• jess

CPTSD and Core Beliefs

Happy Wednesday Fuckers! I’m back! On a regular schedule! Probably. We’ll see how I feel by tomorrow. I do have a backlog of material to get out as y’all keep piling new interesting questions on my plate. Time will tell.

Anyways, I’m doing a short intro today to balance out the rants I’ve been going on. Sorry and you’re welcome. So. Go to the website at t-mfrs.com, join the discord if you’re looking for support from other Motherfuckers such as yourself, find me on the social medias where I desperately need your help, check out the donation options so I can continue to justify the whole project. Okay, done.

Alright, so you know I have this Patreon thing that I try to make worth your while in return for your economical help. One of the benefits is the good ole’ monthly ask me anything. And I love it. Because the questions are great. And they push me to dig into topics that I was procrastinating. This month’s AMA is a particularly good one! A question that needs to be addressed, anyways. So it’s perfect. Let’s aim for two birds with one stone.

Our good friend Cassie - you know her by now - asks, how do you identify core beliefs and start to change them? Which is a very simple and very complicated question.

So, to take a step backwards, what she talkin’ bout?

Well, one of the internal issues that complex trauma sufferers have to rectify is their belief system. Between our core beliefs and our inner critic, we have a lot going on in between our ears to keep us downtrodden and destitute.

We’re talking about what I call Fucked Up Core Beliefs here… which are your trauma-born core beliefs. Again, called FUCBs because when you discover them, you’ll likely whisper to yourself, “wow, that’s actually really fucked up.”

These sentiments are like the lenses that you surgically stitched onto your face several decades ago in response to your upbringing, as your little mammal brain tried to understand its place in the global hierarchy and how to be chill about it. The framework you built from your early development and beyond, that all information still filters through today - both on the way in and on the way out of your head. The words that stream through your brain consciously or subconsciously to shape the ways you appraise… everything. Yourself, your life, your past, your future, other people, and everything that happens in between.

So, essentially, talking about the ways you interpret your existence and the collected pool of knowledge from where you make decisions, and therefore the ways you act. If this is starting to sound like a big deal - it is!

But it don’t come with a big flashing sign.

The Challenge

These beliefs are challenging to figure out because:

One, they were adapted early on in your life in an effort to understand the circumstances around you or directly downloaded from the sentiments expressed in your environment. When you were first establishing your perspective of the universe and trying to figure out how to navigate it based on the clues presented.

Plus, the harder part is… because of the early adoption, you’ve already accepted the idea for so long that it doesn’t even seem like a “belief” to you - you’re not choosing it and it’s probably not apparent to you - it’s just the secret narrative running in your head that corrupts all later data. Not cognitive thoughts that you’re directing on purpose. You probably don’t have recollections of the time before you believed such and such to question what you believe - these ideas are solidified in your head with as much certainty as the alphabet.

So, you might believe you’re a worthless piece of shit as a function of the neglect and abuse you experienced, a way to explain the mistreatment to yourself from a young age… OR you might believe you’re a worthless piece of shit because mom, dad, sister, and society directly told you so. But either way, many years down the line, it’s difficult to pinpoint either of these originating factors as memories fade or to even question the validity of the thought… or to even notice the thought.

Two, if your family of origin was always repeating the same sort of thoughts and you later associate with people who make you comfortable to be around (i.e. probably have some similar views of the world), you have nothing to compare your beliefs to.

Your environment teaches you what’s normal. There’s no reference for what is and isn’t healthy, fair, or functional if everyone is drinking the same kool aid. And, unfortunately, in traumatic environments, folks seem to congregate around the fucked up beliefs to protect them with a mutual unspoken agreement. Accept the accepted narrative of the group or be outcast. The same story is replayed on repeat from all ends of your social circle, so why would you even begin to think there’s another way to look at things?

So, if mom, dad, cousin, uncle, grandma, neighbor, peer, teacher, and media are all telling you the same reality exists, how would you ever even begin to have the wherewithal to think otherwise? The thought probably never crosses your mind. The sky is blue, grass is green, and the world is a miserable place where everyone is trying to take advantage of you.

Three, again, I cannot over-express how insidious, subtle, and generalized these things can be. Fucked up core beliefs affect how you see and process everything. Again, like lenses or an instagram filter permanently applied to your corneas. So, there’s not necessarily one life-effect linked to one-FUCB for easy detection or one event that will cause a clear-as-day defined belief to come shooting to the top of the pile. More like, you very slowly realize you have an unhealthy view or twenty about yourself and the world that have sorrrrrtof impacted every single area of your life now that you spend years considering it.

Thinking you’re a worthless piece of shit, for instance, has led to you taking low-level jobs with chaotic schedules, living with an abusive partner, and settling for living in the same environment with the same behavioral patterns that you’ve known your entire life. It’s also allowed you to give up exercise, eating right, staying sober, and trying to make any life-improvements. Why bother spit polishing shit? And here you are, wondering why you feel awful about yourself and don’t enjoy anything you’ve created in your life.

But. It’s not that simple to sort out, or else we would have done it already. You probably haven’t ever purposely considered how commonly this impression is operating below the surface of your actions. Realizing that the belief “I’m a worthless piece of shit who deserves nothing” and trying to change it would be like pulling out the wrong Janga block - everything it has been supporting suddenly comes tumbling down and you’re left with a real fucking mess to rebuild from the bottom up. And, to top it all off, no one ever even taught you how to create a sturdier structure in the first place.

You know, that was a good metaphor. Every so often I think I’m onto something. Anyways.

Fourthly, from some of my own learnings, I’ve come to the conclusion that the core belief, itself, doesn’t even have to present itself at any point to be making a difference in your life. They are so deeply ingrained in my brain that my thought center just naturally uses them as a jumping off point, without even directly touching on the words that might ping my brain as unusual. Just like we can subtly detect risks in our environment that set off our warning bells without ever creating a conscious thought to go with the arousal, I feel like I can apply a core belief to my world without ever noticing the accompanying stream of consciousness.

Sometimes I feel like fucked up core beliefs have become so accepted over time that they’re feelings more than cognitions. As if they’ve become so reflexive through repetition that you have muscle memory - an intuitive response that bypasses your logical brain recognition threshold and jumpstarts shittily-related thoughts… and those will actually register on your thinking scale. But at that point, you accept the novel-feeling thought and never note that it was actually spawned by a very old recording.

Which is to say, you might have to work on identifying your fucked up core feelings before you can get to the thought deeply buried underneath.

Taking a meta break from the episode to tell you, I’ve never thought about that so thoroughly before. But Fucked Up Core Feelings definitely sounds like a solid description of my world. I guess we also have FUCFs to go with our FUCBs from now on. Anyways.

With all of this in mind, I’m sure you can start to see why these fucked up core beliefs are a big problem. Hell, if you’ve listened to this podcast for more than a few episodes, you’ve definitely heard that I’m still challenged by my own. Like, when I say that I’m freaking out because no one should listen to me and I feel like an imposter - I believe that I’m not good enough to share information with people. That I’m too flawed to even express myself. This is a problem for, say, podcasting. Or, living. And I have to fight it all the time.

Long story short.

Your core beliefs are sneaky, they can be comprehensive, and they are hardwired into your brain as your default system for analyzing everything on the planet. Again, kind of like looking for goggles strapped to your face, but in reality you had lasik surgery about 30 years ago.

So, if you aren’t constantly on the lookout for core beliefs and actively working against your pre-programmed ways of assessing yourself and the world around you… they will get out of control, cause a fair amount of avoidance and defeat, and set you back several steps in your mental health management… plus, potentially your entire life, if you make any big decisions out of this unhealthy mindset. Which you will, because that’s how the brain works. I’m almost certain that you have some experience with this already.

If you ever think things like:

The world is a dangerous place

People are cruel

I’m not good enough

I’m not smart enough

I’m not enough

I’m broken

Other people don’t like me

There’s something wrong with my personality

I’m not allowed to… (live like others, have nice things, be happy)

I’m not one of those people who… (has money, has good luck, gets what they want)

Shit is just harder for me

Nothing ever works out

Life is always hard

I can’t.

Then you’ve had some fucked up core beliefs floating around in your head. These are some super broad ones for the sake of demonstration, so don’t disregard highly specific beliefs that might relate to your particular circumstances or upbringing.

If you haven’t ever noticed yourself thinking these big shitty picture things… check again in all your deepest nooks and crannies. I think a lot of us TMFRs operate from some version of the narratives above - plus, much worse. Like I keep saying, these beliefs might not be in your conscious thoughts, so much as they’re directing the show from behind the curtain.

How do we pull it back?

Discover the beliefs

Okay. So background aside. How do you start to identify your fucked up core beliefs? It’s a bit like sifting through the sandiest beaches of the world on the search for cat turds. There’s a lot of ground to cover, it’s hard to know where to get started, and you don’t really know if you’ve struck treasure until you’ve already sufficiently poked the putrid nugget. Now you want to throw up, there’s still a lot of ground to cover, and you don’t know why you’re on this stanking excavation in the first place.

I can’t say I know what’s going to help you dive deep into your decades-old software, but I have a few pointers that have really helped me.

1. Listen to healthy people speaking more often. Basically, just tuning into the words of people who see life completely differently than you do - like, it’s not terrifying, full of torment, and skewed against you from birth - can make a huge dent in the identification of your own core beliefs.

When you hear healthy people say things that make you go, “Wait, wait, wait… you actually believe that? You feel that way about yourself? You’re able to act that way? You truly think those thoughts? So does your family?” it’s a pretty good way to figure out where your programming went awry - or, at least where you should start questioning things.

You’ve probably had some version of this experience before, but then turned the tables to negatively judge yourself for having negatively skewed perceptions in comparison to the other person instead of absorbing the newer information they were offering. Don’t do that. Use their views to start questioning your own in a neutral way, where you’re open to being totally wrong.

This sounds simple - or ridiculously hard, if you’re like me and don’t know if you even have many healthy acquaintances. I recommend that in this case, you opt into a lot of podcasts and audiobooks from various successful humans. What constitutes “success?” Depends on how you define it. For me, it’s people who are self-aware, accountable, and working in an area that brings them fulfillment and contentment.

I love listening to thought leaders in any industry. They’ve figured out life in a way that I haven’t, and just hearing how they view things is very course-correcting compared to the truly messed up narratives my family provided. And their brains blow my mind all the time. Find someone or a group of someone’s you look up to, consume their beliefs, question your own. They got that way somehow, and you want to know how their machinery works.

2. You’re going to have to do this on your trauma management trip, no matter what. Do a lot of critical thinking. As in, ask yourself “why” all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. And, ask “why” to your “why’s” to really get to the bottom of things.

As in, it’s not enough to realize that you’re too terrified to show up for a job interview because you don’t believe you’re good enough for the position or company and ask a single “why.” You’ll get an answer like, “because I don’t have enough experience” at first. Boom, inquisition over at face value. But the truth is, that might be a trojan horse; there might be a lot of additional information inside.

You need to start really questioning yourself, and don’t accept simple answers as an end to the interrogation. “Why do I feel like I don’t have enough experience? Because I haven’t worked with this program before. Why do you feel like you need that particular program? Because my old classmate said it was important. Why do you believe what they said is a universal fact? Because… I don’t know… It feels better to trust them than it feels to trust myself, I guess.”

OH! So, the problem isn’t really that you’re lacking experience, it’s that you’re lacking any self confidence and easily appeal to the unexamined opinions of others.

Keep fucking going. “Why?” “Well… my mom did always tell me that everything I did was wrong. My approach was always mocked and corrected as a kid. I never knew how to do anything right and I learned to appeal to anyone as an authority figure to lessen the later punishment. When in doubt, turn to the instructions of anyone in the room besides myself.” Well alright then. So you developed a core belief back in your childhood thanks to the scrutiny of your controlling, unpleasable family and continue to regard yourself as an unknowledgeable idiot who will blindly follow the advice of any other human for a false sense of safety ever since.

To state this in a less long, long winded explanation… you need to start asking yourself “why” a lot more often and with piggybacking inquisitions. Challenging yourself over every word you normally think or scared, shameful vibe you react to. Trying to PROVE the validity of your outlook to yourself. If there are holes in the story you’re telling yourself, keep prodding until you figure out where this patchy and reductive plotline is coming from. Figure out what the REAL ISSUE was and continues to be.

3. Like I keep saying… a good portion of your beliefs might skip the whole internal dialogue step entirely. You could go straight from stimulation to the feeling that predictably followed the words you used to think in response to the stimulation.

Does that make sense? It used to be a pattern of “email from boss, I can’t do anything right, feel ashamed and self-hating” now the pattern has gotten more efficient over time, “email from boss, feel ashamed and self-hating.” Then you operate out of that ashamed, hateful place in line with the belief that once preceded it without having the belief emerge, itself. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

Soooo, I’m saying you might consider some ABA and CBT practices to help you. I’m not doing the whole distress tracking spiel again - check out part two of the data-driven trauma recovery episode if you want to try it - but trust that it helps.

Noticing where your internal energy suddenly shifts and tracing back the reason to find a “why” in your own cognitions is going to reveal a lot of your most covert, crappiest beliefs. Getting skilled at paying attention to your inner world shifts will start allowing you to spot those fucked up core beliefs in real time, as you go through your day, so you can also start correcting them in the moment rather than chanting mantras for general application down the road.

I won’t hound on the ABA topic anymore. But I would say that feeling any amount of shame is going to be one of your best indicators that you need to walk backwards to figure out what the hell you just told yourself.

4. Lastly, if you are at the level of pinpointing the thoughts underlying the feelings and actions - the wordy components that caused the whole debacle… Look for definitive, judgmental or leading language as it streams through your brain. Like, should, can’t, won’t, always, ever, never, ultimately.

Again, these unhealthy views are beliefs based on boiled down life lessons… which tend to get overly generalized and close-ended. Your brain has developed this set of rules to live by, and therefore, the language or feeling behind it is going to be very definitive and authoritative. If there is X then there will be Y, if you see A then you are B, if you are F then you will never be G; there’s no wiggle room in belief systems, by definition.

If you find yourself thinking in broad, overly definitive strokes, rather than examining the details of the situation and allowing some flexibility for critical thinking to take place in response to the circumstances at hand... You might be poking at a core belief.

Okay, those are my best ideas for getting started. Pretty simple ways to identify your beliefs? I hope so. But believe me when I say, they are sometimes subtle and so thoroughly programmed as “fact” that you’ll overlook them.

Essentially, you need to learn to be more present and aware of your own cognitions and curious about how they got there, in the first place. This will take a step back from your own brain activities, some level of emotional intelligence, and intentional bodily check ins.

You also need to be open to the idea that other humans have been raised with distinct advantages over you - which sucks - but also gives you the opportunity to learn from them now. Immerse yourself in humanity, even if it’s from afar, and notice where your narrator spits some vile compared to the kinder, larger thinking of others. No matter how minute or how unquestionable your ideas seem, learn to question everything.

Starting with…

Question yourself

You know, we traumatized folks can’t really be trusted with ourselves. We’re not fair and we don’t know how to be.

Basically, I recommend you don’t accept your thoughts as reality ever again, because, Fuckers, they usually are not. We make up a lot of stories to tell ourselves so that the world makes some sense. These patchwork explanations might tie up loose ends to make our brains happy, but that doesn’t make them accurate. And running poorly developed operational systems means the final product is never going to be what you hoped.

I wish there was a way to fast-track the discovery of your fucked up core beliefs, but I honestly think that they emerge with exposure, time and attention. As you start to see things with a healthier light, you’ll also reveal how shit-stained a lot of your own thinking has historically been. But you need some ground to stand on before you can make more progress.

Considering yourself a worthless piece of shit who deserves nothing, for the sake of continuity, is not going to help you realize that you also incorrectly believe “I’m just one of those people who isn’t destined to have financial security,” or, “I was born with bad luck,” for example. You might have to identify and question one belief as a cusp belief to identify and question the next.

I also have to point this out.

Going back to the definitive language used in our beliefs - can’t, won’t, always, never, “just.” You might notice something about all of these statements. For the same reason as these are taboo words in relationships, they’re not productive in your relationship with yourself, either. They’re actually a little bit… fucking lazy?

They serve as half-assed excuses or justifications for big pieces of your life. They’re very reductive. They’re enabling for your shitty behaviors and unwanted circumstances a lot of the time, because they draw broad judgements about how life “just” works, without questioning your ability to change that.

Just saying. It’s worth paying some attention to the ways that you let yourself off the hook with negative evaluations which basically doom your soul to hell. If you’ve ever said, “I can’t ever do anything right,” or, “this is just how I am and I can’t change it,” then you should hit rewind and listen to this again. Not to shame you, but it’s total bullshit to release yourself from all responsibility by claiming global ineptitude. Work at it. Don’t say you’re incapable and pout. It’s not helping and it makes you intolerable.

You. Must. Question. Yourself.

So I suggest that every time you notice a bad feeling or… wait a minute… very definitive idea about the universe that seems a little too broad… you begin by literally, asking, “why DO I think that?” “Is that fair?” “Is there a more realistic way to look at this, from an outside perspective?” “If my friend was saying this outloud, what would I think of their appraisal of the situation?”

And if you’re having a hard time applying your absolute logic to hypothetical situations outside of your own self now that you actually stop and challenge it… you’ve probably found a FUCB.

Establish Origins

Great. So. How to change these unwanted brain rumblings.

Welp. I wish there was another magic wand to wave, but… nah. This takes a lot of inner work. Which is the worst kind of work for most of us. And one of the things I think we the most from is understanding the origin of our bullshittery, rather than piling it on ourselves and leaving the past a tangled mess.

So, once you identify the FUCB, I recommend you keep asking questions to trace it back to the source, if possible. There might not be ONE incidence that implanted the idea in your head, but a general recognition that your entire home environment relied a lot on this or that style of thinking.

Like, I can recall my older brother telling me that jobs work like this - you get one, you’re lucky if it isn’t the worst thing ever, you do it for 40 years, then you die. But thinking back further, I can also recall my entire household being tainted with conversations that indicated we were worthless worker bees, only valuable for our work output each day, and a paycheck was the spice of life. The vibe of the house was, “get a job if you’re lucky, work until you bleed, that’s the most important component of living.” Annnnnd yep, I still work on reframing those beliefs.

After you determine the source (as much as possible) for your beliefs, I think it helps to “pretend to question them in your history.” What if I had asked my brother “why?” in that moment? What justification could he have possibly had? Oh, overly-simplified and definitive phrases about how it “just” is this way and everyone “knows” it? So, we’re talking about his core beliefs, passed down from someone else in his own life at that point. He adopted them from someone unhealthy (or a society that’s unhealthy), and I adopted them from him - no one ever stopped and asked about the validity of the lifelong baggage.

It’s something to consider - if you have an inkling about where the core belief originated, maybe try to understand the full history of the unfair and unwelcome thought. It really does help you understand yourself and your history of actions.

Now, if you’re putting yourself back in childhood shoes to do this… you’re probably going to be in a heightened trauma state. Warning disclaimer coming at you.

Taking that trip down memory lane is probably not going to be easy. I recommend taking some time to work through the recollections and emotions of it all, potentially with your therapist if you’re feeling acutely triggered. Otherwise, with a lot of time, space, kindness, and maybe some journaling. Be patient with yourself. Remember that you are where you are now - in a safe, adult position, lightyears away from the old circumstances.

These are probably not fond memories and you also might be filled with rage when you realize how greatly you’ve been impacted by words that weren’t even your own, and weren’t even their own, and weren’t ever true.

Carefully explore the memories and try to feel the sensations that correspond with adopting the beliefs that followed, as well as all the emotions you feel when you tell yourself that shitty sentiment.

When you say, “I’m just (stupid, broken, doomed, born to be poor)...” what do you notice inside? The feeling, itself, might point to other incidences when this belief was really the underlying motivation for actions you took. OR similar fucked up core beliefs that serve a similar function. Pay attention. Note when you’ve relied on this thinking in the past. Start to realize the ways that it hasn’t served you positively.

Then… the daily work begins.

Make quickly absorbable counter beliefs

Once you know your fucked up core beliefs, you challenge and correct them. You don’t want them to continue steering the ship, unexamined. You want to disprove the idea to yourself, essentially, like doing proofs in higher level math. You need to prove to yourself that the logic doesn’t align, you can't draw definitive conclusions like this, and - luckily for everyone - life isn’t so simple that it can be reduced to universal laws. And you need to do it... constantly.

So, you’re going to break down your old way of thinking and develop counter-core beliefs, in a way.

If you always think you’re a worthless piece of shit, this could be as simple as the correcting thought of, “no, I’m not,” along with some memories of times that you’ve been an absolutely non-turd. Or, whatever phrase you can actually (ACTUALLY) absorb, feel, and believe. The language matters because your brain isn’t going to hear some nonsense like, “You’re a beacon of light to this earth,” and feel anything other than hilarious disgust. So, develop a quick counter-thought that doesn’t make you scoff and some examples you can quickly draw from your life to prove the point.

Then feel that sensation of standing up for yourself and believing you have the same rights as any other being on the planet until you really feel it. Remember the times you listened to the original core belief and led yourself down the wrong paths. To counterbalance it, try to think of the times you’ve demonstrated that the belief is incorrect. Imagine the position you could be in the future if you continued acting from that place.

When the inevitable shame dissipates and a sense of being okay with yourself again is on the horizon, laugh it off, recognize that you’re rejecting the old narrative, repeat your newly formed counter-phrase, look forward to a more ideal version of yourself who thinks less horrific thoughts, and move on with your day.

So. If you think something like, “nothing ever goes right for me,” spend some time questioning that. Where did it come from? Then, pull up evidence from your past that demonstrates at some point, in some way, something has absolutely gone perfectly for you. Feel it. Remember it. Tell yourself that’s a lazy lie.

Next time you start getting anxious and depressed about the rest of your assumedly-damned future, correct the thought by reminding yourself that you’ve had good things happen before and you’re being a bit of an ungrateful asshole for believing that they’ll never happen again. You’ve proven it to yourself before. Feel those feelings shift again.

If it helps to talk to yourself with tough love - it does for me - remember that you can’t see the future, so you should stop being so reductive and letting yourself wallow. Things are challenging for you and everyone, life is complex, and you’ll figure it out just like the rest of the world - one step at a time. Believe it.

You get it. You need to take those beliefs and turn them on their heads. Challenge your beliefs every chance you get, like you’re a snotty know-it-all in class who refuses to accept the lessons of an overly authoritative teacher. “Why? Can you prove that? Who says? Where did that come from? Are you sure? Is that always the case?” Find opposing examples from your life and develop phrases that work with your unique psychology and encapsulate the healthier view you’d like to adopt.

If you want to call these “mantras,” you can.

If you want to start repeating these new beliefs, independent of having a real life example at your fingertips, you also can.

Some people like to utter them on repeat at various points in the day, like when they’re cleaning, showering, or driving. Some folks benefit from literally recording their alternative core belief thoughts and playing them on loop. Whether you start your day with reciting or receiving the message, you rely on it for your daily commute, or you seal in the new sentiments before you go to bed, it might help cement the thoughts into your brain. In particular, the just-before-bed routine is supposed to be highly effective for absorbing and integrating the new information… and I would suspect that it would be a great way to find some brain peace before you fall asleep, as well.

Bottom line: You need to challenge your old way of thinking. Present counter-evidence from your life. Feel the feelings of believing that shitty core belief and the feelings of letting it go. And come up with a simple phrase to replace the old belief. Making mantras can be very useful for keeping your brain on track, especially if you keep falling off the wagon and resorting to the old ways of seeing the world.

But, if you’re not into the idea of mantras - I feel you. Personally, I haven’t done the voice recording and replaying route before. But I have a pretty simple mantra that I repeat whenever I feel stress emerging. “One step at a time. You’re going to be fine.”

And this is another approach to deprogramming your fucked up core beliefs; doing it in the moment. Which first requires…. You know. No dissociation and a lot of work.

The real time approach

Okay. If daily mantras aren’t your thing - I get you. Sounds like a lot of flowery crap (sorry) and yet another annoying task that you don’t need on your plate, because honestly, it’s just going to make you shut down with dread. No worries. You can try to reprogram your core beliefs in the moment that they erupt, instead, or additionally.

But... it’s not easy... and it requires the gift of spare time.

Figure that these ideas are programmed into your psyche, nearly indistinguishable from what you would consider “your personality,” although they’re really more like the two-by-fours holding up the drywall in the space that your personality fills. It’s not going to be simple, but it is possible to retroactively make renovations as you go. First, you need to notice the second when the walls start to bulge and deform and target those problem areas as soon as the issue is detected.

So, this is to say… like usual... that you need to learn to be tuned into your brain and body. If you become more aware of your thoughts, you can catch your FUCBs as they come streaming in and out. If you’re more aware of your meat jacket’s experiences, you might be able to detect that fucked up feeling which often accompanies said shitty belief.

But this is going to be a long-term game of noticing, correlating, and correcting. Over and over and over again. With intention and presence in the moment (it’s okay to barf here, sorry again for the trendy language).

So, essentially. Every time you have that toxic worm working its way through your head… you have to knock it out with all of the steps detailed above. If you’ve already gone through them for this particular belief… too bad, you really need to do it again. This is what makes your counter-belief or mantra more effective than a stupid grouping of words that has no application to your life.

You detect a thought pattern that you don’t want to carry anymore and then… You have to challenge it with more critical thinking questions. In that moment, you have to remember where it originated from. You have to recollect all the times it’s screwed you in the past. You have to recall that you don’t want to be that person anymore - that defeatist, self-sabotaging, scared, excuse-making reflection of yourself that got skewed in weird directions by the fun-house mirror of your family dynamics.

You cannot let it proceed without examination and verification. You can’t allow event A to lead to impulsive thought D. You have to rewire your head right then by dispelling the old thought and inserting a new, counteractive one.

And then do that every day. Of every week. Of every month. Of every year. Your brain has to be your new favorite subject of study, and you need to develop increasingly sensitive equipment for detecting changes in your inner world. Not like I’ve told you this before or anything.

And we all know by now… it’s possible, but that shit takes a lot of time and concerted effort. You can’t go on autopilot and slosh your way through life, thinking that new connections are going to be made and old ones will just dissolve. You have to work at it. And it might take a fine-toothed comb for every single incidence, until you get enough practice switching from your historical response to your brand new, less self-destructive perspective.

If it’s not coming naturally for you - if you’re sometimes noticing that, yep, there’s one of your same old shitty thoughts popping up, but you can’t seem to see it differently at the moment... that happens. I have some quick suggestions to get the job done.

Changing your environment to do this thought-correcting work is a huge help. Getting out of the area where you’ve been stuck in a ruminatory chain of thoughts or depressive spell helps to reset things and allow new thoughts. Ever notice that you feel a million times better and more inspired about life on a trip or vacation? Do you think that’s all just the holiday dopamine, or do you think there’s something about removing yourself from similar stimuli to enable new thoughts to emerge. You can guess my stance.

Talking to a friend or your therapist about the dumb things you just discovered in your own head - again, having a laugh about it - will make it seem more real and stick with you over time. They might even confirm what you’ve said if they’ve had similar experiences, which will make the discovery feel far more valid. Then, you can remember your friend having this unfortunate and unfair fucked up core belief and feel outraged that such a wonderful being would feel that way, rather than trying to remember to give yourself credit.

Doing an activity, listening to music, or watching a show that makes you feel like “the real you,” can also be a big assist. If you have a favorite band or creative process that brings you confidence and self-respect in any way, tap into that resource. Just try to ground yourself in the reality of who you are, within and without this meaty body, and see how the belief doesn’t align with the person you want to be.

And, no shame spirals allowed as you consider any areas of intended improvement. Believing that you need to feel bad for the ways that other people have affected you is a fucked up core belief.

At least try to remember that in the moment, if you can’t run through the full gamut of thought-challenging processes.

Wrap up

Okee, enough is enough. I hope this is enough to get started on picking your brain for shitty programming like a miner panning for gold. I know that core beliefs are one of the largest and most pervasive obstacles in my trauma life, and I believe I’m not alone. Trust me that they can be immensely positive forces if you make yourself believe some of those less death-marchy cognitions, instead of falling back on the old doomy ones.

To restate this process one last time.

Really try to notice your feelings to notice your connected thoughts. If you stumble upon an overly-absolute, reductive, and generalized negative sentiment, try to dig into the root of the thought by asking a billion critical thinking questions, “why’s” on repeat. Get to the bottom of the belief - where did it come from? How have you been acting out of this unhealthy place for ten or fifty years? Do you really believe it?

Consider how these notions have impacted you in the past. Try to recognize some of the ways they’ve made you into something you’re not. Drum up some counter-examples of times when these thoughts have been absolutely proven invalid. Remember periods when you didn’t rely on those beliefs or insidious feelings to direct the show. Feel those moments in your life. Think of moments that could be similar in the future - who you could be if you fostered that same sensation daily. And make a concerted effort to move forward by absorbing a counter belief - a mantra, if you want to call it that.

And no, it doesn’t have to be over the top. And no, no one is telling you to go from, “I’m trash” to “I’m god’s gift to this earth.” But maybe try a smaller pivot towards, “I’m just an organism on this rock. I have just as much right to be here, to be healthy, to be content, and to take up space as anyone else. My value is based on what I do with my time here.”

And then, tell yourself that again, like, roughly every two days when you find yourself nonchalantly repeating the trash story again. Or at a set time every day, if you don’t want to wait for an organic opportunity to pop up. Say it and think about it until you feel it. As in, there will probably be an emotional release when you do this script rewriting work. Maybe it will be relief, maybe horrific discomfort, maybe you’ll laugh a lot at yourself like I do, maybe outright emotional outbursts will bubble up. It probably depends on what’s connected to the thought from your past and how recently you’ve entered this arena where the game is core belief slaying.

Over time, as always, it will get easier. You will start to have a running list of previously-discovered fucked up core beliefs to be on the lookout for. You will notice them in action sooner and sooner, even catching them before they cause you to make bad decisions and start backpedaling. You will be more aware of the emotional tides that they shift. You will develop more efficient ways to re-right your thoughts and move on with a healthier outlook.

And when you find one core belief, you’re more likely to uncover another. Dispel one problematic thought and you’ll inevitably reveal another, whether it’s through a correlation between the two or just being in a healthier place to notice the disease all around you.

It all takes time and experimentation with yourself. Start learning now and save yourself some trouble later.

As for Cassie’s final question, which was along the lines of, “how do you know when you’ve spotted them all?” Ohhhh, I have no idea. I don’t think you ever do. I don’t know for shit, but I’m guessing that this is a lifelong process and there are probably beliefs which are so insidious OR so societally accepted that they sneak past the gatekeeper every time.

To keep whittling down that list, I recommend, again, consuming media that challenges your brain for the rest of your time on this planet. Operating off of popular opinions from our american lifestyle is realllllly a question of trauma acceptance, in my head. The more I think about our culture, the more I realize that it parallels complex trauma - but that’s another story for another day.

SO, I would say… if you really wanna “catch em all”... get immersed in some healthily out-there influences. As in, tune into voices from different walks of life, religions, cultures, belief systems, conspiracy theories, even… anything to challenge the status quo narrative that traditionally has pervaded your life. Anything to make you question your reality. Maybe everything in your world has been skewed unhealthily - maybe all of us are surrounded by nefarious beliefs. You won’t know until you hear something new.

If you want to know what I do... I’ll just recommend the Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast and walk away quickly. It’s super eye-opening, even if you disagree with all the wild shit they talk about. Like, the multiverse, the fact that reality doesn’t exist, the idea that life is a simulation. All that good shit. You don’t have to believe it. But it really makes you think about what you think and why you think it - why we ALL think it, despite having no proof. And that regular activity of questioning everything I know to be true has been enormous for me.

So, I don’t know. Find something similarly challenging for yourself. I can’t tell you what you’ll like, but I can tell you that listening to thought leaders, scientists, and business folks have all helped me a TON with realizing what my dumb family never bothered teaching me. All the skills that have catapulted these people into positive life circumstances and all the mindsets that keep them from giving up when they hit a roadblock. No healthy views in your family? No problem, just outsource that shit to people who have what they don’t. Get a new mommy and daddy on apple podcasts. Reteach yourself how the world works.

Fuck your FUCFs and FUCBs.

Anyways, that’s my spiel. I hope this helps! I know I’ve given zero definitive answers about how you’ll personally conquer your fucked up core beliefs, but uh, I don’t know how to chase the demons out of your mansion, only mine. And they’re still hiding behind every door if I’m not diligent. So… I guess you’ll need to go on your own ghost adventure to see what works.

Thank you, Cassie, for the excellent question and the opportunity to finally get this episode off my plate. If you want to submit an Ask Me Anything, please do! If it’s a really good one, I’ll release it to everyone, not just the Patreon. Check that page at patreon.com/trauamtingslk.

Alright, thanks for tuning in to the work that I don’t feel inherently good enough to complete. No one ever cares what I have to say. Other people always dislike me. And I embarrass myself every single time I open my mouth. See you Fuckers later!

Traumatized Motherfxckers

Not doomed. Not damaged.

Not dead yet.

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