Monday, May 7, 2012

Core Beliefs and PTSD



Last week my sweet kittie went missing. After a few very sad and anxious days, I realized that this event tapped into an outmoded deeply held belief that I did not realize I was holding. That belief is:

If I love something or someone too much, they will abandon or abuse me.

Sound familiar? It should. It is one of the most common beliefs of people raised in traumatic environments.

We all have core beliefs, about ourselves, about life, about love, about why we are suffering. These beliefs largely lay unconscious in our psyche, like a filter that colors everything we see. We don’t question these core beliefs because we do not know they are there!

People who live with PTSD have core beliefs that arise out of their traumas (and sometimes precede them). We do not choose these beliefs. In a sense they choose us. The purpose of mind, evolutionarily speaking, is to make sense out of a random set of stimuli, the environment we live in. Without mind, the world would be an inchoate mass of incoming information. Mind sorts, slots, and makes meaning of sensory input.

But it is also largely automatic and unconscious.

Our mind selects meaning similar to other messages we have been given by our families, our schools, our communities, our religions etc. Most of the time we are completely unaware of this process, just as you are unaware of your breathing right now. Think you’re aware? How many breaths have you taken in the last hour?
Right! Same with the mind. Our minds think and make meaning but we are largely unaware of the process.

So what does that mean for the person with PTSD? Well, traumatic stress ups the ante on thoughts. Our thoughts tend to be more highly charged, faster, more automatic and more intense when we are stressed. Sometimes they are helpful and help us survive. Other times not so much.

This thought that came to me: If I love something or someone too much, they will abandon or abuse me, it could have first arisen in my childhood, or maybe several lifetimes ago. But it has persisted, lurking in my mind like a malignant dustbunny. Once I became aware of the thought, I felt my body start to release. These thoughts, like shadows, melt away in the light of awareness. Do I still feel sad she is gone? Yes. But I no longer suffer from the underlying guilt and anxiety that went along with my unexamined core belief, which puts me in a much more functional position!

Now it’s your turn. What core beliefs do you have that may be holding you back from healing yourself?


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