Discerning Your Core Beliefs
Episode #5 of the course How to become happier: A guide to reprogramming your thinking by John Robin
Welcome to the fifth day of our course on becoming happier.
Yesterday, we learned the importance of developing our list of core needs, to select the most critical ones. We also explored how each of these core needs comes from deficits in certain relational emotions—the emotions derived from our relationships to others, ourselves, and the world.
I promised that today we would explore where these deficits come from. Welcome to the next Russian doll—the art of discerning core beliefs.
Beliefs: The Ice Beneath the Iceberg
Beliefs are special kinds of thoughts. They tell you what to think of other thoughts. Like your thinking habits, many of your beliefs were formed very early in your life.
As an example, imagine you grew up in a house where everyone was always shouting at you, and this made you feel scared. You formed a thought early in life that when people shout at you, you aren’t safe. This thought hung in your mind and became a point of reference for future thoughts relating to being yelled at. It became a belief.
As years passed, this belief clung to you. Every time someone shouts, you immediately feel like you have to get away. This becomes a problem, for example, if you work a job with high pressure. You might find yourself often thinking, “I can’t handle another shift being yelled at by my boss.”
All thoughts make us feel. In our example, every time you have thoughts about being yelled at, you feel afraid.
Beliefs lurk beneath our thoughts like ice beneath an iceberg.
Because beliefs are thoughts, they also make us feel. In fact, they make us feel the most intense emotions because they are so deeply rooted in our minds. They have echoed across our memories. They have seeded countless thoughts. They have formed the template for thought-habits, again and again.
Beliefs that underlie negative thoughts trace back to negative events that happened when we were too young to understand them. To survive the negative feelings from those events, we formed protective thoughts, and then these thoughts became beliefs.
Each of these protective beliefs helped us feel what we needed to feel instead of the negative feelings, at that time of vulnerability and uncertainty. Because these negative feelings always relate to lacking core needs, we call them faulty core beliefs.
If you were being yelled at from a young age, your faulty core belief is that you’re not safe from other people when they yell, and the relational emotion you are lacking is feeling safe around others.
With this understanding, we can now move to step 6 of our process:
Step 6: Convert your core needs into the faulty core beliefs they encompass.
Let’s return to our list of core needs from yesterday as an example: feeling valued, feeling safe, feeling attractive, feeling trust, feeling confident.
Our job is to now discern, for each one, what faulty core belief we formed to compensate for not receiving that given need. And, for each faulty core belief, when and how in life did you develop it?
For example, the core need to “feel valued” would likely come from not feeling valued. If you grew up in a house where no one ever complimented you or made you feel good about yourself, this likely led to the faulty belief, “I’m no good”. This belief helped you feel off the hook from needing praise, and that praise from others isn’t important at all. But it also leads to numerous self-esteem issues, whereby you can’t take praise from others. And worse, it leads to numerous negative thoughts whereby you put yourself down.
With this example in mind, the faulty core beliefs under each of the above core needs might be: “I’m no good”, “Something bad can happen anytime”, “I’m ugly”, “I can’t trust anyone”, “I always fuck up”.
The early time in life, or distinct trauma, from which each comes might be:
• Lack of parental praise growing up.
• Waking up to a home invasion when you were five.
• Watching your childhood crush go after everyone in the class but you.
• Being betrayed by siblings and close friends growing up.
• Having a perfectionist parent who always criticized your mistakes.
These beliefs are deep and might take a lot of meditation to discern, but as you connect to them, you will gain deeper compassion for your past self.
And this is critical for the next step to becoming happier, which is where we are heading in tomorrow’s lesson.
Set a 10-minute timer and meditate on one specific core need. Discern what belief it is part of, and meditate on the memories that come up to determine where it originates. Do this for each of your core needs. Then, write down the faulty core beliefs.
Keep it handy for tomorrow!
The Anxiety Handbook: The 7-Step Plan to Manage and Overcome Anxiety by Calistoga Press
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