Thoughts, beliefs, feelings, actions, and consequences. It’s the formula that governs our minds. The “thought, feeling, behavior chain” is an unstoppable power. Do you know how to control this volatile recipe in your own life?
In our complex minds, thoughts, emotions, and actions intertwine. This chain reaction shapes our lives. We want to discuss the psychological concepts behind this process. Understanding the connection between our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, actions, and results is powerful. It gives you the perspective from which to change them. Grasping the significance of our beliefs is essential to our well-being and the world.
Why do beliefs matter? Thoughts become beliefs, and beliefs become actions. This is why what we believe is important. Our ideas have a ripple effect with far-reaching consequences. Do your thoughts and actions have a positive or negative influence?
Most people want their lives to produce a positive value for themselves and others. You may have more influence than you realize. Everything you believe affects you and everyone in your circle of influence. And this chain reaction doesn’t stop there.
The “Thought, Feeling, Behavior Chain”
It all starts with a thought or your ability to think. If your thinking is tainted, your ideas will contain these anomalies. When you add feeling to an idea, it adds emotional weight to your beliefs.
Once we have an emotional attachment to something, we want to defend it. Our thinking is based on the assumption that we are correct. We want to support our conclusions. And that’s why what we believe is important.
The greater the emotional charge attached to the idea, the greater our motivation to act. People use propaganda to trigger fear and anger. These are two of the most potent motivators. They make us react and do things without considering the consequences. It’s a process that is an unstoppable behavioral chain reaction.
We are choice-makers, and every choice starts with a thought. The space between an idea and a belief is sometimes imperceptible—time and space are curious elements of perception. We may not realize that the seeds others have planted impact our decision.
Why Do Beliefs Matter to Self-Awareness
If we are self-aware, we take the time to think about something before deciding. People want us to make quick decisions so that we don’t take time to think about it. We could discover the hidden or unintended consequences of the choice. Our decisions start a powerful chain reaction of events. Thoughts become beliefs, and beliefs become actions fueled by feelings. This is “the thought, feeling, behavior chain reaction.”
We can choose different options in this chain reaction if we are self-aware. That’s right. We don’t have to believe everything we think. It’s possible to entertain ideas without accepting them. The real problem starts with basing our beliefs about the world on things we have not proven. We start down a slippery slope when thoughts become beliefs without a factual basis.
Some beliefs are part of our instincts. For instance, many people fear heights. So, the fear of falling is a pre-programmed belief. It is part of our survival instinct. What if someone found a way to tap into the fears of your instincts? If they did, then they could use your instincts to manipulate you.
So, why do beliefs matter when we are talking about fear? Our fears activate our survival instinct. If someone can trigger fear, they can control you. Fears can become phobias, “extreme, irrational fears” that exert control over lives. Fear of public speaking is such an irrational fear. We can learn to overcome irrational fears by facing them. This requires the reprogramming of the scripts which trigger them.
Thoughts Become Beliefs, and Beliefs Become Actions
Many people don’t want to remove themselves from the source of harmful programming. They are addicted to hateful rhetoric. How does this happen? It happens a lot more than you realize. We show our values by the things we do. The greater our value for something, the more we act on its behalf. It is why arguing with someone who has already decided about something is almost impossible.
When beliefs become our values, we must act to defend them. Once you take a position, you become obligated to support it, even when the choice is harmful.
The term values relate to basic guidelines that govern behavior. They tell us what is right and what is wrong. So, when we act under these guidelines, we feel a sense of completion. But values can contain the same damaging programming as beliefs. So, values are a way of justifying actions that harm others or the environment. They can have biases and prejudice.
History shows how evil people use a minority group as a scapegoat for problems, even when they have little impact on the issue. A scapegoat enables people to justify inhumane actions like concentration camps. As far-fetched as it seems, this happened in Germany in the 1940s and the United States of America in 2019. Values become actions even when they run against your moral compass.
The Difference Between Harmful and Unharmful Bias
Not all bias is harmful. Bias is an inherent aspect of human nature, influencing how we perceive and interpret the world. But not all biases are the same. Some biases lead to harmful consequences, while others remain relatively harmless.
What is Harmful Bias
Harmful bias is a deeply ingrained prejudice or preconceived notion. These beliefs target marginalized peopled. It is often based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics. Harmful biases perpetuate stereotypes, discrimination, and inequality. They can result in structural and systemic disadvantages. Bias and prejudice are the fuel that perpetuates systemic racism, bigotry, and segregation. In turn, these laws are used to justify undermining fundamental human rights. It creates disadvantages in education, employment, and even physical harm.
Harmful bias takes many forms. It shows up in racial profiling by law enforcement. It is behind gender-based wage disparities and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. It can also be found in everyday microaggressions. Individuals unknowingly perpetuate stereotypes or exhibit discriminatory behavior through their words or actions. These biases are rooted in prejudice and contribute to perpetuating systemic inequalities. Can you see now why what you believe is important?
What is Unharmful Bias
Unharmful bias results from categorizing information without overt bias and prejudice. This type of bias is rooted in our tendency to rely on mental shortcuts, known as heuristics. It is used to make sense of the world. Unharmful biases often manifest as preferences or inclinations. These are associated with the hardwired programming of our instincts and personality. When we have healthy instincts and personalities, we make better decisions.
Unharmful bias is the ability to make decisions that result in positive, healthy outcomes. Examples of unharmful biases include preferring certain music, foods, or clothing styles. These biases can be affected by our experience and cultural narrative.
A mindset absent harmful bias and prejudice is less likely to make decisions that lead to negative consequences for others. Eating one kind of food versus another may not have any detrimental effects. At least, we think so. Sometimes, the most straightforward and innocent decisions may result from a harmful bias. We won’t know unless we investigate further.
The Intersection of Harmful and Unharmful Bias
We encounter countless crossroads during the day where our decisions can shape our future. Often, these choices may seem innocent, driven by personal preferences or beliefs. But many fail to realize that even the most benign decisions can harbor latent biases and prejudices. These hidden biases inadvertently perpetuate harmful outcomes.
Every decision we make has a ripple effect beyond our immediate scope. Everyday choices, such as shopping, the companies we support, or the media we consume, may have hidden consequences. We can perpetuate harmful narratives and systemic biases without realizing it. So, we need to question everything with common sense. We can avoid making biased decisions by critically analyzing the impact of our thinking. We can take proactive steps toward promoting equality and dismantling prejudiced structures.
Analyzing the impact of our decisions takes time and can be difficult. Many messages we receive in the media conceal their intent and actual impact. Propaganda is the smoke screen the advertising industry uses to motivate us to buy things. They learned this tool of social manipulation from organized religion. We also see it used more and more in the political arena.
By learning to examine the messages of these entities, we can uncover hidden stereotypes and prejudice. Critical thinking skills play an essential role in helping discover biases and prejudice. We can equip people to challenge their preconceptions. This will help dismantle harmful societal structures.
Education that exposes historical discrimination, bias, and prejudice is crucial. It helps people to understand how these ideas are destructive. Engaging in open dialogue about these ideas builds relationships that break down stereotypes. Dialogue fosters respect and acceptance of different lifestyles.
The Tools of Organized Religion
Western organized religion controls the cultural narrative in many parts of the world. These are the religions of the Abrahamic tree: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. They have a combined membership of 4 billion members. That is a social mass of nearly half of the world’s population. So, even if you are not a follower, they still affect your culture. Mythologies and superstitions are still a significant part of the cultural narrative. These outdated and biased values make their way into the laws which govern society.
““Religion becomes a matter of belief, and belief acts as a limitation on the mind; and the mind then is never free.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti
Western organized religions adopted everything in their systems from the earlier mystery religions. Part of the strategies developed by these cults is what we know as groupthink manipulation tactics. Groupthink manipulation is an umbrella of psychological brainwashing methods, including propaganda and censorship. Its main tools are self-hypnosis and group hypnosis.
These ancient cults understood the power of self and group hypnosis. They developed programming which leveraged how thoughts become beliefs and beliefs become actions.
With these tools, you can attach arbitrary beliefs to our instinctual fears. Religion uses this powerful propaganda machine to program fears and irrational judgments. These judgments justify negative bias, prejudice, and discrimination. This is how they program the “thought, feeling, behavior chain” reaction. It creates a destructive cycle of behavior. We see it in a range of harmful actions, from discrimination and prejudice to violence.
How Groupthink Manipulation Becomes Invisible
The dominant cultural narrative programs us to judge from an early age. It teaches us to use harmful religious, ethnic, and racial bias and prejudice, which is why what we believe is important. It programs our worldview. Can you change what you think when you encounter new evidence? Or do you cling to your beliefs regardless of their truth?
The word “values” seem like an innocent term. It is another way of saying these are the beliefs I use to justify my bias, prejudice, and discrimination. To believe in something is to take a position on some subject.
Why do beliefs matter? They matter because they define us. People think all choices are the same, but they are not. The choices we make are value judgments that can have far-reaching implications. (1) Here’s a crucial formula: thoughts, beliefs, feelings, actions, and consequences.
Our conscience helps us to make decisions based on moral values. It can as long it isn’t subject to programming, which installs negative bias and prejudice. Our beliefs become values that drive behavior. Our personality and instincts also drive our likes and dislikes. These are hardwired patterns.
The most harmful programming can come from our family environment. As children, we may be subject to the programming of religious prejudice. If you learn to hate someone of a different economic, ethnic, or social background, these prejudices affect every decision you make. Our beliefs become our values, and vice versa.
The next level of harmful programming can come from our cultural narrative. Organized religion has a firm hold on projecting its values into the culture. The more extreme the claim, the more people it triggers. It is almost unstoppable.
Once you are an adult, you are responsible for fixing your unhealthy programming. Common sense, logic, and evidence can break the “thought, feeling, behavior chain reaction.” This is the unmasking of the hidden beliefs of hatred. Mythology can be harmful when it becomes a religion. Religion often substitutes myths for facts.
Why What We Believe Is Important to the World
Our beliefs don’t exist in isolation. Our ideas and opinions can influence others and impact the world at large. When a group shares similar views, their actions become more synchronized. This social force sparks social movements, forging cultural norms and shaping our world.
Our worldview contains the rules that run our life. It’s why we need to scrutinize the laws within our beliefs. It is an urgent matter. What you believe affects you and those in your circle of influence. When an idea gains critical mass that affects communities and the world, we see its effect. The manipulation of opinion through the media reached new heights in the US Presidential election 2016. (2)
Religious beliefs are a major factor in elections. They have been the deciding factor in elections for the last ten years. The Abrahamic religions became the banner of many right-wing groups. Moderate believers became more extreme. Hate became the banner of religious and political right-wing fanaticism.
Sadly, if you belong to one of the Abrahamic religions, chances are you did not choose them after weighing the evidence. You became a follower one of two ways; either it was a part of your family/cultural indoctrination, or you were someone seeking help because of a crisis.
Families and cultures routinely indoctrinate their children. This type of cultural programming is brainwashing, not a choice. Most children from these cultures do not have the freedom to choose their beliefs. Many social scientists call this kind of indoctrination a form of child abuse.
The second group of people who fall into these religions are people in crisis, people who need help. You are vulnerable and more susceptible to propaganda when you are in need. If you are going through a crisis, you are also vulnerable. You reach out for support, and religion offers a dualistic ideology to answer your needs.
In these situations, you don’t choose after weighing the evidence. Religion uses bait-and-switch tactics that prey on our basic fears. It offers intangibles, like the afterlife, for your financial support. It is an impulse decision. Religion uses a crisis chain reaction of events to make you a customer. Why do beliefs matter? They matter because they can be used to manipulate your thinking.
“The true believer, no matter how rowdy and violent his acts, is basically an obedient and submissive person.” — Eric Hoffer
The original designers of the mythologies that make up these religions knew how to create effective propaganda. They understood the formula behind the “thought, feeling, behavior chain.”
The Chain Reaction Blinds Conscience
The chain reaction prevents people from stopping thinking about the consequences. The more extreme your beliefs, the less likely you are to question acts of violence. Beliefs become a way to justify harmful actions.
This sequence of events is something that projects in our attitude and actions. We attract people with the same beliefs, interests, and traits. So, when others mirror them, they believe and follow them. We also know this sociological effect as a mob mentality. Once you are a part of the mob, you act without conscience or will. You will do things you would not otherwise do if you were alone.
If someone says all choices are the same, they haven’t considered the implications. There is a vast difference between mundane decisions and those with ethical implications. What is happening is they want to hide their bias and prejudice, claiming it to be a simple choice. They disregard the fact that some mundane decisions have negative consequences.
For example, shopping at big-box retail might save you a few dollars today, but your shopping habits put small shops out of business. It means you have fewer choices, and in the long run, the prices you pay go up because of the lack of competition.
Your beliefs have consequences. Thoughts become beliefs, and beliefs become actions. Beliefs are behind the “thought, feeling, behavior chain reaction.” It propels a wave of social thinking which spiral outward into the world. Look at the actions done in the name of religion. Organized religion is not the answer.
Thoughts, Beliefs, Feelings, Actions, and Their Results
The three Abrahamic religions still dominate the culture. They claim almost one-half of the world’s population as followers. These systems have been a part of the cultural narrative fabric for 2000 years. There is much evidence (3) (4) (5) that these belief systems are at the root of many of the world’s conflicts. They spawn everything from discrimination to genocides. We spend too much time arguing about religious ideologies. Instead, we should be focusing on solving global issues like climate change. Now you understand why what we believe is important.
“Never underestimate the power of the human mind to believe what it wants to believe, no matter the conflicting evidence.” — Brian Herbert
(1) Why Beliefs Matter, Psychology Today.
(2) Why Beliefs Matter, Reflections on the Nature of Science.
(3) Genocide and Religion in Times of War, the Oxford Press.
(4) A Closer Look at How Religious Restrictions Have Risen Around the World, PEW research center.
(5) Why Religions Facilitate War and How Religions Facilitate Peace, Swarthmore College.