Please note that this is a "follow-on" article. It is best read after my articles "Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Negative Core Beliefs (NCBs) - Causes" and "Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Negative Core Beliefs (NCBs) - Identification". |
What can be done about Negative Core Beliefs? There are several options open to a CBT Therapist, but in my experience as a Psychiatrist and Therapist in Brighton I find that the following method is particularly effective.
Firstly, the method is to challenge these Negative Core Beliefs, in much the same way that CBT therapists would challenge a person's Negative Automatic Thoughts. The CBT Therapist and the client can look for evidence that the Negative Core Belief is true, and then look for evidence that it is false. The client is then in a position to make a reasoned judgement as to whether it is rational and healthy to continue holding their Negative Core Belief. If they don't think it's rational, then they can begin to look for alternative beliefs that better explain the evidence.
An example of this method might be challenging a client's Negative Core Belief that "People are dangerous". Evidence in favour of this belief might be that they had unpleasant and frightening experiences growing up - perhaps their father was abusive, or they were severely bullied at school. Experiences as an adult may also play a role - the overbearing boss at work, or the "friend" who turns out to be rather two-faced etc. Evidence against the belief that "People are Dangerous" could include the fact that their mother and grandparents were kind and loving, and that she had a few friends at school who were supportive. Perhaps most of her work colleagues now are nice and trustworthy, and the boss is renowned for being unpleasant and cantankerous to everyone.
With evidence of this sort compiled both "for" and "against" the belief, the client can weigh it up and make a judgment. In this particular case, the evidence may seem roughly evenly balanced both "for" and "against". In which case the client may decide not to totally reject their original belief, but modify it somewhat. They may decide that the statement: "Some people are dangerous, but some aren't" is a better description of the evidence. Learning to live with this new modified belief will almost certainly lead to the client having less emotional problems.
However, this is easier said than done. After all, your Negative Core Beliefs have been with you a long time - they can seem like an integral part of who you are, and as such, you can't just "turn them off" like that. They're well-trodden paths that can feel very comfortable and familiar, even if (in the long run) they cause you a lot of problems.
What a CBT therapist may suggest is that rather than trying to actively eliminate your Negative Core Belief, it can be more productive to focus your attention on actively cultivating your new, alternative Core Belief. In my experience as a therapist in Edinburgh, one of the most powerful ways that a client can employ in order to start thinking in newer, healthier ways is to start behaving as if they already truly believed the new Core Belief. That is, to make a conscious decision to act in accordance with their new belief. In the example given, the client will act as if they already believed the new core belief "Some people are dangerous but some aren't". They will (quite consciously and deliberately) assume that people are not always dangerous and act in accordance with this (e.g. smile, be friendly, trusting etc), and make a conscious note of the results of such behaviour. Ordinarily the results will be pleasant, positive, and re-inforcing of the new belief. By repeating this behaviour day-in and day-out it will become second-nature, and the client will, deep down, really start to believe their new Core Belief. No longer will they see all other people as inevitably dangerous, and their instinctive initial responses to others will reveal a mature and trusting attitude.
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