I Grew up thinking strong beliefs and convictions were a sign of strength, but having become more spiritual over recent years I’m more aligned to the school of thought that thinks belief systems are more of a hindrance than a help.
We shape our sense-of-self through our beliefs. They become part of us and how we see ourselves in the world.
We have a tendency to look for confirmation of our own beliefs and any opinions that flow from them. Confirmation is designed to uphold our sense-of-self. We may even go as far as to defend our beliefs with our very own live’s. How many have died to defend their belief systems, history is littered with examples.
Surely we would be better advised to do as science does, and formulate a hypothesis which we then try to disprove. This approach frees us from beliefs supported by nothing more than assumptions and inferences and ensures we only believe things backed by actual evidence and facts.
What beliefs do you hold with any kind of conviction, and what evidence supports them? Is it a belief built from the testimony of experts? If so, what evidence supports what the expert is telling you, and has this evidence been interpreted without personal bias and preference by the expert that promotes it? You may find much of what you believe or have heard from others to be made up of a great deal of inference and assumption, on your part and theirs.
So what can you believe? Even personal past experiences can be unreliable. For instance memories can be mistaken, if you could meet yourself at different ages memories would likely to be different in each of yourselves at different ages.
When we experience an event we use all our senses woven together with our internal model of the world to make up that experience and as the memory gets older it becomes less vivid, and subsequent events can supersede it and affect how we feel about it.
It’s even possible to implant completely false memories, if plausible enough. In a past experiment, a participant was told they had been lost in a mall as a child, and after the passing of some time, more and more detail began to creep into the false memory. The participant embellished the false memory, because as humans we are very imaginative storytellers, and we are all capable of doing this.
Our memory of the past is not a faithful record, it’s a reconstruction, a mythology. Our memories are not particularly reliable because they don’t just record what happens, they allows us to simulate what is coming next. It is a narrative that links the past with the future, so that we can work out what we need to do tomorrow.
Also past experience doesn’t necessarily predict the future. People’s behaviour is greatly influenced by their environment and circumstances far more than we give credit for, and we’re not always privy to the underlying context of other people’s behaviour, we may just be witness to the resulting actions. We then build a narrative around this behaviour which says more about what’s going on inside us, rather than anything else. We kind of project our thoughts on to what others are doing and believe this to be the other person’s truth.
So maybe we should all be more skeptical about our own beliefs and opinions, and those of other people as well, I’ve learned to do what the wise man does and question everything, and believe nothing at face value because this actually leaves us more open to alternative ideas, methods of thinking and doing as well as different approaches to living life. We also become more tolerant and empathetic as a result.
You might think the opposite would be true, that skepticism closes you off to new ideas, when in fact holding rigid beliefs does that far more effectively. When you have a fixed mental position, you will reject anything that counters that position, because your sense-of-self depends on it.
Don’t invest anything of yourself into ideas, beliefs and opinions, stay clear of convictions and be open to provable evidence and facts, and even then be wary of any possible misinterpretation of these.
Remember what the famous quote says; “The more I know the more I realise how little I actually know.”