Beliefs are powerful
23. Mind over matter
How much the mind can influence the physical world has long fascinated people. Considering that most everyday items encountered had to be imagined before they were invented, it is only the extent of the impact that can be contested. A particularly crucial exhibition of the dynamic plays out in the well-known placebo effect, linking positive thinking about the curative values of medical treatments to their actual healing power. Given this fact, harnessing beliefs directly should also be possible and of immense promise.
Many beliefs are learned or passed on, often subconsciously, from others regarded as authorities. Others are generalisations based on how painful and pleasurable experiences in the past were interpreted. Believing in something means accepting it to be true, having a feeling certainty about it, even in the absence of proof. This mental bias (as identified so accurately by Daniel Kahneman and Tversky in their Nobel prize-winning work on psychological heuristics and biases ) attributes priority to it so that it’s judged worthy of attention. There is a continuum of attention that runs from total focus on internal reality to fixation on the opposite pole of external reality.
Most of the time, people move backwards and forwards along the continuum which connects the two extremes. In Buddhism, the Alaya – Vijnana, or store consciousness, contains the seeds of all thoughts, senses and desires, which will sprout or not depending on conditions they’re exposed to. Managing conditions to cultivate healthy ideations then, is where opportunity lies for the individual.
The Rules of the Mind are as follows:
- Every thought or idea causes a physical reaction.
- What the mind expects tends to happen.
- Imagination is far more powerful than reason.
- Conflicting ideas cannot be held simultaneously (without anxiety).
- An idea fixed in the subconscious remains forever, or until replaced. The longer the idea is held, the harder it is to change it.
- Established, emotionally induced symptoms tend to cause organic changes.
- Suggestions acted upon reduce the resistance to further suggestions.
- Conscious mind activity reduces the subconscious response.
These rules can be drawn on to challenge limiting beliefs which in turn dictate responses to situations; whether, for example, permission is given or denied to self to access capabilities. In support of this interaction, the case of Mr Wright and the drug Krebiozen is often cited. Obviously then, beliefs can often be either useful or damaging.
The exercise of shifting unhelpful beliefs can be done in steps.
1. Make a list of beliefs held about body, motivation, or anything of concern, that, even if they were once realistic and useful, currently engender powerless feelings.
2. Make another list of contrasting beliefs to do with optimism about abilities, which again is closer to the truth at different times.
3. Taking each belief point separately, ask:
a. What source did this belief come from, and was it valid?
b. How ridiculous or absurd is this belief?
c. If it’s not released, could it be preventing healthier choices being made?
d. By getting rid of it, what improvements are likely to be seen?
e. Are there alternatives, and if so, what are they? Which beliefs are more useful, who practices them, and where can they be acquired? In the case of sickness, an example would be of someone who has survived a diagnosis with low odds.
By repeating this exercise daily for about a week, stale rigidities in the mind are loosened, creating an openness to let new more enabling beliefs in. Why put off picking up the skill of having a mind composed, flexible, persistent and alert enough to detect ways to improve outcomes, no matter what the circumstances?