Hello Me – It’s Lovely to Meet You!

Until recently I have always considered myself to be pretty well ‘in touch’ with my feelings. If asked to describe my personality, I would do it fairly honestly and , I think, resonably accurately. In fact, this strong sense of self-awareness is a big part of what I am. It  constantly monitors the way I treat others – hopefully with sensitivity and a sense of fair play. On the other hand, contant self-analysis has probably led me down the route of Pure-O and severe anxiety.

After a recent breakdown I talked through the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy route with my psychiatric nurse and was given some literature to read. The concept of Negative Automatic Thoughts or Flawed Thinking where we tend to think in negative ways was not new to me.  Because I have always been aware of my own thinking patterns (but not often in contol of them) I had instinctively been helping myself for years to overcome these with alternative, more realistic thoughts. The light bulb moment came for me when I read about the idea of Core Beliefs.

I am not an expert in CBT but my understanding is this. The first steps involve challenging your thinking patterns (your Negative Automatic Thoughts) and training yourself to look at other, more positive interpretation for situations that cause negative emotions. For example, “I shouted at my teenager so I’m a horrible parent” could be replaced with the thought, “he was really late home so I was entitled to be worried and was only cross because I love him so much.”

The second stage involves taking a step back and viewing your life as a whole and trying to understand why you have adopted these unhelpful ways of thinking in the first place. By tackling these underlying, core beliefs, the CBT is more likely to be successful in the long term and relapes more unlikely.

It was while reading about these core beliefs that it clicked for me. These belief systems are broken down into three broad categories, Achievement, Being Accepted and Being in Control. While I recognised elements in myself across all categories I could instantly tick off all eight elements of the acceptance category. They were:

  • I must be liked and accepted by everyone
  • I have to please other people all the time
  • I have to be nice to people to be a good person
  • I have to put others first or they will reject me
  • If someone doesn’t like me, its my fault
  • If I argue or disagree, people will not like me
  • If I upset someone, I am a bad person
  • If someone critises me, they must be right

These statements ring true for me in all areas of my life including relationships, career, parenting, socializing, recreation and creativity. I feel it is significant that my troublesome obsessions have revolved around a fear of going mad and being unable to live a normal life – in other words rejected in some way by society. As a child I was socially anxious and  bullied for being ‘too clever’ and never felt I fitted in. Although I had loving parents, my father was a difficult man with a very fierce temper and there was always tension in the home. I can start to see (although not blame) early experiences that may have shaped my core beliefs and led to negative thinking patterns.

By trying to unpick my emotional past I hope to reach the foundations of ‘what made me me’ and use this knowledge to build a stronger, happier me in future. Although I appreciate this can be very hard and possibly overwhelming I would urge anyone considering CBT to try and be open and honest with yourself. The more insight you can gain into how you really feel and think and why you have adopted these ways of thinking, will make the process of changing them that much more effective.




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5 Responses to Hello Me – It’s Lovely to Meet You!

  1. Tracy says:

    You might also be interested in ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)

    You write beautifully!

  2. This is an excellent post and you make very good points. I agree about core beliefs and wow – they are sure hard to change. But you’re right – awareness is the first step and I like what you wrote here. I wasn’t aware that they broke down into three categories. Do you have any reading recommendations that you could give me that talks about core beliefs? Most of the CBT stuff I’ve been doing is about thought records – not being aware of the core beliefs.

    • Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. I was so determined to start this blog in the hope of helping others but, typically am now constantly doubting that I have anything useful to say. Talking to people like you makes it all worth while. I am looking forward to reading your blog too. I was recommended a book called Mind Over Mood by Greenberger and Padesky. It’s on Amazon. It has a whole section on Core Beliefs and how you can test them and start to change them. I found this interesting as , with most of my problems being Pure O (like you) I found the thought records quite hard to do effectively.

  3. ocdtalk says:

    You certainly have a lot of insight…….I really didn’t know anything about “Core Beliefs” but totally see my son in the list from the acceptance category. Thanks for the information and I will definitely read up on this!

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