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Beliefs, Convictions and Perceptions
Henri Frédéric Amiel tells us, “A belief is not true because it is useful.” Rather, a belief is useful when it’s true. But the truth of a belief depends on one’s perspective on life. It’s a slippery slope on which we can lose our footing by virtue of the perceptual filters that operate oftentimes subliminally. We need to become as conscious as possible of the cognitive and emotional patterns we engage in when interacting with someone in the context of romantic love, and thereby discern if we are enhancing the rapport with our significant other or diminishing it. In the latter scenario, we have recourse to our internal resources to make the changes that might be required to enrich our relationship for all the right reasons.
What are beliefs? They are statements about ourselves or the world that we consider to be true. The paradox is that we often accept them as true because we believe they are, but upon questioning we can arrive at an appreciation that some, or perhaps many, of our beliefs require updating. To the extreme, some of our beliefs that may have been positively enabling in the past are no longer useful for what we want now – they have become constraining or limiting – and ought to be transformed or even jettisoned from our consciousness.
Witness this man’s awareness: “I know what I believe, which doesn’t mean that I think I’m right about anything. It’s my understanding of the world, and it’s ever evolving with each new life experience. In fact, when I discover I’m wrong about something, it gives me the chance to correct my belief system.” Such transformations are not necessarily easy to make, especially for beliefs that are deep-seated or even subconscious, but a critical key can be found in the language we use to state the beliefs and their pertinence to our current life.
Words are a convenient means of capturing concepts and meanings for purposes of communicating them, but they only re-present the concepts and meanings. They are a vehicle to help us navigate the open spaces between what we express and what our interlocutors understand, so that ideally we end up at more or less the same semantic points of reference. An anonymous quote claims, “I’m only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.” This is true to some extent in that we cannot assume responsibility for other people’s beliefs, convictions or perceptions, but in a love relationship we are much better served when we make the effort to bridge the semantic gaps to offer the greatest possibility that what we say and what is understood are as close a match as possible.
An old adage professes, “The map is not the territory.” It is to our detriment to assume that the map is always a reliable indicator of the territory, or even that the map itself is valid. Words are like the road signs on a map, and the way we use them can lead others to the destination we intend, or can lead them astray. In fact, perhaps paradoxically so, a map is only as practical as the willingness of the users to clarify it whenever necessary. To the astute observer, your convictions and beliefs are conveyed by means of everything you say and do. Once you are fully conscious of this, you can use the power of your expressions and actions to relay to the world around you what you stand for and what you won’t stand for. It’s your prerogative as an independent human being to live your life and to love as you see fit, assuming your moral character and ethics are honourable.
Often, the difference that makes the difference between “the way things are” and “the way things ought to be” is our perception of our own ability to make the changes necessary to get us from the prior to the latter. The fact that we are able to conceive of “the way things ought to be” in and of itself can be sufficient motivation to propel us forward. But without the courage to take our destiny in our hands, and without the faith that all things will work out the way they are meant to work out, what we conceive will remain only a figment of our imagination rather than becoming a determining factor in our reality.
Understanding that our beliefs are the foundation upon which we build our identities, we correspondingly identify with various aspects of the world around us and thus define ourselves by means of ourselves. It’s a virtue to have a strong sense of self and to express that congruently in the world, and yet we still ought to verify that our projections into the world have a natural resonance with the nature of things. If we do not verify in this way, and insist that the way we see the world is in fact the way the world is, we may perpetuate an illusion. The universe will likely respond with illusions of its own.
An anonymous quote counsels us, “Don’t believe everything you think.” If science can make a definitive determination, as per our current understanding, that aerodynamically a bumble bee is not supposed to be able to fly, nature plays its magic on us given that bumble bees everywhere are indeed able to fly. If we believe ourselves to be right – and, more dangerously, if we believe we are right about believing ourselves to be right – we will miss the nuances and subtleties of nature that tell us that everything is probable according to its own possibilities of existing.
Given our free will, the choice is always ours to get ahead, get behind, or simply stay put wherever we are, however we are. It would be so much more fulfilling to give ourselves permission to actualize our dreams, on purpose. The gifts of our own presence of mind, presence of heart, and presence of spirit/soul are ours to enjoy when we choose to enjoy what is ours. There is nothing that “ought to be” in any way other than how we truly wish them to be. The conditions and circumstances of your life are the context in which you live. The content of what you create is up to you to live to the full measure of your creation. The universe gives you the tools you need. What you construct or destroy becomes the story of your life, your love, and your work. You are thus invited to choose wisely in order to make a difference that makes a difference.
A.S.A. Harrison wrote, “We live alone in our cluttered psyches, possessed by our entrenched beliefs, our fatuous desires, our endless contradictions – and like it or not we have to put up with this in one another.” Sometimes there is no room left for the real self to claim its own space. This is probably the saddest condition of all, in which we don’t recognize ourselves in ourselves; our soul does not find its own reflection in our persona. The question is one of referential index: Is our persona referenced on self, or on others? And to what extent?
The universe, in its mysterious ways, offers us enough evidence to support any belief we may hold. We may prove the truth of a positive belief, and yet we may also validate the reality of a negative belief. Which we choose to focus on is a matter of our free will. To the point, our beliefs about ourselves may even become our beliefs about reality. And thus the universe compels us to continually re-create ourselves in the image of our deepest sentiments. Nothing is “pie in the sky” if you really believe in it. Life will test your faith, but if you truly believe, life will also provide.
Copyright © 2017, Joseph Civitella.