I believe the world is a globe floating in the vastness of space, stars are the souls of the lost things, and brushing my teeth after food will help protect my teeth and dogs may be the very personification of angels.
How did I come to have these beliefs?
I’ll tell you. My sphere of influence is how.
My family, friends, teachers. social networks, work colleagues, reading, the multiple sources, such as books, internet and podcasts, that I glean information from.
Some things I’ve learned via word of mouth I have discounted because I choose to do my own research via science, for instance I learned and therefore, not to judge, that all gay people have not made a choice to be that way, they are born that way, and I also discovered through the power of reading and deeper investigation that regardless of the amount of pigment in the skin, we are all bags of water, calcium and muscles and tendons.
Had I only exposed to myself to limited sources, such as family and government fan sites, I might believe Trump is the second coming and there’s a place for guns in every home. No comment on whether I do or not (I really don’t). When we’re talking in therapy about other beliefs like: I should be over this grief by now, I should love my Mum/Dad/other family member unconditionally because they are family, they are my children, I should be able to tell them how to live... we come into the other realm of influence...society.
Society’s expectations often led us into beliefs that we try to adhere too even when they are causing us harm because they do not align with our personal beliefs, ethics or morals.
I was also taught from an early age, by family and the society that grew up in that ‘ladies don’t show anger or any strong emotions in public, we do that in privacy’.
For years I carried this with me and it caused mental and physical pain.
I reckon you’re wondering how this could cause physical pain.
When I was verbally and discreetly sexually assaulted at 17 while out with friends on a Friday night, I calmly asked him to stop, but ultimately took it, and for safety sake waited for it to be over.
It was unacceptable for society to hear about what had happened to me.
I waited a week before I told Muv (my Mum), the police informed me there was nothing they could (would) do. So I was alone to deal with it.
About a month afterwards I thumped a wall as the only way to express the anger of the injustice of it. I broke three fingers. I blamed the injury on hockey and bound the digit with white sports tape. Then proceeded to laugh and make joke whenever I was asked about it, but mainly just ignored and never spoke about again until #MeToo.
Luckily we are in a different era where it is more acceptable to speak up when we are having issues with what we’ve been taught, led to believe and experiences as they really are.
We can talk to someone that has no knowledge of our sphere of influence and help us to form our own views of something that might be bothering us.
In some cases they may even let you know you are not alone in this belief and that just because you have an alternative belief to what you have been taught, it’s not strange or wrong, or even that it’s quite normal. Such as grief.
I’ve recently had a number of people talking to me and sharing an expectation that they should be over their grief already.
Why? Everyone experiences grief differently and we all grieve in our way, whether it’s a loved one, a favourite object or TV character, we grieve in the way we grieve and for as long as we need.
Just because a society says that the funeral marks the end of the mourning period, doesn't make it so.
Time does not heal all wounds, we sometimes have to learn how to live with them. The scars make us who we are.
Having the flexibility to change what you believe can significantly aid mental health, because it means there’s less rigidity about things you’ve been told, because ‘that’s how it’s done’.
It’s not how it’s done, there’s always room for change.
Being open with those around you allow you to be more complete in your authenticity.
Bi-secting your life is difficult over time and leads to more emotional and, potentially, physical health.
When is a time you’ve hidden something about you because society, family etc haven’t wanted to hear it?