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Negative Core Belief Schema Explained: Part 2

December 22, 2020
All Points North Lodge

Lana Seiler

Previously, we discussed negative core belief schemas, and how they get embedded into us, usually in early life, and then sort of guide or influence the decisions we make in adulthood and kind of how we show up in the world as adults. I just want to reiterate that, that it usually is a very unconscious process. We're not like walking around going, "You know what? I think I'm a failure, so I'm not going to do anything." It's like, we just don't believe in ourselves. It's usually a very unconscious thing that's happening underneath in that old operating system.

I wanted to touch a little bit, also, on how that translates into the behaviors in adulthood that end up getting us in trouble. If we're walking around with this underlying or unconscious, sort of constantly playing a tape, that tells us things like I'm not good enough, I'm a bad person. I'm a failure. People are unsafe, or the world is unsafe, or the world is unfair, there's a lot of them, then we're going to experience, most likely, some stress around life not working out the way we want it to, or not having the tools or the opportunities that we want. I'm going to go out on a limb and make some assumptions. I'm going to preface this by saying that what I'm saying is not a hundred percent accurate for every circumstance because there's just no way that could be. But, a lot of the time in our family of origin and the homes we grew up in, we don't get the tools or the coping skills taught to us that we need. A lot of the time our parents are just doing the best they can with what they have and they're using coping skills that they learned from their parents.

Those coping skills often look like, or I should say, coping strategies, often look like avoidance, just not talking about something, sweeping it under the rug, pretending it doesn't exist, pretending it's not there. Anger and rage when we are not getting what we want or we feel our boundaries are being violated. Instead of being able to have healthy band boundaries and stand up for ourselves and advocate for ourselves in a healthy way, people will go to rage and anger, alcohol, and drugs. This again, we're looking at continuums and spectrums, so this could be just a couple of drinks after work a few days a week, all the way up to total severe alcoholism and drug addiction, but that's often a skill that people or strategy that people use. It can also look like having what [inaudible 00:03:02] calls intensity cycles. That's in a bigger discussion about love addiction and love avoidance, which we may be able to have one day. But for right now, I'm going to keep it short.

These intensity cycles look like overworking, like addiction to work, being at the office all the times so that you don't have to come home and you don't have to deal with the mess that at home, having affairs, relationships outside of the marriage, relationships outside of the family, and these can be romantic affairs, or they can even be like bromances or having a best friend or a group of friends that were just spending more time with than is really healthy for our intimate relationships at home. Intensity cycles can also look like over shopping and when we say over shopping, either going out to shop or being at home and the computer, kind of shut away. The point of this is that it gives us space. It takes us away from what's dysfunctional rather than actually dealing with what's dysfunctional or what's making us feel bad.

These coping strategies are often passed down. When we have a poor boundary system, we haven't been taught how to have good boundaries in our relationships and in our life. It's easy for us to feel offended, violated like things aren't fair and what this does is it reinforces these negative core belief schemas. I'm a bad person. The world isn't fair. The world is an unsafe place. I'm never good enough. And guess what? I don't have a good boundary system so when someone says to me, "Lana, you really could have done better on that presentation the other day." Instead of hearing that and saying, "Oh, you know what? I have a boundary system. I'm going to take some of that in. I can learn from it. Maybe I could work on it a little bit more the night before or whatever." But really staying in healthy self-esteem and being like, "You know what? I'm a good person. I'm a good clinician. I'm a good friend. I'm okay. I could probably just work a little bit harder and that's okay."

We hear that and we immediately drop into self-esteem failure and all those negative core beliefs just replay in our head and we go into, "What am I doing? Why am I even in this profession? I'm a total failure." And it compounds. As you can see that this is a cycle and as this cycle continues to intensify our as I talked about before, our coping mechanisms and coping strategies need to get more intense in order to deal with the intense stress and before you know, it, we have two major problems on our hand.

We have the core belief schemas that are giving us the self-esteem failure, the boundary system that's not helping us stay protected and keeping us grown up as adults, that they can handle constructive feedback, or life not showing up the way we want. So we have that problem. And we, the additional problem of, well, great. Now I have a substance use disorder or Now I have a major gambling issue, or now I'm about to get divorced because I've had an affair, or now my children don't want to talk to me anymore, because all I do is go on trips and vacations and just try to get away because I have these intensity cycles to create space.

We have these two problems now, and one, I'm borrowing this from Ryan Soave, one of the problems started out as a solution. It started out as a way to manage the pain from the first problem. I'm going to repeat a little bit here, but in good treatment and whether this is inpatient or outpatient APN or somewhere else, good treatment looks at both of these things. We have to spend time looking at the negative core belief schemas and how they've manifest in our lives and what treatment we need in order to make shifts, significant shifts. To me, it's not enough. It's not enough to just say you can manage it. We need to make it different, shift it better.

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