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Do You Determine Your Beliefs, or Do Your Beliefs Determine You? (Part Two)

Do You Determine Your Beliefs, or Do Your Beliefs Determine You? (Part Two)

Do You Determine Your Beliefs or Do Your Beliefs Determine You?

    Following on from Part One of this three-part series on beliefs. Here is part two:

    Catholic Craig

    Growing up in a Catholic home which was regularly frequented by nuns and priests (friends of my folks), attending only Catholic schools, being taught about life (God, religion, marriage, relationships, sex, good, bad, right, wrong) exclusively from a Catholic perspective, hanging out with my Catholic friends and only ever seeing the inside of a Catholic church, I was probably never gonna be a Buddhist by my fifteenth birthday. Or even a Baptist or Anglican for that matter. My upbringing, my environment and my education taught me that I was born into the one true church. Whatever that means.

    As a teenager, I honestly felt sorry for all those non-Catholics who were going to hell; the ones in the fake churches. Whatever that means. After all, we had the Pope on our team; God’s personal representative on planet earth and a direct successor to good old Saint Peter – the first Pope. Apparently. How could I possibly go wrong?

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    Fortunately for me, I had somehow stumbled on to the right team. What are the chances? All those religions and I was born into the only one that has a hot-line to God and an old bloke in the Vatican with a big hat and his finger on the eternal pulse. And of course, the only religion that could get me to heaven. Talk about luck. Or Karma. Oops, we don’t mention Karma do we? That’s the other team.

    Sister Mary Patricia

    Here’s a sentence I was never gonna hear from the nuns in my religious education classes at school; “Okay students, we’ve decided to provide you all with an extensive overview of the core theology, philosophy and teaching of all the major religions of the world, then we’ll leave it up to you to explore the ‘God thing’ in your own way and see where you land; it’s important that you find your own truth, listen to your own heart and develop your own religious and spiritual beliefs and understanding.”

    Nope, there was never gonna be a bar mitzvah for me.

    No Hat Here

    Now, before you think I’m getting my anti-Catholic hat on, I’m not. I don’t have one. I loved (most of) my childhood, my Catholic friends, my education and I was taught and mentored by some fantastic nuns and priests. And of course I love my (very) Catholic parents.

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    What I am talking about is social, emotional and religious conditioning (in any system, organisation or religion) that tells me what to think, do and believe and doesn’t encourage me or allow me to explore and discover my own truth beyond the walls of that system. In fact, it discourages my exploration and free thinking by being critical of groups and individuals who think, believe and behave differently. And when I start to question the system or parts thereof, I am ridiculed and criticised. Possibly labelled rebellious, misguided and troublesome.

    The only reason I’m even talking about my Catholic upbringing is because that’s the only childhood I have. That’s my reference point. My experience. My story. I could just as easily be talking about any system that requires people to think, behave and believe a certain way in order to be a ‘member’. “If you don’t align with our doctrine, theology, thinking and rules then you can’t be part of our group; that is, you must believe what we believe. You won’t develop your own spiritual and religious beliefs, we will tell you what you can and can’t believe.”

    It’s in Our DNA

    In reality, we are all constantly being programmed (taught, influenced, impacted, shaped) by our world and everything and everyone in it. Our beliefs are always being moulded and manipulated (for better or worse) without us even being aware of it. Most of our beliefs are formed over a long period of time, which is why they become such a firmly entrenched (non-negotiable) part of our DNA. Our mental and emotional DNA anyway. And that lifetime of being taught a certain message and philosophy is what makes it very hard for us to consider another truth. Different beliefs.

    In considering something else (another version, option, way of living, thinking, seeing, believing) we often need to question what we’ve believed for ever and that makes us very uncomfortable. Scared even. I’ve worked with people who get angry when I even question what they believe. And I’m not talking about criticizing their beliefs, I’m talking about asking logical, thoughtful, intelligent questions. They won’t even consider that their beliefs may be wrong; it’s too traumatic, too painful and too uncomfortable. They’ve based an entire life around some of those beliefs, so who (the f***) am I to suggest anything else?! They make it impossible for themselves to learn anything new. And did I mention the anger?

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    The Pressure to Conform

    The pressure to conform (think, talk, act, believe a certain way) exists in all areas of the human experience way beyond the religious arena; schools, homes, workplaces, sporting clubs, political parties, gangs… anywhere that people gather. Even in Cyberspace (on-line).

    The Brain Hijacker

    Am I saying that our own beliefs shouldn’t align with a larger group? No, absolutely not. What I am saying is that we need to discover our own truth, learn our own lessons and determine our own beliefs and then if our core beliefs happen to align with a group that we want to be a part of, so be it. But don’t let someone else hijack your brain, your potential or your free will because you want acceptance in to their group. To conform is to compromise.

    I like the idea of being part of a group where identical beliefs and consensual thinking is not a pre-requisite for membership. Or acceptance. Or respect. That kind of group appeals to me. I think I might start one. Hang on, I have. And you’re part of it. You got that membership card right?

    It Ain’t a Cult

    By the way, I don’t want conformity in my group; I want thoughtful consideration of what I teach. I want you to consider what I write, explore it for yourself and see if it seems like ‘truth’ for you. Don’t accept what I write because you respect me; I may be wrong. You and I can respect each together without agreeing on every topic. Accept what I write when you know it to be real, valid, meaningful and relevant for you. If what I write feels right for you, it probably is. If it feels wrong for you, it probably is. I can teach you and motivate you (for a minute), but only you should determine your beliefs and only you can change your life. I’m not the answer for anyone; I’m a resource. The answer you’re looking for is in the mirror. Always has been.

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    Next time, in part three of this very long post I’m going to talk about:

    1. When should we change/question our beliefs.
    2. How we can change our (negative) beliefs.
    3. How our beliefs get in the way of our potential (and what to do about it).

    Let me know your thoughts on this topic. You know the drill.

    More by this author

    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

    Do You Make These 10 Common Mistakes Before Weighing Yourself? If your Childhood Sucked – It’s Time to Stop Blaming Your Parents! Exploring Relationships with the Single Weirdo Education Should be More than Academic Basics How to Stop Being an Over-Thinker

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    Last Updated on December 9, 2019

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

    Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

    Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

    1. Get Rationally Optimistic

    Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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    This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

    In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

    The result: no more mental stress.

    2. Unplug

    Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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    How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

    It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

    Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

    3. Easy on the Caffeine

    Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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    Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

    4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

    That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

    How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

    • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
    • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
    • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

    While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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    5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

    This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

    The result: mental stress will be gone!

    So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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