How understanding our core beliefs can be a powerful tool in changing our patterns

Do you ever wonder why you tend to pick the same kind of partner or continue to have low self-esteem despite the positive things other people say about you?  What if I told you that you could start to change all of that today simply by creating insight and awareness into what your core beliefs are.

The patterns we repeat, and the beliefs we hold about ourselves, are often driven by our core beliefs that are hidden in, what I like to call, our “blind spots.”  Our core beliefs are powerful driving forces behind why we make the choices, and behave in the ways, that we do.  They also drive how we see ourselves, the world, and the people around us.  Pulling this information out of our blind spots can allow us to have a different (maybe even a more positive?) perspective and make the changes necessary to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

So let me start by explaining how our core beliefs come to be from an Adlerian perspective.  Core beliefs are shaped by our early experiences in the first community we enter, our family of origin.  They become the foundation for our own personal and subjective reality.  Core beliefs are shaped by the messages we are given either implicitly or explicitly at a very young age through what we are told, what is modelled to us, and how we perceive the world around us.

Core beliefs are formed between the ages of around zero to five at which time they become more solidified.  I often use an analogy of a tree to help understand core beliefs in a more concrete way.  If we were all trees, our core beliefs would be our roots.  Just like roots are shaped by their immediate environment (for example the quality of soil, how much water they receive, and the amount of room they have to grow), our core beliefs are shaped in a similar way.

Through our environment in which we are raised we learn about the world.  For example, we may come to understand the world to be safe or unsafe, stable or unstable, loving, scary, or harsh.  We will also learn things about ourselves.  For example, I may learn from my environment and the people around me that I am worthless, I am unlovable, or I do not belong.  Or I may learn that I am worthy, I am loveable, and I do belong.  Because this is all we know at that time we often take what we learn as fact without questioning its validity.

Our early experiences with our mother, father, caregivers, siblings, and those that we were raised with will also affect the way we consciously or subconsciously understand men and women to be and our understanding of how they “should be.”  For example, we may understand from our early experiences that men are dominant, submissive, unemotional, or good providers.  We may understand women to be strong, weak, nurturing, or uncaring.

Around the age of five the lens through which we see the world is formed.  Coming back to the tree metaphor, this would be the top layer of soil.  Our lens is subjective and affects how we interpret our experiences and surroundings.  It affects what situations we seek out or pay attention to throughout our life.  For example, If I learned at an early age that I am a failure, I may actually seek out situations, or put myself in positions, where I fail.  I may also not notice all of the situations in which I succeed.  I may make statements to myself, or to others who point out my successes, such as “Well that doesn’t count” or “Anyone would have done well if they were in that position” essentially dismissing anything that would contradict the core belief that has become so ingrained.

We often do not realize where these beliefs come from or that they are subjective.  We cannot see our core beliefs that give strength to our lens similarly to how we cannot see the roots so deeply entrenched underneath the top layer of soil.  That is not to say that other experiences throughout our lives do not also play a part in how we see ourselves, the world, and the people around us.  Core beliefs can change and continue to be shaped, however, they do remain quite strong without a conscious awareness of how they are guiding us along.

Continuing with the metaphor, our life experiences that are guided by our core beliefs form the trunk of the tree while the branches are our daily experiences.  When an experience occurs, for example, I get a ticket, I may say something to myself such as “I got a ticket and therefore I am worthless.”  Again this seems like a fact to me, however, I fail to realize that the second part of this statement (“I am worthless”) is rooted way beneath the top layer of soil.  This is not a fact; it is a subjective reality that has been validated through my own private logic or self-talk for years, driven by the core beliefs formed in those early formative years.  Our self-talk often confirms our beliefs, strengthening them, and confirming their “reality.”

The good news is that all of our core beliefs that have shaped our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours for so long have been learned.  What does this mean?  It means that they can be unlearned!  Through exploration and by creating insight and awareness you can pull these core beliefs out of your blind spots.

Once you have taken this information out of your blind spots you can take a closer look and change what is unhelpful, unhealthy, or no longer fits for you.  This is powerful information that can allow you to alter your subjective reality in a way that is kinder, more compassionate, and allows for improved relationships.  It may allow you to try things you have always been too scared to try.  It may allow you to break patterns that have been creating an unhappy or unhealthy life.  It can help you improve your self-esteem and find new, healthier ways of coping.  If you have always dated the wrong type of person, worked at a job you hate, have always had friends who were unhealthy, you can finally let that be the past and choose something different for the future.  You can be free from the past and navigate a future that you choose.