Why do we make the same mistakes? How do our belief ruin or improve our lives? How do we actually identify our beliefs and how do we change them if they’re not working for us?
The following article is taken from a 4 day 12 module course that I wrote on Addictionology in South African context.
* * * Belief System : What I believe about anything, i.e. God, people, friendship, love, sin, satan, demons, evil, sex, money, tattoos, happiness, peace, fulfilment, owls, symbols, open ladders, cats, whatever.
∞ ∞ Value System : Anything that I have placed great value or importance on e.g. money, wife, car, job, looks, clothes, education, acceptance etc. This rules my ability to be happy.
+ + + Memories : My emotional response, behavioural response, chemical response.
* ∞ + These determine how I see myself, how I see the world and how I respond to it.
There are many things that the book of Proverbs warns us about, It is known as the book of wisdom which was written by Solomon who the Bible claims was and will always be, the wisest man on earth. The greatest warning that he makes can be found in “Above all else, guard your HEART, for out of it spring forth the issues of life” Proverbs 4:23. In modern day terms, the heart of man is known as the subconscious mind. He warns us above all other warnings to guard this part of ourselves, as out of the heart or subconscious spring forth the issues of life. The Hebrew meaning of the word “life” refers to wholeness and completeness. For the sake of explaining how our wholeness or completeness is affected, I will refer to the heart of man instead of the subconscious.
Another scripture that tells us more about the heart is “As a man thinketh in his HEART so is he” Proverbs 23:7. The Hebrew meaning if the word “thinketh” is the word gatekeeper. In other words, the beliefs of our heart keep us from something and so we remain unchanged. The previous scripture tells us that the issues of wholeness or life flow from within. If those issues, perspectives, views, opinions or logic that flow from within contradict what we believe, they do not come through. The gatekeeper or belief does not allow us to consider it. Similarly, as we hear or are taught logic, perspectives or truths that contradict what we believe, we reject them. “A double minded man is unstable in ALL his ways” James 1:6. This scripture refers to a person who has not made up his mind in what he believes and a man or woman who has two opposing beliefs on one matter.
For example, Christians generally believe that their sin is forgiven. But they are always asking for forgiveness. It does not make sense to ask for forgiveness if you are already forgiven does it? This double mindedness creates instability in ALL of that persons ways. Beliefs are formed out of fear and many of the beliefs that most people have are not even their own. They have simply bought into the belief out of the need to have an answer. Copernicus said, “To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” Similarly, Albert Einstein challenged us to think for ourselves with this beautiful statement, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”
Why is it that we stop thinking, don’t challenge what we or others believe, or simply believe what seems to be true because it is generally accepted by the masses to be so or seems to work? Fear! Fear is the reason. I will continue on how beliefs are formed in the chapter – What do I believe and why do I believe it? – and how we are influenced to believe through fear. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” Matthew 12:34. This scripture is quite simple really, it means that you will be able to find out what a man believes just by listening to the words he uses. A counsellor of mine at Bible School, Pst. Colleen Stringer once stated, “All behaviour reflects a goal”. Similarly, all words reflect what a man believes in his heart or his subconscious.
“They are ever listening, but cannot hear. They are ever looking but cannot see. They cannot understand because their HEARTS have become calloused” Matthew 13:14,15. In this scripture, Jesus is explains that people are deaf and blind to the truth simply because they are not open to being wrong. They believe that they are right and this closed mindedness or calloused heart makes it a waste of time in reasoning another perspective, view, opinion or logic with them. Christianity contradicts the belief of modern recovery programs that addiction cannot be cured. According to the book of Isaiah chapter 53, Christ provided healing for ALL disease. It is received not by asking for it because it has already been provided but by choosing to believe that it has. Asking is proof of unbelief of what has already happened.
What do I believe and why do I believe it?
The key to being stable in ALL your ways I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details. – Albert Einstein This is quite a profound desire don’t you think? To know what God believes, what His view and opinion is, what His logic is. The rest is a waste of time. Any other knowledge besides ultimate truth will lead us away from wholeness and completeness. How then are beliefs formed and why do we stop forming them? As I mentioned earlier, they are formed by fear and are held by fear. Have you ever heard of childlike faith? It is quite different from adult faith isn’t it? Until a certain age children ask questions to which adults try and give answers. But invariably, the answers do not suffice and they begin to ask why. Take this example of two little boys who ask their dads why the sky is blue. One little boy’s father will say, “because God painted it blue my boy” and the other might say, “it’s because of the reflection of the sea on the atmosphere son”.
Now picture these same two boys in a discussion at school. One will tell the other that he knows that the sky is blue because God painted it blue and of course, his daddy would never lie to him. The other would then correct him by saying that its blue because of the sea and that his daddy won’t lie to him either. Of course, it could be argued that both statements are true, but children don’t see it that way. When it seems to them that there is another perspective that contradicts what their daddy has told them, they will immediately defend it. Childlike trust or faith. They will even defend it to the point of “teaching the other kid a lesson”. When it is explained to them that they are both correct, doubt and mistrust enter their hearts, fear is born and they begin to ask why. The instability caused by contradiction creates fear in us. We need to know answers in order to feel safe. When we are shown that we are incorrect, the first thing that we experience is fear. Fear of making mistakes and fear of the consequences we have to face because of choices that we have made based on what we believe.
I was once proudly told by a Christian man whose son had suffered with heroin addiction for 8 years that in bringing up his son, he had always punished him when he had done something wrong or disobeyed. He had sometimes punished his son through “hidings” with his hand, a cane or his belt. When I asked him why he did this, he proudly quoted scripture to me, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” and “He chastises those He loves”. I then asked him what he believed those scriptures to mean to which he replied that a child should be punished when they are wrong, and that the rod refers to a hiding with a stick. He had based his son’s correction on what he believed those scriptures to mean. I tried to explain that the word rod also was used as a term to describe the scrolls on which the scriptures were written and that chastisement, and discipline mean correction and teaching in love respectively.
I explained that my perspective was that when a child is wrong or disobeys, that he should be taught or corrected with the logic of God within scripture and failing to do this would result in the child being spoiled. My perspective was met with anger and he strongly defended what he had done. It was extremely difficult for him to consider that my perspective would have benefited his son and their relationship. It was met with anger because he was faced with the reality that if he was wrong and I was right, then he had been dealing with his son incorrectly over the years and that he was partly responsible for his son turning out as an addict.
The consequences were too much for him to deal with and the meeting ended abruptly. His son told me a few days later that his dad had taken responsibility for his actions and apologized for the way in which he has treated him.
It is quite simple believe it or not, to identify what you believe. It is however, more challenging in changing what you believe. It is also possible to start out one morning believing one thing and end off that day believing something entirely different about our world, our situation, or ourselves. Every morning of every day we are faced with a choice. Not the most important choice of the day but it leads us to the second choice of our day which I believe, if not made correctly, will ensure our failure or success every day. As we wake up we are faced with the first choice. Do I open my eyes or keep them closed? If I choose to keep them closed, I go back to sleep and I avoid my second choice of the day. No problem.
There will come a time however when I will have to make my first choice to open my eyes. My next choice then hits me like a sledgehammer in the chest. Everything from my past until now, this very moment, every memory, mistake, belief or emotion attached to those comes to mind in that split second between sleep and consciousness. In that very moment, if I do not form an opinion about my past, I fail. If I do not choose the correct view and opinion, perspective or logic before I begin my day, each day, I fail. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail! If I do not choose my perspective on my day ahead in advance, I fail right there and then. A successful man is a man who prepares, chooses in advance how he or she will address certain matters and chooses what he or she believes.
Created to choose, changing beliefs
Creating a new belief system “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” – James1:6
I have noticed that whenever someone says, I am this or I am that, they are in fact stating what they believe about themselves. The words, I can, I can’t, I want, I need etc. are also statements of identity or choices about what a person believes about themselves. It is possible to believe and doubt at the same time. The Roman soldier said to Jesus, “I believe, help me with my unbelief” ?:?. Jesus also said, “If you believe in your heart and doubt not” Mark 11:23-26. And so we see that Bible refers to double mindedness or opposing beliefs. It is not enough to believe something, we also must remove the doubt. I have developed a therapy which I call Emotional Behavioural Response Reconditioning. This simple exercise will help us determine what we do or don’t believe. The Bible says that the eyes are the windows to the soul. From the preceding identity diagram and from scripture, the soul is defined as the mind, will and emotions. The soul is also the manifestation of the condition of the heart but also, a gateway to the heart and its belief systems. Have you ever noticed people who do not like making eye contact? Ever wondered why? We are unconsciously aware that people can see inside of us. Did you know that 60% of communication is non-verbal? In other words we “hear” or “see” a person by what we can see through their behaviour, body language or through their eyes. With the following exercise, find a mirror and begin to look at your face in the mirror. Now repeat the following phrase OUT LOUD, “I am a lovable person”. Repeat the exercise, but this time look yourself in the eye when doing so. After doing this remain quiet and continue to look yourself IN THE EYE. You will hear what your heart believes. For most people with defective identities or belief systems, this is a very uncomfortable exercise. Notice as well that your emotional state of being will change after a memory has been triggered by the statement. The memory or emotion is reconditioned by repeating each phrase whilst looking into one’s own eyes continuously. You will notice that memories which contradict the statement will continue to come to mind. This must be counteracted by imaging oneself to be in the truth of the statement by imagining it to be true, imagining the emotion that is experienced as if it were true to oneself and bringing the emotion into the present. Information + Imagination + Emotion + Confession + Repetition = Belief.
Affirmation belief – I AM Kind, Gentle, Calm, Loving, Lovable, Happy, Friendly, Generous, Funny, Acceptable, Complete, Worthwhile, Intelligent, Attractive, Wise Controlled, Influential, Interesting, Perfect.
In completing this exercise, find a pad and pen and continue with the list provided above. Add positive character attributes to the I AM column. Make it as long as possible and do the exercise daily before the day begins. Choose your view and opinion of yourself before the lies of your past experience and world moral values attack you mercilessly later on in your day. Notice, what we want to be in the I AM column, we already are. We just don’t believe it and fail to choose it constantly. When we believe it and refuse to doubt it, then we will be it.