“There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do” Freya Stark
I’m not a religious man. I don’t believe there is an all knowing power watching me and listening to my whims, moans or demands. I don’t have anything against organised religion, in fact I’ve studied theology and I’m very interested in the impact of religion on culture and society.
Although I don’t practice a particular religion, I do believe in faith. Faith keeps you safe. When Marx said that ‘religion is the opium of the people’ he didn’t mean that it was a brainwashing drug, as it has been misinterpreted for years. He meant that religion brings comfort to people.
Marx was an atheist. He believed that religion helped to ease the sorrow of the people, but, like opiates, Marx believed that religion created delusions that distracted society from solving their problems. You keep praying and God will eventually fix your problems and all you need to do is keep believing. Even if God doesn’t fix your problems while you are alive, He will bless you in death, as long as you believed. Marx thought this can lead to an inability to deal with real world problems, like poverty and famine. He was worried that without looking to the self and society for help we would remain like children as a race, incapable of the fundamentals of human endeavour and a slowing down of mental resilience. He was worried about the incompetence of the masses to fend for themselves and their gullibility in terms of what religious and political leaders were telling them.
This all sounds very cynical, but Marx was blinded by the need for a systematic change of control from divinity to state. He wanted people to root all their attention to the state and government. Marx wanted people to focus their faith and belief into society, turning their back on religion, like a child grows out of imaginary play.
But even an atheist like Marx valued the power of faith. He realised the importance of blind faith and obedient belief, because it has the power to topple nations. Politics and religion both rely on the faith of the people. If you can control the faith and beliefs of people you have a foundation strong enough to withstand anything.
The particular government, religion or God you believed in isn’t what’s important, but having faith and belief in something is. If this faith is unshakable enough, if it’s impregnable and indestructible enough, you will cling to it no matter where you find yourself and defend it with your life. It is what makes us resilient. It drives us in everything we do, in every decision we make and is at the root of our behaviour. With enough belief we can do anything.
So what does this mean for mental wellbeing? Well our minds are wired by our faith and beliefs. We are simply a system of interlinking beliefs, manifested by our experiences and the influences of other people on us. We have designed and implemented our own internal religion, which we have invested our entire life in, a religion that we would defend with our lives.
Now the problem with this type of belief is that it is not always a positive influence on us. You can have indestructible beliefs that actually stop you from evolving, changing and growing. This faith in your weaknesses is so ingrained it forms a destructive internal religion. The Ten Commandments of this internal religion are:
1. I am not good enough
2. I am not in control
3. Other people are a priority
4. I am worthless
5. I will never be better, so why try?
6. I’m a failure
7. I can’t learn
8. I am stuck here
9. I am unloved
10. Life is hopeless
Any of these sound familiar? I hear them a lot. I hear them so many times I can recite them here easily. I’ve even said some of them myself in the past, because I’m only human. That we create our own negative internal theology is inevitable. If religion is the opium for the people, this internal religion is hemlock for the soul.
How easy is it to follow a new religion? How easy is it to convert when you have no idea about what the new religion entails? This is where coaching comes in. We are not tied into a particular religion or faith. We have a single belief. We believe in you. Yes, that is VERY corny, but a life coach believes in your ability to change, even when you don’t have that belief in yourself. We are immune to your self-doubt and see you without judgement.
So you need to have a better internal religion. You need to see yourself without judgement and rely on yourself to make a conscious decision to change. You can seek guidance once you’ve become resolute to change, but the first step is to convert to a faith that believes in you as much as you believe in it.
Having an unshakeable belief in yourself and your ability to change, with the same passion as an extremist or zealot, and impregnable in such a way that no one can shatter or alter your belief, will make you unstoppable. Nothing you want for yourself is out of reach, you need only want them enough. And you can have these things now, not in the hereafter.
My advice is to think about what your internal religion is saying. If it doesn’t have faith or belief in you, then is it worth investing your faith or belief in? If you don’t believe you can change and you have no faith in yourself, why would the people around you have faith in you? Think of how your faith in yourself affects your relationships. Can your children have faith in you? Does your partner have belief in you? Do you feel supported or do people shoot you down when you mention your ambitions and goals?
Then ask yourself, “If my belief in myself was profound enough would others feel the same? If my faith in myself was unbreakable would people follow my faith with the same religious fervour that I have?”
You have so much potential. You just need to see it for yourself. Convert to a belief system that allows you to break free of the limitations you put on yourself and be the person you want to be.