12. Inner Structure
Man is what he believes.
Anton Chekhov (Russian 19c writer)
Our beliefs, concepts, thoughts and ideas play an important role in the way we perceive reality. However, our beliefs do not exist independently; they tend to be organised in meaningful and sensible ways. This net of mental concepts creates our belief system – or inner structure. We all, practically from birth, start building (and re-building) this system and continue doing so throughout our lives, so it is the result of an interaction between ourselves and the world. Some elements stem from adopting common knowledge (science, religion, cultural beliefs), and some are the result of unique personal experiences (e.g. believing that people are/are not generally trustworthy). However, we need to be aware that although these mental structures correspond to reality to some extent, they should not be identified with it. In other words, we should not assume that our beliefs are the indisputable truth. If this happens, the mental structure that they create is taken for granted and left unattended, with the consequence that it cannot accommodate new experiences and could even fall apart.
The purpose of our inner structure
The main purpose of our inner structure (or belief system) is to integrate, i.e. make a meaningful whole of various experiences, and enable our mind to expand. Fragmented, conflicting, or too rigid beliefs can lead to prolonged anxiety, poor adaptability and a number of other personal and interpersonal problems. Yet, psychologists have observed that people find invalidation of their basic beliefs highly threatening and have a vested interest in maintaining them even when they are maladaptive, for fear of disorganisation.’(1) So let’s see first how we can make changes to our belief system in a controlled way in order to allow for its better integration as well as its development. After that, two exercises that can facilitate its integration and development (Mind- mapping and Laddering) will be described in some detail.