“In all affairs, it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”
- Bertrand Russell
I think it is wise to question your beliefs from time to time. When you examine your beliefs do you rationally know why you hold a particular belief? What if you are wrong?
How Your Beliefs Are Formed
Your brain is a belief-making engine. We are pattern-seeking primates. In other words, your brain naturally connects the dots in your environment. Point (A) appears to connect to Point (B), and through association learning, we establish a neural connection. As with the classically conditioned Pavlov’s dogs, we tend to form the same learned associations. When random patterns are in the loop, it can complicate matters. We may create a connection between two points which is, in fact, false. An example would be if you went to a casino and played the slot machines. We make the connection that the slot machines operate on a random basis because they appear to be random. When in fact, they have precisely programmed algorithms which determine when a payout occurs. However, we continue to pull on the handle thinking the next rotation of the wheels will be our lucky day.
There are of course times when the associations we make are in fact is real. How are we to know which relationships are real and which ones are false. I believe that the use of logic and reasoning can determine that. Run your beliefs through a logic and reasoning model to determine if they are true. The challenge with this is, once firmly established patterns are paved in our neural pathways, we encounter cognitive dissonance.
What is Cognitive Dissonance?
This is a definition from simplepsychology.org – “Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance.” Cognitive dissonance plays a significant role in your life. It is why we hold on to certain beliefs even when all the evidence tells us it is not true. Unless you are sadomasochistic, no one likes discomfort. Life embraces balance.
Staring at the shadows on the wall
In our culture, we experience a continuous bombardment of information. Either through non-stop marketing, social media or instant access to a vast amount of information. But, be honest with yourself. How do you to know what is the truth, misinformation, and what are outright lies propaganda? There was a fascinating yet disturbing exhibition at the Downtown Phoenix Library a couple of years ago. The purpose of the display was to demonstrate the similarities between Nazi propaganda that occurred in Germany during the Nazi’s reign and current marketing campaigns and present forms of so-called “news” and government publications. It is not to say that all the current marketing or “news” is nefarious, but you do see the same methods used today that Goebbels perfected seventy-five years ago. So make an effort to shine the light of logic and reason on your beliefs. Make sure they hold up to that light over time. For truth or what is considered fact can change over time. The majority of people in the world at one time believed the world was flat. Have you ever wondered what the current equivalent of thinking the earth is flat is widely believed today?