When working with a client using CBT, one of the things we try to do is understand the person’s core belief(s). Core beliefs are the very essence of how we see ourselves, the world and the future. These tend to develop over time through our experiences. They are strongly held, rigid and inflexible. We tend to maintain them by focusing on information that supports the belief and filtering out that which doesn’t.
Here is an example: Jane has grown up with the core belief of, “I am unlovable.” Jane really focuses on those moments when she feels unlovable, like when her flatmate says something about how Jane forgot to do the dishes, but doesn’t pay attention to the fact that the flatmate also said that Jane did a great job of cleaning the bathroom.
In CBT, we try to figure out what the core belief is, what is maintaining it and feeding it, and then work to change the self-belief. One of the ways we do this is to come up with a new core belief that the client would like to have. So in Jane’s situation, she might come up with a new core belief of “I am lovable.” Because her view of the world and others is so skewed toward the negative, we have to start having her find positive evidence about this belief. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. One way of doing this is to use a Positive Personal Qualities worksheet.
As you can see, you are looking for situations where positive things about the person have happened. We tend to start in the sessions as people will filter out info, so that they can practice seeing themselves in a positive light. Over time, as you filter out the negative and focus on the positive, you will eventually start to develop a new core belief. There is power in finding positives!