Qualities and Characteristics of Basic Beliefs

It will be well to bear in mind some of the qualities and characteristics of basic beliefs and how they affect mental health.

Basic beliefs are true

Basic beliefs are true by definition. Whether based on objective, provable facts or on faith alone, they are true as far as you are concerned. You are probably not concerned with whether or not a particular basic belief is objectively true or not, nor whether someone else would agree with you as to the truth or falsity of your basic belief. Being true, they are beyond question by others or even by yourself…unless you choose to examine them.

Most people find it difficult to question their own basic beliefs because being wrong would be an unacceptable indication of weakness and expose personal vulnerability. Additionally, acknowledging an erroneous basic belief would entail a contradiction, which is contrary to how the subconscious mind functions. The subconscious mind has a stake in holding on to and stoutly maintaining its “truth.” It seems to insist, “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up.” As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Monahan (1927-2003) said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.”

The strength of your convictions never adds to the rightness, correctness or objective truth of a belief: simply believing it does not make it so. The opinions, judgments, teachings and views expressed by others may influence the formation of your basic beliefs, and the strength of your convictions are related to the level of confidence you have in that authority, but neither the authority nor the fact that you believe it has the ability to impart authenticity to any belief that you hold. Empirically provable facts form a solid basis for believing, but any source you choose to accept will enable you to form a strongly held basic belief.

Basic beliefs are learned rather than innate

Inbornintentions are inherent and a permanent part of your makeup. On the other hand, basic beliefs have been learned through experience and are subject to change, given new experiences . While it is impossible to change what happened, it is possible to change the meaning attached to a prior experience. Doing so will automatically change behaviors and feelings, and, in many instances, lead to improved mental health. See the post: “How To Change a Basic Belief”.

Basic beliefs are retained until modified or replaced

Basic beliefs remain in the subconscious until changed or modified by new experiences. Over time, memories and emotions may become less acute or even fade away entirely, but this is not the case with basic beliefs. Unlike memories and emotions that are subject to attrition, basic beliefs remain unchanged simply by the passage of time. There is no automatic mechanism for bringing about change in a basic belief.

Basic beliefs are nonverbal

Basic beliefs are concepts held in the subconscious mind, and they perform their function without the necessity of words. These concepts somehow exist as interlocking connections between neurons with their intervening synapses, which is a wordless world. How this process works remains a mystery, but with conscious effort, verbal expression of an underlying basic belief is frequently possible.

Consider the difference between a map and the area it represents. Maps, no matter how detailed, only approximate a territory even though they are extremely helpful in exploring a particular locale. Likewise, the verbal expression of a basic belief (a map in the conscious mind) may characterize that basic belief fairly accurately, but can never do so perfectly. Like a map and the terrain it represents, verbally expressing a subconscious basic belief is helpful in understanding that belief.

Basic beliefs frequently conflict with each other

Since you have an untold number of basic beliefs stemming from a lifetime of experience, you may find yourself holding basic beliefs that contradict or compete with each other. This can lead to a great deal of confusion and conflict.

For instance, literature and history are replete with examples of conflicts between love and sense of accomplishment. It would be mentally healthy to hold beliefs directing you towards achieving your personal goals (work, hobbies, etc.) and at the same time holding strong beliefs relating to loved ones (spouse, children, etc.). Since putting both love and sense of accomplishment into practice places heavy demands on your limited resources of time, energy and finances, you will never have enough to fully satisfy every demand. Hence, an internal conflict occurs when you have to decide on how to allocate what few resources you do have and an external conflict can easily come about when you tip the scale too far in one direction or the other. The best you can do is strike a reasonable balance between the two.

A question for your consideration and comment

Are the important beliefs that your hold derived from faith or objective evidence?

Next step: Go to Basic Beliefs Determine What You Think, Feel and Do