Remember when the world was going to end on May, 22nd, 2011?
I recall the months leading to that promised date. People were divided between the ecstatic and jubilant for the end of all worldly worries, while many more terrified and anxious to prepare for such apocalyptic days. One couple quit their jobs, and sold everything they owned and went on extended vacation, and many more families spent all their savings to overstock on food, water, and supplies. This frenzy of fear and despair was promoted by religious cults, conspiracy theory websites and the 24×7 news media cycles. Luckily, many more took the matter as a nonevent and were amused by this utter nonsense.
On May 23rd, the sun rose from the east as it always does, and we all woke up to the world still intact. Many people however woke up questioning their core beliefs trying to figure out what to do with unused food supplies, large debts from the impromptu vacation, and strong feelings of confusion and seething anger towards those who misled them into such beliefs.
Beliefs are concepts we live by. They are formed by our family, and environment. As we experience the world we develop our core beliefs, which inform us about the emotional wellness of our life, how we view ourselves, the world and what we expect from the world around us.
Core beliefs influence the development of our attitudes, rules and assumptions.
Attitude – it’s terrible to fail
Rule – Give up if the challenge seems too great
Assumption – if I try to do something difficult I will fail, if I avoid doing it I will be ok
Core beliefs are maintained by a concept called “Confirmatory Bias”, it is the propensity to only accept information that confirms an existing viewpoint- you ignore data that contradicts established beliefs. A way of filtering – you fail to notice or remember events that don’t match how you see yourself or the world, this is a negative core belief system. Our beliefs can hold us hostage, which creates a constant cycle of worry.
As you go through life experiencing the world you unconsciously interpret, judge, feel and figure out what things mean. It’s how we learn to survive in the world. If you had a family who encouraged curiosity, risk, and gave you support and validation your inner monologue is supportive. Individuals with positive core belief systems lack the core beliefs to categorize and record negative experiences. They only recall life data that supports existing, fact based experiences that maps positive views of themselves and the world.
If you have a family where there was low support your inner monologue will be negative reflecting your rules about yourself and the world. Some of the rules that we create through our core belief system become a major source of our anxiety and may take one or more of the following themes:
- The world is not safe
- I have to be perfect or I will be rejected
- I need to read people’s minds and give them what they want or I will be rejected
- No one wants to hear my feelings
- Do not ask for anything, no one wants to give it to you
- Life is unfair, don’t expect too much
Worrying is one of the many symptoms of many anxiety disorders that has been formally defined in the DSM-5.
Here are few steps to explore your core belief system:
- Keep a diary to track your strong emotions such as guilt, depression, anger, anxiety. For example:
Situation: waited for friends and they wasted my time
Monologue: they don’t care about me or respect my time
- Take this and review it with a therapist or a friend and look for themes to explore positive vs negative occurrences and gain an understanding of your core beliefs.
- This will give you the freedom to choose what beliefs you want to accept and what you want to reject.
Author: Mary Haroun, LCSW, LCADC – Footprints to Recovery