What is it that lets one person feel happy and content throughout life, and another feel unsettled and unsafe, even if they have similar income, health, and life circumstances? Many people worry habitually and do not feel happy, while others never suffer and being happy is a natural state of mind. The source of this anxiety or happiness lies in the way a person perceives his or her life, in other words how they think. When that thinking is not operating in a manner that will imbue happiness I term it “broken thinking.”
Our thinking is a result of the beliefs and perceptions we hold, which collectively form a “belief construct.” A Belief Construct is the collection of beliefs within an individual and the resulting ideas and beliefs that get created through their interrelatedness. It determines the way in which you perceive reality. We develop our Belief Construct from all of our personal experiences along with what we have learned or been told and then accepted as true. Each time we acquire new beliefs and ideas, the entire Belief Construct is reorganized to incorporate this new information. As we experience more and get older, we have an increasingly sophisticated structure that grows and changes with each new experience. Your Belief Construct is the basis for how you perceive things, whether things are right or wrong, important or unimportant, and so on. To illustrate how a Belief Construct is formed let’s walk through how one gets built.
The broadest way in which humans view reality has to do with the question “Who Am I,” and this includes things like God, the universe, and all of the other issues related to who we are as human beings. Where do these views, beliefs, and knowledge come from? When you think about it, most have come from what we have learned or been told by others, and we have simply accepted them. Because these views are widely accepted, most people do not see them as changeable, to most people these ideas are absolute truth.
Next, come the ideas from the race of people we belong to, our societies, religions, countries, and so on. Most of the time these ideas are given to us when we are very young and are readily accepted, and since most people within our race, culture, and religion, have the same beliefs it is easy for this part of our Belief Construct to become absolute and rigid. These ideas form the morals, behavior, political views, religious beliefs, and social views that live within our Belief Construct, and everything that comes later must fit together with them or will be in conflict.
Then, we incorporate views and ideas into our Belief Construct from the educational, work, and social communities in which we live. The Belief Construct of an academician is much different than the Belief Construct of a blue-collar worker, just as the Belief Construct of a surfer is distinct from a military pilot. As we grow so does our Belief Construct, and it must include everything, all of the beliefs we have accepted about life, religion, society, the family we are born into and later the families we form. All of our personal experiences, all of the love and disappointments, all of the lessons from our life must be incorporated and fit into all of the other parts of our Belief Construct.
Many people are lucky and the Belief Construct they inherit and develop works well for them. Other people are not so lucky and feel as though something is missing. Anxiety and depression and many other forms of “broken thinking” persist, or a new event creates conflict. Perhaps you fall in love with someone outside of your faith and feel it would be wrong to get married, so you must change your Belief Construct or find someone else to marry. Very few people risk changing the complex structure of beliefs they have grown up with.
When a person’s Belief Construct is more important than the result or feeling that is happening inside of them, they are living a life dictated by beliefs. They are allowing their beliefs to dictate their happiness. Most people do not realize they have the right to question and change any belief, but by deciding you have a right to question and change your beliefs you give yourself the right to choose how you perceive and live your life, you open the door to greater peace and happiness.