Belief systems drive our actions and reactions. They filter all of our experiences. So what happens when a belief becomes stale?
Formation of Beliefs
Beliefs begin to form at birth, if not sooner. (See Formation of Belief Systems.) Throughout your life, experiences cause your belief system to grow and change. Relative to beliefs, experiences fit into four categories: (1) those in alignment with your beliefs, (2) those in opposition, (3) ones that are neutral, or (4) ones that are foreign or new, so they are neither in concert with or opposed to your existing beliefs.
When you experience something in line with your beliefs, the experience is accepted and the belief strengthened. When something occurs that is in opposition to your beliefs, you are likely to reject it, speak out against it, become upset by it, ignore it, or occasionally you may even challenge your belief’s validity. Neutral experiences are those which you do not have any attachment to—your beliefs are unaffected by them. A new, unknown experience is filtered through your existing beliefs, so it may be rejected, ignored, or simply not consciously registered. Sometimes, though, it can be the seed for forming a new belief.
What is a Stale Belief?
A stale belief is a one that has become stagnate or obsolete. If you never challenge beliefs and let them become stale, you can get stuck in patterns that are not healthy, slow your growth, or halt your evolution. Stale beliefs are responsible for behavior that prevents you from learning, causes you to behave negatively or inappropriately, or results in unwanted actions. To stop this type of conduct, the stale belief causing the behavior needs to be identified, then altered or eliminated.
A belief that has become stale may have once been useful, but your circumstances changed and the belief is no longer valid. It is also possible the stale belief may have been erroneous from the minute it was established. This can happen when it is formed at a young age, such as adopting the beliefs of a parent, teacher, or peer. The belief may work for them but is not suitable for you. An erroneous belief can also result from misinterpreting an experience or lacking enough information to form an appropriate or useful belief.
In the next part of this series, I will address identifying stale beliefs.