As we get ready to make our houses sparkle with lights this evening, let's also shed a little light on the dark corners of our inner selves.
Let's go a little deeper to understand how our perceptions depend on our innate or core beliefs about life.
Core beliefs are the essence of how we see ourselves, people, the world and even our future. They may be positive — ' I am capable', ' Life is full of exciting opportunities'. Or they may be negative — ' I'm not good enough', ' Nobody loves me', ' I am helpless'. Now consider the following example.
Situation: Neha finds out that her friends went out for lunch together and did not invite her.
Neha's first thought: ' They don't like me and don't want to be with me.'
Neha's emotion: Sadness.
Neha's core belief: ' I am unlovable' or ' No one loves me'.
HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY YOUR CORE BELIEFS?
One way is to observe your random thoughts. These are the thoughts that pass through our minds constantly, the constant chatter going on in our head. ' I want to have a healthy lunch today', ' I am going to make my daughter study for her test', ' That lady reminded me of my sister', ' Why can't my boss have a little more faith in me?'... Once you identify the train of thoughts, you can question it to get to you core belief. Ask yourself questions like: ' If that's true, what does it mean?' ' What's bad about it?' ' What does it say about me?' Let's illustrate the process through Neha's example.
Neha's first thought: ' My friends don't like me and don't want to be with me.' If that's true, what does it mean? ' There must be something wrong with me.' What does it mean? ' I'll never be able to have close friends.' What does it say about me? ' I'll never be able to have a relationship.' What does it mean? ' I'M UNLOVABLE.' WHAT CAN YOU DO TO CHANGE YOUR CORE BELIEF Once you have identified your core belief, ask yourself, ' What experiences do I have that show this belief is not completely true all the time?' Make a list of such experiences.
Use these experiences to challenge your current belief and then replace it with a new balanced belief.
In Neha's case, some of the positive experiences that counter her core belief ('I am unlovable') and which she can focus on might be: When I was in school, I had two really good friends. We hung out together almost every day.
Unfortunately, we didn't keep in contact after we left school, but I did have friends who liked me.
I had a neighbour who became quite a good friend. She moved cities for work now, but we still keep in touch.
At the hospital where I volunteer, there is someone I have coffee with.
Now, her balanced core belief might be: ' Not everyone will like me all the time, but I am likeable to some people.' Often, belief systems lead to unhealthy expectations from oneself, others, situations and life in general. If you have the core belief ' I am not loved', it may very often give rise to an unhealthy expectation or Brooke Davis has that ' aha' moment in the hitTV show OneTree Hill
need for love from others.
If the core belief is ' I am not good enough', it can create a constant need to prove you are good. These expectations from the self or others can put immense pressure on you and your relationships, both personal and professional.
We all can justify our expectations. But it is important to check them, and if need be, challenge and change them. The question to ask is ' Are my expectations empowering me?', ' Are they making me happy?' Happy Diwali! Do write to us.
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches