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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.

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    Last Updated on October 23, 2018

    Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

    Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

    My mother was a great knitter and produced some wonderful garments such as Aran sweaters which were extremely fashionable when I was young. She also knitted while my father drove, which caused great amusement. I often wondered why she did that but I think I know the answer now.

    Knitting is good for your mental health, according to some research studies. The Washington Post mentions a 2013 survey of about 3,500 knitters who were asked how they felt after a knitting session. Over 80% of them said they definitely felt happier. It is not a totally female occupation as more and more men take it up to get the same benefits. Harry Styles (One Direction) enjoys knitting. So does Russell Crowe although he does it to help him with anger management!

    The Neural Knitwork Project

    In Australia, Neural Knitworks was started to encourage people to knit and also become aware of neuroscience and mental health issues. Knit-ins were organized but garments were not the only things created. The knitters produced handmade neurons (1,665 of them!) to make a giant brain. The 2015 project will make more neural knitted networks (neural knitworks) and they will be visible online. You can see some more examples of woolly neurons on the Neural Knitworks Facebook page.

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    While people knitted, crocheted and crafted yarn, they listened to experts talking about mental health issues such as addiction, dementia, depression, and how neurons work.

    The knitting and neural connection

    The human brain has about 80 billion neurons. Learning new skills, social interaction, and physical activity all help to forge neural connections which keep the brain healthy and active. They are creating networks to control movement and make memories. The knitters learn that as they create the woollen neurons, their own neurons are forming new pathways in their brains. Their creations are mimicking the processes in their brains to a certain extent. At the same time, their brains are registering new and interesting information as they learn interesting facts about the brain and how it works. I love the knitworks and networks pun. What a brilliant idea!

    More mental health benefits from knitting

    Betsan Corkhill is a physiotherapist and has published some results of completed studies on her website, appropriately named Stitchlinks. She conducted some experiments herself and found that knitting was really helpful in reducing panic and anxiety attacks.

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    “You are using up an awful lot of brain capacity to perform a coordinated series of movements. The more capacity you take up by being involved in a complex task, the less capacity you have for bad thoughts.”- Betsan Corkhill

    Knitters feel happier and in a better mood

    Ann Futterman-Collier, Well Being Lab at Northern Arizona University, is very interested in how textile therapy (sewing, knitting, weaving and lace-making) can play an important role in mood repair and in lifting depressive states.

    She researched 60 women and divided them into three different groups to do some writing, meditating and work with textiles. She monitored their heartbeat, blood pressure and saliva production. The women in the textiles group had the best results when their mood was assessed afterwards. They were in a better mood and had managed to reduce their negative thoughts better than those in the writing and meditation groups.

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    “People who were given the task to make something actually had less of an inflammatory response in the face of a ‘stressor’.” – Dr. Futterman Collier

    The dopamine effect on our happiness

    Our brains produce a chemical called dopamine. This helps us to feel happy, more motivated, and assists also with focus and concentration. We get a boost of dopamine after sex, food, exercise, sleep, and creative activities.

    There are medications to increase dopamine but there are lots of ways we can do it naturally. Textile therapy and crafting are the easiest and cheapest. We can create something and then admire it. In addition, this allows for a little bit of praise and congratulations. Although this is likely not your goal, all these can boost our dopamine and we just feel happier and more fulfilled. These are essential in facing new challenges and coping with disappointment in life.

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    “Sometimes, people come up to me when I am knitting and they say things like, “Oh, I wish I could knit, but I’m just not the kind of person who can sit and waste time like that.” How can knitting be wasting time? First, I never just knit; I knit and think, knit and listen, knit and watch. Second, you aren’t wasting time if you get a useful or beautiful object at the end of it.” – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much.

    If you thought knitting and textiles were for old ladies, think again!

    Featured photo credit: DSC_0012/Mary-Frances Main via flickr.com

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