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Belief in Belief

Old 05-31-2015, 07:29 PM
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Belief in Belief

Belief in belief. There is an idea not all that uncommon in recovery circles that an important part on success as a abstinent or sober person is belief (I am talking generally here about the word "belief" not restricted to Faith or God belief) That in some way believing in what ever method is practiced is equally or more important than whether that method comports with reality. That different modes of recovery have a major component of placebo working within its practice. I would like to hear peoples points of view on this subject. My personal position is that belief in belief is not helpful or even benign, but actually harmful. That the door on rational discussion and scientific enquiry is kept closed by these ideas, and ultimately harmful to the process of coming up with New and better ways of understanding addiction and reducing harm in the general population
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Old 05-31-2015, 08:25 PM
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The only thing I believe is that if you have the real need or desire to get clean you will. I'm not a big fan of any mode of recovery as I believe they all are ultimately effective through a placebo effect. The only way to get sober or clean is to stop consuming your DOC. That's it! What ever one chooses to believe to get one through this process is irrelevant. At least to me. Now dealing with all the other psychological issues that are usually present, that's another issue.
The problem I see is when society, government and big business push certain unscientific, mythical, magical healing practices as absolute proven healing methods. When people are told that only one medicine works and when it doesn't, their not following the instructions correctly, it can definitely have harmful side effects.
My opinion is that the whole multi million or billion recovery industry is mostly inept and corrupt. Pushing one method is easy money and requires little to no effort. The literature is readily available and hell, they can get local volunteers to do half the work.
I do think new ideas and information are slowly getting some attention but it will be a slow road as there is a lot at stake for 90% of the industry.
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Old 06-01-2015, 03:27 AM
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Belief doesn't have to be dogmatic, and few addicts are concerned with furthering the scientific inquiries into the nature and cures of addiction. They're only interested in getting sober. To me, the different approaches are akin to choosing the clothes I want to wear. I am going to choose the ones that appeal to me and that I am comfortable in. Of course, my tastes can change as time goes on.

Yes, the sole requirement for achieving sobriety is to stop drinking. The approach is simply what makes it palatable, or more comfortable, or more appealling. From this side, I see no harm in belief in belief.

However, if you are a scientist or an authority on recovery, then you definitely need to have an open mind for research or the solutions you offer. I feel I was greatly harmed by being told that one particular approach was the ONLY approach that would work. I was not told that you can simply stop drinking to end the addiction. I think that if I had been taught (and believed) that I only needed to stop drinking, then I would have had much more flexibility with the "take what you want and leave the rest" approach.
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Old 06-01-2015, 06:46 AM
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I have faith that abstinence results in sobriety. The rest is details.
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Old 06-01-2015, 08:18 PM
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I believe addiction is continuing to do something you would rather not. Recovery-ism tends to be a mechanism that allows blame for doing something , whether you would rather not, or not, to be placed on "addiction", irrespective of the doing, or doer.
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Old 06-01-2015, 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by samseb5351 View Post
My personal position is that belief in belief is not helpful or even benign, but actually harmful.
Is your position a belief? Sorry, couldn't resist.

A few days ago I might have had a whole different perspective on this interesting topic. However, today I'm just a girl wanting the fog to clear so I can recommit to permanent abstinence. I'm not a scientist or a researcher. I'm an addict who doesn't want to be addicted anymore.

I believe that I'm the only one that can keep me sober. There might be methods that can help, but it all boils down to choices. I can understand the danger in believing something outside yourself can keep you sober or getting so mired in one particular way of thinking it actually hinders your sobriety, but I don't see the harm in simple belief. We are humans...not robots and belief can fuel hope and without hope what's the point?
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Old 06-02-2015, 09:07 AM
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I think for any recovery method to work there has to be a belief that one can change.
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Old 06-02-2015, 12:20 PM
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I think science has a lot of belief or theories first with subsequent research giving an outcome, yay or nay. I believe the sun will rise tomorrow based on past experience. On the other hand saying 'the emperor's clothes look nice' a gazillion times will not make it true. I lean towards the whole blind-faith of religion as being harmful as it invites delusion where none need be. Sometimes the answer will be "I don't know" until such time as we do know (it could be a long time). No need to build false hope or doom on a 'belief' of what it's all about. When it comes to addictions, belief in self is generally low when our addictions kick our ass. I get a lot from others' experience in weathering the storms of uncertainty and making it despite a very loud AV. I don't get much from the "today is great and I'm grateful for everything" BS. I've tried living that way and it's a pre-meditated crash if you ask me. I do need to believe I'm not the complete piece of ship I've acted like lately and that some recovery of self is possible. I get that from reading others' posts. Time sober is generally cumulative and I can see the progress in folks even 1 month addiction free and really see some personality changes at about 8 yrs. I drank at 8 yrs. in '97 so I can't say what lies beyond that but change happened by just putting one foot in front of the other and facing life sober daily. I get hope for that here.
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Old 07-12-2015, 04:50 PM
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A Buddhist might say the tenements of his faith are merely observed reality, not a faith at all. I think this is somewhat of a false duality. There are all manners of believing. You personally believe that belief is harmful. Maybe this is an important part of your narrative, not necessarily the sum of its parts and pieces.
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Old 07-18-2015, 08:25 AM
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I'm a Buddhist LOL but I do think belief is important

When I went to treatment the first time they put down that I wanted to be sober but didn't believe it was possible for me (others, not me).

I believe that believing that sobriety is possible is absolutely critical to sobriety.

I have used many different "methods" and "medicines" to "stay sober". Ultimately I think they were all "placebos". But as long as I believed in them, I had an opportunity to stay sober.

It is how we handle the placebo effect that is important. I will take any "one up on" that I can get to be sober. I just have to understand that when the pill, the program, the philosophy or the program doesn't work... it doesn't mean I'm doomed.

Any amount of time that I can be sober is hugely helpful and not hurtful. Every day I am sober is a day that I not only have the opportunity to grow, learn, and enjoy .... but also (sometimes people forget this) a day that I don't have to die from alcoholism. (ok I might but I won't be contributing to that outcome).

I'm not joking when I say that belief in a scientific enquiry or rational discussion can be just as big a block to recovery as any other belief. Scientific enquiry is still subject to cultural and experience based bias as is the term "rational discussion". These terms change over time, if not in definition, in the conclusions and acceptance given.

I'm rational, I believe in scientific enquiry....but I find that so many biases and assumption go into that... (look at the history of scientific enquiry and what has been considered rational).

I hope that you are as concerned with the effect of beliefs (others and your own) on your personal understanding of addiction and reducing harm in your own life.

Your integrity and honesty make me hopeful that you will find a path that works for you!
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Old 07-18-2015, 12:26 PM
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I probably agree with the original poster. But, people, including me, use the word belief in different contexts to mean different things.

Belief, as in having an idea about something that is not questioned, is something that happens to you. It's not a conclusion of one's reasoning.

I can't decide to believe that if I step off of a cliff, I will fly. I could conceivably reason that such a thing is true. But, I would not believe it.

Belief is a result of having become conditioned to not questioning some idea.

In other contexts though, people say "believe" and they mean "reason". If you say "I believe this is the way to the restaurant". It means that you think that is the case, it doesn't mean that you have become conditioned to accept it as true without thinking about it.

In still other contexts, people say "believe" and they mean "hope". If you say "I believe that I can make it to the top of the stairs". It means that you are maintaining a sense of hope in yourself that something will occur.

When "belief" means "belief" and not "reasoning" or "hope", it refers to something that is the basis of insanity. Since nothing can be the same as a belief holds it to be, beliefs are always wrong. A belief is an illusion of there being something that is constant, when there are no constants.

In theory, to work out problems in our mentality, we would seek to discover beliefs and address them as ideas, in hope of conditioning ourselves out of the belief.

But, beliefs can have temporary value when one's ability to cope with reality is temporarily dependent on them.

In REBT there is the idea of disputing irrational beliefs. It seems to me that it is important to realize that the same mentality that holds the irrational belief is expected to arrive at an idea that is rational that one conditions themselves to hold as a belief instead. That does not seem rational to me.

The important point there, I think, is that beliefs should be consciously thought of as ideas that are wrong that one relies on. So, when one disputes their supposedly irrational belief, it is important to be suspicious of what they are choosing to replace the belief with and think of it as an illusion that is being used as a tool to train yourself in a direction that looks like it will lead to fewer irrational beliefs ending up as problems in your life.
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Old 07-18-2015, 01:11 PM
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I agree with some of what the previous poster said, but I use the word belief differently. What was defined as belief in that post is what I would call faith, a whole different thing.

Don't want to mince words cause that is what gets us all in trouble. Listen to what is being said rather than the words used to describe it and you will be ok

always question, but don't get stuck on words used by a person to describe something...
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Old 07-18-2015, 04:23 PM
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Essentially, concepts are different from words. Words are symbolism that we use to hint at concepts. In using words, we play a game of charades from which the other person tries to guess what concept is being presented. In this use of words the words are disposable tools who's value is only in hinting at concepts.

People's use of words in each discussion, generally imply what meanings they are suggesting by their use of words. In effect, they are saying "I am going to use this word to mean this and this words to mean this".

Since discussions are in the context of other discussions, the word meanings that were suggested come to be referenced, which makes the temporarily chosen word meanings significant.

There is significance to various uses of the word belief.

When I hear people using the word faith it usually implies an intention to think something is true. In that case it is used from the perspective of someone who is concerned about potentially not believing something. It is like "hope" but without the implied possibility that hopes might be dashed. It is a an intentional belief that one hopes to have.

In talking about recovery and mental health, a common topic is things that people think (or accept) without necessarily knowing that they think it. A useful term for that is belief. Because, people say "we came to believe that a power greather than ourselves....". Or, people refer to their irrational beliefs and overcoming them.

It implies that there is work beyond reasoning about a concept, to deal with the belief.

Often, belief in this sense is refered to without it being acknowledged that we can believe things without noticing it. Belief then can be confused with reasoning and people think that they just need to understand some concept and then they will achieve the belief. Or they think they just need to hope themselves into the belief by repeating a phrase over and over and they will achieve the belief. Or, they are frustrated that someone else has a belief when they have offered them the reasoned argument that challenges the concept that they think is the other person's belief

The belief I'm referring to is unintentional and so one trains themselves to acquire or overcome the belief. It is not accessible by reason.

A part of our mentality that is greater than our chattering/reasoning self forms our beliefs. Some sanity is achieved through instances in which we admit that our reasoning self is powerless over that greater part of our mentality. This is the approach of REBT, though it is not usually described that way. It is also the approach of AA in some senses when one admits they are powerless.

REBT describes our behaviors as something that we regulate through training ourselves, rather than simply talking about some concept. Our behaviors are based on our beliefs which are unintentional.
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Old 07-18-2015, 07:00 PM
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When I went to treatment the first time they put down that I wanted to be sober but didn't believe it was possible for me (others, not me).

I believe that believing that sobriety is possible is absolutely critical to sobriety.


Ananda,
yes; believing it was possible for me was a crucial ingredient. it's what made me try again and again.
sometimes, i lost that and stopped trying, as it was easier to just stay drinking than risk failing at getting sober one more time.
but then, always, the belief resurfaced and underneath, i think, i never lost that.
when i say belief in this context, it's in the sense of conviction.
if i hadn't believed that it was possible, there would have been no more reason to try.
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Old 07-18-2015, 08:30 PM
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Interesting... I read the first couple sentences of the OP and said to myself, he's talking about the placebo effect. Then in the next sentence you mention placebo...

The mind is amazing.

When I decided to quit drinking, I just decided to quit drinking for my own good. I really needed no "method". The only "method" I understood was to not drink. The rest would fall into place.
Was it easy? Yes and no. But as long as I stood by my decision and refused to allow alcohol to ever affect my life again, it was a given.

Do I have to remind myself occasionally why I quit? Absolutely. And when I do, the desire to drink goes right out the window.

The belief that alcohol had a profound effect on my life - a negative effect - is paramount to my conviction and ability to abstain forever.
Not only is it a belief, it is the absolute factual truth.
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Old 07-19-2015, 11:30 AM
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Each time that I have broken my abstinence and then came back, I felt as though I needed a degree of faith that I could recover by doing what I was doing. For example, when I was worried about being able to make it to the next day without drinking, it was not the time for me to be questioning if going to AA meetings is an appropriate long term plan.

So, I did little things to keep myself on track and keep myself thinking that I am going to recover by moving forward.

I think posters here are calling that "belief" and saying that it was important for them to not get overwhelmed with thoughts of failure, by believing they can recover.

After I got stronger in my abstinence, I no longer needed to fear thoughts of failure and the notion of fostering faith in my recovery was too obviously false and I didn't need the hand holding any more. I could then reason about aspects of my recovery process without fearing that if I do that I will fall into despair and start drinking again.

In other areas of my recovery I did and still do have fears of failure that I try to address by adopting a degree of faith that I can overcome the failure. But, I know it's a way of tricking myself.

I don't think the original post is using "belief" to mean "faith" or "think". It's not saying that it's dangerous to think that it's possible to recover, or it's dangerous to have a degree of faith that you can recover.

If I were to stay in the mode I was in in desperate fear of failure and didn't recognize the temporary cheering up aspect of that faith. If I held it as a truth that is not suspect:

"the door on rational discussion and scientific enquiry" would be " kept closed by these ideas, and ultimately harmful to the process of coming up with New and better ways of understanding addiction and reducing harm in the general population."

I think the post is using "belief" to mean that and in that sense I agree with the post.

I see that happening in recovery circles. So, the topic is important, I think.

What I don't see in the post is that I don't think you can simply decide not to have beliefs in the sense of the post. Supposed truths that we hold as beyond suspicion are not something we can simply decide not to have. If they were, we would not be holding them as beyond suspicion.

We can decide to adopt a degree of faith about a process, though. As long as it is recognized as intentionally postponing reasoning about something, it doesn't contradict the idea that unquestioned truths that we hold are not good.
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Old 08-18-2015, 07:41 PM
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I agree that belief in the power of belief does more harm than good. Positive thinking won't get you a million dollars, and thinking real hard and wishing for things in church/mosque/synagogue isn't going to get you eternal life. I'm not sure it's exactly a waste of time, but it's certainly not helpful to encourage (let alone coddle) those who participate in such ancient superstitions.

I think that "belief in belief" is gasping it's last breaths. It won't be in our lifetime, but in a few hundred years it will run it's course. It's frustrating, but then again every generation gets dealt a better hand than the one before it, so it could have been worse for us. Make the best of what you have and the things you can enjoy in life. I've found myself getting distracted and angry about the state of humans' belief systems, but that takes away from my enjoyment of every day life. Staying sober keeps me on track. Carpe diem and whatnot.
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