by Andrea Chilcote
I’ve been thinking about beliefs lately. How they form, how we let go of them. I know for sure that they often operate unconsciously, driving everything from our self-talk to simple choices and life decisions. Anyone with even an ounce of self-awareness knows that they “believe” (or at least have believed) some things that are irrational or untrue – often because of the thought patterns that were formed at a very young age and remain unearthed and unexamined.
I have beliefs I don’t even think I believe. For example, in good conscience I would tell you that at my very core I know that I am safe and secure, and will always be able to create and maintain a life I love. But every now and then, fear slips in and I become sure I will become one of the bag ladies Martha Beck talks about. There’s a complex biochemical activity unfolding in my brain’s amygdala and on some very basic level I’m just harkening back to the remnants of a belief system that I’ve spent my life learning to let go of. If, in one of those moments, you tried to offer me a logical, rational argument, I would nod my head and say I believe you. But some part of me would not even listen.
Why do some belief systems show up as impenetrable shells, biases that preclude even mere consideration, while others can be informed, enlightened and shaped upon examination?
Once I attended a legislative committee hearing on a state bill that I have a keen interest in opposing. Once again I saw how our beliefs color our ability and even desire to listen. I watched as compelling, intelligent arguments were made, and hoped they would, at a minimum, provoke dialogue. Yet those whose opening statements revealed opposite views didn’t even ask any questions. When it was time to vote, they parroted back their opening lines and remained true to their initial stand. It was as if no new information had even been introduced.
I wrote about the ways in which our listening gets hijacked by our beliefs and biases in my post, “Attention Please” I suggested presence as a method for better listening. But there’s something that comes before presence. It’s motivation. I’m reminded of an admittedly blunt response I have been known to offer clients when they ask me how to transform some simple habit or behavior that, on the surface, looks easy to overcome. “Ya gotta wanta,” I say with a smile.
It is simple, but far from easy, to put aside one’s biases and beliefs. And I know that doing so improves the quality of our lives in so very many ways. But, – ya gotta wanta.