The Pliable Brain

I am focusing right now on beliefs, since our beliefs in life are what drive us, cause us to act (and react) certain ways, direct our behavior, and either help or hinder us from becoming what we want to become.

Look up the word Belief and you might find something like this:

  • 1. The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another.
  • 2. Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something.
  • 3. Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.

Read that over carefully. The phrase in this typical definition of belief that leaps out at me is that it is a mental process. That seems to indicate that it is, or at least can be, a conscious choice.

And yet, my experience, both in my life and in the lives of most people I talk to, is that belief is more of a habit, not totally conscious. We believe things because of how we feel, and turn facts to reflect what we believe, refusing, either consciously, or just from habit, to consider things might not be as they seem.

You know how that happens. Someone – a parent, a lover, an enemy, a teacher, a friend tells us something about ourself over and over until we begin to tell ourselves the same thing, either good or bad.

And as soon as we begin telling ourselves that same thing, the jig is up. Because our mind tells us that thing over and over again. We tend to see situations that reinforce that belief as “proof”, with an exaggerated validity, and we tend to dismiss things that challenge that belief by discounting them, or giving them a diminishing importance.

And whatever we believe, good or bad, becomes reality.

Let me give you an example. As a kid, I was constantly told that I was no good at doing mechanical or household things. Probably as I kid, I wasn’t very good at it, but hearing that over and over again, I took it as a definition of me, a belief.

When I bought my first house, at about age thirty or so, I had to do my own work to fix up and improve my house. I simply did not have enough money to pay someone to do it. And in the few years I was there I completely redid my basement, hung ceilings, did wallboard, electrical, custom cutouts for stereo gear under the stairwell. I build a porch and attached workshop to the back of the house. It turned out that I actually was pretty good at it. Design simply made sense to me. Now my belief is different., I realize I can pretty much do what I can conceive. I am not a master builder, but I am fairly skilled.

We do the same thing in our lives, take snippets of our life and make it cornerstone beliefs.

When those beliefs help us reach for and accomplish good things in our life, that’s not a bad thing. When those beliefs hold us back, prevent relationships, keep us from being who we would like to be, then it is a bad thing.

But here’s the thing. Belief is a mental thing. We can choose to believe anything. But to do it, we have to create different habits. We have to cultivate the habit of telling ourselves positive things, of consciously discounting the negative belief.

We can’t get rid of a crippling belief without replacing it with something else. And we can do that consciously. Our brain, is oh so re trainable. That’s evolution at work. Way back in the primeval, part of what set humans apart and helped us survive was our ability to adapt. Tell the brain the same thing over and over again, and it begins to believe it’s own press.

So we have a choice, repeat the same old crippling belief over and over again out of habit, and let it stay our reality, or tell ourselves something far more positive, over again and having that new belief slowly take hold and change our life for the positive.

Is it easy? Heck no. But neither is it as hard as we make it sometimes. I’ve been on both sides of this, and while it has been work to change and replace one set of beliefs with something more true and positive, I’ve seen it work. And trust me, I am nothing special. It’s simply the way our brains work, and the good news is that we can control it, if we are willing.

Take care. Journey Wisely,


Lesson 31

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