Transitional Belief Systems
Updated: Mar 28, 2021
There are so many ways to look at beliefs and how they impact us, that it’s hard to know where to begin. This is just one idea that came to me while I was running tonight.
Many times we get stuck in moment in our lives and experience something—a thought, a feeling, a belief. We then project that system out for eternity and think that it exists forever. The thought, feeling, and belief may in fact exist forever in the same way that our soul is also eternal—but you are not obligated to stay in that system.
Sometimes we hold on to things for a long time even if they cause us harm. The word “things” can mean a person or an object, but I think it is especially true of belief systems. People hold on to their beliefs about things for many reasons—reasons which span from not being aware of what they believe to a sense of loyalty for a perspective or enmeshment of their identity within it.
I believed in Christianity for a while and when I did, I did my best to live by that belief. The church allowed for a certain amount of questioning, but there were certain aspects that you had to believe in or else you would lose your place in the community. I also grew up with a strong belief in science, if things couldn’t be rationalized or explained in some way through the scientific method, they quickly lost their validity. To believe in something without some form of scientific validity was to be “delusional”. In both cases there was a certain sense of continuity, you could change the color of your lens but if you stretched the framework too far you were punished. Even though I saw and heard things that made me question both perspectives, letting go of either—and eventually both—of them was absolutely terrifying. I’m not saying this to vilify either organized religion or science. I think both have their place and can be useful, but I am going to say that there is tendency for many of us to get stuck in a belief system. Even if we change our belief system one or two times we eventually get to a place where we start to think that the new belief system is the one that we need to stick to and the pattern repeats.
This makes sense if you think about it. Continuity is a survival strategy. Having something consistent creates order and security in a chaotic world, and there is nothing wrong with believing in something for the eternity of your life. However, when you start to believe that you have to believe in whatever your current perspective is then you immediately lock yourself into a box. There is nothing wrong with choosing to stay in one belief system because it works well for you or because it is in alignment-- or for any other reason that you chose to stay there--but it’s easy to slip into a mindset that says you HAVE to continue to believe it and that can be problematic.
There are times when belief systems work best as steppingstones to new perspectives. There is nothing wrong with believing in something for a time and then letting it go. In fact, if we continue the rock-climbing metaphor from the previous post—having transitional beliefs is what allows you to effectively climb. A certain view or perspective can be seen as a hold on the wall. For a while you brace yourself against that belief system as you stretch and learn—but eventually there will come a point where the only way to move to the next grip is to let go of the one you are perched on.
Another metaphor to understand this is walking. When you walk your foot touches the ground at certain point, but to move forward it has to leave that point and re-connect at a new point. Movement often implies change and change reflects a pattern of holding on and letting go. Again, this doesn’t mean that you can’t revisit a belief system or that you should always change your beliefs. It is just a way to show that as we change our beliefs can also change. As you pursue expansion you are likely to come into contact with many different beliefs. Over time something that made so much sense to you and helped you overcome significant challenges may start to hold you back and you may need to let it go to move forward—when this happens there is no reason to feel guilty, or stupid, or bitter. When this happens, you can honor the belief for the help it provided you at just the right time and thank it for giving you the leverage you needed to move forward—and then let go and continue on your path.
There is no guilt, shame, or bitterness in understanding transitional beliefs and honoring the pathway they create for our growth. So as you move forward and integrate new ideologies don’t worry if you find that some beliefs—even ones you thought would last forever actually turn out to be transitional and don’t fall into fear or judgment over having to let go to move on.