Belief is a lovely word at this time year – it visualizes placidity, gentleness and peace. Belief can be an acceptance that something exists or is true, a trust, faith or confidence in something or someone. Its hard to feel sad when you have magical belief.
This year Christmas feels different in our household as our youngest no longer believes. The magical rituals of previous years are consigned to happy memories and photographs (already surfacing as I put the packet of glittery reindeer food back in its place on the supermarket shelf, with the cheeky thought of ‘it could be for me’ quickly suppressed). This year belief has been replaced with requests and choices (realistic rather than idealistic) but all duly wrapped and labelled, and of course with few surprises along the way.
Yet although there is this absence of belief (which is very different from disbelief ), rather than feeling sad I feel calm, peaceful excitement as I look forward to a family Christmas of shared beliefs in our household. This is another chapter in our lives filled with a sense of acceptance and enjoyment, still with belief but these are more grounded in the meaning of family Christmas, and now with some new routines and rituals.
How important our beliefs are to us and how pervasive these are throughout our daily lives, and especially if our beliefs become part of who we are. We expect the seasonal magical beliefs of childhood to evaporate eventually , but if our beliefs make up part of our “I am”, then losing a belief can feel like a part of someone or something is missing. Losing trust, faith or confidence can affect all aspects of life.
Beliefs can be so much wider than annual festive rituals, they can be daily thoughts about people, routines and expectations. In both ourselves and others, in our immediate world of friends and family, or a decision that affects the world. We create beliefs to help us understand the world around us, and some beliefs tend to be pervasive and difficult to change. Recent world politics have resulted in people articulating ‘I can’t believe it’. When the ‘it’ becomes the actions of others, and our trust, faith and confidence in the beliefs of others result in personal and immediate feelings of being let down, disillusionment and blame. Beliefs lead to thoughts, via language, which lead to actions, but people can have the same belief and a different resulting action.
As a social worker and trainee counsellor I work with belief. It is part of who I am and part of my interactions with others, I work with people with many different beliefs and this can often be a good conversation starting point in getting to know people. Do people’s beliefs make up their ‘I am’, do changes or challenges to a persons belief system or feeling the ‘need to let go’ raise competing thoughts, feelings or emotions? In my counselling journey, as well as noticing patterns of behaviour, thoughts and feelings and I am also noticing beliefs, and my own self-awareness in response.
I still believe that belief is a lovely word. To have beliefs can be comforting and reassuring, and to have beliefs independent of others confirms a developed sense of self. As parents we aim for our children to be independent in thought and spirit and helping them to let go of these magical beliefs (when they decide the time is right), for me, is a time for feeling happy.
Lynn Findlay is a social worker and trainer for The Foster Care Co-operative and a trainee counsellor Academy S.P.A.C.E in Sheffield. Her interests are trauma-informed practice, mental health and online safety; as well as writing and running the much loved online fostering book club.
You can hear more from Lynn on her personal blog here