Forming Beliefs

How are beliefs formed?

Belief systems are formed throughout life, but especially during the time from birth through early childhood. Our core beliefs around love and security are usually formed by the time we are four years old because those two areas are necessary for survival. If we aren’t loved and cared for enough or aren’t safe, then we instinctively know we can die. While you may believe, and have experienced, that your parents didn’t love you or you weren’t safe, the fact that you are alive shows that you had enough love and security to survive.

This is how a belief system is formed. Let’s say you’re a one year old and standing in your crib and crying to be picked up. This is a common experience all children have. However, it may be that this time you cry too long and decide that no one is coming to pick you up because you’re not lovable. If you were lovable, or good enough, then someone would be there for you. Since your mother doesn’t come for you, then that proves there’s something wrong with you. None of this is logical thinking, or in any way conscious, yet it occurs in all of us over and over again.

In that moment of stress and despair, a belief system is formed and encompasses four elements: (1) your thought of “I’m not good enough”, (2) your emotions in the crib, (3) your age of one, and (4) the event of no one coming to pick you up. All four elements become locked together and programmed into your subconscious mind as “this is what’s true about me.” From then on, that thought can become reinforced and more real for you as life goes on. It seems to be like a magnet, actually attracting that situation to you. As a teenager, you may not get picked for a team. During dating, the person you are crazy about likes someone else. In your job, you get passed over for promotions. As life’s events happen, they are filtered though this belief and you respond with “See, more proof, I’m not good enough.”

In another example, a thirsty four year old child is reaching for her drink which is up on a counter. She struggles to reach it but can’t, and nobody comes to help her. So she sits down on the floor and feels overwhelmed and helpless. She turns her attention inside to console herself. In that moment, a belief is formed, which if it isn’t changed or updated, can cause her to close down and feel helpless or overwhelmed as an adult when she can’t see a solution. In reality, there was a kitchen chair available that the child could have pulled over and stood on to reach her drink. It may even be that a few minutes later she saw the chair, retrieved her drink and went on her merry way. However, the belief was already formed and can have a profound effect on her later life.

The majority of our belief systems are naturally updated and changed as we go through life. We learn how to walk, ride a bicycle, tie our shoes, learn to read, drive a car, get a job, and so on. Most of our belief systems work for us in a positive way and help us navigate through life.

However, when a belief is formed early and with strong emotions, it can remain unchanged in the subconscious until such time as it’s consciously changed. It’s these beliefs that are formed early in childhood and remain unchanged that cause us problems as adults.

Puzzled about your subconscious beliefs?

What makes our subconscious beliefs so puzzling to us is that they can be the polar opposite of what we consciously believe, so we are simply not aware of them. Another aspect of our subconscious beliefs that makes them difficult to discern is that we often have beliefs that are opposites of each other, often depending on the differing roles we play in life. For instance, at work you may be able to easily make good decisions and then follow through to see that they are carried out. Yet, at home you may find that you let your children or your spouse/partner run you and the household. It’s like you’re two different people in the way you handle responsibility.

“Why do I have confidence in one area of my life, and in another I’m totally at my wit’s end?”

If this type of conflicting behavior puzzles you, you’re not alone! The reason for this is that you have different beliefs for the different roles you play.

Perhaps you grew up in a household where you father came home from work, pounded the kitchen table in frustration and complained about how the management at work didn’t care about the workers, and on and on about how unfair management was. From this experience, you learned how management treats employees and may very well repeat the pattern in your own life because it’s all you really know. And yet, the underlying reason this pattern is repeating in your life (and therefore appears true) is because you subconsciously hold onto this belief and are like a magnet pulling this experience into your life.

There are two major ways in which you can uncover your subconscious belief systems by looking at:

  1. Your life patterns – what keeps happening over and over again
  2. The times when you feel immature or like a young child.

When you begin to look at patterns in your life, you will discover events, thoughts, feelings or circumstances that occur to you over and over. Some patterns are so commonplace and occur so naturally in your life that you assume “that’s just how I am” or “that’s just how life is.”

Another way to uncover your beliefs is to look at the times when you feel stressed or emotional and then have a sense of immaturity, When you feel like a child in a moment of stress, you are re-experiencing a belief created in childhood at the age you feel in that moment.