When your belief system is challenged…

What happens when your belief system is challenged?

What happens when you suddenly realize that the large majority of people in the world don’t share the same beliefs with you?

What happens when you suddenly find yourself in the minority in terms of what you believe in?

That moment is a real shock to your system.

You see, any system consists of different elements interacting with one another. Your belief system essentially consists of the values, beliefs and assumptions you are making about the world. There needs to be a certain degree of consistency among these elements, otherwise it gets thrown out of balance.

Systems theory calls the normal state of a system an ‘equilibrium’.

Most of the time, systems can easily re-organize themselves. So if one of your beliefs get challenged, not much happens. You simply replace that belief with another. But there are certain core beliefs, those who are really central to who you are, which can cause a lot of damage to the structure of your belief system when they get challenged.

Commonly, we call this phenomenon ‘culture shock’.

Culture shock essentially happens when very central beliefs of yours get challenged. This refers both to the quantity and the centrality of beliefs which are affected.

Culture shock is the necessary pre-condition for real change 

Under normal circumstances, a change in any single belief of yours, doesn’t change the nature of who you are. It will have its effects on some small aspects of your life, such as how much sport you do or how conservative you are about spending money, but it won’t change the whole nature of who you are.

Mostly, changes like these happen without you noticing much. Your life simply goes on, although with some little differences here and there.

Culture shock, however, is a real disruption to your belief system.

You suddenly start questioning the whole nature of your worldview itself. As the whole construct of your belief system gets shaky, all single beliefs may suddenly start to be questionable.  You start asking heavy questions such as who you are, what you stand for, and what is important to you.

Therefore, it can be argued that only while you are in the state of culture shock, a real redefinition of who you are is possible. As the pillars of your belief system get weak and shaky, it opens up the path for serious changes in your identity.

Outside of culture shock, only gradual change is possible. Culture shock opens up the path for radical change.

Use culture shock as an opportunity to ask yourself the heaviest questions in life.

The reality is that most people are trying to avoid culture shock. In fact, culture shock is mostly described as something ‘negative’ in the sense that it causes bad feelings within people.

Well, it does.

But that’s the whole point. A disruption of your belief system has taken place because it became obvious that some of your core beliefs about the world were simply not a reflection of reality. You have learned that some of the things that you believed in very strongly until now, simply aren’t shared by the majority of people in the world. In fact, these things might very well be ‘wrong’.

Even though it is hard and painful, now the time is coming to actually sit down and make decisions about who you were and who you want to become. What you used to believe in and what you want to believe in from now on. What your defining factors used to be, and what you want them to be now.

Don’t let the opportunity of culture shock pass by. Don’t try to ‘get rid’ of it and the bad feelings that come with it. Embrace it. Use it as a time for reflection. Find out more about yourself.

Use it to become a better version of yourself.

Tim

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