“Change does not take place by trying coercion, or persuasion, or by insight, interpretation, or any other such means. Rather, change can occur when the patient [or client] abandons, at least for the moment, what he [or she] would like to become and attempts to be what he [or she] is.”

Arnold Bessier


This is a companion piece to my thinking on “we are all a bit purposefully ignorant.” That said. Let’s be clear. For the majority of things, no person ever gets to know the whole of a truth. If you don’t believe me, just think about how time has effected many of the ‘truths’ you have held throughout your lifetime. Shit. Even experiences you had, things you knew to be ‘true’, can often take on a different narrative once you know everything that occurred before, who was involved, what was involved, and the consequences that followed. Things that seemed self-evident take a back seat to things you thought were trivial at that time. Shit. This is even true about honesty (and lying). You may discover you have become a liar not because of you intentionally lied, but rather because of things you did not know that become known.  I say all of this to suggest history, and beliefs, are not truly fixed but defined, and redefined, as time breaks down their construct. Well. That is true if you let it be true.

Which leads me to beliefs, and history, can be pretty resilient.

We have a tendency to have a self-sealing logic <Chris Argyris> with regard to our beliefs. Self sealing is when we find information that confirms our beliefs and ignore some ‘truths’ which could challenge our beliefs. In other words, once we settle in on a belief, especially if we view it as a ‘governing belief’, we seal it off from additional information.

To be fair. Most people like stability with regard to their beliefs. And this means beliefs kind of seem to gain some strength the longer they are perceived to have lasted. In addition. The more uncertain the world becomes, or we believe it becomes, the more likely we will latch onto even some conspiracy theories (or dubiously grounded theories) to moor our belief world. These ‘governing beliefs’ become kind of like the color filter which hues everything you see from that point on. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out superficial beliefs are relatively easy to change, but governing beliefs can be stubborn motherfuckers. They gain some emotional “I care about this belief” aspects and caring is not only the engine to do something, but also the glue to hold on to something.

Obviously, the problem with self-sealing beliefs is new information should shed some of the boundaries around existing beliefs.

“Once you see the boundaries of your environment, they are no longer the boundaries of your environment.”

Marshall McLuhan

Now. We have access to new information all the time, but the truth is that the brain is an inherently limited storage unit <and computer>. We rarely know as much about a given topic as everyone else in a room put together, and even if we do, our perspective is partial and biased in a variety of ways. That ‘room together’ thought is important because research has shown that human connectivity <dialogue and interaction> is the most powerful tool in shaping, and reshaping, our beliefs. It is within interaction, exposure to new ideas and thinking as well as the discussion of new ideas and thinking, which can reshape what we have in our brain. Alternatively, as Jaron Lanier has pointed out, more people can make us more stupid. Depending on who your ‘connectivity’ is with, you can easily fall into pack behavior, identity signaling and a variety of ‘I have found my tribe’ characteristics. It is a version of “group sealing beliefs” which only feed into conformation bias for ‘self sealing logic’ and ‘self-sealing beliefs’. It’s a vicious loop to get trapped in if you are not careful. Oh. And most people are not careful. Why? Well. Its easier to wander around the world with self-sealing beliefs, find other with similar beliefs, and scratch your head <or get irritated> when someone doesn’t see what is obvious to you.

All that said. I imagine my point is almost everyone’s belief systems do some shapeshifting within a contextual environment wherein we get influenced by other mindsets, i.e., beliefs, attitudes which effect ours at times in our Life.

“Defensive routines are thoughts and actions used to protect individuals’, groups’, and organizations’ usual way of dealing with reality.”

Chris Argyris

Look. We all need beliefs. They shape who we are, how we think and even what we do. We couldn’t really survive without any beliefs. At the same time, beliefs are constraints <constraints can be good and bad>. Those constraints can make us both more efficient and effective while, at exactly the same time, make us less efficient and less effective. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that beliefs wielded like a dull axe guarantees a dull person. That said. The interesting thing I don’t believe people think about enough is that governing beliefs are typically grounded in some ‘needs.’ What I mean by that is as we need things, not just want, we craft a belief system around how to get them and filter ‘stories’ as we get them. Our beliefs assess reality in terms of filing away reality and assessing the ‘non-knowable’ stuff as it moves into reality. This is partially why governing beliefs can be so damn stubborn – they shape the reality we ‘see’.

Which leads me back to ‘obvious.’

Earlier I mentioned something about ‘obvious to you, but they don’t see it.’ I cannot remember where I read this, but, “the obvious is not obvious.” What I believe they meant by that is your belief system crafts your ‘obvious’. That means someone else is using their own belief system to craft their own ‘obvious.’ Uhm. The probability that your obvious perfectly matches someone else’s is fairly low. Obvious has shiftable dimensions and yet we tend to think of it as a whole concrete thing.

Shit. We think of stories as concrete things and the truth is most stories we accept as simply constructs of things we believe. Our belief structure is, well, constructed. It’s a narrative constructed of a tapestry of stories. I mention stories because that means self-sealing beliefs are constructed by stories we tell ourselves. Now. We may claim these stories are real and these stories are truth, but, well, for the most part they are stories OF stories which we like to tell ourselves so we can justify our ‘self-sealing beliefs.’ Ponder that for a moment or two.

I think I’ll end there to state – “you set a thief to catch a thief.” You tell a story to kill a story. In today’s world far too many of the self-sealing beliefs are unhealthy and I think we need to become better ‘healthy storytellers’ to help reshape some of the more unhealthy ‘self-sealed belief stories’ in existence. To be honest, I am not sure self sealed logic or beliefs is a good thing. I know why we do it, I am not sure we should do it. My sense is self-sealing beliefs can quickly become dogmatic thinking and in a dynamic world in which the world itself reshapes almost on a minute-by-minute basis, it would seem like our belief systems should be a bit more malleable. But, hey, that’s me.

Written by Bruce