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How the Power of Belief REALLY Works

by David Truman

Creative power #1: Focus. What you see is what you get

Take focus control off of automatic pilot

Don't let unconscious AGENDAS misdirect focus

Creative power #2: Interpretation. What do we make of it (of what we see/experience)?

Creative power #3: Wholeness. The key to sanity

Hyper-focus on true facts creates denial and delusion -- even INSANITY

How to keep wholeness in mind

Don't worry about "what's so," but WHY?

Belief is the headwaters

What came first, experience or belief...or something else?

What we want most

This article is for everyone who wants to control the quality of their lives. It's actually possible to do that -- by controlling the quality of our beliefs. Those who understand the real power of belief and how to use it can harness that tremendous creative potential for the benefit of all. This article fills in the gaps in our understanding left by many popular teachings such as the Law of Attraction, etc.

What most of us know about beliefs is this: People commonly form negative attitudes and beliefs as a result of negative reactions to the inevitable bumps of life. What we may not sufficiently realize, though, is that the attitudes and beliefs we come up with are far more limiting than the experiences that inspired them. Here's why: Long after the original negative experience is over, we continue to experience the effects of our negative beliefs. We EXPERIENCE how they make us feel, and, by reflection, how they make other people feel. And of course, we experience the negative conditions our beliefs and attitudes CREATE. That's how our beliefs shape our destiny -- by CREATING EXPERIENCES.

And get this: Our beliefs and attitudes not only SHAPE our experiences, they ARE experiences. It's easy to prove that our MAIN experience is not what happens to us in life, but our beliefs ABOUT life.

Example: You are home alone one evening, and you hear a news report about the escape of a dangerous convict from a local prison. Shortly thereafter you hear some footsteps outside. You jump to the conclusion that an armed and deadly criminal is about to pay you a visit. Terror! (NOTE: Terror is an EXPERIENCE. And in this case, it's an experience of what you BELIEVE is happening.)

Then you look at the clock: 7 PM. Suddenly you remember you had invited a friend to come over at this time. You feel great relief. There's no criminal at the door, and you won't be home alone anymore. You open the door and welcome your friend. Belief disproved -- problem solved.

Negative beliefs are not just a drag in and of themselves. By means of their manifestation power, they also tend to "justify" themselves by creating events in their own image.

Example: A man believes women are not to be trusted, so he doesn't trust his wife. He hides his money in foreign accounts in case of divorce. He refuses to discuss finances with her, and won't let her have credit cards. And eventually, just as he expected, his wife divorces him. He believed that he "had to be" distrusting BECAUSE she was going to divorce him. But he had it backwards: his distrust definitely CREATED emotional conditions within the marriage that made divorce virtually inevitable.

When we see how much our beliefs affect our lives, this becomes obvious: We can't AFFORD to assume that our beliefs are unavoidable products of our experiences (even though most of us do exactly that). Think about it: bad things happen to everyone once in a while. If experience CAUSES our beliefs, we're all DOOMED! If we don't want negativity to mess up our lives, we need to take charge of what we believe -- even to the extent of (apparently) "contradicting" our experience at times.

Belief "contradicting" experience? YES! But that's not half as irrational as it sounds. Take a minute to think about it, and you'll see why it's the only truly sane way to live.

Commonly, we assume that we form our beliefs based on our experience -- that is, based on facts we've experienced or observed. There's truth in that, but there's much MORE to it than we tend to realize. The actual process of forming a belief is SOMETIMES conscious and intentional, like when we study both sides of an issue before taking a stand. And we sometimes try consciously to change our beliefs by using affirmations. But generally -- and this is CRUCIAL to understand -- the actual mechanisms that create and maintain beliefs are largely UNCONSCIOUS. To take constructive control over our destiny, we need to bring consciousness and intention to those creative powers. It's easier than it sounds, and we'll start right now.

Creative power #1: Focus. What you see is what you get

First: BREAK that "unbreakable" experience-equals-belief chain. The reality is, there is no direct correspondence between experience and belief. How could there be? We have all had MANY experiences, including a great variety of DIFFERENT experiences. It is safe to say our experiences are all over the map. Contradictory, even. So obviously:

We don't learn from all our experiences, only from SOME of them.

Second: See that the experiences that most contribute to our beliefs are the ones we FOCUS ON. We have no choice about WHETHER to focus or not: we MUST focus. We're selective simply by virtue of our anatomy and physiology. Our brains function in mono, not stereo: we THINK one thing at a time. So at any given time, millions of things may be occurring, but we can only focus on one. Thus:

We can never expect to see everything. Not only are we not seeing the whole picture, but we are never seeing more than a millionth of the picture.

Take focus control off of automatic pilot

So here's our first big opportunity to take control over what we believe: TO EXERCISE CONTROL OVER WHAT WE FOCUS ON. Normally, a more dramatic or frightening experience will naturally get more focus than an everyday one. For example, a man has taken many airline trips. But after seeing a movie about a plane crash, he now refuses to fly. In forming his new belief that flying is unsafe, he is focusing much MORE on a rare negative event than on his many safe, uneventful flights. And now he can no longer fly, or can't fly without excessive fear.

A constructive, rational person would PURPOSELY do the opposite: do not DENY the dangers, but deliberately focus on the real aspects of the situation that support constructive attitudes.

Don't let unconscious AGENDAS misdirect focus

Sometimes unconscious AGENDAS steer focus towards the negative. Watch out there! The intentions may be self-PROTECTIVE, but the results tend to be self-DESTRUCTIVE. Here's how that works:

It's part of human nature to focus on experience in a way that simply reflects our preferences, or an outcome we want. This is how kids get out of going to school. It's how lawyers mislead juries, and debaters win debates. They all focus on evidence that supports their premise -- and, at the same time, ignore facts that undermine their cause.

Whether we realize it or not, we all do the same in our everyday lives. And, by doing it, we often make matters far worse for ourselves.

Example: A woman who is reluctant to commit. She constantly finds fault with the men she dates. She feels he's too controlling (or he's too wimpy). She worries his family will never accept her. She's irritated by some of his personal habits. She broods about unimportant differences in their opinions or interests. By these habits, she pushes men away -- even "the good ones."

Example: A lazy man who wants to avoid working. This man will find plenty of reasons why a job is "impossible" for him to get: there are no openings for the type of work he does in his area; there are lots of younger people who will work for less; he doesn't have the right skills; his race or ethnic background is discriminated against; etc. etc. In this way, he condemns himself to a life of poverty and unproductiveness.

Those people have built strong negative cases that seem to work in favor of their desired outcomes (i.e., NO COMMITMENT; NO WORK). In fact, the negative cases they have built are SO strong that they have made certain outcomes SEEM inevitable. They've done that by focusing on the half-empty part of the cup of life.

But those outcomes are not REALLY inevitable. A woman who really wanted to be married, or a man who was determined to find work, would focus on the half-full part -- and thereby create different, more positive outcomes. When you look at it that way, you see active choices being made. We choose what we focus on, and by so doing, we create/reinforce beliefs.

If you've EVER tried to talk a negative friend into a positive outlook, you know exactly how VIGOROUSLY your friend steered you back to the negative "evidence" against that positive outlook. Lesson: we can and DO choose what to focus on in life. And, our results -- our LIVES -- follow accordingly.

Creative power #2: Interpretation. What do we make of it (of what we see/experience)?

Following closely on choice of FOCUS is choice of INTERPRETATION: what we "make of" our experiences. Interpretation is very powerful. In fact:

Our life-creating beliefs come more from what we interpret about what happened, than from what happened.

Fact 1: Interpretation enables two people to face the exact same experience together and walk away with two completely different ideas and beliefs about it.

Example: Two skydivers. One friend says, "Skydiving is a wonderful experience of freedom. That kind of excitement makes life worth living!" The other friend says, "I was terrified -- and traumatized. I hope I never have to do anything like that again!" Those two individuals made something different of the same experience. Now they have different conclusions, and different beliefs.

Fact 2: Interpretation also enables one person to derive two different beliefs, at different times, from the same experience. At first, what the person thought was THIS; then they changed their mind, and thought THAT. The result: two different beliefs from the same experience.

Example: A woman changes her mind about what to "make of" some office feedback. A woman had the experience of getting some kind of feedback at work, some tips from a co-worker. At first she was offended, and muttered under her breath, "No one appreciates and respects me here." But the next day, she thought about the incident and saw it differently: "People care about me here, and they're trying to make sure that I succeed."

These examples show much latitude we have in interpreting an experience. And each interpretation we choose becomes a belief that changes our life from then on. Now you know a top secret: BELIEF DEPENDS MUCH MORE ON INTERPRETATION THAN ON EXPERIENCE.

With this understanding we gain great power and control over the quality of our lives. Even when events just "happen" to us, focus is under our control, and interpretation is always a matter of CHOICE. We get to determine how we interpret all events/experiences. And if we are willing to take responsibility for CONSCIOUSLY choosing our interpretations, we can greatly improve our destiny.

Example: Two ways to interpret a difficult relationship experience:

1. As a challenge to be more loving.

2. As a reason to give up trying.

If we see the difficult interaction as a challenge, an opportunity, we will be motivated to rise to the occasion. By meeting the challenge, we can get stronger, and prove ourselves to ourselves, to others, and to the universe. On the other hand, what happens if we view the challenge as a reason to give up? Then we run away, feel ashamed, weaken ourselves, and establish a pattern of folding in the face of difficulty. So from two different interpretations, we see two very different outcomes.

You can feel how far-reaching the results of interpretation truly are. Interpretation affects how we feel and what we do. Also, interpretation heavily impacts how others respond to us. If we tend to give up easily, our friends won't feel confidence in us; they will not rely on us or turn to us as a source of strength when the chips are down. All of these results go into creating the beliefs that govern our lives.

Creative power #3: Wholeness. The key to sanity

Everyone takes his or her own beliefs to be FACTS. And to an extent, that may be true:

A belief could rightly said to be true as long as it is based on something a person has seen or has experienced -- something that has been observed, or is observable.

As I've admitted, we've all had plenty of experiences of many different kinds -- enough to at least somewhat justify almost any belief we may have. At the minimum, we can say this:

Most likely, none of our beliefs are ENTIRELY untrue.

But before we start feeling righteous or complacent about that, here's another CRUCIAL truth:

A person could be self-deceived in many ways, and to various degrees, even WHILE believing things that are factually true.

Hyper-focus on true facts creates denial and delusion -- even INSANITY

Hyper-focus leads to beliefs that are exaggerated and misleading, EVEN THOUGH they are -- or seem to be -- supported by certain pieces of factual evidence. For example, our president would like the public to know every single fact that seems to justify being afraid and defensive -- to make sure Americans will support his outrageous military policies. Yes, Mr. President, there ARE bad guys out there. Yes, Mr. President, facts are facts. Yes -- but it's not quite that simple. Focusing on certain facts to the exclusion of other facts, especially without taking into account the negative implications of such focus, can be absolutely DESTRUCTIVE, effectively EVIL, perhaps even INSANE!

The truth is, paranoid people focus too much on the half-empty part of the cup. And, similarly, naively optimistic people focus too much on the half-full part of the cup. Both of them are "right" to a point. But both are deluded. And both are in denial.

Exaggerated beliefs ignore the wholeness of what is true. People lose sanity (they get out of touch with reality) if they lose sight of the whole context in which they actually exist.

The only REAL truth is the WHOLE truth. And only by considering the whole truth can we sanely CHOOSE what experiences to focus on, and what to make of those experiences.

How to keep wholeness in mind

It IS possible to consider the whole truth when making choices of focus and interpretation. Wholeness is not about trying to consider all possibly relevant facts (some of which we will never know, and some which contradict each other). Wholeness is about taking into consideration all the levels of causation, and not ignoring significant ones.

Example: health and fitness statistics. Statistics show that about two-thirds of Americans are out of shape and overweight. According to that, the average American has a 65% chance of being unfit. That's a pretty high percentage -- a fact reasonable people "should" take seriously. Or should they?

We need to understand statistics. We're foolish if we look at statistics without realizing that statistics have CAUSES. In other words, things happen because of certain conditions. That's looking at the whole truth about statistics, not just the superficial number.

For example:

If you don't exercise, you have a HUNDRED percent chance of being out of shape.

That's a valid statistic. But notice the IF -- IF you don't exercise. Let's consider another IF:

IF you're a triathlete, you have a ZERO percent chance of being out of shape.

It is a statistical fact that all triathletes are in great shape. Again, did you notice the IF? Similarly, it is known that all people who exercise reasonably are in good shape.

You see, all statistics are based on CONDITIONS. What happens or doesn't happen depends on CONDITIONS. It so happens that two-thirds of Americans fulfill the conditions for being out of shape by not exercising. But clearly, what OTHER PEOPLE DO with respect to exercise does not affect YOUR chances of being in or out of shape. YOU get to decide if you will be part of the majority statistic, or an exception to it. If you go ahead and fulfill the conditions for fitness, you're a lot brighter than the guy who just looks at the statistics but fails to understand the REST of the picture.

That's looking at the whole truth. When you do that, you have a rational basis for choosing what to focus on, and how to interpret, the statistics about exercise -- or, for that matter, statistics about divorce -- and many many other things.

Don't worry about "what's so," but WHY?

Just as statistics are based on CONDITIONS, reality isn't a coincidence; reality gets CREATED. The smart question is, HOW? What CREATES what you're fearing, and is happening to you? And what CREATES what you desire, but can't seem to get? By asking those questions, you start looking at the whole truth.

Everything that IS (or could be) is created by a condition or set of conditions. If you only knew what conditions created that bad outcome that you're trying to avoid, you could uncreate, or not create, those conditions. Likewise, if you only knew the conditions that would create what you want, you would create THOSE conditions -- and stop worrying about the OTHER conditions.

Under what conditions would the things that I fear come true? And,

Under what conditions would it be inconceivable for the things that I fear to come true?

Those are the smart questions. Not "what's so," but WHY?

Belief is the headwaters

Now that we understand how to control our beliefs, we can exercise positive control over our lives and destiny itself. That's because belief is a BIG part of the CONDITIONS for success or failure.

Think of a person who believes love can work for them. Surely you know at least one such person. If so, you know that person will create beauty with their love-positive belief. They're ALREADY creating the emotional, psychological, and spiritual conditions that practically guarantee love will work for them. Their faith in love allows love and love relationships to work properly in their lives. And their faith also supports the essential step of actually, effectively doing -- participating POSITIVELY in love.

Clearly, if we sit around focusing on the fact that love won't work, we won't do much for love's sake -- or even if we do things, we won't do them wholeheartedly. Not when we're pretty sure it won't work. That's exactly what happens if we're focusing on the a negative notion -- that love won't work for us, that the statistics are against us, or any other negative thought. We just won't do, or wholeheartedly do, what it takes to create the CONDITIONS in which love would succeed for us.

And as you know, wholehearted action might be exactly what it takes for some things to work right. Think about it: Would you marry someone who didn't WHOLEHEARTEDLY want to marry you? You'd sure be a fool if you did. Would you hire someone for an important job who didn't wholeheartedly want to work? That would jeopardize your success.

Everyone knows that if you don't wholeheartedly believe in what you're doing, you're likely to undermine your effectiveness. When you're not wholehearted, your commitment is weak -- and therefore, you're not persistent in your positive efforts. Your resolve is weak, too, and therefore you're unlikely to do your BEST -- consistently, or even EVER. And because of ambivalence, you're liable to sometimes do things that work against your goal.

So, when it comes to love -- or for that matter, ANY cherished goal in life -- bear this in mind: It's a seminal, important, pivotal, creative stroke to establish our fundamental belief about the goal. Whatever we believe will determine what we can wholeheartedly do. And negative beliefs, if we hold on to them, will make it impossible for us to wholeheartedly do the things that success absolutely requires (like, for example, to generously and trustingly LOVE).

Friends, belief IS the headwaters of what happens in life. So, seriously, we ought to ask ourselves about every important belief we hold, "What is this belief going to allow and disallow in my life?" If the officials turn off the power over at a substation, they should be aware that the lights are going to go out in a lot of homes. Just so, if we believe certain negative things, there will be things that can't and won't happen in our lives because of that.

What came first, experience or belief... or something else?

It's the age-old riddle: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? We've seen that our experience doesn't cause belief as much as we think it does. It's truer to say that belief causes our experience. And specifically, belief causes experiences that reinforce the belief.

In that sense, beliefs create their own "reasons." At least, they create the evidence we cite as reasons WHY we believe certain things. In fact, beliefs are very effective at manufacturing justifications. Justifications for what? For WHATEVER WE WANT. Yes, really! THAT'S what comes first -- what we WANT, consciously or otherwise -- BEFORE our beliefs and the experiences they cause.

This is exactly what we humans do -- we believe what we want to believe, based on whether any particular belief will support us getting what we want, or will help us avoid what we don't want.

Remember the examples I gave of how people choose what to focus on. Their choices were based on their desire for a certain outcome. Again: If a person doesn't want to commit to a love relationship, they focus on problems with their partner. Or they think about the fact that many of their friends DON'T have good love relationships. And they think about how many times they themselves have been betrayed, etc. Needless to say, as they focus on such things, their negative beliefs crystallize, and they grow increasingly clear how "necessary" and "okay" it is to be a distrusting person -- a person who is self-protective and ungiving. That's how our beliefs are caused by what we want and don't want.

So now we know something very important: We CAN take charge of what we believe. Indeed, we are in charge, and always have been. But as I said, our choices have not been consistently conscious and intentional. Yet they COULD be -- if we want them to be. And that's where the power is.

What we want most

What do we want? That's what it all comes down to. So, we should take a tip from King Midas, and be conscious and intentional about what we want. What we want most of all WILL come true, through the power of our beliefs.

by David Truman

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