Our Core: Beliefs About Ourselves and Others Direct Our Happiness
Our core is made up of the beliefs we have about ourselves and others and these beliefs direct our happiness. Some of our beliefs formed before we had knowledge and understanding. They are the feelings and thoughts we got from how our parents and caregivers talked to us, what they said to us, and how they treated us. These folks were often unaware they were shaping our beliefs and we were unaware our beliefs were developing. But, once we begin to develop intellect, understanding, and knowledge we create our own beliefs based on how we interpret information from others and how we reason information we’ve acquired on our own. It is then we develop subconscious and conscious beliefs.
When we are conceived, our soul energizes to life. We are little energy sources that emit and elicit love and joy. With that same unawareness, we can also frustrate, anger, and exhaust people. Think about the way infants unconsciously generate unconditional love in others, yet cause stress and exhaustion.
We never outgrow the subconscious abilities to generate love, hate, anger, and joy. And, after our conscious mind develops, our abilities double. We can then subconsciously and consciously generate certain emotions and behaviors in others. In other words, we can unintentionally or intentionally make someone mad, sad, guilty, ashamed, or glad. We are very powerful.
Most of us have intentionally caused someone to have bad feelings. It’s not something we want to admit, but many of us have fallen, like the infamous “fallen angel,” into the pit of vengeance, retaliation, and pride, where we consciously tried to make other people feel guilty, ashamed, sad, afraid, or angry. We do this when we are feeling worse than the person we are trying to make unhappy. If the intended victim knows how to be truly happy, he will be immune to your attack and you will be left alone in your own misery. Should you succeed, you both will feel bad, but in the end, you will feel worse.
In contrast, many of us have intentionally tried to make other people happy. Celebrating birthdays, giving a cheery hello, complimenting someone, and doing a good deed for someone are just a few examples. We do this when we feel happier than the other person or when we need the other person to be happy so we can feel better. Much to our dismay, our efforts to make other people happy result in short term pleasure or are futile. In truth, we cannot make someone be something he isn’t. So, unless we know how to be truly happy, the person’s failure to maintain happiness will make us feel like a failure. We will feel as bad as our victim.
Bad Feelings Are Contagious
We connect with each other through emotions, so we are wired to pick up other people’s emotions. Bad feelings are contagious. Like an infectious disease, we can infect other people with our bad feelings or become infected by others. When we feel angry, afraid, guilty, or ashamed we behave badly, which have direct effects on others. When other people have bad feelings, we pick up their “bad vibes” or are direct targets of their bad behaviors. Then, our alert system (natural instincts) warns us of aggression and hostility, so we go into protect mode, feeling our survival emotions of fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt.
Conversely, good health is not contagious. We cannot infect someone with our good health. To maintain good health, we must be consciously aware and make conscious efforts. Like good health, good feelings happen through conscious thoughts, discipline, and self-determination.
Our conscious thoughts come from our conscious mind or thinking brain. This is the executive functioning part of our mind. It controls impulses, problem solves, organizes our thoughts, and assesses potential outcomes. Located in the front part of our heads, I believe God put it there as a way to tell us to think first. When we think first and let our feelings follow, we have good conscious awareness that allows us to make sounder decisions and have fewer regrets.
When We Lack Conscious Awareness
A lack of conscious awareness causes us to lack honesty, empathy, accountability, respect, trust, and discipline and instead rely on our natural emotions of fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt. This results in us having emotionally based attitudes and behaviors that result in negative beliefs. Some of these attitudes and behaviors include: the need to be right, being a control freak, keeping score with others, and the desire to seek justice by getting back at people.
Also included are people who are perfectionists, anxious, insecure, and can’t handle being told, “No.” All of these lead to frustration, distress, and exhaustion for everyone involved. So, why do we do these things, when all we want is to be happy?
While our genetics predispose us to certain tendencies, mostly, we do these things because of what we feel and think. Despite the fact that perfectionists and control freaks know they cause stress and frustration, they continue their behaviors; not because they want to be unhappy or make other people unhappy. It’s because they’re trying to force happiness instead of pursue it.
When I ask clients why they need to be perfect, their typical response is, “I don’t know. I just do.” or “I feel like I have to.” They fortify their feelings with thoughts such as, “I’m not good enough unless I’m perfect.”
Knowledge, Emotions, and Beliefs
We all have knowledge, emotions, and beliefs. They differ, but are interdependent and necessary for us to live well, connect with others, and be happy. When we are young children, we have more emotions than beliefs and more beliefs than knowledge. As grow, we develop more thoughts, acquire more knowledge, and fortify our beliefs.
Knowledge is acquired externally. It is understanding and awareness; familiarity gained by experience of a situation, and is factual. Knowledge is information we gather, process, and store in our conscious and subconscious minds.
Emotions, as defined by the English Oxford Dictionary (online), are strong feelings derived from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others; are instinctive or intuitive feelings as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge. Emotions are inherent.
Beliefs are a combination of thoughts and emotions we create, integrate, and store in our subconscious mind, and refer to with our conscious mind. They are something we accept as true or real despite having no proof; they are visceral.
We create beliefs internally. Since we start out having more beliefs than knowledge, our beliefs make up our core – who and what we are and that becomes our guidance system to happiness.
Our First Beliefs: We Are Good or Bad
Since young children have more emotions than knowledge, they base their beliefs more on how they feel than what they know. The basic inherent knowledge we all have as children is good, bad, happy, and sad. We just know these exist. Therefore, if a child feels happy and good, he will believe he is good. If he feels sad and bad, he will believe he is bad.
Parents and adults provide children with information and teach them life lessons that add to their knowledge and shape their beliefs. Children have a natural desire to learn. So, even if parents don’t teach their children directly, the kids will pick up information through hearing parents talk and by watching their behaviors.
Children believe they are good or bad from how the parents present information to them and to each other. If parents give good information, the children will feel good and believe they are good. This information can be praise, demonstrations of love and affection, meeting children’s and spouses emotional needs, or speaking in words the children understand. When parents give their children bad information, the children will feel bad and believe they are bad. This kind of information can come from parents being overly critical, harsh yelling, name calling, ignoring children’s emotional and physical needs, abuse, neglect, or domestic violence.
If parents give children information they don’t understand, children will create beliefs about themselves based on the feelings and knowledge they have at the time. For example, if a parent uses a word his young child doesn’t understand, the child will interpret it to mean something good or bad based on how the parent’s tone, facial expression, and body language makes him feel.
Along with our inherent emotions and basic knowledge, we have inherent needs. We need value, acceptance, and love. Childhood beliefs of being good or bad extend into these inherent needs to create beliefs of being valuable, acceptable, and loveable.
Beliefs of Being Valuable, Acceptable, and Loveable
Children attach their beliefs of good and bad to their need to be valuable, acceptable, and loveable. If children believe they are good, they will be more inclined to believe they are valuable, acceptable, and loveable. If children believe they are bad, they will believe they are not valuable or don’t matter, are not acceptable or not good enough, and not loveable or unlovable.
As children develop higher levels of intellect, they continue to develop beliefs about themselves based on the information they get not only from parents, but from other adults and their peers. If they already have bad beliefs about themselves, it is easy for them to add more bad information to their existing beliefs. This can lead to issues with self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
Parents can easily make their children believe they aren’t important, aren’t good enough, and aren’t worthy of love if they have these same beliefs about themselves.
How We Develop Beliefs About Other People, Society, and God
While parents are responsible for helping children develop beliefs about themselves, they teach children beliefs about other people, the government, and God. They do this overtly by the way they talk and behave in front of their children and covertly when they talk so children can over hear conversations.
Children have a natural desire to learn, so they are impressionable and susceptible to the information their parents give them. Parents who practice good values, such as honesty, empathy, accountability, respect, and trust teach their children how to value, accept, and love others. When parents get involved in community service and show their children how to be charitable, merciful, and kind, their children believe people are good and kind. Parents who are insecure and teach their children superstitions, make their children fearful and insecure impressing the children to be suspicious of others. Parents who have no belief in God, make children believe they are superior beings.
Husbands who disrespect and dishonor their wives through infidelity teach children this kind of behavior is acceptable. It is common that boys of cheating fathers grow to be cheaters. Husbands who abuse their wives teach children violence is a way to settle disputes.
We do not have to keep the beliefs our parents gave us. As we mature into independent thinkers, we can assess these beliefs and challenge them with our intellect and knowledge. We can then change, keep, or modify them. The caveat is that parents often want us to conform to their beliefs. So, when we change the beliefs our parents handed down to us, our parents get upset. This sense of fear can prevent us from making positive changes.
The beliefs we originally develop are housed in our subconscious mind where they are so natural to us that we aren’t consciously aware of their significance. They are a part of us that become our core beliefs.
Our core beliefs determine our behaviors that direct our happiness. For example, boys who become cheaters like their fathers destroy the happiness in their families. It’s important that we have a conscious awareness of our core beliefs and assess how they affect our happiness.
Look closer at your core by reflecting on these questions:
- What beliefs did you get from your parents and other people? How do they affect your behaviors and attitude?
- Do you believe you are valuable, good enough, and loveable? If not, why is that?
- How easily do you catch other people’s negative emotions?
- Do you tend to fall into the pit of vengeance, retaliation, and pride too often?
- How do your beliefs affect other people?
- What beliefs do you have that interfere with your happiness?
- What beliefs do you have that encourage happiness?
Stay tuned to learn more about core beliefs and how to change the ones that interfere with your happiness. Use the Essentials to help you along.