The revolution that’s taken place within the mental health field over the past few decades (commonly called the cognitive-behavioral revolution) has brought to the forefront the importance of our “core beliefs.” It’s how we see things (e.g., the interpretations we make, the attitudes we harbor, and the meanings we ascribe to things, etc.) that so heavily influences how we conduct ourselves.
As I’ve mentioned several times on my Character Matters program, the freedoms we enjoy are under assault from both external and internal sources. And at the heart of the threats we face are ideologies and ways of thinking that discount the value of every human life and advance self-serving power agendas. What we believe really matters, whether we’re somewhat narcissistic and think we’re entitled to take whatever we want no matter who or what gets negatively affected in the process, or we’ve affiliated ourselves with a group that believes its particular philosophy should dominate and all who don’t adhere to the same philosophy are inherently inferior and perhaps even unworthy to exist (For more on this topic see: A Peek Inside the Mindset of Terror and Radical Ideologies: Deadly Ways of Thinking).
There was a time in psychology when therapists were held in low esteem for passing any type of judgment on the beliefs or attitudes their patients held. But in the age of character disturbance, no self-respecting therapist can avoid not only recognizing but also confronting the dysfunctional beliefs that inevitably damage relationships. This is the heart of what many subscribers to the cognitive-behavioral perspective call the A-B-C model of perception and behavior. In this model, the “A” stands for the antecedent events that trigger a response in us and the “B” stands for both the core beliefs we hold about the world and the interpretations we make about those events. The “C,” of course, stands for the consequences of those beliefs, especially with regard to the conduct we’re likely to display as a result of our beliefs. So, within this model, understanding human behavior is as easy as A-B-C. That is, if you want to change how people act or respond to circumstances, you first have to address how they think, it’s as simple as that. A man who holds the beliefs that women are naturally inferior and are meant to be subservient will most likely behave in an abusive manner toward his spouse. And a young person who holds the belief that nothing really matters except getting all you can while you can and any way you can is most likely to lead his or her life in a callous, hedonistic way. So these days, most well-trained therapists looking to help change destructive behavior patterns no longer avoid dealing directly with the attitudes and beliefs their clients hold.
The world is facing some very trying times right now and likely will for some time to come. In fact, the world is already at war (Many argue that it’s never not been so) and driving this war are some fiercely competing ideologies. It’s analogous to the conflict that’s long gone on between mostly “neurotic” vs. mostly character-impaired people but on a much larger and potentially more deadly scale. And if we’re to survive as a species we’ll have to eventually come to terms with our beliefs and embrace some common core principles. Getting to that point will be no easy task, and there’s always a chance we won’t make it as a species (we might just exploit each other, abandon each other, kill each other, or sufficiently ignore our common needs and our resources to the extent we can no longer sustain human life as we know it). Nevertheless, it’s the challenge we face.
We can no longer avoid confronting and dealing directly with the issue of our beliefs and our belief systems. Our survival depends on our ability to find and embrace beliefs that are not merely of a variety that we can all live with but rather are of a character that inherently respect and promote human welfare. And it’s this cause that really defines my personal mission for the rest of the time I’m granted. My books In Sheep’s Clothing, Character Disturbance, and The Judas Syndrome, this blog, and my radio program (This topic will receive heavy attention on Character Matters for some time to come) are just some of my efforts toward that end. And I’ll be announcing some interesting new others over the course of the year.