Definition of Belief Systems

Beliefs affect our lives, including our relationships with others, our
vocations, anything we have to do in this world.  Our belief systems are basic to all
our activities and interactions.  The purpose and intention our workshops and workbooks is to identify our foundational beliefs and self beliefs, especially negative
self beliefs, and begin the process of changing those we choose to change.

There are two different types of beliefs: foundational beliefs and self beliefs.
Foundational beliefs are overall beliefs. They include our theology, our under-
standing of God; our values and our moral structure; our sense of who we are as
people, what it means to be human.  Foundational beliefs are what we use to create
our perception of the world on the deepest level.  They are the anchors of our
decision making process, and provide a way of understanding the world we live in.

 Some examples of foundational beliefs are:
1) That human beings are sinful.
2) That human beings are at their core both good and evil.
3) That the human race is essentially self-destructive.
4) That people are divided into Mind, Body and Spirit.
5) That human beings are spiritual beings, and they are innately Blessed, Known,
     Good and Loved.
6) The world is flat.
7) God is judge.
8) God is love.

It is important to understand where our foundational beliefs come from.  My
understanding and map of the world is that God created the heavens and the earth
and human beings.  The particular way of understanding persons that I'm going to
use as an example is a belief that persons are innately blessed, known, good and
loved at their core.  This is a spiritual frame, who we are spiritually, created in the
image of God.  The first step is to identify your own
understanding of what it means to be a human being, at this time and in this place,
on this planet, in this country, this year.

 It is also important to understand that our foundational belief system is not
our self belief system, and there are two distinct processes at work here.  Our
foundational beliefs provide a road map to navigate in our world, so we have a
hierarchy of foundational beliefs, identity and, finally, self beliefs.  We will talk in
detail about the nature of self beliefs, their origin, and ways to change negative self
beliefs. For now, we want to understand that our identity is formed to match our
foundational beliefs, and our self beliefs support and maintain that identity.  Our
identity is in a sense surrounded by our two belief systems, foundational beliefs and
self beliefs.
 Self beliefs are how we understand ourselves in relationship to our
environment. As children we develop beliefs about ourselves as others relate to us
and as we learn about our world. If a person is reared in an angry, anxious
environment, the child will begin to believe the world is not a safe place and/or the
people that care for him/her are not trustworthy. These experiences become the
source of both self beliefs and foundational beliefs.

[table 1]
Often the child will attempt to elicit contact and affirmation from the people
in the home. If the home is codependent, addictive or otherwise abusive or
dysfunctional, the child will interpret who they are in terms of these dysfunctional
relationships. An example of how a self belief develops is when a child begins to
believe that there is something wrong with them when significant others do not
offer care or respond to the child’s attempts to solicit care. This belief, something is
wrong with me, becomes connected to the feeling of not being cared for, and is often
expressed in adulthood like this: “How come I can’t get it right? How come my
relationships don’t work out?” Some form of self-questioning or self blaming will be
The negative self belief was developed to protect the true self from the not
good enough environment. The negative belief system is a way of binding and
controlling the anxiety that exists because the childhood environment was hurtful
and the child lived in anticipation of a hurtful, non-affirming future. This reality is
often too much for a young child to process and make sense of. As a result the child
develops a way to repress his or her feelings about these experiences in the
unconscious and develops a negative self belief system to assist in that process.
Often there is a tension between the identity and one or both of the belief
systems. This tension causes anxiety, and often a chronic level of depression,
causing people not to reach their fullest potential.  Another example of incongruity
between foundational belief and self belief would be one I have often heard in
counseling:  "I believe that God forgives everyone,  but I am not forgivable." Upon
further investigation, it becomes clear that some event in their history has led them
to believe that they are not forgivable - that God's forgiveness is not for them.  I had
the experience of talking with one woman in her forties who said, "I know God is a
forgiving and saving God, yet salvation is not for me."  There was an event in her
life which she feels prevents her salvation, yet her foundational belief is that God's
salvation is for everyone.  I have heard stories of people who will work and give
money for the betterment of others, such as helping with college tuition, who have
themselves a desire and will to go to college.  But they have a self belief that they
are not good enough.  They have a negative self belief that they have no right to
potentialize their abilities and gifts, because of their internalized self evaluation of
their own worth.