Core beliefs influence our decisions and emotions daily, although individuals rarely seek to identify and challenge negative thoughts—which ultimately become reality. These beliefs may sound like “people cannot be trusted,” “no one will ever love me,” “I will never be successful,” and/or “things will never get better.” Other beliefs take on the themes of being defective, being abandoned, and being unimportant/insignificant.
When working with clients, I often hear a sense of resignation and defeat that these beliefs and fears will continue to be confirmed and relived. These core beliefs are often based on assumptions and interpretations that were formed months or even years ago, and rarely do individuals stop to examine evidence for and against these thoughts.
Visualize a tree. Core beliefs are the roots of the tree—often unseen yet play a vital and significant role in the functioning and overall health of the tree. As a foundation, core beliefs impact how we see ourselves (e.g., I am not loveable), others (e.g., people are self-centered), and the world (e.g., I am unsafe). On the other hand, automatic thoughts are the beliefs that happen daily and are on repeat in our minds. These thoughts may be the observable parts of the tree—including the braches, bark, and leaves. It is important to note that these automatic thoughts are the symptom to our deeper, unhelpful core beliefs. In order to facilitate and foster positive change, individuals must examine the roots and foundation of the self.
To begin challenging this process, one must set intentions to identify themes in thoughts, begin doubting initial reactions and first interpretations of events, and consider alternative reasons for the thought (e.g., am I being triggered by the past, what is really my worst fear, what else could be happening). Visualize being calm. How would this change how you are thinking about or approaching the situation. Which core beliefs are you ready to retire, and which core beliefs are you ready to promote.