We Are Belief-Making and Belief-Consuming Creatures

As children, we called it “make believe.” People encouraged us to be imaginative and creative, to fantasize and enjoy. Then, as we aged, the guidance changed. Grow up! Be realistic! “Making believe” became the more serious game of “making beliefs”: judging, drawing conclusions, deciding what’s good and bad, right and wrong. All our emotions and behaviors then follow from the beliefs we create.

Parents, priests, teachers, corporate executives and politicians compete busily to teach us or sell us beliefs so that they can influence our feelings and behavior. They know, and we soon learn, that winning the games of power, both personal and political, depends on what we choose to believe. Nobel Prize winners, homemakers, army generals, secretaries, physicians, truck drivers, lawyers, masons, journalists, carpenters, advertising executives, have this in common: they operate from their beliefs. How they vote; what sort of army they support, if any; what purchases they make; where they live; whom they marry; what clothes they wear all flow from their beliefs.

A rather inventive and sophisticated example of belief peddling can be seen in the new and ever-evolving language of warfare. The military industrial complex seeks favorable public opinion in order to encourage congressional support for its products and activities. In recent years, it has been restructuring and reconstituting reality by using new buzzwords, intent on molding beliefs which would support its aims. The following phrases and word combinations come from various governmental reports and announcements dealing with military preparation and actions.

At first glance, a “re-entry vehicle” could appear inviting. We might anticipate a people or cargo carrier that always returns home. Not so! One example, among many, of a “re-entry vehicle” is a nine-megaton nuclear warhead. Army personnel now refer to “collateral damage” during military operations. This has no relation to disturbing lawns and shrubs at roadside. “Collateral damage” refers to the killing of civilians. Sending “Peacemakers” to other countries might gain wide support prior to the public’s realizing “Peacemakers” are MX missiles. “Violence processor” has become the high-tech label for a fully equipped combat soldier.

Encountering the ingenious term “environmental adjustment,” we might imagine a unique ecological thrust healthful to plants (and possibly chiropractic in nature!). However, this phrase means destroying an entire geographic area with a toxic chemical defoliant.

Of all the fanciful images that military belief-makers have tried to create, none seems more paradoxical and intriguing than the phrase used to describe peace. In their obvious effort to sell military vigilance, they refer to peace among nations as “permanent prehostility.”

These propagandists (as all of us are for what we believe) try to harness our preferences and prejudices to their interests by employing a marketing strategy still in it’s infancy.

We can understand immediately the power of beliefs in the political arena and the marketplace, yet we do not readily apply that same clarity to ourselves. We function much like absorbing sponges, acquiring beliefs uncritically at a dizzying pace in order to take care of ourselves in the best way possible. The onslaught of beliefs has become so steady in our culture that often we ingest beliefs and repeat them to others without question or review. “This is the best country in the world.” “We have a right to free speech.” “Death is inevitable.” “College prepares you for life.” “Life is a series of ups and downs.” “Feelings are like instincts; they just come upon you.” “Nothing lasts forever.” “Good health is often a matter of good genes and good luck.”

To question beliefs like the one’s listed above does not necessarily mean they are erroneous or invalid. However, inquiry opens the door to understanding more fully why we believe what we do and whether or not we want to continue believing it. Do the beliefs we hold serve us? Do they empower us or lead us to feel impotent? Do they lead to happiness or unhappiness?

  • “Be seen but not heard.” (Conclusion: What I say doesn’t matter.)
  • “I know better than you.” (Conclusion: I’m not intelligent enough to know.)
  • “You are too young to understand. (Conclusion: When I get older, I’ll get smarter – I hope.)
  • “Don’t question what I say; just listen.” (.Conclusion: Other people’s statements are more important than my own.)
  • “You make me unhappy.” (Conclusion: I have the power to cause unhappiness in others.)
  • “If you loved me, you’d keep your room neat.” (Conclusion: If I don’t do what my mother wants, it means I don’t love her.)
  • “Take the medicine or you won’t get better.” (Conclusion: Outside intervention is the only thing that will save me; I have nothing to do with my healing process.)

Once childhood and adolescence give way to the more mature years, then the messages appear to change, or do they?

  • “If you loved me, you’d be more caring or sexually active.” (Conclusion: I still have to do what people want in order to prove I love them.)
  • “You’ll never understand me.” (Conclusion: It’s not okay to disagree and have my own opinions.)
  • “You make me furious!” (Conclusion: I cause what others feel.)
  • “Can’t you do it right?” (Conclusion: I’m ill-equipped; there must be something wrong with me.)
  • “You can’t expect to be healthy forever.” (Conclusion: I have no control – disease and sickness are inevitable).

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The Option Institute and its teachers have had the honor to present programs (during the last four decades) that explore the attitudes and beliefs we have (and may want to change) and to help program participants find their own answers to questions about relationships, careers, family challenges and health issues. Our new program, Health & Healing: Navigating Life’s Health Challenges (formerly '5 Days to Live') , focuses on navigating significant health challenges and decision-making with greater ease, clarity, and clear purpose.

We are not a medical facility and we do not dispense any medical advice. We have and would always guide our program participants, to consult with their doctors, healthcare providers, and family members in making medical decisions for themselves and those they love. Neither Mass General Hospital nor any member of its medical staff endorses any program being offered by the Option Institute and its teachers.

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PRE-REQUISITES for attending Advanced Power Dialogues are:

  • Completion of The Option Institute’s PowerDialogues program.
  • If it’s been more than 5 years since you attended PowerDialogues, please call 413-229-2100 to discuss options.

NOTE: Attendance of live sessions via Zoom are required to complete this course.

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Dear Donor,

Jeannie Reid was searching for answers to the challenges she and her family were facing. Jeannie and her husband Stuart’s son, Carson, had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition on the Autism spectrum. For Carson that meant being completely involved in obsessive behaviors and only using minimal words to identify objects, as well as frequently and completely melting down.

Soon after, Jeannie found the book, “Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues” and when she read it, she KNEW she had found what she was looking for. She began using some of the Son-Rise techniques described in the book on her own until she was able to come to The Autism Treatment Center of America for the Son-Rise Program Start-Up. As she put into practice what she learned there, Carson’s world was opening up. Today Carson is attending a Montessori school as a 'typical' student and functioning at or above typical grade level, being fully verbal and conversational, and very interested in learning about the world and interacting as much as possible with other people. He is even taking swim lessons at the local YMCA and doing great!

“It has been wonderful to get, and stay connected with other people and Son-Rise parents from all over the world. My son’s progress had already come very far, but now I truly believe we can go all the way!”

Jeannie wrote.

Stuart Reid then attended the Empower Yourself course and brought home a new sense of clarity, balance and personal power. He shared his new empowerment with Jeannie and she in turn gained in confidence, strength and enthusiasm. Their own relationship began to flourish anew, as well. Life-altering changes were happening for Jeannie and her family.

Jeannie journeyed again to Sheffield, this time for the Fearless course at The Option Institute to help her recognize and overcome her personal obstacles. Jeannie wanted to continue her amazing journey as she had found using the techniques she learned in The Son-Rise Program and in Fearless had absolutely changed the lives of everyone in her family.

But, because the Reids’ finances had been seriously stretched by then, their next steps were put on hold. Then an amazing event changed everything. Jeannie’s college roommate and lifelong friend decided to start a Son-Rise Program scholarship fund for people from the Cleveland area. Since then Jeannie has been able to move ahead with her courses, taking Radical Authenticity, Son-Rise Maximum Impact and Son-Rise Wide Awake ... and eventually she became a Certified Group Facilitator.

Jeannie Reid’s story is about wanting BIG and making it happen. She is about to embark on her renewed private practice as an art therapist, and plans to be a super advocate for The Son-Rise Program in her area. Her wonderful new life is a product of her persistence and belief, and of the wheels she helped set in motion for others when her friends learned of how she and her family had been impacted by The Son-Rise Program.

“I know I will be able to give back by helping others, and that will be the top of my personal mountain! Thank you to everyone who donates! You are making a big difference in the world!

Jeannie Reid


Dear Donor

Two years ago, Antonio's kindergarten teacher told us something was not quite right with our little boy. He was not socializing, he somersaulted all the time and hardly spoke at all. At the time I was working for a municipality close to Florence, Italy and basically I had nothing left after seeing to basic necessities.

In the meantime, I looked up Autism with Google and as I was also looking for happiness and personal growth, I was guided to The Option Institute, thence the Autism Treatment Center of America. I read up as much as I could and started trying to apply the “Happiness is a Choice” suggestions. I'm not quite good at it but it has helped me with attitude, and everything else that seemed trying is really different after all this.

When I decided to come for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, I really had little or no money to pay for it. I spoke to my friends, old and new. My mother helped me, friends I thought couldn't [help] tried their very best and the scholarship did the rest.

What the scholarship did was give a HUGE boost to my fundraising. About six friends contributed the rest, at the travel agency a very kind lady who I may now call a friend helped me some more. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Here I am, happy to have attended the Start-Up program and looking forward to learning more and praying to God for guidance.

So the gist of the matter is, I am a happy mum who hopes to implement a wonderful relationship with her child and is riding a not so easy moment with lots of hope in her heart and THANK YOU is not enough for what I feel. I still remember William's words, “If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got.” Now I'm trying to do different, bit by bit, day by day. I feel the difference already.

About Antonio ... we are going on with the Italian program and I play with Antonio after school in a quiet room in the house. Knowing what the little guy is exposed to (he's always putting his fingers in his ears and he seems to have problems with too much light in his eyes), I find him very brave as he bears it tolerably. Drums a lot to digest it all.

When we went to the doctor, just weeks after starting the program at home, she told me that she found him more attentive. His attention span has increased. He is also tagging or pulling at one's arm when looking for attention. The child psychologist last Saturday reported the same thing and what's more, my son has always required that I enter the room, hence assisting in every session. Well, this time he went in along with the doctor and told me, “See you later.”

At school, his teacher who speaks English as well, read up and watched my DVD (Kyle’s Journey, Jade and “I want my little boy back”). Now she's changing, bit by bit and I do appreciate that very much. He seems to be OK with her and actually sent me away from class this morning, again telling me, “See you later.”

He is now ONE HUGE GREENLIGHT and I'm hoping to be able to really have volunteers (still looking), raise funds and settle down to business.

God bless,



Dear Donor,

I am the mother of three children, all on the Autism Spectrum. Before I heard of the Son-Rise Program and the Option Institute, I was a desperate, angry and depressed person…. I was on Anti-depressants, sleeping multiple hours of the day, and for a period of time, using alcohol to run away from my pain.

Then I heard of the Son-Rise Program. I called to find out more about it and thought “this if for me!” But I could not afford it. You see raising one child with Autism is very expensive but raising three is just outrageously expensive with all the therapies and dietary interventions that we were doing.

But I was offered a full scholarship to the SRSU program. I have since attended all of the Son-Rise Programs and many of the Personal Growth programs offered by the Option Institute.  Each time I have been given a scholarship and each time I go I learn more about who I am and I change for the better each and every time.  Because of your most generous support, my children are recovering from Autism, I have found happiness in my life!  I am no longer on anti-depressants and I have so much more energy.

YOU are the reason that my family is in recovery. It is because of YOU that my oldest son now is enjoying school.  YOU are the reason my second son is speaking. YOU are the reason my daughter is no longer as rigid and controlling as she once was.  Thank you does not even begin to cover how much gratitude I have for you.  I thank God every day for you and I do not even know you.

Please know that you are changing lives with your donation to ATCA and the OI.  It is because of you that every day people are getting the help that they need. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

With so much love,

Kerry Rihtar