In the last post, we started learning the skills to externalize the societal messages that trigger our symptoms, so that we can stop reacting and instead, respond to them. We learned that to change the way we feel, we must change the way we think—an evidence-based skill-set of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). To refresh your memory—CBT is a set of interventions that are proven effective for a variety of diagnoses, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, somatoform disorders, bulimia, general stress, and the list goes on. The idea is that thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to behaviors. So, if you’re carrying on, doing something you don’t want to do, or not doing something you’d like to start doing, you’re feelings are acting as a barrier. Because the feelings emanate from a self-destructive thinking pattern, we began by hitting this hard at the thought level.
For many of you, it’s working! I get SO excited when you check in and tell me you’re feeling better. Yesss! But for some of you, it’s not quite cuttin’ it. Damn. No worries. There’s more.
This shit won’t quit.
Some of you report feeling a lot of feelings, but you’re telling me that it doesn’t seem like you’re thinking much of anything. You just feel awful. I get it! My first go at this didn’t come easily either. For me, it seemed that I either had so many racing ( and disturbing!) thoughts that I couldn’t grab onto just one of ‘em to change up (as my clinician was telling me to do at the time). Or, even worse, sometimes my mind seemed totally blank, but I still felt anxious, scared, and lonely—similar to what many of you are expressing to me. Nothing to stress about! Super-common. Let me explain.
Negative thought patterns are said to, at times, be “ so interwoven into the fabric of our thought that we don’t even know that they’re there.” I’ve come to call them stickler thoughts. For the sticklers, trying harder won’t do the trick. We have to dive deeper into CBT skill-sets.
Making an ASS of U & ME. Assume.
Remember—Each one of us has both a positive and a negative thought voice, the part of you that has internalized all of the shitty messages thrown at you by society since birth and works overtime to shame you into fitting in with societal norms.
Sometimes those negative thoughts become so engrained in your thinking that, even with awareness, they’re hard to change! Those really engrained thoughts are the sticklers, and the reason they won’t quit is because they are fueled by a faulty core belief system.
We each have core beliefs about ourselves, other people, life, in general, and the future. We learn our core beliefs from the environment— media, society, your parents, teachers, the lady at the grocery store, and the guy you see everyday at the coffee shop. Your environment is everything that’s not you in your world. When these beliefs are limiting, they seriously impact our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Makes sense. If our beliefs are faulty and limiting, of course, our thoughts will be faulty and limiting, too! And remember—thoughts lead to feelings and feelings to behaviors. So, a limiting belief system has the potential to get us all jumbled up—big time! Think about it this way—If you have a deeply imbedded belief that the world is not safe, even with some work on the anxious thought, “If my friends ditch me, I’m screwed”, it’ll only be seconds until another anxious thought pops up in it’s place. The good news is that beliefs are assumptions, not facts. Even more, they are learned. Anything that’s learned can be unlearned.
To begin chipping away at those stickler thought patterns, we’ve gotta get down to core beliefs.
When I first wrote my core beliefs in 2005, they looked like this.
My Core beliefs—
I am weak. I am ugly. I am over-rated.
People are kind. People are flawed. People are good.
Life is scary, really really really really really really really really really really really really scary.
No wonder I was petrified!! The worst part is that core beliefs become a part of our identities without us even knowing it. Without an understanding of all of this stuff, I had internalized these assumptions as truths. I identified as scared and weak and over-rated AF. Horrible.
With some work, I was able to change my belief system—totally.
When I wrote them down in 2016, they looked like this.
My Core beliefs—
I am smart. I am kind. I am my purpose.
People are innately good.
Life is an opportunity to show-up, create social change, make my life matter.
It works, if you work it. You’re worth it.
Changing my core beliefs was an integral step in changing my thought patterns, feelings, and behaviors. Restructuring my assumptions was necessary to #gethere. Be present. Be me. Believe it or not, that’s the goal. Being free from all of the faulty assumptions and thoughts, so that you can feel better and live your life with ease, balance, and grace.
The goal is freedom—to be you.
Write down your core beliefs. ( The list can be super-long!)
X marks the spot.
Put an “X” next to the faulty ones that are likely the culprits, making you feel like shit.
Collect the data— Yes, again!
Is this belief rational? Or is the opposite actually true? Write down all of the facts re: each belief.
Self-monitor for seven days.
Make a mental note every time that core belief fuels a thought or action that doesn’t feel so great on the inside.
Experiment with reversing the belief.
Move from “I am weak.” to “I’ve shown courage numerous times this week.”
Reminder: I’m here to work through this with you. I see these skill-sets work every day. I witness girls and women start off down in the dumps and scared as hell until they unlearn a lot of what they’ve been taught by society and emerge— strong and powerful.
I want you to feel strong and powerful—especially, since you already are.
You deserve that. You deserve you and frankly, we need you. Each of us is necessary, and this is the next right step toward unabashedly showing up—getting here. That’s what we need—each of us to show up for all of us.
That’s why we do the work—for us.
Let’s get to it!