Dr. Ken Larsen
Centuries ago the prevailing view was that the earth was the center of the universe. This was a real belief and it dominated the thinking of scholars and the church.
Through the ages certain beliefs have directed our thinking and influenced our behavior. All of those beliefs were real. Many of those beliefs were not true.
Copernicus and Galileo did a little investigating to verify the then established “truth” that the earth was the center of the universe. We know what happened next. It nearly cost Galileo his life to dare to point out the truth that the earth was NOT the center of the universe. Christopher Columbus dared to defy the prevailing “truth” that to sail too far, was to fall off the edge of the world.
As I think about human history, I wonder how many of those real beliefs that are not true remain in our collective thinking. We know that our beliefs shape our thinking which in turn affects our behavior which further impacts our relationships with our world and the people in it.
I’m thinking in particular about those beliefs that separate us as humans and which ultimately have an impact on our mental health and happiness by keeping us separate and apart from one another.
Through our evolution we were bonded to our tribal groupings, which fostered a “them” and “us” outlook. “They” were the potential danger to us and we needed to separate from and guard ourselves against them.
For many of us our tribal connections are history, yet our conditioned beliefs about “them and us” often remain, causing a residual prevailing suspicion that leads to conflict, division and strife.
We see this in many of our interpersonal relationships, where some of us look at others of us and see “them” rather than recognizing the deeper level of our connections to one another. This separation makes it easy to blame “them” for our problems, tragically leading to animosity and violence against “them”. Of course “they” have similar beliefs about us. And the whole thing just keeps on keeping on.
Can we realize that the world is divided by those who think they are right? Can we further realize that all this “being right” ultimately leads to some big “wrongs” that continue to feed the hatred and violence that have afflicted our species for far too long?
I believe the collective angst that hangs over us is one of the major obstacles to a more complete experience of mental health and happiness. The international tensions and conflicts and wars have been a dark cloud hovering over us, keeping us in a constant state of uncertainty.
What can we do? One suggestion is to begin a process of investigating those beliefs that bring us into conflict with one another. Can we be honest enough to realize that many of those beliefs have been handed down to us? Can we be courageous enough to aggressively ask ourselves “is this true?”
If we start with those things that are interfering with our mental health and happiness in our personal relationships, we can establish a foothold in progress. We can do this by asking ourselves in all our relationships, “is what I am doing or about to do bringing us closer together or driving us further apart?” At that point we can make a choice to make a difference.