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Where Do Beliefs Come From? 🧠
Learn the Neuroscience of Beliefs (10min Read)
What is a belief?
Internal Representations (IR)
IR & Beliefs
The Belief Wheel
Limiting Beliefs & Baggage
The Mirror Test
Today we will be covering beliefs. A wise man named Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t you are right.” And boy was he correct.
Beliefs are huge drivers of our overall life outcomes. They can cause us to self-sabotage and even drive our negative thinking itself.
First, let's talk about what specifically a belief is.
Scientifically, a belief is defined as,
“A conviction of truth without its verification, meaning it is a subjective mental interpretation created from our own perceptions, reasoning, or communication.”
This is a little hard to digest, so you can think of beliefs kind of like thinking habits.
They are not just simply thoughts and ideas, they’re deeper.
For example, murder is wrong. You don’t even have to think about it, you just know it to be true, almost hypnotically.
Core beliefs or values like this are at the deepest level of our programming.
Why are beliefs important?
As our brain was growing up evolutionarily, it became more important for our survival for it to be able to predict its environment faster and faster!
To do this it had to learn to take shortcuts to keep us alive while at the same time-saving energy for higher-level cognitive processing.
Beliefs are these time and energy-saving shortcuts.
They allow us to distill the millions of bits of sensory information hitting our sensory organs per second and “jump to conclusions” quicker.
Since our brain is in a dark skull, it needs this sensory information to make sense of the world, and to keep us alive!
We are subconsciously getting bombarded with about a trillion bits of this type of sensory information per second.
Consciously, however, we can only process about 126 bits of this information at a time.
So, where does the rest of this information go?!
3 broad things happen to it, Deletions, Distortions, and Generalizations.
These are called Cognitive Distortions, and as we grow up, our brain is filtering our reality subconsciously using these 3 methods all the time.
Deletion happens when we selectively pay attention to a certain part of an experience and not others.
For example, as you’re reading this, you’re deleting the feeling of your clothes on your body.
Now that I’ve said something, your conscious focus has shifted to that 126 bits of sensory information.
This can happen in more abstract ways as well, like if you believe no one likes you, this brings your conscious focus to the 126 bits of info that proves to you that no one likes you, and deletes all of the people who do like you.
Distortions occur when we misrepresent reality, like seeing a snake in the forest which causes us to jump away when in reality it was just a piece of rope.
Jumping out of the way of a snake could save your life, so it’s worth it to our brain to be wrong in this case.
And last is generalizations these are conclusions we draw based on only one or two experiences or events.
Think about touching a hot stove, how many times did you need to touch one before you realized you shouldn’t touch another? What about a hot grill, or fire?
After getting burned by a stove that cooks food, you don’t have to also touch a grill or fire to figure out the same thing, your brain generalizes the 1 experience to the others!
All 3 of these Cognitive Distortions have helped us explode evolutionarily, but they can also get us in trouble at times by leading to implicit biases, cognitive dissonance, limiting beliefs, trauma, and a whole host of other things.
Our Internal Representation (IR)
As we grow up, our brain uses our senses, and these filtering mechanisms to create an Internal Representation (IR) of what's going on outside of our skull!
This is created over time and develops into our self-concept or sense of self.
This process starts with external events coming in through our sensory organs as visual, sound, kinesthetic, gustatory, or olfactory bits of information.
They are then filtered by using the 3 cognitive distortions we just talked about, and finally, they are stored in our long-term memory to help us make sense of the world.
As we’re kids, the library of our long-term memory is pretty empty, but over time, it fills up with beliefs, values, past decisions/experiences, etc that we can use in the future.
This library of information becomes subconscious to us over time, but they are still there helping filter new sensory information all the time like in the picture above.
These filters act as a projector for our senses, which is what creates our internal representation of reality.
Behavior & Your Internal Representation
This internal representation is intertwined with our State and our Physiology which then determine our outward behaviors.
These 3 things all affect one another! For example, let’s use a bakery to demonstrate this.
Stop for a moment and think about what memories or associations you have in your mind about bakeries.
Some people have positive memories of fresh-baked cookies or bread.
If this is your IR of a bakery, walking into a bakery would put you into a good mood, and you’d become excited to eat some cookies!
This is how your IR affects your State Top-Down. The positive memories stored in your IR & mind created positive emotions & actions around the bakery.
Sticking with this same example, imagine you had a pounding headache on the day you walk into the bakery. What would this do to your State?
Instead of a good mood and excitement, your state would change to one of pain, which could make you want to get out of there!
This is how your Body’s Physiology can affect your State Bottom-Up.
This battle between our IR in our mind & our Physiology in our body is going on all the time, and whichever is stronger is what determines our State, which then determines our actions/reactions!
At Rewrite & Rise, we use the Belief Wheel to help our clients understand this process in simpler terms, and how it creates our beliefs over time!
The Belief Wheel
The Belief Wheel process has 4 parts, which are Results, Beliefs, Feelings/Thoughts & Actions. Imagine them in a circle like in the picture below.
Let’s pretend the result that you want is to lose weight. So say you have a conscious thought “I want to lose 25 lbs.”
However, as you go to achieve this, you get to the belief portion of the wheel, and subconsciously you have the belief that “I am not worthy enough to be healthy.”
Continuing around the wheel, this belief affects your thoughts negatively, making your mind focus on only the memories that prove to you that you aren’t worthy enough to be healthy.
These thoughts make you feel worthless, hopeless, etc.
These feelings cause you to avoid the actions you need to take to become healthy.
By not acting, you get the same result of not being healthy, which proves the belief that you’re not worthy correct, further reinforcing it in your subconscious, and the negative self-talk & self-sabotaging continue.
This can be a vicious cycle if you don’t know how to escape it.
This is how beliefs are programmed into us, and this cycle is constantly spinning.
Anything we see, hear or experience as a child can wire in a belief in this way.
Our environment is a huge factor in determining what types of things are wired in this way.
Whether that be trauma, growing up in the church, or having divorced parents, whatever it is that makes up your experiences has shaped your IR & beliefs through the Belief Wheel process.
These beliefs then shape our outcomes in life.
If you feel behind or stuck in certain areas of your life but can’t figure out why I suggest you check out our Limiting Beliefs Guide to figure out what beliefs may be holding you back!
Additionally, we get a lot of beliefs from our parents or the people we associate with.
For example, say your mom was constantly obsessed with how she looked as you grew up.
Over time this can create a belief that your self-worth is correlated to your outside appearance. This belief will dictate and drive your behaviors & actions in the future.
This is happening at a rapid pace when we are younger because we need to be like sponges so we can learn how to survive and thrive quickly!
It is this mechanism that creates our beliefs and drives our behavior.
Baggage, When Beliefs Go Bad
Baggage is a term we use for beliefs that don’t serve you, sometimes called limiting beliefs.
As you now know, your Brain is always Generalizing, Distorting, and Deleting things.
These cognitive distortions are what can lead to baggage.
Imagine getting bullied growing up. To protect itself in the future, your brain has wired in the belief that all people are mean.
It generalized the 3 or 4 bullies into a belief about all people and deleted the good people that exist out there distorting your IR which then influences your future behaviors.
Now, 20 years later you may have trouble making friends, trusting people, etc. This baggage is now getting in the way of the life you want to live, and needs to be released!
Let’s talk about a quick and easy way to identify potential baggage in your life.
The Mirror Test
When was the last time someone pushed your buttons? Something about the way they were behaving really got under your skin…
Ever wonder why that is? It’s because other people are mirrors of our own subconscious insecurities & beliefs about ourselves.
If someone showing off or being a know-it-all boils your potatoes, you’ve got some baggage to handle.
While uncomfortable, it is also enlightening to take these behaviors, and really dive into what about them makes you feel/think the way you do, using the Belief Wheel.
This is called a Belief Wheel Journal, and it’s a process we walk you through in our Limiting Beliefs Guide we mentioned earlier, feel free to check it out!
I hope this was eye opening for you. Please email us back with any suggests for future blogs you’d like to see!
Until then… Live Heroically!