The Root Cause of Everything: Core Beliefs
By: Edward Bailey
Even before recognizing I was an addict, over and over, I tried to change what I didn’t like about myself. My damaging behaviors. The things that got me into trouble. The things I did that made me feel never good “enough.”
And my efforts worked for a while. Sometimes a week. Sometimes six months. But the destructive behaviors always came back. And each time, my shame grew.
I didn’t want to cheat. I didn’t want to get high. I didn’t want to break anyone’s heart. I wanted to be trustworthy. I wanted to be a person who was able to do the right thing. Even if you’re not addicted to drugs, maybe you can relate.
For you, maybe it’s your diet. Or your spending. Or your raging insecurity. Maybe you always play it safe and can’t find the courage to take risks.
Whatever your negative behaviors (and we all have them), lasting change isn’t possible without uncovering the belief that lies beneath the behavior. As you have heard us say, “Beliefs drive behaviors.”
BELIEFS DRIVE BEHAVIORS
> “I am not enough.”
> “I am a disappointment to God.”
> “People can’t be trusted.”
What I didn’t realize (until my world in addiction came crashing down) was that changing my life-threatening behaviors wasn’t a matter of willpower. The answer was buried deeper inside. I kept trying to change my behaviors, but my beliefs kept changing them back.
If you wanted to take down an apple tree you don’t pick off all the apples and expect the tree to die. Right? You cut it at the root.
I believed l was a loser, so I acted like a loser.
I believed I was a failure, so I behaved like a failure.
We all have negative Core Beliefs that impact our lives. We believe people might reject us, so we withdraw or we perform to earn acceptance. We believe love is conditional, so we change who we are to be loved. We believe showing emotion is a sign of weakness, so we wear masks.
But if we were able change these negative Core Beliefs, what else might change? Would we live more peacefully? Would we start that business? Leave that relationship? Stand up for ourselves?
WHERE DO OUR CORE BELIEFS COME FROM?
Core Beliefs are basic beliefs buried deep inside that shape our self-concept, guide our behavior, and dictate how we perceive the world. Our childhood experiences create the baseline beliefs that exist beneath our “surface” thoughts, and these beliefs feel like absolute truths, even when they’re not. Our Core Beliefs are responsible for all of our insecurities, all our fears, all our self doubt, and even our need for external validation.
> I will never be enough.
> The world is unsafe.
> I am a burden.
> I am unlovable.
> I am powerless
REPLACING FALSE BELIEFS WITH TRUTH
At No Longer Bound, we have several techniques to help men identify their Core Beliefs, so they can begin replacing negative self-concepts with God’s truths.
Two Way Journaling.
Daily journaling (or two-way prayer) is an opportunity for our men to be still each morning, reflecting via their journals. We teach them to listen for God’s voice in their journal and to have conversations with Him. Through journaling, aided by counselors, classroom assignments and therapists, men begin to identify and process their false beliefs so they can hear God’s truth in their lives.
The early assignments in NLB’s Regeneration curriculum focus on helping men come out of denial, so they can see the impact of their behavior on their own lives and others’. Later in their program, with new self-awareness, counselors and therapist help men tie their behaviors back to underlying traumas and beliefs.
One of these assignments is called Roots and Fruits—the fruit being the behavior and the root being the trauma. For example, if a man’s father leaves home in his early years, he may believe, “I was not good enough for him to stay.” This false belief can then cause him to push people from his life before they have a chance to reject him first, reinforcing the belief.
When we help that man identify his false belief and trade it for God’s truth—“I will never leave you or forsake you”—only then he can begin to change his life.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
When we see ourselves repeating a behavior we don’t like, there is likely a Core Belief under the surface driving that behavior. Beliefs cannot be seen, but behaviors can. If you’d like to discover what you believe and how it drives your behaviors, here are a few ways to begin:
> Ask Him For Truth.
If God is the author of Truth, then His opinion matters. A morning reflection time provides the stillness needed to bring our Core Beliefs to God. Dare to write what you believe and ask Him to respond with His truth. A couple starter questions for your journal might be “Why am I responding that way?” “What does that mean about me?” or “What do you say about me?”
> Allow Others In.
Once you uncover a negative Core Belief, consider sharing it with someone you trust. Ask if they think your belief is true. It is difficult to be objective about our own Core Beliefs. After all, they feel real! If you find the process too distressing, consider seeing a mental health professional.
> Remind Yourself.
Even after we replace a lie with a new truth, our emotional experiences don’t always reflect that change. Saying your new truth aloud can help. Say what you know to be true (“I am enough”), and then practice acting as if it is true.
> Dare To Believe.
Sometimes the hardest thing is to believe that our lies are lies. Most negative Core Beliefs are created to keep us safe. Imagine believing you are capable of success beyond your wildest dreams. A belief like that might cause you to expose yourself to the world in ways that invites rejection. Believing a new truth takes bravery.
Core Beliefs form the foundation of our lives. Challenging Core Beliefs takes time and practice, but what we believe underpins how we experience God, the world and ourselves. What we believe impacts how we live and how fulfilled our lives will feel. Taking the time to ensure your Core Beliefs offer an accurate picture of God, yourself and others will allow you to embrace your true identity, leading both to freedom and to purpose.