It is easier for us to admit when our thoughts and feelings are causing us harm than when our Core beliefs are. Our thoughts and feelings eventually tend to attract the attention of ourselves and others.
Our Core beliefs, on the other hand, are easier to overlook. They are easy to conceal. They constantly affect our thoughts and feelings, but we don’t always realise what they are. We might not even realise some of them aren’t helping us.
Our Core beliefs are deep-rooted beliefs we have about ourselves, others, and the world around us. We all have both negative and positive ones that we develop from an early age to make sense of our world.
We learn as children, for example, that “Dogs bite” or “Dogs are friendly” depending on how interactions with dogs have gone in the past. Note that Core beliefs are “Black and White”: people who are petrified of dogs don’t say to themselves, “Some dogs are friendly”.
Unfortunately, Core beliefs are stubborn and reluctant to change. They give us a sense of control. They are grounded in child-like and adolescent thinking, typically characterised by emotive thinking rather than objective, logical thinking.
Some young males, for example, may perceive Anger as a sign of strength. They overvalue aggression as a means to solving problems. Many of these males can go long decades of their lives without ever realising that this Core belief usually does more harm to them than good.
Negative Core beliefs in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
Part of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is to understand and test out our Negative Core Beliefs. Negative ones can have an enormous impact on our self-acceptance, self-worth, and self-esteem. They can harm how we get on with others or cope with distress.
With the negative ones, “I’m worthless”, “I’m a bad person”, and “I’m not good enough” are common. All of us are only human. At some point, we end up saying bad things about ourselves to ourselves because we feel as if those bad beliefs were true at some point.
The theory behind Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is that by changing your negative Core beliefs, you change the thoughts and feelings that they influence, thus helping you live a happier life.
Is CBT unhelpful?
The problem is that a lot of us have beliefs that are resistant to change. You might not think any of your Core beliefs are unhealthy. You might not see a problem with them. You may not feel ready to let go of them.
You might be sceptical of the benefit of CBT and even think it is a load of nonsense. You might even find the idea of someone saying what you think being unhealthy as threatening.
It is important to remember that all of us are prone to developing unhealthy beliefs about the world. Even your therapist was young once and can empathise with what it is like to feel negative about yourself. CBT-trained therapists are trained to support you in understanding what you believe.
By doing that, you can understand maybe why you believe them, how they affect your life, and most importantly, how to change them.
Not everything we believe can be changed overnight. But challenging our resistance to questioning them is always the first step to change.