Entry 8

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Beliefs: Fact or Fiction

As I am now in my eighth week of writing so much has transpired in our world. I have tried to stay clear of political comments and stay on a path of sharing mental health experiences. I would be remiss however not to mention that on a personal level I too have had to work at coping with so many extreme emotions ranging from anger, disbelief, confusion and a desire at times to scream. In this entry I will however continue to stay focused on constructive thinking and skills to stay optimistic in these trying times.

Much of my work has been to focus us on the power of the Experience Road of life and our ability to choose the path for our existence. Change in our culture is greatly needed. This process starts with the creation of attitudes and beliefs. Drawing from my 45 years of practice, changing underlying foundational beliefs was a difficult and major task in helping people to change and make personal growth.

I like to often use a computer model analogy to begin this process. A computer is designed with certain hardware limits and potentials. A computer without software will be essentially an expensive paper weight. In order to best utilize the computer we load it with programs that provide instructions to perform specific tasks. At times when a computer breaks down we can often give it new programs to correct the problem.

At birth we are born with basic life hardware but with minimal software of how to live life. We become programed from many sources but primarily our parents. Like a sponge we absorb all that our parents say and do around us. Without awareness we pick up attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and behaviors. Children are not taught to ask for the validity of our parental viewpoints, rather they are taught more often to just passively accept.

Other sources of programers involve political leaders, teachers, entertainers, writers, musicians, religious institutions, and marketing and advertising. In many ways a message is sent out that to be accepted or better one must blindly do as I say. Don’t question just follow my direction.

I loved to ask my clients “How did you choose your religion?” The most common answer is that I did not choose my religion, it is what my parents believed in so I unquestionably just went along with it. I often ask as well “How did you pick your favorite sports team to follow?” I get the same kind of response, well that’s who my father and grandfather rooted for.

The same can be said about all kinds of beliefs, attitudes and opinions. They are passed down thru generations often without even any consideration. If one grows up in a home where prejudicial views are modelled then the chances are the child will grow up with the same defective programmed biases. Change will only occur if a person seeks personal validation of such concepts. As I have pointed out in my previous blog entries, we do have choice! We make our own feelings and actions based on the programs we choose to apply.

Validation involves learning how to understand the difference between fact and fiction. It is one of the most challenging aspects of my work. How to get people to validate their beliefs. Are they acting on fact or is it a fictitious belief or program that is directing their behavior? Is a person's color of skin, race, gender, monetary standing or ethnic background mean that they are not deserving of the same equal human rights?

The older the person, the more entrenched they are with their beliefs, the harder it is to change their thinking. With a computer it is easier to reprogram instructions that lead to improved functioning. With people, doing something different means to change the program but the process is not very simple. People have to work hard to see a different way, a new path or guiding philosophy to life. They need to learn to question their behavior. Is what I just did or felt based upon a factual understanding or am I acting on some fictitious belief passed down through the family tree? Where is the evidence to support my conclusions and actions? Actively engaging with those or that which you fear can help to collect data that leads to new viewpoints and different behaviors.

It would be wonderful if we would teach our children early in life to recognize facts from fiction. Questioning our elders is important. Imagine growing up with beliefs that are grounded in fact not bias. So much pain and suffering could be avoided. Unfortunately, it is so much harder to change beliefs in an adult or so called grown up.

Do I learn from my Experience Road of life or do I stay trapped on the destructive Failure Road of life? This is the great challenge. The Experience Road brings new ideas, behaviors and potentially greater positive outcomes. Sticking blindly to the same old fearful beliefs produces the same old unproductive path.

I like to make the point that adult is a state of mind not age! A child confuses reality with fantasy due to a lack of experience. A true adult seeks factual validation when judgements are required. I have met children with adult thinking minds as well as many grown ups with child thinking minds.

These difficult times must lead to great changes in our cultures and understanding of the global world we live in. We need true adult thinking to make changes. Do we blindly accept or question? Are our role models honest or self serving? Fact of Fiction, your choice!

Dr Mike

Clinical psychologist 45 years in practice. Worked with children and adults. Love nature, hiking, photography and drums. Retired living in DC.

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