I often discuss core beliefs when it comes to topics such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and abusive relationships. The idea is that we ALL have distorted beliefs that we develop about ourselves throughout our childhood that are usually strengthened by our experiences (and interpretations!) as adults. The core beliefs that we formulate are rarely true but hold so much power and can be limiting if we choose to live by them.
A child who has been placed in several different foster homes throughout their childhood may form the core belief of being “unloveable” as an adult. They will unconsciously look for external signs and validation that this belief is true i.e. through people’s words, actions, life disappointments, etc. They will feed themselves distorted thoughts and convince themselves that their beliefs are true. They may sabotage relationships by misinterpreting their partner’s words and actions as rejection, “a sign” that they are unworthy of love. In turn, this may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which their own distorted thoughts and actions lead to the termination of the relationship.
Yes, unhealthy core beliefs can have very devastating and destructive consequences IF we choose to live by them. The idea is to refute the distorted core belief with evidence that opposes the belief i.e. that one is loveable instead of unloveable. The adult with issues of abandonment can begin refute their core belief of being “unloveable” when they find the evidence that there are people out there that care about them i.e. my best friend threw a birthday party for me last week; I made two new friends at the party…etc.
Unfortunately, what we tend to do is default back to our distorted beliefs and look for evidence as to why we are “unloveable”, “a failure”, “worthless”, “stupid”…etc! It’s a good recipe for poor mental health. That’s why it takes dedication and practice. When it comes to distorted core beliefs – challenge, challenge, CHALLENGE!
TIP: A thought record is helpful in discovering negative automatic thoughts (“I bet I did poorly on that job interview”) that tend to feed our core beliefs (“I’m a failure”).
Happy Tuesday everyone!