Have you ever stopped to think about the negative messages you’ve been given in your life? Sometimes these messages are given orally and easily identified. At other times they can be hidden and harder to understand. They may be delivered through the way someone treats us or the way we see people treat each other. Messages come to us from our parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, peers, spouses, and even strangers. Identifying and understanding these messages is important because they can form the basis for beliefs we hold about ourselves. Irrational or distorted core beliefs may lead to irrational and distorted emotions and behaviors.
Not only is it important to identify the distorted messages and subsequent beliefs, but also to learn how to challenge them. Cognitive behavior therapy focuses on identifying and modifying irrational core beliefs and replacing them with rational thinking leading to goal attainment, feeling better, and relating well to others.
Remember, sometimes these messages are clear—a father telling his son he is a failure when he doesn’t do something right—and sometimes they are a challenge to pick out—a young boy witnessing his father control his mother’s behaviors through passive aggression. Whatever the messages are, it is important to determine how they have turned into beliefs you hold about yourself and how these beliefs have impacted your decisions, emotions, and behaviors as an adult. Challenging these beliefs is often difficult because they feel so real and true, but in doing so you are giving yourself freedom from being defined by someone else’s opinions or actions.
Maggie Futch, MS, Associate Licensed Counselor