Monday, October 01, 2007

Attitudes, Beliefs & Values

This is an area where choosing your parents carefully can pay off. Since none of us have that opportunity, the next consideration is how we can make the most of ourselves in spite of those around us from conception until we are aware of ourselves as individuals.

Attitudes: those things put into our brains before we have awareness making it impossible to filter. Put another way, our parents should teach us by example and with words what we need to know in order to maximize our lives. As a child it never occurred to us to say, “Really, mom, that just can’t be correct. I’m just not going to permanently store what you just did/said.” Instead, as babies we are data sponges and we soak up everything and store it for future use. That’s good as long as the data is accurate and useful for us in building out lives. That’s bad when it is not. As we grow older we find stuff in our memories that we no longer hold to be true or useful. Now we have the problem of deleting. That simply doesn’t work well. Instead we must build a new structure in our brains that represents what we believe to be correct/true. That is time consuming and difficult. Some ideas may never be tested and we may never be aware of the fact that they don’t fit reality as we intellectually believe it to be. Fact is that we need to be aware that we are always a work in progress and that it is entirely possible that we didn’t start with the best of data.

Beliefs: our experiences tell us that certain things are true and we those beliefs often control our actions. For example, you find a political candidate that seems to think about things in a way that fits reality as you see it. You begin to follow what they are doing and saying and find yourself willing to vote for them. You can’t help but notice which political party they belong to and find yourself voting more and more for folk in that same party. You have come to believe that their view of reality and your view of reality are similar or at times the same. You become a believer. Problem is, it is very time consuming to keep up with all those politicians and it is just plain easier to vote the ticket than determine what is best for your world. In that respect, beliefs can become dangerous to us and our communities.

Values: expectations have caused us to accept that certain things are right. For example, several conservative friends of mine have said that they don’t think that individuals, businesses or nations should allow themselves to go deeply into debt. As a matter of fact, they think everybody at all levels should try to operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. These folk have beliefs that Republicans are conservative and they are in a difficult situation because their belief in the Republican Party is important to them and their belief that we should be operating on a pay-as-you-go basis is also important. They are in a quandary when it comes to the huge national debt that the United States has acquired. Be careful when trying to talk to them about this kind of topic, because it has become a major conflict in their minds and they have not yet decided what to do.

Do we have any attitudes that we don’t want others to know about? Could it be that we have discovered that our attitude does not fit with what we now believe to be true? Do our values match what we believe about ourselves and our communities? This internal conflict can be a major stress point, and can complicate communications.


Laurice said...

Are you insinuating that the choice of our political parties influence our values or that values influence our choice of political parties?

John Rice said...

Good point . . . I'm suggesting that these two elements influence each other. That if one of them changes there is a very good chance that in the long run, both will change. These elements are often clearly revealed in our daily lives and out there for everyone to view. When that happens, we say that what you see is what you get. And we are more than a little nervous about folk who appear to be something that we suspect they are not.