Posts in marriage
Examining Core Beliefs

Dr. Larry Cohen (856) 352-5428

Examining and Challenging our Core Beliefs

Take a moment to think about (or, even better, write down) what you believe about yourself. Who are you? Are you a good person? Do you believe you are a failure? Do you believe you are not good enough? Or, do you believe that you are worthwhile with important things to share? These belief statements are examples of what are called ‘core beliefs’ about the self. It is essential to recognize that your core beliefs are with you every moment of every day. Even though you may not be conscious of these beliefs from moment to moment, they are real. They may be locked away inside of you, but they are there, and they might be undermining your daily life, and sabotaging your personal happiness and success.

The Impact of Negative Core Beliefs

Let’s examine the impact of negative core beliefs. Let’s say that one of your core beliefs is that you are a failure. You often think, “I was a failure yesterday, I am a failure today, and I will be a failure tomorrow.” As the days, weeks, months, and years pass, this negative belief, now deeply ingrained, seems more and more true each day. You can no longer remember when you started believing that you were a failure, but at present, to you, this fact is absolute truth. Eventually, no matter how well you’ve hidden this belief inside yourself, it will activate and enter your consciousness. Because of this negative belief, you experience an emotional reaction. You wonder, “why am I so depressed and feeling bad about myself?” If at your core you believe you are a failure, it’s no mystery why you feel depressed and down.   Remember: our thoughts trigger our emotions, and our emotions affect our behaviors. Although core beliefs are often hidden from consciousness, they do enter our consciousness as thought quite often. For example, perhaps you get taken advantage of by your auto mechanic. Suddenly, this core belief activates, your emotions respond, and you feel like a failure. This chain of events – from thought to emotion to action – happens in the blink of an eye. So quickly, in fact, that the cause of your emotional dysphoria - the surfacing of the core belief - may elude you.

a second negative core belief worth examination is: “I am just not good enough”. This belief is primarily consciousness, as many life situations activate it. When this belief, “I am just not good enough”, becomes a thought, your emotional state sinks, you feel low, and fall into believing that you’re “just not good enough.”

As this belief is different than our previous example, “I am a failure”, one's emotional reaction may be different. The belief “I am just not good enough” will bring up feelings of insecurity, fear, worry, and anxiety. Have you ever felt highly anxious without knowing why? Consider if your feelings are the result of a negative core belief activation. we sometimes feel emotional without knowing why. I suggest you identify your emotions and investigate what thoughts may have brought on the emotions you feel. you may discover a clear link between your emotions, your thoughts, and a negative core belief.

Healthy Core Beliefs

Core beliefs aren’t just negative. A healthy core belief might be “I am a good, kind person. But I am human, and I sometimes make mistakes.” This core belief reflects positively on the self, while recognizing human imperfection and the need to be kind to oneself when a mistake occurs. Note the lack of perfectionistic fervor contained in this core belief. An expectation of personal perfection only feeds negative core beliefs. If you believe at your core that you are a failure, you are neglecting your humanness and the importance of self-forgiveness. If you expect to be perfect, you are doomed to a life of disappointment and self-loathing. It is near impossible to experience appropriate levels of self-esteem under such circumstances.

Internalizing the Negative

Before we address the extreme importance of challenging your negative belief systems and how to rewire your brain, let’s address how negative core beliefs form.  First and foremost, most if not all negative beliefs you carry are baseless and untrue. Don’t forget that your beliefs aren’t necessarily facts. Further, I believe that negative core beliefs are taught to us, handed to us, or forced upon us by other people.  

Take Your Life Back

Take a moment to reflect on a new born child. A child enters our world completely innocent. No child is a “failure”, and no child is “just not good enough”. All babies are inherently good and completely free of any negative beliefs about themselves. You were not born with negative beliefs about yourself. We internalize, accept, and come to believe that these beliefs are true because at some point in life, someone told us they were true. Later, we learn to create our own negative beliefs by comparing ourselves to others. I remember how early the comparisons began. In elementary school, I was taught that I was not the smartest kid in the class. Was I dumb? Part of me started to believe this. Then I discovered that I wasn’t the best athlete: aren’t men expected to be great athletes? Suddenly my virility was in question (in 3rd grade). Grade comparisons, waiting to be picked by a team at recess, making friends (do they like me? If not, what’s wrong with me!)  It’s too painful to go on! Shake yourself hard and begin to accept that many of your beliefs about yourself are based on how you view the past.

I challenge you to confront your negative core beliefs. Try to remember who taught you that you weren’t good enough. Revisit shameful experiences from your youth and recognize that a child really has nothing to be ashamed of. You will discover that many of the negative core beliefs you hold dear and believe so fully aren’t yours - they belong to someone else - someone who shamed you into believing they were true. And try to stop comparing yourself to others. Comparisons aren’t worth the energy required to perform them. Be who you are, be proud of who you are, challenge your negative core beliefs and recognize yourself for who you truly are. You were once an innocent baby, free of negative core beliefs, without shame, and without self-doubt. Work hard to shed your negative core beliefs and send them back from where they came.  Affirm and reclaim your life – snatch it back and start anew.

 “A positive, empowering belief system will attract the life you want to live. Your positive belief system provides the power to continuously create your vision.”

'Your Relationship'

Dr. Larry Cohen (856) 352-5428

"Why are you treating me this way?"

Sometimes our partners say things and act in ways that we just don’t get. Things are supposed to be this way, not that way. Why don’t they understand how things are supposed to be in a relationship?  The answer is simple: your understanding of how things are supposed to be in your relationship – your ‘normal’ – is not their ‘normal’. You must accept that their understanding of how relationships work – how to act, what to say, and how to handle things – will inevitably differ from yours. You have your ‘Guide to Relationships’, while your partner has a different ‘Guide’. Their guide not only differs from yours, but even seems to be written in another language sometimes. Why can’t they see that your way is the right way, and that their way is wrong?

Let me introduce you to your parents.

Perhaps obvious, but often overlooked, is the example your parents set, during your childhood, of how a relationship should be. If you thought everyone learned what a relationship is by watching “Leave it to Beaver” or heaven forbid “The Sopranos”, you are very much mistaken. When it comes to relationships, we learn the rules, the ways of interacting, and the ways of behaving - what a relationship is and how it works -  from our parent’s example. Your ‘normal’ is what you know, and your partner’s normal is what they know.

If you are currently in a relationship, look at your partner’s parent’s relationship. Here you will find the underpinnings of your partners ‘Guide to Relationships’. Then look at your own parents – how they interact with each other, what they say to each other, how they behave – and recognize that much of what you believe to be a normal relationship was influenced by their example. These are the cornerstones of your ‘guide’ to normal relationships. Even if you disagreed with or even hated the nature of their relationship, it was what you grew up with and was a primary example.

What Do We Do Now?

If the state of your relationship warrants, finding and working with an experienced and knowledgeable couples coach is invaluable. Whether or not you partner with a coach, the first step is to identify your relational goals. Work together to discover and outline the steps necessary to meet those goals. Issues such as conflicting relational definitions and beliefs need to be identified and discussed. Compromises will need to be made, and you may both need to accept relational ‘deal breakers’ that present themselves. You may not agree with or even understand some of your partner’s requests. The goal is to combine your 2 different relational guides into one – a relational guide that you and your partner agree to.

Commitment to change will be expected, and a couple’s coach can help you change the behaviors you agreed to change.

Rewriting the foundation upon which you and your partner have lived by is not easy and requires commitment to both the change process and to each other. Yet I have witnessed couples make incredible changes, turning dysfunctional relationships into happy, harmonious relationships. Every partnership is challenging. When difficulties arise, I strongly encourage you to examine your core beliefs about relationships, identify where you learned these beliefs, and question their usefulness in healing and strengthening your relationship. Relationships should be joyful, strong partnerships. Work together, never apart, to create a relationship you’ve dreamed of.