By Kevin Tobin
Our belief system is the psychological structure by which we make sense of the world. From the moment we are born we are taking in information about ourselves and the world we are born into. This clearly develops into an organised psychological cognitive system that contains information about ourselves, other people, the world, and the future and helps gives us a sense of predictability about our world and our self in it.
Unfortunately some people develop very negative beliefs about self. These are known at the deepest level as ‘core beliefs’. ‘Core’ beliefs affect the way we interact with others and the world. We are not necessarily told directly to believe in ourselves and ‘not good enough’ or ‘bad’ or ‘worthless’ but we can develop negative core beliefs through all manner of experiences with family, school settings, the media, in fact everything and everyone with whom we interact.
Core beliefs are not necessarily available to us on an everyday basis. The process of therapy, such as CBT, is about uncovering the highly subjective ways a person makes sense of the world and about how this can relate to current difficulties in their lives. There is a clear connection between what we think and what we feel. In therapy what we do is use a person’s everyday thinking processes to track back to what ‘core beliefs’ are causing the problem. Then we look at helping a person to change them.
When things do not go our way in life or when something bad happens to us we rely on our belief system to help us make sense of why. A client who has always believed that ‘if you work hard and do your best you will get rewarded’ may find it hard to adjust to not achieving a desired job posting or to being made redundant. Or a person who believes ‘if I am nice to others they will like me’ could find it hard to accept someone being off with them at work or bullying them. These are just two examples and the possibilities are endless. The negative ways in which we make sense of things happening can cause and maintain depression and anxiety. The person above who believes that being nice to people or pleasing people will make them like you may well feel a failure because they ‘must have done something wrong to deserve what is happening’.
No two persons make sense of the world in exactly the same way. The challenge for all of us is to be as aware as possible of the way we see things. This knowledge means you can change the beliefs and work on being more at peace.
There are some really good websites that explain this further such as www.getselfhelp.co.uk the resources and handouts can help you to look at how you make sense of things and identify what kind of thinking is causing a problem to you.