The Power of Belief and How It Can Cause Stress [Illustrated]

Are you subject to suffering from stress by holding onto certain beliefs?
Are you aware of the consequences of what you believe in?
Remember when you were reading a well narrated fictional story, or watching an amazing movie? You believed in the story so much so that you were completely lost in it. You became the characters; their misery and joy became yours. You shed tears with their sorrow and celebrated their joy. It felt real, even though you knew that it was just a made up story.
Similarly, our mind makes up stories about what happens to us; it does so to help us process what we perceive in life and to bring some order to the chaos of information. And, sure enough, we believe it all!
This may come as a surprise to you, but the majority of these commentaries and interpretations of the mind are unnecessary chatter – electromagnetic waves fired up in your head. Our mind tells stories in such a skilful, cohesive and highly believable manner that it does deserve to win the Nobel Prize in literature!

Concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. ― Albert Einstein

The Attaching Glue 

Mental Colouring

In the previous post, I clarified the process of mental coloring in detail; and how our emotional and mental well-being is not determined by what has happened to us, but mostly by the stories / interpretations we attached to those events. What else can you see in the above illustration? What about the subtle white ring in between the (green) interpretation and the (brown) event? Gotcha! You thought that was part of the background design, didn’t you?

Belief is like the binding glue (the white ring) that holds together an interpretation with an event. A belief has the power to magnify or to minimize the way we experience life. In fact, believing in certain concepts have the power to elevate a nation and destroy another. The stronger you believe in a story, the stronger will be the attachment to that specific interpretation, as it gradually becomes part of your identity.

The repetition of a believed in event + interpretation shapes your reality, your mindset and eventually builds your character. Listening and believing in the endless (negative) stories created by the mind adds much stress, anxiety, depression and self-loathing.

As long as we believe in whatever that is presented to us, either produced in other people’s heads or created in our own head, we are at the mercy of the (dominant) mind. Soon you will get lost in a mental loop that continuously re-produces and solidify familiar yet unquestioned stories and interpretations.

If we take something to be the truth, we may cling to it so much that when the truth comes and knocks on our door, we won’t want to let it in. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

The Chosen Interpretation

 What You Believe in Can Make You Stressed

As illustrated above, potential interpretations / stories are shown in differing colors. These stories and interpretations are all floating quite harmlessly in our head, unless… they are believed in! An interpretation that before was equally weightless suddenly becomes heavy, important and more valued. Now it weighs more and sinks deeply in our psyche and adds to your belief system.

You are free to believe in whatever you want of course; however, you owe it to yourself, and to those you intend to pass on your beliefs, that you investigate your chosen beliefs before fully embracing them. Be mindful what concepts you are believing in, especially now that you realize how they shape your reality, moment by moment.

As Neo in the Matrix was asked by Morpheus to choose between the red or the blue pill, you also always have the option to pick a side and to either take in a positive or a negative story. In the matrix of life, you have also the option to choose not to take any pills! You can let the commentaries inside your head float by, let them be and not buy into them and they will disappear.

=> I further illustrated this point in: How Believing The Storytelling Mind Causes Stress

Failing to understand the workings of one’s own mind is bound to lead to unhappiness. ― Marcus Aurelius

The Critical Choice

How We Believe Our Way Into Stress

Regardless of the situation you live in, you always have the choice to either believe in or believe not in a story about yourself and your life. I am totally aware that at times, you are not able to express your truth externally because of the cultural, educational and familial circumstances and upbringing; but internally you always have the choice what you believe in. Be truthful to yourself.

As we better understand the functioning of the mind and how we may produce our own stress, misery, pain, and suffering, we are better equipped to navigate through life. This is the power of self-knowledge and self-mastery. It is not an easy path, yet it is worth it. You have all the power you need within you. Do not get disheartened.

Be careful with the stories you tell about yourself. Discard the unhelpful and limiting beliefs in favor of a freer you. A skilled counselor or coach can support you to understand and break through these negative patterns, allowing you to live a more satisfying life. Practicing meditation and mindfulness can be powerful tools to improve your filtering ability and emptying your cup. I will gradually post other tools and techniques to better equip you for your journey.

=> I further illustrated this point in: How Choosing to Let Go Can Reduce Stress

Don’t tie yourself to any concept; make use of them, but don’t be used by them. ― Mooji

Guiding Questions

#1 What is the story you are telling right now about yourself or your life?

#2 Do you really need to believe in this story? 

#3 What are the potential consequences of believing in such stories?

#4 How would your life be without holding onto this belief?

Seperation


=> You can download the free PDF for easy reference at your own convenience.

=> This is the 3rd post of a series that I am creating here. It is an invitation to look at your life and well-being from a refreshed perspective. My commitment is to be with you in your journey, in your struggles, in your pain and sorrow. I intend to clarify the complex topics and make them more digestible. So stay tuned.

=> Previous post: Mental Coloring and Psychological Causes of Stress


Final Words

Please help raise awareness by sharing for those who may benefit.

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  • Hans

    For several years I’ve been controlled by countless loops of certain believes which has affected my life. Thank God that by reading the internet you and others have made me to now know myself. I am feeling much better now, almost in complete control of myself. I will claim full control.

    Luckily there have been some successes in the mist of those years. I am glad I spend more time now caring for myself and wish to continue so that I can achieve goals which I would have attained years ago.

    Thank you Sepi.

    • You are most welcome, Hans.
      It is said that the hardest of the battles is the battle within.
      Congratulations on taking up the journey courageously and coming out victorious!

  • I think this is pretty much dead – on. “Belief” is a tricky concept, but it’s an important distinction from ‘thought’. Thoughts, as you point out, cannot disrupt our functioning unless we believe them. What EXACTLY “belief” is…. is certainly up for discussion, but we do appear to have some choice as to which thoughts to believe, and which thoughts to discount. I think your post is helpful and nuanced.

    • Thank you for your valuable feedback, Dr, Joseph.
      Indeed, we have some power and choice. 🙂
      In my understanding, a belief is a thought that is considered to be true.

      • You are most welcome!

        “Considered to be true” is a synonym for “belief,” so is somewhat of a circular definition. I sometimes think of beliefs as highly recurrent thoughts that shape other thoughts as well as behavior, but it’s worth quite some discussion.

  • jason mcdonald

    Sepi,
    What a wonderful post- keep up the great work :-). Below, I’ve included instructions from a Tibetan meditation master about how to surpass challenging emotional states which stem from mental views/concepts. If one investigates our views and opinions, one will quickly see they are illusory and empty of any real existence or substance. They’re like clouds passing through the sky.

    “From a deeply restful state it may be quite difficult to conjure up such a strong negative emotion, but you can use your imagination to think up an offensive, angering situation; or draw on your memories—think back to some moment when you were deeply offended, hurt, or attacked. Once it has been aroused you should, as objectively as possible, analytically contemplate its nature and its attributes. Where did it come from? Does it have a shape? Location? Does it have any substance? You will uncover its illusory qualities and it will dissipate by itself. When it dissipates the mind is once again resting in its naturally pure state. You can apply this practice to desire, jealousy, or any other disturbing emotion. Arouse, study, neutralize”

    Excerpt From: Rinpoche, Shamar. “The Path to Awakening.” Open Road Integrated Media, 2014-01-09T17:09-06:00. iBooks.
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/uuY8V.l

    • Thank you for the kind words and sharing, Jason. 🙂
      Beautifully put by the masters and sages, indeed. It was eye-opening for me, when years ago I saw and experienced the emptiness and the peace behind all apparent turbulences and chaos. It is beautiful.

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