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Getting To The Bottom Of Your Core Belief

Blog banner Getting To The Bottom Of Your Core Belief

Our experience of working with clients with anxiety has shown how a lot of it is driven by an underlying core belief that they have about themselves.

In this post we're going to explore what a core belief is, how it links with anxiety, and look at getting to the bottom of your core belief.

What is a core belief?

A core belief is a 'global label' which you may have developed over time or from just a few events. It might be something like:

  • I'm a failure;
  • I'm not good enough;
  • I'm not worthy;
  • I'm a bad person.

Why are core beliefs so damaging?

A core belief effectively labels you in all areas of your life, even though it may have been triggered by one, or a few, particular events. For example, if you don't get the grades you want in your exams you may label yourself with the core belief of being a failure. That can be extremely detrimental to your well-being.

The 'filter effect' of core beliefs

Another problem with core beliefs is that they impact on the way you perceive people and situations. Like a pair of glasses, the core belief is like the lens through which you see and relate to the world.

This means that, people/events that support your core belief are absorbed and taken on board, but things which contradict your core belief are pretty much dismissed.

An example of the the filter effect

For example, you go for a job interview and come out of it convinced that you've mucked up. Let's assume you have the core belief of "I'm not good enough".

Outcome 1: The prospective employer rings you and says you didn't get the job on this occasion. You're disappointed and beat yourself up, but feel this outcome was inevitable because you already believed you weren't "good enough".

Outcome 2: You're contacted and told you got the job. You're pleased, but you start to have thoughts that the employer gave you the job by mistake. You doubt your ability do the job, and are convinced that you don't deserve to be offered the role. This is all because you being offered the role conflicts with your core belief of "I'm not good enough".

How can I find out what my core belief is?

There's a technique you can use called the Downward Arrow Technique. What you need to do is to think of a situation which triggered some negative thoughts, write down the situation together with the negative thoughts that came into your mind at that time.

When we ask clients what their thoughts were, a lot tend to name the feelings that came up for them. We think this is because it's easier to identify the feelings more readily because our thoughts are often so automatic that we don't notice what they are. However, for the Downward Arrow Technique we need to consider the thoughts that arise from a situation.

The Downward Arrow Technique

We'll use the job offer example above. We already know the core belief, but we'll just use the scenario as an example and work our way down from there.

When you were offered the job, you may have had negative thoughts such as:

  • They only offered me the job because no one else wanted it
  • They've made a mistake and rung the wrong number
  • I'm not capable of doing the job

We need to pick just one of the negative thoughts in order to do the Downward Arrow Technique. For this scenario, we'll pick the negative thought of: "They only offered me the job because no one else wanted it".

We'll work through the Downward Arrow Technique which involves starting with the negative thought, and continually questioning it (in italics):

Example of the Downward Arrow Technique

"They only offered me the job because no one else wanted it". So, what if that were true, what would that mean?

"It would mean they must have been desperate to fill the job". If that were the case, what would that mean?

"Well, it would mean they didn't care who they gave the job to". What if that was correct, what would that mean?

"It would mean they're willing to take on anyone to do the job". If that were true, what would that mean?

"Well, they'd probably realise later on that I can't do the job". If that were the case, what would that mean?

"They'd wonder why they took me on". What if that was correct, what would that mean?

"They'd probably get rid of me because I'm not good enough for the job". If that were true, what would that mean?

"It would mean I'm not good enough for the job". If that were the case, what would that mean?

"I'm not good enough" (Core belief)

As the example shows, you just keep working down using similar statements until you reach what feels like a core belief. Bear in mind this is a very "neat" example, and sometimes it can take more (or less) time, and a bit more questioning to reach the core belief.

Now, give it a go with a real-life scenario and see how you get on.

What next?

Now that you have a better idea of your core belief, the next step is to challenge how true it actually is. We know we've said it before, but we'll say it again to make the point; we tend to view thoughts and beliefs as facts when they are, in fact, subjective.

We'll show you how to can challenge your core belief in the next blog post. See you then!

Mastering Your Fears

Blog banner Mastering your fears

Hi, it's Jo here for today's blog post 🙂

I remember since I was a teenager, I'd struggled with my self-confidence. As I grew up I often avoided doing things because I feared the potential outcome.

In my mind, it would all end horribly so I shied away from challenges or new situations.  

One day, when I was 19 years' old I headed for the self-help section in a well-known book shop. I looked through various brightly-coloured books, each promising to "change my life". Then, I came across a rather unassuming book. It didn't particularly stand out and it was smaller in size than the others, so it was almost lost on the bookshelf.

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway

The book that I chose sticks in my mind to this day, even though I no longer have it. It was called "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" by Susan Jeffers and I suspect that most people have heard of it.

My anxiety is something I've had to keep in check to ensure that my negative thoughts don't take over. The lessons I learnt from Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, as well as those from my client work, have played a huge part in how I approach my own anxiety and face my fears now.

Here's a few ideas of how you can go about mastering your fears:

It's not the situation, but your thoughts about the situation

I've talked before about the power of negative thoughts and how we can challenge them. Remember, the way we feel about any situation is not related to the actual situation. It's related to our thoughts about the situation. A

A thought is not a fact.

Example: You have to give a presentation in front of a few hundred people at work or school/college. Here are a couple of different ways of thinking about the situation:

Thought 1: "I really hate speaking in front of people, I'm bound to muck this up and look stupid".

Thought 2: "I get nervous speaking in front of people, but I'll do my best and it'll probably give me more confidence to do it again".

So, which thought do you think is more likely to trigger feelings of anxiety, and fears about going through with the presentation?

Hopefully you answered with Thought 1! Even with Thought 2 the anxiety and/or fear may not be completely absent, but that's okay. It's natural for new situations to make us feel nervous. The difference is, Thought 1 is more likely to make you feel far worse and possibly pull-out of doing the presentation altogether.

fears and anxieties

Can we be totally free from our fears?

You might be thinking: "But surely, if we're challenging these negative thoughts then we want to try and get rid of our fears completely??".

In an ideal world, yes, it would be wonderful to be free from fear. Or would it? Actually, fear is a healthy emotion. It protects us; keeps us alert to danger, even psychs us up for something important (e.g., a competition). What we don't want, is for our fear to reach such levels that we avoid experiences which are good for our growth and personal development.

Is mastering your fears about being courageous?

It's good to try and challenge the thoughts which trigger our fears/anxieties, so that you get into the habit of challenging them more. Our brains are hard-wired to focus on the negative, so we have to effectively retrain our brains to think differently.

However, that there are times where we just have to take a huge breath and walk straight through our fear. Sometimes we have to do this to prove that we can do it and come out the other side.

As Mark Twain said, courage isn't about being free from fear; it's about moving forward despite the fear.

What sorts of things have you done where you've faced your fears? Tell us in the comments!

Watch our video about mastering your fears

4 Ways To Support Young People With Anxiety

Blog banner 4 Ways To Support Young People With Anxiety

We decided to do a question-and-answer style format for this blog post to pick Alan's brains, as he works with many children and young people. Here, we talk about ways to support young people with anxiety. Without further ado, here goes!

What are the most common reasons for young people feeling anxious?

Unfortunately, there seem to be many things which make young people feel anxious.

  • They may feel judged by others due to feeling negative about their looks or body image;
  • Some may believe that they need to look a certain way, and compare themselves to others;
  • Young people might fear not being liked, or not "fitting in" with their peers;
  • Some young people experience bullying which can make them fearful of going into school;
  • There may be pressures on young people from their school to perform to a certain standard;
  • Young people may put pressure on themselves to perform well at school, for fear of failing their exams;
  • They might feel uncertain about their future (e.g., university, employment);
  • They may worry about moving to new schools/colleges;
  • Outside of school, young people are often concerned about parental illness/separation, death of others or their own death.

What do you think influences young people’s levels of anxiety?

Social media and media in general, which presents images of unrealistic ‘ideals’ that young people can never achieve. Also, the media tends to place value on people's image and the attainment of material things rather than health and being happy for our internal qualities.

Although young people's forums on the internet can be useful places to share experiences, they can also make them feel worse when they see others suffering and cannot do anything to help them.

helping young people with anxiety

What impact do these anxieties have on young people?

  • A lot of the young people I work with talk about isolating themselves from others;
  • They may remove themselves from school, which might affect their grades and further increase their worries for the future;
  • Many young people may stop communicating with family or friends;
  • They may feel unsafe in society and might experience suicidal thoughts, and/or use negative coping strategies such as self-harm and/or using illicit drugs;
  • They may present as angry and/or frustrated because their anxieties prevent them from doing the things they want to do.
  • What ways can others support young people with anxiety?

    1. Help them to question their thinking. Are their thoughts actually beliefs? Help them to challenge their thinking and find the evidence for it;
    2. Sometimes people think the best solution is to remove the young person from the source of the anxiety (e.g., school). In fact, there needs to be more of a balance to ensure that the anxiety is addressed and not avoided;
    3. Encourage the young person to build on their strengths and positives rather than focusing on the negatives. None of us are perfect, but focusing on their flaws will only keep them in negative thought patterns;
    4. Encourage and support the young person to do more things they enjoy doing. This can help to build confidence and distract them from their negative thoughts.

    We hope you've found this post on supporting young people with anxiety helpful. If you have any other ways of supporting young people then feel free to leave them in the comments.

    Also check our video on supporting young people with anxiety below.

    02/08/2018

    5 Reasons Why Victims Of Childhood Sexual Abuse Stay Silent

    Blog banner 5 Reasons Why Victims Of Childhood Sexual Abuse Stay Silent

    The number of adults who have experienced childhood sexual abuse has been highlighted more and more in the media. Many victims come forward years, if not decades, afterwards to disclose their experiences.

    We've heard people make comments asking why victims stay silent. "Why did they not say anything at the time?" Some may believe that if it had been "that bad" they would have disclosed earlier. It's important that we understand why victims of childhood sexual abuse stay silent, so that we can understand and support them.

    Based on our experience of working with victims of childhood sexual abuse, we've included some of the more common reasons why they may stay silent:

    1. Threats

    Many victims are threatened by their abusers. They may have been threatened with physical or further sexual violence, or threats may have been made towards people the victim cares about. The abuser may even threaten to harm much-loved family pets. Ultimately, it's a way of controlling the victim and protecting the abuser so that they can continue to perpetrate the abuse.

    2. The fear of not being believed

    Another way that abusers keep their victims silent is by telling them that no one will believe them if they disclose the abuse. Imagine the fear that a child may feel; thinking that their family will reject them if they dare say anything.

    Unfortunately, many children disclose and are not believed. Even later in life as adults, victims have disclosed to family members only to be dismissed or have their experiences minimised. The risk of being rejected is very real and therefore it can feel too great for some to take that chance.

    3. Shame

    Shame is an extremely common feeling in victims of childhood sexual abuse. They may feel that the abuse was their fault; that they somehow "led the abuser on". In fact, the abuser may have told the victim that they played a part in being abused as another way of controlling them.

    Children may also experience involuntary physiological responses during abuse. For example, male children may experience erections when touched. As adults, they may reflect that this was a sign that they "enjoyed" what happened. The reality is that these were involuntary responses and do not mean they enjoyed the abuse at all. However, abusers may use this against victims and try to convince them that they did enjoy it.

    Whatever the reasons for the feelings of shame, these can paralyze victims into remaining silent.

    sexual abuse feelings

    4. Protecting the abuser

    This may sound ridiculous to some. After all, why would a victim protect their abuser?

    Contrary to what many people might believe, the majority of abusers are someone known to the victim, for example, they might be family members or family friends. This can therefore make it harder for victims to come forward as they may have an emotional connection to the abuser.

    Imagine the confusion for a child whose, say, father is perpetrating their abuse. They may dearly love their father, but question the things he does. What should they do? It can bring up lots of conflicting emotions which may continue into adulthood.

    5. Not knowing it's abuse

    By virtue of being a child, they may not understand that what's happening is actually abuse. Children look to adults as their role models; they trust them. An abuser may tell a child "this is what adults and children do". Why would a child disbelieve this? Especially if it comes from an adult they know, respect, and care about.

    As time goes on, the child may come to realise that what's happening is not right. However, they then have other potential feelings to deal with such as believing they are somehow to blame, shame, and/or the fear of not being believed if they want to disclose to someone. So, silence may seem the only option.

    The truth is, childhood sexual abuse is NEVER the child's fault.
    If you're reading this as an adult who experienced childhood sexual abuse, it was NOT your fault.

    Who to contact

    It can feel extremely lonely and isolating if you're unable to talk to someone about your experiences. Counselling is a safe, confidential, non-judgmental space where you can do this. It can empower you to move out from the shadow of the abuse, and live your life more meaningfully in the here and now.

    If you're looking to seek support then please contact us. We're here to help.

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