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Negative Core Belief Schema Explained Part 1

December 16, 2020
All Points North Lodge

Lana Seiler:

So negative core belief schemas are the beliefs about ourselves, others in the world, that becomes embedded in us usually when we're young. So the reasons for that are that when we're little, we are learning how to be in the world. Our brains are forming around our environment and from an evolutionary psychology perspective, it makes a lot of sense. We are little survival machines, so we're going to adapt. We're going to learn how to stay safe and survive, even if it means not setting us up for the most healthy, balanced adult we could be.

Lana Seiler:

So an extreme example is a shame. There is a healthy shame and there's unhealthy toxic shame. When we are being abused or threatened by the person in our life that's supposed to protect us, our parents, our caregivers, whoever they are when we're young, that is an intolerable contradiction because, in order to survive, we need that person and that person's a threat. So we think about a little baby psychology, a little child's understanding, instinct needs to kick in because it's not something that we can really make sense of. So the instinct that kicks in is we feel shame. Shame is the only emotion that's powerful enough to disrupt proximity seeking. So if daddy is unsafe or mommy is unsafe and they do something to hurt us and our natural reaction be to go to mommy or daddy for comfort, the only thing that can stop that from happening is that we feel intense shame. It's our fault. We're bad. We're wrong. We can't go to them.

Lana Seiler:

So from an evolutionary perspective, that keeps us safe because it keeps us from getting into more harm, it keeps us from going to the person that's going to harm us. But from a psychological perspective, it can be very damaging because we internalize these ideas that we're bad, we're wrong, and that we shouldn't go to anyone, and that we don't deserve help. And just that example, we can think of how many people come into treatment or into therapy, whether it's residential treatment or outpatient treatment, carrying tons of shame. And we can look at the shame and we can say, well, in adulthood, we've done X, Y, and Z, which is maybe outside of our value system, and we can feel some healthy shame around that like I stole from my mom when I was in my addiction. I should feel some shame about that, right? That's healthy.

Lana Seiler:

But when we come with a core belief that I am not worth it, that I am not worth helping, that I don't have a purpose in this life, or that I'm inherently bad, that's very different, because everything we do, every decision we make, at some point, is influenced by this core belief. Core beliefs also end up looking like I can't succeed in anything. I mean, think of how many things in our lives, how many calculated risks maybe we didn't take, promotions we got passed up for, relationships we didn't take the chance of starting because we have an inherent core belief that was imprinted in us when we were very little, that we will fail.

Lana Seiler:

And again, that core belief gets imprinted by things like constantly being ridiculed and put down by our caregivers, not given support, having undiagnosed learning disabilities, or some other disability that hasn't been treated or diagnosed can instill those as little ones. Having families that are very committed to esteem, performing well in sports, or performing really well in music, or different areas where maybe the child doesn't have a natural inclination to that.

Lana Seiler:

So there's instilled the belief that I'm going to fail or I can never be good enough. Not good enough is another one that we hear a lot. The thing about the negative core beliefs and the schemas that they create is that they're using actually very simple. They're usually things like I'm not good enough. I will fail. I'm bad. They sound almost oversimplified or juvenile because they are, they're young. They're beliefs that were embedded in created when we were young. The schemas that they create manifest in a lot of very complicated ways that can have tentacles that travel very far into our adult lives. So don't get me wrong that the impacts of those beliefs are complex, but the beliefs themselves can be very simple.

Lana Seiler:

So the ones that are a little less extreme are sort of like what I was just talking about, about the families that have a commitment to excellence. We can be wounded, I'll use the term wounding, we can be wounded in childhood by things that society and many people would think are actually beneficial or esteeming, or resources for us, so it can be deceiving. Looking at the dad who's the football coach, and this is not against dads who are football coaches because I'm sure some of them are really loving and wonderful and understanding and compassionate, but looking at the parent who maybe has some of their own unaddressed wounding that's spilling over into their child and that they were never able to maybe make the team or be as good as their father wanted them to be, and so then there's this extra pressure put on the child.

Lana Seiler:

And on the outside and even the intent of it is probably in order to encourage the child to be better, to work harder, to accomplish more, to be tougher. The world isn't an easy place. We need to toughen up our kids, we hear that a lot, but the impact is often the opposite. We hear people say things like whatever doesn't kill me, makes me stronger. That's true in adulthood. When we have boundaries and we have an ability to kind of take care of ourselves, we really do need stress in our lives, in some degree, to keep us getting stronger and learning more, but different developmental stages in early life, if we experience things that are overwhelmingly stressful, or we feel like we aren't good enough for our parents, that doesn't actually make us stronger. It creates inherent vulnerability, which then we have to deal with later on in life. So in a nutshell, that's sort of the core belief schema idea.

 

 

 

 

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