**The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and communicated without reference to supporting documentation. Any uses of “she” or “he” in the communication of ideas are not intended to covey sexual bias. Breakaway MHE Disclaimer
Author: Peter Miller
Of all the things that can be difficult to come to terms with as a human being, one of the most is to fully acknowledge that your thinking is based on the beliefs you have come to hold. You hold beliefs about yourself, others, the world in which you live, and perhaps even that thing humans refer to as “the universe”. As we develop from the point of childhood onwards, we pick up various beliefs from a variety of sources (parents, friends, community, life experience, religion, media, etc.). We are almost always “being sold” something in regards to ways of looking at the world as we interact with the people and the systems that surround us. We interact, things happen, ideas are exchanged, and it goes from there… When we believe something “to be true”, we may do this becomes it provides us with a sense of predictability (and security) about how life works and what we can expect from our actions.
The problem with holding self-defeating beliefs is that they can SEEM to keep you safe from unwanted emotional experience (and likewise keep you safe throughout life), although in the long-run may actually disturb your human connections and deprive you of getting essential need areas met. Please see Step 4 (slide set 2) for examples of self-defeating beliefs and how they can play out in real life. Without developing an ability to understand and work through particular emotional states, a person will continually return to the self-defeating beliefs because of the false (temporary) sense of inner security/safety they can provide. Holding certain beliefs can therefore become like an unconscious addiction, even necessary for maintaining sanity, and they will be chosen for use regardless of how they may otherwise result in other painful life consequences.
When people are experiencing mild, moderate, or extreme dysfunction in their lives, their is a very good chance that they are holding on to some type of self-defeating belief(s). They are acting according to what they believe will keep them safe from having experiences (in particular emotional experiences) that they do not yet know they can actually handle. Over time a person may realize that the self-defeating belief is not serving him very well, although he will not want to let go of the belief because of the sense of security it provides. One of the hardest experiences for a person can be to realize that a self-defeating pattern and belief needs to be given up, but not knowing how to get there… in other words, not having the proper emotional and therapeutic guidance to reach the goal of “letting go”.
Having the proper guidance to learn about emotions and how to successfully process emotion, and likewise to learn about the interconnections between emotion, thought, and behavior, it then becomes possible to let go of are self-defeating beliefs. Without having the proper guidance, it can seem like the only way to make changes to self and belief is to “force it”. If your attempts to make changes have seemed like “going to war”, then you are not taking an effective approach. In fact, you are probably more likely to remain stuck in your unhealthy patterns and beliefs, and likewise become more hopeless if the change approach has anything to do with “fighting with yourself”.
When attempting to heal from common conditions such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – a condition where self-defeating beliefs, emotional confusion, and emotion regulation problems are highly relevant – attempts to get through it alone may turn into this “internal fight” and then only add to the difficulty because of judging and shaming self when the fighting and forcing approach doesn’t work.
Emotions that are very commonly avoided, especially in conditions like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), include guilt, shame, worthlessness, rejection, and fear of abandonment. People very commonly develop sensitivities to these types of emotions because of the pressures they experience in their childhood development… to conform, to obey, to achieve, to fit in, and to keep a bond with their caregivers (who may not know how to be good caregivers or be overly stressed by their own emotional issues to provide good care). In other words, it is very common for children to experience heavy doses of these emotions, but not be provided with the skills and emotional awareness to successfully work through these emotions. The end result of this neglect involves developing certain types of beliefs to avoid these kinds of emotions at all costs.
When “life happens” and people have moments where they experience emotions they have never learned how to tolerate, it can turn into passive-aggressive and aggressive types of reactions (yelling, screaming, accusing, hiding, stonewalling, thrill-seeking, bingeing, substance-abusing, obsessing, isolating, giving up, self-harming, etc.). These types of reactions are more likely to occur when a person is following his self-defeating belief pattern, and then the intolerable emotions get experienced regardless. For instance, if a person follows a people pleasing pattern to avoid rejection feelings (see Step 4 (slide set 2)) but then ends up experiencing rejection feelings anyways, his next course of action will probably be something more extreme and ineffective.
It might be helpful to think of these over-reactions like “reflexive responding to high-intensity invisible/emotional pain”, and so, in turn, it is also understandable how these sorts of reactions could be viewed by others as unnecessary and completely irrational. Overreactions like these are very typical for a person who is struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder, and when it happens you can be sure that person is feeling trapped in some sort of intolerable emotion and that his self-defeating beliefs are failing him.
A good analogy to use for better understanding self-defeating beliefs in humans is a computer virus. When a computer virus has entered into a computer system, it acts like an “infection” in the computer’s software that can eventually result in the computer not working properly, or even at all. In this analogy, the person is “the computer” and the computer virus is “the self-defeating belief” (corrupted computer coding/software). A computer virus may, for instance, instruct the computer to perform operations that could cause harm to files and others programs. Similarly, a self-defeating belief in humans may instruct a human to perform operations that could cause harm to parts of the human and human life (e.g., avoiding people, sabatoging important connections, delaying or undermining problem-solving, creating imbalance, giving away personal power). As you can probably imaging, too much of a harmful operation will eventually result in system disorder, general malfunctioning, and lots of symptoms.
In the same way that a computer needs to be “cleansed” of viruses that have secretly entered and operate in the background, a human may also need to locate and release self-defeating beliefs. An improvement in “human coding” usually means learning how to process emotions and adjust (update) thoughts that were inducing the emotions. Performing this new process with emotions many times over will eventually allow for unhelpful/toxic beliefs to be released or replaced. When self-defeating beliefs become irrelvant or non-existanct, the result is a human that can function better in everyday life situations with other humans, and likewise perform more complicated and demanding tasks that are often required living in a complicated and demanding world.