You probably never asked yourself that question before!
When you are conscious, thoughts are just there, rumbling around in your head, generally related to what is going on around you. When you concentrate, they follow a logical and reasonable thread. At other times they wander, or randomly pop into your head unbidden and unrelated to your current activities. Daydreaming may creep in, and when you sleep, thoughts may take the form of dreams.
On occasion, thoughts express the perception of a threat that may be real, exaggerated or perhaps even non-existent. When this happens, anxiety and defense mechanisms are already in progress before you are aware of the conscious thought.
Thoughts, other than those that recall memories or acquired knowledge, have their origin in one or more subconscious basic belief. Whether the logical left or holistic right hemisphere is in use, they both draw on the meaning of prior experience, which is the definition of a basic belief.
Let’s look at some examples. You may have learned the multiplication tables as a child and later came to believe that you could depend on that knowledge whenever needed. You learned that the assassination of President Kennedy took place in Dallas on November 22, 1963, but your belief may be that it was at the hand of a lone assassin or by a conspiracy. The point here is that every experience leaves you with a memory, an associated feeling and a basic belief, or meaning, about the experience. The memory and feeling may fade over time, but the meaning remains throughout life unless changed by conscious effort or a new experience.
Why is this important?
Rational behaviors fall into one of two general categories: reason-based or emotion-based. We’ll look at emotion-based behaviors in the next post, and focus here on those that are reason-based.
What is the reason behind any particular behavior? There must be one; otherwise, they would be chaotic, irrational and purposeless. Not a desirable state of affairs.
When you act, whether deliberately or automatically, the vast majority of the time you do so within the framework of your basic beliefs. There are exceptions when you let your imagination soar or you are being creative, but every day, ordinary acting is the result of what your basic beliefs tell you to do. A simple thing, like turning left instead of right at an intersection, is based on the belief that your destination is in that direction. The way you interact with others stems in part from whether you believe them to be trustworthy or not. You provide for yourself and your family because you believe that is both necessary and the right thing to do.
When you realize that your basic beliefs drive your behavior rather than anyone or anything outside yourself, you maintain control over how you react in any situation. If you believe that other people or events cause you to behave the way you do, you are at the mercy of the outside world! Others do not cause your behavior: you act based on your beliefs.
How does this relate to mental health?
Your mental health depends on the quality of your basic beliefs.
It is mentally healthy to hold beliefs that are consistent with inbornintentions: human dignity, freedom of choice, sense of accomplishment and love. For instance, when you believe that you are a worthwhile person because you have human dignity, you are likely to understand that others are also worthwhile and treat them accordingly. If you believe that you are the scum of the earth, you are likely to treat yourself and others in that light. When a belief is contrary to an inbornintention, the quality of your mental health and of your life suffers.
How can you improve your mental health?
No one has perfect mental health because it is impossible to hold basic beliefs that are entirely consistent with three of the four inbornintentions. You can hold beliefs that are in total harmony with human dignity, but the other three are subject to too many variables and outside influences to allow for a perfect relationship.
To improve your mental health, start with any thought, feeling or behavior that is troubling you. Examine yourself through introspection and bring up to consciousness the basic belief(s) related to the problem area. When you have done this, you will be able to change the basic belief by stating a new basic belief in your thinking brain that is opposite the old one and then practicing behaviors consistent with it until it becomes a part of your subconscious mind. Ergo! Your mental health just improved!
For more information
For a better understanding of some of the terms used in this post, such as “thinking brain,” “feeling brain,” “inbornintentions,” “basic beliefs,” “human dignity,” “sense of accomplishment,” “anxiety,” or “defense mechanisms,” go to the Glossary.
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