At the introduction, we said that a belief is an attitude that some proposition about the world is true, which is stored in brain tissue. That is just the tip of the iceberg. What is more important than the neurobiology of belief is how it comes into existence. Just as how the external world imprints the mind through the senses, the mechanisms that create belief extend beyond the head. Beliefs are as related to the environment as they are to the world within:

Figure 1: How certain beliefs about one’s self come into existence.

Once verbalized, the belief immediately starts to influence the actions of the individual. If its effects on the outside world confirm it, it gets stronger. If it gets tested and survives enough times, it becomes deeply ingrained in the individual’s psyche. In psychology, these are called core beliefs. Some core beliefs, especially subjective ones, are considered to be self-fulfilling prophecies. Mathematically speaking, such beliefs are positive feedback loops:

Figure 2: A block diagram of a positive feedback loop. In this context, A: beliefs and B: actions.

Though the following figure is used more commonly in psychology and is easier to understand:

Figure 3: How a self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates itself. SRT works by weakening this feedback loop at the top. Thoughts change first, followed by change in the behavior.

Detecting negative self-fulfilling prophecies and creating positive ones is an important skill in life that can be learned, similar to riding a bike or swimming. To acquire the skill, you can make it a habit to always ask the following questions:

  • Does this negative thing in my life exist just because I believe in it?
  • What positive thing should I believe in, so that if I believed it well enough, it could turn into reality?

Next: Relation to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy