Developmental Need to Believe

Developmental Need to Believe

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Does belief give meaning to life and can life have meaning without belief?

It has become more and more evident to me that our behavior, cognitive and emotional, is driven by our beliefs. This fact has driven me to search for the origins of our needs to believe and the origins of universal beliefs which in their priority are based in certain truths.

In understanding the origins of the “need to believe” there are two issues. The first is the developmental stages of the “need to believe” which appears in all cultures and that seems to have some relation to the age of the individual. The second is a reductionism approach to where beliefs originate.

Premise: There are universal principles of development in all cultures that supersede the teaching of the system and lead to stages of belief developmentally for everyone in that culture.

In the system “need to believe” there are the following stages:
The first stage is early childhood from birth to age 6 or 7.
The second stage is during the child’s developmental quiet period 7-11
The third stage is early adolescence 12-15
The fourth stage is late adolescence and early adulthood 16-24
Later stages are less age related but result in the moderation of the beliefs

The development of beliefs at each of these stages is characterized by different sources of teaching. Initially parental and authority figures are the main source of what to believe especially in the first and second stages. The third stage begins the individuals doubt and questioning of the learned beliefs.

The fourth period is characterized by the individuals awakened cognitive functioning and a desire to believe what he sees as the truth. It is also characterized by a need to proselytize and teach or impose this newfound truth on those around them. These newfound truths become a “guiding light” for this stage.

In this fourth stage, the individualized need to believe the truth is the basis of radicalism in behavior, whether this leads to death in the fulfillment or alienation of family because of the diversity from family origins of belief. The new self discovered selected “truths” leads to the radical acceptance by the individual of the new belief system – “the true system”. Proselytizing is often a deep seated part of that belief since “I now know the truth and it is important for you to know it as well. Alienation of others thru this imposition is often consistent at this stage.

From childhood to this early adult period there is increasing differentiation, greater complexity and hierarchic integration progressing. The combination of early teachings and newly self discovered truths that have been accepted by the individual become deeply entrenched and can guide the person for the rest of his life.

From the ages of 16-45 our integrated beliefs affect our behavior in a multitude of ways: choice of education, profession, relationship partners, geographical location, children and their upbringing and choice of our friends, politics and religion or no religion. There may be subtle shifts in our belief system but they usually suffice for a lifetime with mild or moderate tempering.

However, if there is a fundamental challenge to one or more of our beliefs (ex. Going to war and having to kill someone, falling in love with another while married, use of the internet for sexual stimulation) the person has to modify or change his belief to accommodate the new behavior, grapple with the concept of forgiveness for violating his belief or find some other justification for this violation.

During the late adolescent period is when the Dilemma of Man becomes the strongest. It is then that the imposition of our beliefs becomes intense and acceptance of others and what they believe is discounted.