I subscribe to the belief that one should try to have at least a working or high level knowledge of belief systems other than one's own, in order to understand why people belief in the things they do and what benefits they feel they are getting from this. It could be said that one does not truly have self-knowledge and conviction in what one wants or believes until one understands what one doesn't want - and indeed it is often the case that in exploring the 'other', one ends up incorporating elements of those beliefs or entertain ideas that over years may develop further or become clearer.
Many people have experienced religious or spiritual awakening or conversion, or even what some would classify as an exorcism, in a matter of minutes, which has changed their lives forever. Such occurrences are rarely rational decisions to follow a certain path, but a bizarre rollercoaster ride which seems the right way to tackle things at the time. One may plan ahead and believe that 'one day', one will become a Buddhist etc., not convert to an 'unfashionable' religion or faith. I am not suggesting that one has to become a Christian or Moslem necessarily to root out core negative beliefs and replace them with empowering positive beliefs. However, in many cases, it works!
However, each person has to choose their own path and follow their heart and what feels authentic (if one forgets the ego's fears and denials for a moment). Some people may prefer using psychological techniques instead. Other individuals achieve some level of success in aligning their beliefs with their True Self through reflection and conscious effort over many months and years, of gaining wisdom and insight - it is a gradual culmination of conditioning and increase in awareness, albeit from the control and scrutiny of the conscious mind (and occasionally the ego).
However, in a large number of cases, such a conversion or transformation, as described above, is only superficial, and although it plants the seeds of self-development, the root negative beliefs are never fully removed or nullified and serve to drag the person back to how they were before, whether the person does nothing to reinforce the beliefs, or tries and tries. Sometimes an improvement is all that occurs and not a radical and permanent transformation. NLP is all about continual conditioning, but it will not work properly if the person is not open and honest with him or herself and is willing to be humble and let go (i.e. not be controlled by the ego). Some people find that faith, whatever guise it comes in, provides more powerful leverage to wrench out the negative beliefs, associated so much spiritual pain with continuing bad habits or beliefs or behaviour. If one can create enough pain association without faith, then all the better, but faith provides an extra dimension and set of empowering (hopefully) beliefs that can work in conjunction with the rational non-spiritual, personal and world view beliefs and NLP techniques, to root out the negative and reinforce and build up the positive. Sometimes we go through the motions with psychology but deep down we just don't believe that we aren't worthless or whatever the negative poison there is. That poison and self-hatred sits fast unless something really powerful can dislodge it that can utilise total and deep sense of certainty, belief and conviction. A radical and quick shift in one's core beliefs has an immediate effect on the way a person looks, their posture and physiology, their spirit and the internal energetic system (qi). The qi pattern and imbalances can completely change in a matter of minutes, which can confuse some oriental medicine practitioners completely!
As discussed above, our mind may acquire a number of negative beliefs over time. These may be beliefs such as the interests and wellbeing of others are more important than one's own. For example, many people will be very keen to help someone with health problems or to take them to hospital, but very reluctant to actually go to see a doctor themselves when they have the same problem. It is easy to brush over our own needs as seemingly 'unimportant' or 'not wanting to make a fuss'. It is a little like 'I don't want my existence and survival to cause a fuss or inconvenience to others and draw me any attention from others'. The same principle is often carried over to those who become religious, causing similar problems in their personal life and spiritual life. For example, a person may not feel God's love, but feel that God loves others. This may work for evangelising for others, but does not make that person feel good about himself or close to God. It's as if God loves everyone else, but is indifferent about you. This is the same belief as above. 'I am not important but others are'. Rarely will such a believe lead to happiness, freedom and the ability to self-actualise fully.
Our global beliefs and conditioning can often lead us to use the same everyday approach to events around us, often tinged with a defensive protective layer, regardless of what the actual circumstances are, whether they are 'typical' (a belief in itself) or 'normal', or whether they are exceptionally lousy or exceptionally good, or a combination of all of these things. Such a tendency to adopt a single, slightly anaesthetised or negative approach can stop us appreciating good things when they happen and from simply enjoying the simplicity and beauty in a bird or a tree. Such conditioning of beliefs results in an inability to focus widely and is an addictive pattern of the conscious mind. A more productive approach is a detached clam, witnessing energy around us, rather than evaluating and judging when often there is really nothing to judge. Of course, being detached and not witnessing is an unhealthy psychological withdrawal reflecting negative global beliefs, low self-esteem and depression. The mind can often become addicted to becoming involved in every situation, rather than just observing it from a distance or from high overhead, where it does not seem such a big deal or worth becoming annoyed about. We are conditioned to 'think' rather than to 'feel'. Many people whom one could call 'negs', tend to sound negative or moan, no matter what you say to them. They feel more comfortable when the other person they are talking to is brought down to their same level, their negative beliefs spreading like a virus. When other people share your core beliefs, one feels more 'secure' and at home - not 'threatened'.
Quite often, our perception of reality is heavily distorted by perceptions of what is good and bad, with arbitrary meanings ascribed to objects or situation, which stops us seeing what is really there. This is one of the concepts of the 'Absurd' of Existentialism. The philosophy that nothing has any objective meaning apart from that which we give to it. One aspect of this is society's use of the language of polarity. The language of opposites. The language of opposition. For example, we are told that the opposite of hot is cold. What does 'opposite' really mean? What we really mean is one object has more heat energy than another, which has less. The second object is less hot. When we say the opposite of light is dark, what we really mean is dark is a condition where there is less light. And absolute quantities are difficult to describe and indeed measure! A quality is always relative. A person may be considered rich amongst one group of people and poor in another group of people. Which is he? Rich or poor? Does the terminology really mean anything? One has varying levels of abundance. There is no such thing as poor. The same concept can be applied to 'good' and 'evil'. Love and hate. There is no such thing as evil, just the absence of love. A purely evil action can be considered to be devoid of any kind of love-based norm or morality. It is an action that is done purely for the doers benefit that has extremely detrimental effects on others. It is not 'evil' per se. Monotheistic faith can be viewed the same way, there is God or not God, love or not love, and varying shades in between. Is there really such a thing as the 'Devil'? Or is this just the embodiment of rebellion and turning away from God in every area and pure ego-driven beliefs and behaviour? To an extreme? You decide. The nature of using polarity in one's perception often results in not seeing the relativity of a situation, not being objective, becoming blase and unappreciative. We may ascribe a sense of good to one extreme and bad to the other, but usually this perception shifts with time, so that we become more demanding and fussy, and only that which is closer to 'perfection' in our eyes makes us feel good momentarily.
Does God exist? If so, then what is the nature of God, what are his intentions for us, and how should be regard God and what kind of relationship should we have with him? This question has been debated over the millennia and will continue to be so until the end of humanity. Often those who seem to be on the surface to hold completely opposing beliefs often share very similar beliefs, or rather share a belief in God, but differ in the details about what God really means and what/who he is. With this foundation, it can result in vastly different world views, potentially.
To conclude, spiritual beliefs are at the end of the days just beliefs. Each person has a multitude of beliefs in different areas that guide his or her behaviour. Some are developed through direct experience and references (with a little assumption thrown in for good measure). Others are based on expanded awareness or ideals and leaps of faith. Beliefs change over time. Beliefs are a little like clothes that we wear, they are not really 'us', but they have dictate our actions and mould who we become on some level. It is easy to believe that one's current beliefs will remain the same for the rest of one's life, but this is often not the case. Beliefs change and evolve, they come and go. Beliefs are a dime for dozen in many cases. I am of the opinion that it does not pay to be too dogmatic in many of one's beliefs, but try to align oneself with one's True Self instead, which will better take us to where we want to be. Spiritual beliefs tend to be more powerful than ordinary, mundane beliefs, and can be excellent vehicles for change, and create enormous leverage. One has to be sure they are what we want. In many cases, they may be stepping stones to further evolution and transformation. A necessary path that we had to take to evolve to a higher state or goal, albeit going through a few limiting phases in the interim in spiritual terms. Sometimes we need to get certain things out of our system in a certain way rather than proceed directly to our goal, zigzagging along B-roads rather than taking the motorway.
To read about the history of Personal Development, please see the History of Personal Development page.