Core beliefs

The Core

What do you believe in?

A statue of a man sitting with his face in his hand, thinking hard
Rodins Thinker – picture by Jack Moreh


Disclaimer: This series of articles, The Core, is my own original work. Realise that I am not a psychologist or an expert in cognitive sciences. Feel welcome to add comments and your own feedback!  




A brain's core beliefs. Doodles of theorems, rockets, guitars and stufff in general linked to a brain
Art by: Jack Moreh


As we live, we experience the world and we come to draw certain conclusions about how it works. In our childhood this happens quite often and when we grow older more rarely. Our ultimate, often primary conclusions shape our core beliefs

A core belief is a deeply rooted conviction of great significance to our world view. The consequences of the belief may be of many kinds. A belief can be pragmatic, like the belief that the earth revolves around the sun. A core belief can also be spiritual, such as the idea that souls are real. These beliefs orient us, they decide which actions we may consider and thus, they shape our lives.

Curiously enough, although we sometimes may be willing to concede minor details about our core beliefs, we don’t give up on them.

All people hold on to their own beliefs and values (we will talk about values in part 3). It doesn’t matter if you are a highly respected professor with an IQ of 160, a famous artist, a child, or a mentally challenged grill chef, you still hold on to certain beliefs — and this in spite of what other people believe. Rationalists, atheists and religious people alike all share the notion of belief. This is quite obvious.

Everyone have deeply rooted convictions and in the end, everyone also put faith in them. Some people have open and adaptable minds, but everyone act accordingly to their current beliefs.

A thesis requires an anti-thesis

Most beliefs are based on premises. A premise is a fact taken for granted, usually not stated together with the belief itself. For example:

BELIEF: We will be judged after we die.

Premise: There is a god.

Core beliefs are the premises of other beliefs. Premises are rarely spoken out loud, since to the person having this premise, the belief seems so obvious. “Of course the earth is revolving around the sun! Anyone who thinks otherwise must be an idiot…” Well surprise, beliefs we take for granted are usually not that obvious once you really start paying attention to them.  

But if core beliefs are the premises of other beliefs, is there a premise for a core belief? Well, the premise of a core belief is that the anti-thesis is wrong, since in order to believe in something, we must reject the opposite idea.

Because of the fact that a person can define his own belief through the rejection of the opposite belief, that person must act accordingly to this logic. Therefore certain people never accept contradictions to certain beliefs. For some this contradiction might be that there is no god. To others, that there is a god. Some people will never believe that money can’t buy everything. Some people will never abandon certain scientific theories.

Good and bad beliefs

How you view the world is important, but what you believe about yourself is even more important.
If you have absorbed bad beliefs about yourself, it can severely limit yourself and cause depression. If you have a core belief that you are not aware of, e.g. you think that you are stupid, you will unconsciously reject the anti-thesis, namely that you can be clever.

So why do you hold on to negative beliefs? Well, when you have adopted a certain belief, it is hard to break it. For the human psyche, identity is super-important and core beliefs are integral parts of our identity, so these are even harder to break free from. Awareness is the first step to changing them. We will go into more detail on this later on in the series.

Learn why people oppose certain things, and you can deduce what actually drives them. Usually asking does the trick. People are more comfortable with answering why they dislike something, than directly revealing what they actually care for.

Figure out what the hidden premises behind their words are and you will know what their core beliefs are. If you know which ideas are at the core of an individual and what they care about, then you can also understand — and sometimes even predict — the actions of that individual.

So why do people believe what they believe?

Because it is true of course!

Most people claim that they would change their minds if their beliefs were proven to be wrong. While this is of course true for all of us to different degrees, I have not yet discovered even one person who would be ready to discard every belief he or she holds.

“A person to whom all beliefs are unimportant and unsure,  is lost.”

The reason for believing anything at all is because of the fact that in the end, we can’t know everything.

It is important to believe in something, since sometimes we must decide even in situations when we don’t know the right answer.

The knowledge that we build our understanding on eventually runs dry. The atom is an example. Most of us believe in atoms, even though we can’t explain them. Even if we have studied orbital hybridization in chemistry, even if we know what quarks and gluons are, most of us can’t explain particle physics. The physicist gather evidence, but they don’t understand everything either. They have to make educated guesses based on what they have already observed and understood on a less fundamental level.

Simply put; we pick the theories we have most faith in. Some have faith in God, some in science, some believe in their own ability.

Everyone have to guess sometimes, when facing a decision. However, often people haven’t accumulated knowledge or expertise in the field in question, to help them make educated guesses. Therefore the mind looks for answers connected to other beliefs it has faith in.

If this doesn’t help, the mind has a choice: It could invest time and energy and look for more information. Or it could assume the worst or the best case scenario that it can currently imagine. The second option is easier. This is why it is common to believe what one wants to believe.

Remember that we can guess based on conscious reason, logic or experience, as well as we can guess based on emotions, intuition, instincts etc. Whatever seems to ease the decision making process, we might decide to go for.

Core beliefs often stem from a deep desire to know the meaning of something. One of the things that people truly want to know, is their own place and role in the universe. This is all well and good as long as this urge don´t make you jump aboard a bandwagon leading nowhere.

Do not cling on desperately to dogma! There is no point in looking for answers if you can’t verify them. Sweet lies can hurt you. 

The answers are found when you are patient. As you grow, you will indeed learn more about yourself and what your purpose in life might be.

People who think for themselves tend to make their own meaning. They create purpose. So the least you can do is to choose your own destiny.

Part 2 is found here

Jesper Lindholm


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