The Second Component of Mental Health
A basic belief is what one believes to be true about anything. Every basic belief has a neural correlate: a set of discrete connections between neurons in the brain (probably in the cortex).
Qualities and Characteristics of Basic Beliefs
Basic beliefs are true by definition. Whether based on objective, provable facts or on faith alone, yours are true and valid for you.
Basic beliefs are learned through experience, unlike inbornintentions that are innate.
Basic beliefs are semi-permanent. The brain holds them subconsciously but instantly accessible until changed or modified by new experiences. Over time, memories and emotions may become less acute or even fade away entirely, but basic beliefs have far more staying power.
Basic beliefs may 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, conflict or compete with each other. This can lead to a great deal of internal confusion and external conflict.
The Three Tasks of Basic Beliefs
Basic beliefs provide a network of filters through which an incoming stimulus must pass in order to determine what happens in response to the stimulus. The beliefs accomplish their tasks seemingly at the speed of light.
First task: Is the new stimulus a threat?
The first task of the basic belief filter system is to determine whether an incoming stimulus results in a threat. A threat results when anything you see, hear, smell, feel or sense is contrary to a basic belief.
For instance, if you know (a basic belief) that your car must have four inflated tires to run properly, the sight (a stimulus) of a flat tire just when you want to use it will produce a threat because the stimulus and basic belief conflict.
When a basic belief determines that an incoming sensation is a threat, anxiety and a defense mechanism follow almost instantaneously, before cognitive awareness.
Second task: Is the new sensation significant?
The second task of the basic belief filter system is to identify stimuli that have significance. That is, the stimulus is threat-free but needs attention, needs to be acted on or needs further processing.
For instance, when the phone rings, you decide whether to answer it. When the traffic light turns yellow a few seconds before you reach the intersection, you decide whether to stop or to proceed. Examples are endless. Any stimulus that does not conflict with any basic belief but results in an action or behavior is significant. A stimulus does not have to be cataclysmic to be significant.
Beliefs provide the framework for deciding how to respond to all nonthreatening information. They dictate behavior invariably, automatically and almost instantaneously. However, on occasion you may deliberately take time to think about what you need or choose to do. However, absent this purposeful effort, basic beliefs dictate behaviors without conscious effort.
Basic beliefs have the monumental responsibility of determining how we live our lives!
Third task: Is the new sensation insignificant?
Finally, the third and final task of the basic belief filter system is to disregard nonthreatening and insignificant stimuli.
Many stimuli pose no threat, nor do they have any significance. For instance, you don’t feel the pressure that your clothes exert on your body. The sound of a train passing in the distance may go completely unnoticed.
When a basic belief determines that an incoming stimulus is insignificant, it is simply ignored.
This prevents a great deal of clutter from reaching the brain’s cortex and allows you to proceed as if the input never occurred, unburdened from the necessity of dealing with useless trivia. Otherwise, your limited thinking capacity would be overwhelmed, rendering you incapable of dealing with more pressing matters.
Basic Beliefs Determine What You Think, Feel and Do
- A basic belief is the basis for your thoughts. An unlimited number of thoughts can stem from your vast store of basic beliefs…but only one thought at a time.
- Basic beliefs are responsible for your feelings. When a new experience is similar to a previous one, feelings attached to the first event may be felt again. You may not even be consciously aware of the original experience that gives rise to a current feeling.
- Basic beliefs dictate much of your behavior. Consider for a moment how essential it is to be able to act without having to make conscious decisions. If it were not for the subconscious control of taking a step, reaching for an item or going about routine tasks, the thinking brain would have to do all that processing… an impossible burden. Basic beliefs determine the details of routine task performance without conscious effort.
Beyond the routine, basic beliefs inform you that something new is safe or attractive and therefore approachable, and they tell you what to avoid because it is unfamiliar or potentially dangerous.
Thanks to basic beliefs, routine tasks and responses to what goes on around you are automatic without the necessity for conscious thought. Your behaviors will be consistent with your basic beliefs because they are your only source for making decisions until you deliberately exercise thinking, reasoning or logic.
Questions for your consideration and comment
How would you express your basic belief about making your bed in the morning? Note how your belief dictates your behavior in this regard.
Can you think of a behavior that does not have its origin in a basic belief (other than reflexes or instincts)?
Now that you have a good understanding of inbornintentions and basic beliefs, it will be easy to understand how they interact to determine your mental health!
For the next segment on the Definition and Theory of Mental Health, click here.