Beliefs as protection


I talked with a friend yesterday about how beliefs seem to be created as protection… and it certainly seems true in several ways.

Ultimately, beliefs protect this separate self. They flesh it out, define it, create the boundaries separating it from the wider world, protect its identity, shoots down what puts these boundaries and identities in doubt, and do so as a continuous process. Beliefs protect the sense of a separate self against changing too much, and also from not existing (which is a very real threat, since it really doesn’t).

But what about that core belief of a separate self? Is that too a defense against something? I am sure there are many theories and models, and even accounts of direct perceptions, of how and why this belief forms in the first place (and sadly, I am not aware of that many of them). And each of these probably have some good points.

But to me, it seems simple: for most of us, when we were infants, everyone around us believed in a separate self. So we too, innocently, did the same. We too created a belief in a separate self, because that was obviously and clearly the thing to do.

So the primary belief in a separate self may have been formed since it was the thing to do. And the secondary beliefs (an attachment to any other story) aids in bolstering the primary one.

And it all comes from innocence. Although the results, in our own experience, may not appear so innocent.

3 thoughts to “Beliefs as protection”

  1. I agree with what you write [since in so doing I’ve taken a position], except [note that I am famously, and proudly, contrarian] that I believe a separate self at infancy is necessary for us to learn. We have to have a focal point and a beginning position on things to deal with the information that comes to us. [I’ve stated my position and I stand by it.]

  2. Thanks, Tom. Yes, that may be true. I have often wondered if a sense of separate self is necessary for our early development (up until adulthood) or not, although haven’t explored it enough to find a satisfactory answer.

    What seems absolutely necessary is the story of a separate self… for this human self to function in the world at any time. But is it necessary to take it as real to develop? I am not sure.

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