Inner Formation of the Heart

Part 13: Principles #8 & #9--Central Beliefs Passively Formed & Unaware

    Posted by Klaus Issler on January 5, 2010

#8  Our central beliefs can be acquired even without our conscious mental engagement.

            In a sense, the formation of our central beliefs is largely a passive process, over time responding to the facts of reality (or to perceived reality leading to false beliefs). God designed human beings to be truth-seekers and to be truth-embracers.  But our fallenness distorts that built-in “truth capacity” and urges us to retain false central beliefs, sometimes tenaciously. We cannot create brute reality—it is already there—to be discovered and labeled (e.g., a poodle dog, oak tree, color of red). On the other hand, humans can create certain “socially constructed” realities (e.g., money, credit cards, college degrees). [This distinction between brute reality and socially constructed reality is from John Searle, The construction of social reality. New York: Free Press, 1995. I thank Peggy Burke for bringing this reference to my attention.]

            Since central beliefs can be learned without conscious supervision or engagement, it is possible for babies and children to acquire central beliefs, even before they can clearly speak their mother tongue. Some psychologists theorize that many of our central beliefs are formed in our early childhood and that these beliefs in particular are difficult to dislodge (e.g. I am loved when I am good).

#9  We are unaware of most of our central beliefs (including false, settled central beliefs).

            Many of our central beliefs were formed during childhood, mostly without our awareness. As we approach adolescence and young adulthood we may not be fully aware of all the central beliefs that have been formed in our character. Imagine an iceberg, in which most of the ice is below the water, with only a small portion visible. Similarly, most of our central beliefs are below the surface of our consciousness. By noticing our actions and reactions along with the help of feedback from trusted others, we can discern many of our central beliefs.

To comment on this musing, go to our blog.

Next Musing: Principle #10--Responsible for Central Beliefs.

Dr. Klaus Issler