs.  However, we continue to pull on the handle thinking the next rotation of the wheels will be our lucky day.  
There are of course times when the associations we make are in fact real.  How are we to know which relationships are real and which ones are false.  I believe that the use of logic and reasoning can help determine that.  Run your beliefs through a logic and reasoning model to determine if they are true.  The challenge with this is, once firmly established patterns are paved in our neural pathways, we encounter cognitive dissonance.  


What is Cognitive Dissonance?

This is a definition from simplepsychology.org – “Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance.”  Cognitive dissonance plays a significant role in your life.  It is why we hold on to certain beliefs even when all the evidence tells us it is not true.  Unless you are sadomasochistic, no one likes discomfort.  Life embraces balance.

 
Why it is important to question your beliefs

In our culture, we experience a continuous bombardment of information.  Either through nonstop marketing, social media, and instant access to a vast amount of information.  But, be honest with yourself.  How do you to know what is truth and what are outright lies and propaganda?  There was an interesting yet disturbing exhibition at the Downtown Phoenix Library a couple of years ago.  The purpose of the display was to demonstrate the similarities between Nazi propaganda that occurred in Germany during the Nazi’s reign and current marketing campaigns and present forms of so-called “news.”  It is not to say that all the current marketing or “news” is nefarious, but you encounter the methods and techniques perfected by Goebbels daily.  
Make the effort to shine the light of logic and reason on your beliefs.  Make sure they hold up to that light over time.  For truth or what is considered fact can change over time.  The majority of people in the world at one time believed the world was flat.  You have to wonder what the current flat earth belief is?  

If you found this blog interesting and helpful, which is my intention, please share it with your friends.

 
Until Next Week,

Rich Decker
Mindful Accord