Life can feel a whole lot like shovelling snow sometimes. It’s cold, wet, and unforgiving. You need to push really hard against it to make any real headway, and all it really does is create obstacles in what should preferably be a clear and unhindered path. Why do we often make life so hard for ourselves? I know the answer is that we are often made to feel that we need more than we have in order to be successful, in order to lead a happy fulfilling life. And if that is what you believe, then understand that there are delimiters that such a belief presents. If fame, adulation, and the respect and approval of others is your measure of success, then all else is going to seem meagre indeed. If your own self-approval is not enough, then you will always feel lacking in life, because you will never recognise your own worth, and be forever waiting for the pat on the back that you feel you deserve. Except I can’t help feeling that such a desire is fuelled by something else, by an enduring memory that somehow, at some point you were robbed of that dignity.
Such beliefs of course can be driving forces throughout life, and can lead us to make some interesting decisions and taking subsequent courses of action. For me what is important, is what I do with my time now. Not what I did or will do, but what I am doing now. The past and the future have little relevance to the decisions I make now, as I’m not there, I am quite clearly where I am now.
More often than not there is an underpinning belief about what should be accomplished now, disguised or buried in some other secondary, masking belief about what will be good for us or others in the future. We can only ever make decisions about what happens now. All else is falsehood deviating from the beliefs we often wish to hide. Those beliefs that we think others might hold in contempt if they truly knew. So we concoct all manner of stories to subvert attention from our immediate needs, lest we be seen as selfish or deluded, and instead affix our reasoning to ideals that have little ground beneath them, because in reality we know they may never happen. It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card while we attempt to tend to our own immediate needs, while operating under the banner of nebulous possibility. But it’s a fictitious rouse that we sell ourselves and others so that we don’t have to face the truth of our personal insecurities.
To be quite honest, some of these life-long beliefs are so familiar to us that we no longer see them as the mere mental constructs that they are. We feel unloved and neglected as a child; and because as children we are ill-equipped to deal with such emotions in a beneficial way, then we carry the belief that the world is an uncaring and unforgiving place as if it were a badge of honour that we wear long into adulthood. It becomes who we are, and the measure by which we measure our success in life. That is until we can recognise that it’s just a belief that we choose to subscribe to on a moment to moment basis, and that we can choose to see it for what it is, and perhaps understand its origin. In doing so, we can learn to let it go and replace it with something better.
If you think about it, recognising that the beliefs we hold can have such a dramatic influence on our lives should indicate quite how much control we have over the course of events that we often feel subjected to. In not accepting responsibility for our beliefs and actions, then we all too easily lose sight of the kind of impact that we have at all, not only in our own lives but the lives of others. Our beliefs dictate our actions, and invariably the kinds of experiences that we have. If you show little compassion for the world around you, then in turn it will show little compassion towards you, because like it or not, the world is full of other people, and when we make references to ‘the world’, then we are specifically referring to other people, and other people have feelings just as we each do. If you are only able to demonstrate distaste, frustration and mistrust towards others, then it is very likely you will earn the same respect from those very ‘others’ that you secretly seek love and respect from. Of course it never seems that simple, but it’s a good place to start.
Furthermore, it isn’t that simple because we decide it isn’t, because it justifies the core beliefs we subscribe to. A self-fulfilling prophecy that is no more abstract or nebulous than the air we breathe. Just because we cannot see or touch something does not mean that it does not influence our lives in very significant ways. Beliefs make us who we are, and they are as subject to change as the air we breathe. Without air our physical organisms would soon perish, and likewise without beliefs we would have no purpose, and no reason to be. The result is still death, even if it’s just the death of the soul.
That we often choose too subscribe to negative beliefs is very telling of the kinds of experiences that we allow ourselves to be influenced by. If it doesn’t fit, then it will likely be dismissed. We gravitate towards others with similar beliefs because they too send us signals that seem familiar and fitting to our brand of storytelling. Every belief can be described as a narrative, in that it has a beginning, middle and an end. Any mental construct with a purpose and set of meanings is a narrative. The purpose of a belief is to justify one’s actions, be they verbal or physical, just as it is with a good tale. A belief makes sense of the world in a way that is easily digestible and relatable to both ourselves and others, and as such it is a communicative tool that we utilise in order to curry favour with others, and to ultimately be accepted as part of a wider social group. In wanting to be famous, or in wanting notoriety and respect, what we are really aspiring to is to be accepted by others of similar beliefs. That is how we understand the measure of love and happiness. Without the acceptance from others, we feel lost and inhibited. How many others it takes to convince us that we have attained the success we seek is just another facet of the beliefs that we often guard with our lives.
It is impossible to justify the beliefs that we hold dear without fostering yet other beliefs. However, it might help to understand that at the biological level, beliefs are the mental manifestations of chemical reactions and patterns within our bodies. Chemical responses that we become accustomed, and addicted to over time, so that what ‘feels’ right, is just our brains recognising something familiar and comforting, something that has a particular meaning affixed to it. Although, the chemical and the psychological are in fact inseparable. Each is a product of the other. Each belief that we hold can be described to all intents and purposes, as a chemical cocktail that is specific to certain life events. These events are often just verbal, visual, or some other sensory trigger that immediately orders up their defining chemical cocktails, triggers that become embedded in our psyches through repeated reinforcement. Familiar reference points that dictate how we should behave and manage our lives at a moment’s notice. Without beliefs we would not be able to rationalise our actions, or indeed make decisions to act. Without the chemical instruction manual our lives would be meaningless and lacking in purpose. That does not mean however, that we cannot change what we wish to feel, and strive to have a better quality of life by choosing to do things that stimulate the kinds of feelings that we wish to have. By seeing our beliefs as chemical constructs we divorce ourselves from the need to become caught up in the ever winding narrative that psychological constructs often present us with.
That we have been taught to believe that psychology and biology are two separate things is yet another belief that we often subscribe to, even if it limits our ability to understand things better. In understanding things better, we give ourselves the opportunity to physically change our biology and thus our psychology in more beneficial ways, and thus create and foster those beliefs that will engender feelings of happiness and fulfilment.
Happiness is not something we acquire over the counter, or through mutual acquaintance. It’s something we create within ourselves that can be shared with others by example. Fear breeds yet more fear, and so happiness will breed more happiness. It isn’t a difficult science to comprehend, but you do have to be some kind of knucklehead to dismiss the importance of this statement.
Spending time in the company of others and enjoying the energy that is generated is the point to being human. We are each the defining purpose of everyone we meet; and we will keep searching for the right matches throughout our lives in order to justify our need to be valued and accepted within the social community, whatever shape that may take, and wherever it may be. There is nothing more important than our own sense of value fulfilment. If that is true for everyone, then it behoves us to pay attention to our actions and beliefs so that they do not unduly create obstacles that need not be scaled, or ploughed away.