Beliefs … What part do they play in Stress ?


In this article, we’ll look at Beliefs, and how they influence our psychological state. For simplicity, we’ll refer to the generic term “Stress” … to cover stress, anxiety and depression. In future articles, we’ll look at each state in more detail.

It is also important to understand that we’re not talking about the every day stresses that we all encounter, such as running late for work, getting dinner ready on time, being stuck behind a truck on the freeway etc … we’re talking about moderate to severe Psychological Stress, that interferes with your day to day life.

Reality Check: it is not the events in our lives that cause us stress; it is how we view those events that cause us stress

It is often said that events such as divorce, moving house, loosing a job, running a business, public speaking etc, cause us stress. For that to be a true statement, then every occurrence of those events should cause us stress. Obviously they don’t, as there are many people who are quite ecstatic after a divorce or who love standing up and hearing the sound of their own voice. So, it’s not a given that any particular event will cause us stress. It is how we personally view those particular events, through our individual perspective, which dictates our emotional response.

So, following on from that, what does make us view an event a certain way?

Our Beliefs dictate how we view any event …and that view causes us to react to that event in our own individual way. An event occurs and then, often within a millisecond, our inbuilt Beliefs trigger an emotional response. That emotion could be a negative experience…such as hurt, regret, panic, anger, frustration etc … and it’s often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as tightness of the chest, sweating … a pain in the guts perhaps.

It’s important to remember that these emotions and physical responses are only symptoms… caused by the triggering of a Belief. Techniques and therapies that work on managing our emotional responses is, once again, only a band aid treatment. We must explore the Beliefs that triggered it all in the first place.

So, what are these pesky little critters, called Beliefs?

Our Beliefs are an amalgam of our values, thoughts, morals, viewpoints, knowledge, opinions, ideas and benchmarks. Combined, they form our “view of life” or “lens on life”.

Our beliefs are gathered and imprinted over time. Our original core beliefs are established when we are between the ages of 0-7 years. This is the age when we are the freshest, the most receptive and when we have the greatest need to develop a self-defense mechanism.

As we continue to grow, we reinforce, amend or upgrade our beliefs through:

  • Observation of our parents, peers, friends, siblings, books and the media
  • Our own life experiences
  • Being convinced by others

Unfortunately, we cannot filter or adjudicate all the external stimuli; so, we often adopt incorrect beliefs.

Over time, if we have established an incorrect or corrupted core belief system, or “lens on life”, we are likely to view events incorrectly … and we run the risk of living our lives with constant regret, anger or blame … leading to psychological stress .

Belief systems are difficult to identify because they are ours.   “This is just who I am”…”this is how I am”, “this is who I am”, “this is how I live”, “this is how I’ve always been”…  these are our beliefs.

We rarely look at our lives and Beliefs in adulthood and say to ourselves …” which one of my Beliefs works for me now? Which are helpful and which are not helpful?” We grow and develop, life changes, but we forget to upgrade these old Beliefs. We forget to examine them because we still have the old lens on life. Some of these old Beliefs were programmed when we were young children, and have not been upgraded since. It’s outdated software!

We can only establish, or upgrade, our beliefs, or software, from experiencing external events … and by being convinced of a new thought.  Once convinced, learning starts to take place in the brain and new neuron connections are created.

Many of our incorrect beliefs are based on misinterpretations of past events and they can sometimes act as self-fulfilling prophecies. Our beliefs, whether they are incorrect or correct, determine our actions, which in turn generate more evidence and our beliefs become increasingly entrenched and more real. It is difficult for the brain to deconstruct a neuron network and build a new one to replace it … without substantial “reason”.

It is when we have an incorrect belief, that our view of an event can cause us psychological stress.

However, the knowledge that our beliefs are not set in stone can be a liberating revelation and we can use this knowledge to change some of our incorrect beliefs.

But, what happens when we have conflicting beliefs … not everything in the world is black and white, you know?

True, that is when our “Priorities” kick in, and we’ll talk about them in a coming article.

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