By the time we are adults, most of us have developed very entrenched, deeply rooted, fundamental beliefs about ourselves. Psychologists refer to these as our CORE BELIEFS. Once established, they can prove very difficult to change without the aid of therapeutic interventions (such as cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT).
A traumatic childhood, especially one that involved us being rejected and unloved by our parents, will very frequently have a very adverse effect on these CORE BELIEFS. However, precisely how our self-concept is warped and distorted by our problematic childhood experiences will depend upon the unique aspects of those experiences (as well as other factors such as our genetic inheritance, our temperament and the support we received (or failed to receive) from others to help us to cope with our childhood difficulties.
Examples of the kind of false core beliefs our traumatic childhood experiences could have led us to form are as follows :
OTHERS WILL ABANDON ME – this belief may develop if one/both parents abandoned us during our childhoods, for example
I AM NOT WORTH OTHERS CARING ABOUT – this belief may develop if our parent/s focused far more on their own needs than our own, for example
I MUST BE SELF-SACRIFICING – this belief may develop if our parent/s ‘parentified‘ us, for example
I MUST SUBJUGATE MYSELF TO OTHERS – this belief may develop if our own views and needs were dismissed as unimportant by our parent/s, for example
I AM A SOCIAL PARIAH, UNFIT TO ASSOCIATE WITH OTHERS – this belief may develop if we grew up feeling our childhood experiences set us apart from our contemporaries or if we were in some way ‘forced to grow up’ too early, so that we developed difficulties relating to those of our own age during childhood (perhaps we were so anxious and pre-occupied we couldn’t behave in a care-free way join in the ‘fun’).
I AM INTRINSICALLY UNLOVABLE – this belief may have developed if we were unloved, or PERCEIVED OURSELVES TO BE UNLOVED, by our parent/s, for example
I AM VULNERABLE AND IN CONSTANT DANGER – such a belief can develop if we spent a lot of our childhood feeling anxious, under stress, apprehensive or in fear, for example
I MUST ALWAYS KEEP TO THE HIGHEST OF STANDARDS – such a belief may develop if our parents only CONDITIONAL LOVED/ACCEPTED us
I AM SPECIALLY ENTITLED – this belief may develop if we feel (probably on an unconscious level) that society in general should compensate us for our childhood suffering or because we are so overwhelmed by our emotional pain that we can’t help but to focus almost exclusively upon our own needs (rather as we would, say, if we were on fire).
HOW DO THESE FALSE CORE BELIEFS AFFECT US?
Unfortunately, such deeply instilled core beliefs are liable to become self-fulfilling prophecies. As already stated, they are resilient to change and this state of affairs is seriously aggravated by the fact that, once such beliefs have become deeply ingrained, our view of the world is so coloured that we misinterpret, or ‘over-interpret’, what is going on around us, specifically :
We selectively attend to, and absorb, information which supports, or, seems to us to support, our negative view of ourselves, while, at the same time, ignoring or discounting anything that contradicts our negative self-view. In so doing, we are likely, often, to grossly overestimate the significance of information that seems to confirm our negative self-view, or simply completely to misinterpret information (eg by thinking/believing : ‘he just yawned because I’m boring’, whereas, in fact, he yawned because he had not slept for twenty-four hours).
To read my article on how cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help to address our false core beliefs, click here.
OTHER RESOURCES :
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).