True believers

Everyone – all of us – have things that we believe down in our very core. We may not even be aware of them through most of our lives, and those core beliefs may conflict with things that we tell ourselves that we believe.

But we’re stuck with them, and indeed, it’s not always safe to approach them closely.

These core beliefs that we have do not have anything to do with fact or faith or sense or logic. They’re not strongly coupled to our educations. They’re an accretion of observation and of accident.

Generally, they relate to the fundamental abstracts about our world (as opposed to anyone else’s world). You believe that we’re alone in the universe, or you don’t. You believe in an afterlife, or you don’t. You believe in ghosts, or a god, monogamy (or otherwise) or the fairness (or unfairness) of life, of justice or injustice, or that people are basically good, or basically bad.

It’s these core beliefs that underpin our personalities. They’re the elephants on whose backs the flat disc of the world that is our personality rides.

You upset one of those elephants at your peril.

At some higher level you may believe something that conflicts with one of these core beliefs, but deep down, underneath you, you’re sitting on a fact. It may not be a true fact, but it’s a fact for you.

For the most part, we go through our lives with these facts undisturbed. We might build rationales and notions on top of them that send us in some other direction, but the whole structure remains founded on the fact underneath.

When confronted with a direct contradiction to one of these core beliefs, our self-preservation instincts work to attempt to rationalize it away. Usually some form of breakdown or adjustment disorder results as we cope with the challenge to a core belief. After all, everything that we are is built on these almost random pillars of support. Shake one, and the whole structure wobbles.

The results can range from a nervous breakdown to a serious psychotic break.

If you were confronted with the undeniable fact of something that directly conflicts with a core belief – say, for example, the walking dead – your entire personality would be shaken, with results ranging from spurious and inappropriate response or outright denial in the face of all evidence, to complete inability to function.

In that, it’s rather like shellshock (which can either be Combat Stress Reaction or the physical disruption of neurological organization due to concussive effects).

Directly confronting one or more of those core beliefs are what cause our minds to ‘snap’, as they say, and none of us are ever entirely immune to the possibility.

Often, those around us and close to us have more of a sense of those core beliefs than we do, because when those beliefs are approached, we tend to become somewhat stubborn, and frequently irrational.

In these cases it’s best not to push too hard. Those fundamental beliefs don’t have any flexibility. They will not bend, and the person can only break.

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