If you’ve been with us awhile, then you’ve probably heard me reference the popsicle story: a woman I worked with had been traumatized for years, by a completely innocent memory in which her mother refused to give her a popsicle. In reality, this was only because she hadn’t eaten her dinner… but what she remembered through her little 5-year old memory, was that her sister had gotten a popsicle. The conclusion she had reached was that her mom must love that sister more than her.

These memories are encoded through the eyes we have in that moment, and rarely change after the fact without some kind of direct intervention. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with smart, healthy people in stable environments, people who, on paper, have everything they need to be happy and successful—and they just aren’t. Nine times out of ten, the problem isn’t in their current circumstances, but in their memories.

We all have two belief systems. Stimulus-response is the first, and for the first six or so years of life, the only one we have. It’s all about natural responses to pleasure and pain—bite into a delicious slice of cake or burn your hand on the stove, either way, that’s stimulus-response.

The second belief system is what we might call “rational belief,” which is what we build on top of stimulus-response as we get older, based on our own logic and what we are taught during our upbringing—not always rightly. Take me, for example. I had wonderful, loving parents, but they were also very religiously conservative. As a result, I grew up believing that drinking any amount of alcohol—wine, beer, whatever—was a mortal sin. Even through my 20s, when I saw people drinking, I tended to think that they must be weak, or self-indulgent, or wrong-headed somehow.

Now, of course, I can see how ridiculous that is. Although this belief is supposedly biblical, scripture really says nothing of the sort. In the years since, I’ve come to find my faith so much more rewarding as I pursued the truth behind it—not only because I can now do things like drink alcohol without feeling any guilt, but because I’m no longer living under a worldview that is defined by legalism.

But my point is that whatever your personal beliefs might be, there are few things more conducive to long term happiness and mental health than a commitment to seeking truth. Some people live their lives by stimulus-response, and many more make a conscious effort not to—but that effort would be better spent on something more positive than merely resisting a negative. Any way you look at it, that second belief system is dependent on our willingness to search, to be wrong, and to better ourselves day by day.

Have a blessed, wonderful day!

Dr. Alex Loyd


Add a Comment

Stay Connected with Dr. Alex

Sign Up for Dr. Alex’s Newsletter