The Need for a Belief System ... a system of organization for your experiences!
by: Edward B. Toupin
I've spoken with many people who, over time, have felt inundated by their lives. It seems as though they've accumulated all of these memories and experiences, but the information seems jumbled and overwhelming. This pile of 'mind junk' keeps getting in their way whenever they attempt to move forward in life. It's as if they feel that they have to deal with each and every disassociated memory lying on the floor of their brains.
Believe it or not, there is a way to organize all of your memories and experiences in a nice and tidy system that works only for you. It's not an easy chore, but sometimes it is necessary to reinvent your belief system and redefine your values so that you can see clearer and be able to achieve the fulfilling life that you desire.
--- A Belief System ---
To begin a journey in life, we have to identify our belief systems. We all have one, but not all of us are sure where we put it or how it affects our lives. We tend to take our beliefs for granted and coast through life in hopes that everything works out for our own good. While that approach works for a while, it will catch up with us and leave us lying dormant for years until we figure out what it is that we need to do.
A belief system provides a core set of values on which we base everything we do, say, or believe. We can classify our values as a 'set of rules' that define how we process and store information as it comes in through our conscious mind. Our conscious mind takes these rules and shaves off the sides, planes the ends, and polishes the exterior to make it easier to process and store in our subconscious. The subconscious then takes this processed piece of information and, according to our rules, associates it with other information that we classify as 'solid' and 'accurate.' During this association, we begin to understand the new information and are better able to assimilate it for future reference.
It is when we receive new information that we can run into trouble. If we have a solid set of rules by which information is processed, the new information is stored in the same manner as all other information. However, any unknown elements are left open, like empty branches of a tree, to be filled with pertinent information that can help us understand how the new information fits into our lives. Since we have a base of knowledge from which to function, we can easily go out and find the answers to our questions to fill in the gaps that this new, unknown information created.
But, without any rules, new information is just tossed into the corner of our minds. Our conscious mind, in an attempt to organize the information, devises a set of questions that need to be answered. We then begin to focus on these issues, which eventually bring up other questions, causing us to cringe in fear and become stuck in our lives. Our minds are so caught up in these 'free floating' questions that we end up in a state of confusion and, in some cases, overwhelming depression because life seems to be caving in all around us completely out of control.
--- Identifying a Belief System ---
When we are born, we 'are' and it 'is.' We come into being and we become conscious of the things around us. Eventually, through experimentation, we find that things are hot, cold, hard, soft, bright, and dark. But, we have to go beyond those initial pieces of knowledge and learn to work with others, move about in the world, expand out consciousness, and become whatever we desire. However, we must be able to identify who we are before we can determine who we want to become and where we want to go in life. This is where we must define our current belief system and identify our current values.
To identify the core of your belief system, define those things that you hold dear. Family, friends, career, your car, a boat, and anything that you feel is important to you and, in some way, defines who you feel you are at this time. If you just say 'high morals,' that is not a belief; it is a 'belief package' that contains various aspects of what you believe. The core of a belief system contains things that mean something to you and provide you with your values.
The values are those items on which we base decisions and provide a foundation for associating and analyzing experiences. To find your core values, take each of your items from the previous paragraph and explain why these things are important to you. This will give you an idea of what you believe in, what you value in life.
--- Redefining a Belief System ---
The problem that we all run into from time to time is that our systems will fail us if we do not adjust them as we grow. It's much like an old pair of 'lucky' socks that we begin wearing in little league. By the time we're in our 40's, while those socks might have helped us when we were 10; they're full of holes and way too small to do us any good any longer.
You have to occasionally reassess your values to see if those rules of old still fit your current life and direction. These old values were put in place to keep us safe and get us started on the next leg of our journey. They allow us to process information such that we can categorize and file new information in a logical and orderly fashion. Such values keep us from doing things that, at that time, are dangerous to us emotionally, mentally, or physically. But, as we grow, mature, and learn, we are able to gradually handle more of what life hands to us. It is then that we must be able to reassess our values to get rid of old, unnecessary rules and put in place new ones that can allow us to move forward in life.
But, it is during that change that we feel fear. It is fear of the unknown because we are venturing outside of what we previously set up as boundaries for our safe harbor. At this moment we can feel lost if we don't have some knowledge or new belief to put in its place. Overcoming the fear of change involves accepting that your beliefs will change over time and taking control of the change so that it occurs at your pace.
--- What's next? ---
It is important to put forth the effort to define our belief systems through conscious, rational thought and logical deliberation. We have to consider our current values, examine our lives, establish a new set of values, and adjust these values as we grow, to accommodate future decisions and further growth. If we allow our subconscious mind to accumulate unanswered questions and unrelated information, we will process new information to create unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, unidentified wishes, doubts, and fears thrown together by chance into a mass of confusion called 'self-doubt.'
A solid belief system provides you with a set of core values that mature with your experiences and knowledge. By organizing experiences, you are better able to organize how you handle future experiences. Organized experiences provide you with a sense of accomplishment because your perspective is one of success and control as opposed to having a morass of disconnected and confusing memories. By connecting knowledge and experiences through existing knowledge, you can associate situations with previous knowledge, and gain additional knowledge as you move through life.