Monday, June 20, 2016

Trauma Can Change What We Believe

"Implicit in most of the cognitive therapies is the assumption that traumas disrupt basic beliefs or schemas (Pennebaker, Colder & Sharp, 1990)."

Core beliefs are how we see ourselves, others, the world and the future.

Examples of healthy core beliefs include:

  • I am competent. I am lovable. I am basically good. I matter.
  • I can trust others.
  • The world is a safe place.

After abuse or trauma, our beliefs can change and become distorted, for example:

  • I'm incompetent. I'm defective. I'm a failure. I'm unlovable. I'm bad. I'm worthless.
  • I can't trust other people. Other people are out to hurt or take advantage of me. I'm bound to be abandoned, rejected. I'm defective, so others will not love me.
  • The world is a dangerous place.

It's true we were helpless to protect ourselves then and the terrible thing made us feel like we were terrible. But now we distrust and feel scared all the time, even when we are safe.

What was true in that terrible moment - there and then - we now carry with us in the here and now.

Like a jaguar that runs up the tree for safety but refuses to come down from the tree when the danger has passed.

It makes sense that the trauma-influenced core beliefs are a way to cope, to protect oneself. Be on guard. Be on the lookout so it does not happen again.

What starts as self-protective ends up being a wall that shuts us out of our own lives.

That's when we need a shaman to sing our jaguar down from the tree.

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