How we acquire OUr beliefs

Barry Neil Kaufman is an emotional intelligence best-selling author who, in my opinion, fantastically answers how we acquire beliefs from outside entities and create some of our own in his book Power Dialogues: The Ultimate System for Personal Change. I’ve provided the book excerpts below.

As a result of reading newspapers, watching newscasts, viewing people and actual events around us, we often draw conclusions, such as, “Walking alone at night in a major city can be dangerous” or “We can walk safely at night in certain areas of the city” or “Investing in a volatile stock market can be very foolish and risky” or “Investing knowledgeably in a volatile stock market can be extraordinary rewarding.” In these examples, we have taken data (the evidence) presented in the media and made up beliefs about them.

However, we often first acquire or adopt a belief and then look for evidence to support it. Everyone around us continually sells beliefs: parents to children, teachers to students, peer groups to fellow members, minsters to their congregation, managers to their employees, manufacturers to their customers, advertisers to their consumers, doctors to their patients, politicians to their constituencies. Additionally, we have the guidance and role modeling of books, movies, television, the Internet and an infinite number of other informational, educational, and entertainment resources. We are not excluded from the belief-selling process either. We continually try to influence those around us in key and distant relationships in an effort to make our lives work more smoothly and successfully. We are not only belief-making creatures but also salespeople attempting to sell many of the beliefs we have acquired or created. This is neither good nor bad; this is simply how we operate.

…Which comes first: the chicken or the egg? The evidence or the belief? As a student of beliefs and the power of beliefs, I view the system as operating in both directions. However, the functional bias tends to be in the direction of acquiring and adopting beliefs sold to us and then acquiring supportive evidence. Without an organizing belief, there is just information. Information acquires meaning in light of a belief.

In order to uphold their standards and to insure their continuity, societies create communal or common beliefs and require their members to adopt them. From a very early age, we are encouraged and rewarded when we conform to the values and principles of those around us. Constant reinforcement becomes a compelling incentive to acquire without question the beliefs, biases and even prejudices that our parents, peers, teachers or minsters hold. If everyone in the culture around me holds the belief, for example, that it is not good to intermingle with people of different racial or religious backgrounds, who am I to challenge it? In extreme situations, large groups of people have sometimes adopted prevailing beliefs in their countries (which are supported and encouraged by evidence articulated rhetorically in speeches and the communications of controlled media systems), which have resulted in mass genocide….Constant reinforcement of beliefs through words and deeds works powerfully to make them virtually unquestionable in certain societies. Cultural gatekeepers do not serve up contrasting evidence; they support only the collective or agreed-upon perspective.

Barry Kaufman studied under a psychotherapist named Bruce Di Marsico who put forward the idea that there are certain things we think should make us emotional. I describe the impact of this revelation in my social anxiety journey in my story.

Book links are Amazon affiliate links that give me a small percentage of the sale if you decide to buy the books.

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