The Truth Wants to Set You Free!

"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
But after observation and analysis,
when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all,
then accept it and live up to it."

- Buddha

When you were young and the cement was still wet, you learned lessons that have stayed with you for a lifetime. However, some of the beliefs that were conditioned into you then are not valid now. Nevertheless, they may retain their ability to provoke strong emotional states that are poorly matched with the challenges you now face. It is sadly ironic that the bad outcomes that result from buying into these pathogenic beliefs reinforce their credibility [see Recursive Traps].

Thinking errors, perceptual biases, and other cognitive distortion mechanisms cause us to believe things that are not true. The devilish quality of pathogenic beliefs is their ability to influence objective reality in ways that confirm the initially false belief, and thereby make a true. Belief's about oneself can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

  • Even though you are not a trustworthy fortune-teller, the belief that you will fail will a negative effect on performance and thereby make failure more likely.

  • Mind reading — the belief that you know what the other person is thinking  —  can have relationship-enhancing or -destroying effects depending upon the motivations you attribute to the other person. "She does that because she loves me." versus "She does that because she wants to cause me pain."

Click here for the list of the most common Pathogenic Beliefs.

Causes of Self-Sabotage

In order to function in everyday life, we automatically assume that what we belief is true — second-guessing yourself when you are running from danger is not adaptive. However, for the purposes of this course, please suspend your usual relationship with subjective experience, and experiment with observing it dispassionately and manipulating it intentionally.

The biases that distort state-dependent phenomena, including perception, is necessarily invisible to our perceptual apparatus in real time (in the moment our anger is always justifiable). We can, however, recognize the distortions in hindsight. You may find that you smile a time or two while reading the list of Pathogenic Beliefs and come upon one you recognize in yourself.

Once you understand the fallacies and the sinister effect they have on the course of your life, you can reject the path of least resistance and exercise your will to follow your path of greatest advantage. The toll for this far better path is the willingness to accept the truth and remain faithful to the discipline of inductive and deductive reasoning.

Developing your ability to recognize your own pathogenic beliefs speeds your progress from the mentality of childhood to more advanced ways of coping with high-risk situations. This advice to remain calm so that you can see things more clearly and think more effectively is so obvious that it may not seem worth repeating. In fact, it is the kind of advice you would give a child. I emphasize it here, because, despite your accomplishments in other domains of your life, you have probably developed low self-efficacy in this domain. If this is true, then you are likely to revert to the mentality of childhood when you are experiencing a high-risk situation.  To counter this natural tendency, you will participate in a set of exercises that enhance your ability to cope with emotionally provocative situations in ways that elicit a rational, dispassionate, problem-solving mind set, instead of reverting to the more primitive reaction involving emotional states and consequent state-dependent distortions.

The scientific method has no room for emotional reactivity

The scientific method is the discipline that enables you to learn the lessons nature is trying to teach you. At the theoretical level, the scientific method is flexible in its openness to new facts and ideas. At the procedural level, it is rigid; a good scientist adheres, without exception, to good scientific process. You can be confident that (s)he followed the procedures exactly as described in the publication’s method section. The Enlightened Path requires adherence to good process: Follow your procedures exactly as described and without exception! Be aware of this responsibility when you compose your plan. Do not look for or accept loopholes!

On the Enlightened Path, whatever happens is nature’s way of teaching you about cause-and-effect. Unwanted outcomes that in the past would have triggered emotional reactions and ruminative self-focus, are instead used in the service of personal growth by increasing your understanding of how you react to the world around you. Following the Enlightened Path requires that you perform as intended without exception . . . except when there are exceptions — in which case you learn from the unexpected observation, revise your plan accordingly, and continue following the Enlightened Path.  

In summary: Emotional reactions such as demoralization are the greatest threats to good outcome. During this journey, you are likely to experience some setbacks. The key to the Enlightened Path is to use the unexpected information to develop a more sophisticated understanding of cause-and-effect, rather than react to it with frustration or self-focused rumination. The truth wants to set you free. Your job is to keep your emotions from getting in the way so you can learn what nature is trying to teach you about cause-and-effect.

Your course through life-span development

You began totally dependent on your parents. To achieve your current level of independence you had to master a set of challenges, each of which seemed insurmountable at the time. 

Consider how as an infant you first learned to walk.  Perhaps reaching up to a chair or table and pulling yourself upright, on your own two feet for the first time.  Feeling that sense of mastery and excitement, struggle and accomplishment.  And then, perhaps sometime later, taking that very first step - and falling.  But getting up again and taking another first step - and falling.  And so many steps and so many falls and failures.  But always finding within yourself the determination to persevere, to endure all those falls, and hurts, and failures.  And always learning from experience, progressing in ability until eventually you were able to walk, and run without having to consciously think about it. 

You persevered through the many developmental challenges of childhood, because you were not yet weighed down by fears of failure.  Somehow as a child you knew instinctively that struggle and failure are a natural part of life and growth. You knew that it is not avoidance of failure that leads to mastery and growth.  Rather it is perseverance, willingness to take risks, and learning from failures that produce competence and success.

Now that you no longer have to depend on someone to take you where you want to go, read and write for you, and do the many other things that you have learned to do for yourself, you are ready for the next developmental challenge: The passage from the emotionally reactive, self-centered mentality of childhood to the dispassionate, problem-solving mentality of adulthood. During this passage you will develop the skills and faculties to respond adaptively to whatever happens, without having to depend on something outside of yourself to help you cope with the experience

The path of greatest advantage is not for sissies. Performing well during each high-risk situation you encounter requires the ability to remain dispassionate during these crisis. Cognitive Behavior Therapy [CBT] offers a perspective and set of tools that will help you develop the emotion-focused coping skills that will enable you to succeed at this heroic challenge.


Pathogenic Beliefs Enslave You > >

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