Technique 1.84 Core Beliefs


Our core beliefs shape how we feel and what we do, ie

"...if you believe your future is bleak, you're more likely to be depressed; if you have a growth mindset - you think people can change - you're more likely to put effort into what you do and grow......the story we tell ourselves about the world can shape us in profound ways..."

Emily Esfahani Smith 2019

Need to consider

"...The possibility that a great deal of what we do when feeling life is a reaction to the beliefs about the world we don't know we have..."

Jeremy Clifton as quoted by Emily Esfahani Smith 2019

Identifying the Primal World Beliefs is based on extensive research:

"...Over the past five years......analyse over 80,000 tweets, combed through the literary, religious and historical text of cultures around the world, studied influential movies and speeches of the last 100 years and surveyed hundreds of people to determine what sort of world we think this is..."

Emily Esfahani Smith 2019

There are around 26 primal world beliefs.

"...these beliefs vary from person to person, are automatic and deep-seated, and, like our personality traits are stable over time. They are also clustered together. If you think the world is unjust, you are more likely also to believe it is unstable and threatening, whereas if you see the world is beautiful, you're likely to believe it's a meaningful and even funny place.....These beliefs can powerfully protect our joys and sorrows......people who believe the world is safe, enticing and alive, for example, are more likely to show gratitude to others, to be more trusting, to have a growth mindset, and to be happier. People who see the world as alive are more likely to be spiritual and find meaning in their lives. Those who are depressed think the world is unsafe......if the world is dangerous, that means there are threats lurking everywhere..."

Emily Esfahani Smith 2019

This research helps us understand ourselves better and also others.

The most important primal belief that the world is a good place

"...This belief was associated with all kinds of positive outcomes, like having more friends and deeper relationships, having more meaning in life and higher overall well-being, being less depressed and distressed and being more optimistic..."

Emily Esfahani Smith 2019

On the other hand, if your default assumption is that the world is a bad place, this story could be holding you back and you should change your story of the world before trying to make yourself happy in more intermediate ways, like by switching jobs or rushing into a new relationship.
Even though these primal beliefs are embedded and stable, there is some suggestion that they can be modified, in a similar way that cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective treatment against depression.

Some examples of primal world beliefs

- politics

"...Republican and Democrats are equal in their belief that the world is safe, but Republican voters believe the world is a just place, that it is hierarchical and that is getting worse. This can lead to resistance to change because they believe change could worsen it further. Liberals tend to think that the world is non-hierarchical and unjust, but it is getting better, and therefore welcome change..."

Emily Esfahani Smith 2019

Conflicts, confusion and miscommunication can arise with others if they have very different perceptions or stories about the world.

Some example,

- if you think the world is worth exploring and your partner doesn't, this can explain why there is a difference of opinion about where you work and socialise

- if you feel the world is unjust, you may dislike a flatmate for not doing his or her fair share of the chores

- if you feel the world is acceptable, you don't feel compelled to clean up things


"...though our beliefs live in our minds and we aren't always aware of them, they shape our reality in dramatic ways..."

Emily Esfahani Smith 2019

More research is being conducted to determine whether life's experiences can modify these primal beliefs, especially when we are young.


Responding (from strongly agree to strongly disagree) to the below statements will help determine where you stand on your primal beliefs and overall attitude to life

Primal World Beliefs (statements) Answers        
  strongly agree agree neutral disagree strongly disagree
1. About me versus not about me
- whatever is happening around me often feels related to me or something I've done
- much of what happens around me feels like it's because of me or related to me somehow
- my first instinct about events happening around me is that they're unrelated to me or anything I've done
- when unsure why something is happening, I often suspect it's got something to do with me
- my first instinct about things happening around me is that they have to do with me or something done
2. Abundant versus barren
- the world is an abundant place
- life overflows with opportunity and abundance
- the world feels like a barren place with few opportunities
- the world is an abundant place with tons and tons to offer
3. Acceptable versus unacceptable
- the world needs to be continually improved rather than accepted
- rather than accepting things as they are, the world needs to be improved as much as possible
- it's usually better to accept a situation than try to change it
- most situations in life need to be improved, not accepted
4. Beautiful verses ugly
- nearly everything in the world is beautiful
- though some things are incredibly beautiful, they're few and far between
- beauty is everywhere, no matter where you look
- in life, there is away more beauty than ugliness
5. Changing versus static
- everything feels like it's shifting and changing
- everything feels like it's constantly moving, changing, and up in the air
- everything feels like a whirl of constant change
- I feel like everything changes all the time
- the world is a place where most things stay pretty much the same
6. Co-operative versus competitive
- instead of being cooperative, life is a brutal contest where you get to do whatever it takes to survive
- for all life - from the smallest organisms, to plants, animals and the people too - everything is cut-throat competition
- instead of being cooperative, the world is a cut-throat and competitive place
- the world runs on trust and co-operation way more than suspicion and competition
7. Funny versus not funny
- the world is hilarious; if you aren't laughing, you aren't paying attention
- laughing makes sense because life is hilarious and humour is everywhere
- while some things are humorous, most the time the world is not that funny
- humour is everywhere
8. Harmless versus dangerous
- on the whole, the world is a safe place
- real danger is everywhere; even if you don't notice it
- most things in situations are harmless and totally safe
- I tend to see the world as pretty safe
- on the whole, the world is a dangerous place
9. Hierarchical versus non-hierarchical
- most things can be organised into hierarchies, rankings, or pecking orders that reflect true differences among things
- humans, animals, plans, and pretty much everything else can be organised by how important or good they are
- most things ain't better or worse. It's hard to organise the world into hierarchies, rankings, or pecking orders that reflect true differences
- most things in the world can be ranked in order of importance
- things are rarely equal. Most plants and animals, and even people, are better or worse than one another
10. Improvable versus too hard to improve
- it's possible to significantly improve basically anything encountered in life
- most situations seem really difficult if not impossible to improve
- no matter who you are, you can significantly improve the world you live in
- in most situations, making things way better is absolutely possible
- most things and situations are responsive, workable, and totally possible to improve
11. Intentional versus unintentional
- events happen according to a broader purpose
- what happens in the world is meant to happen
- everything happens for a reason and a purpose
- events seem to lack cosmic or bigger purpose
- the universe does not care if events happen one way or another
12. Interconnected versus atomistic
- every single thing is connected to everything else
- most things are basically unconnected and independent from each other
- though things can appear separate and independent, they really aren't. Instead it's all one
- the world is a place where everything is completely interconnected
13. Interesting versus boring
- the world is a somewhat dull place where plenty of things are not that interesting
- most things in life are kind of boring
- it feels like interesting and exciting things surround us all the time
- while some things are interesting, most things are pretty dull
14. Just versus unjust
- on the whole, the world is a place where we get what we deserve
- life will find ways to reward those who do good and punish those who do bad
- the world is a place where working hard and being nice pays off
- if someone is generous and kind, the world would be a kind place
- the world is a place where we really deserve what we get
15. Meaningful verses meaningless
- the world is a place where most everything matters
- nothing really matters all that much
- most things are pointless and meaningless
- the world is a place where things just don't matter
16. Needs me versus doesn't need me
- the universe needs me to something important
- life has an important part for me to play
- it feels like the world doesn't really need me for anything
- the world needs me and my efforts
17. Pleasurable versus measurable
- life offers more pain than pleasure
- on the whole, the world is a good place
- life in this world is usually pain and suffering
- life offers way more pleasure than pain
- most things in the world are good
18. Progressing versus declining
- on the whole, the world is getting worse
- it feels like the world is going downhill
- though the world has problems, on the whole things are definitely improving
- it feels like the world is getting better and better
19. Regenerative versus degenerative
- though sometimes situations get worse, usually they get better
- most things have a habit of getting worse
- the usual tendency of most things and situations is to get better, not worse
- over time, most situations naturally tend to get worse, not better
20. Stable versus fragile
- the world is a place where things are fragile and easily ruined
- it takes a lot for things to fall apart
- most things in situations are delicate and easily destroyed
- both situations are delicate. Though they may be fine now, things can easily unravel
21. Understandable verses too hard to understand
- almost everything is easy enough to understand
- the world is a confusing place where many skills and subjects are too hard to figure out
- lots of things in the world are too confusing and difficult to understand
- the world is easy enough to understand
22. Worth exploring versus not worth exploring
- I feel everything is worth trying, learning about, or exploring further
- to be honest, though some things are worth trying exploring, most aren't
- everything deserves to be explored
- unfamiliar things and places are usually worth trying for checking out
23. Enticing additional items
- no matter where you are or what the topic might be, the world is fascinating
24. Additional item
- on the whole, the world is an uncomfortable and unpleasant place

(source: Jeremy Clifton et al 2018)

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