Fall is upon us. You might be dreading the idea of winter and imagining what it will be like as you shovel that white stuff off the driveway. I am looking forward to the obligatory ride into and selection of pumpkins at the pumpkin farm. I am currently happily saying good-bye to the mosquitoes. Soon enough I think I will be praising the capacity of my two-stage snow blower. Until then, I am putting in much effort to keeping my attention on today, recognizing my own choices about what beliefs I want to follow as we transition seasons…
Speaking of beliefs, I met with a patient and his girlfriend who told me that he strongly believed in “Less is better” when dealing with medications. He remarked that he had pain in his lower back that got worse as the day went on and that he lacked quality sleep because the pain interfered with his ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. In addition, he was on a prescribed steroid that also interfered with his sleep. But, he reiterated several times that “Less is better” because he thought use would lead to addiction. He had an opiate pain killer and a sleep aid. He never had any history of addiction or abuse that he needed to be vigilant about and rarely if ever used such drugs in the past. He would rather be in pain with little sleep than risk getting addicted when his risk is so low.
I asked him if the “Less is better” belief also applied to sex and hot fudge sundaes. After a few laughs he and his girlfriend stated that it did not. I outlined to him how his belief does not match the current situation where he is receiving chemotherapy. I explained how the majority of people utilize pain meds and sleeping aids for short periods of time because it provides them with the necessary benefit that outweighs the risks. He accepted my point. I asked the nurse to review pain medication usage with him, especially in differentiating medication use on a schedule instead of only for breakthrough pain.
This example makes me think about beliefs and ideology and how they work for or against us. Some beliefs are good to hold on to, but others serve as antagonists to our well-being or hold us back from our potential. Having some healthy skepticism about our own beliefs is generally a sign of good mental health. It is the fundamentalist or the fanatic that believes that one’s beliefs are absolute and there is no need to examine them as they are sacred and without flaw. Many other traditions point out that the mind is not a static construct and neither are our beliefs. You can change your mind if you want to – do you want nuts on your hot fudge sundae? It’s up to you. Just because you’ve always had peanuts in the past doesn’t mean you can’t have pistachios today.
One’s beliefs can be covert and under the radar of our consciousness. It’s always interesting to me to recognize that you might believe something without knowing why. For example, a woman cut the ends off a ham before cooking in a pan. She learned this from her mother. One day, as she was cooking a ham, she wondered why and so she called her mother. The mother replied that she didn’t know but realized that she got it from her mother. They proceeded to visit with the grandmother. When asked, the grandmother replied that her pans were all small and she always had to cut down the ham to fit. The tradition of cutting the ham wasn’t necessary for cooking unless you had small pans. In this case, “Less is better” made sense; but for the mother, and, later, even the granddaughter, it made no sense at all.
How many beliefs are like that in your life?
September 8, 2010
CALL TO ACTION: Today, examine some of the beliefs that are guiding the choices in your daily life? Are the effective? Appropriate? Are they even really working for you? Consider what “covert” beliefs you could let go of that might improve the results you produce and your daily satisfaction and happiness.