I know I've talked a lot over time about how our subconscious beliefs influence our thoughts, our feelings, and our perception of reality. Most people aren't aware those beliefs even exist - remember, they are subconscious. Most of the time there's no real need to uncover them; they serve a valuable purpose (helping our brain to attend to important information and to filter out insignificant information). However, sometimes these beliefs cause problems, such as low self esteem, anxiety, depression, chronic anger, interpersonal difficulties, etc. When problems like these emerge in your life it is time for you to take a look at the underlying core beliefs that are driving them.
So how do you know when a problematic core belief is at work? Look for strong emotional reactions. Notice times when, for example, you become extremely distressed when a friend forgets that you'd agreed to get together and makes other plans or when you erupt with anger over something trivial. When your emotional response seems to be more extreme than what the situation would warrant you know that a negative core belief has been triggered.
Here's an example from my own life. I used to belief I was unlovable. Now if you met me on the street of course I wouldn't say, "Hi, nice to meet you. I'm unlovable." Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I feared that I was unlovable. A string of bad relationships caused me to worry that maybe something was wrong with me. Maybe there was something about me that caused the men in my life to treat me badly or to completely disregard my feelings. Maybe there was something inside me that made me inherently unlovable...
Anyway, this belief (or fear) led to a lot of suffering. If a romantic interest didn't call me the day after a date I became first extremely anxious and then despondent. I'd lay in bed sulking, unable to think of anything else.
It's obvious to me now that this was a rather extreme response. A "natural" response would probably be to feel a little disappointed for a day or two before moving on. The fact that I reacted so excessively was a sure sign that a negative core belief had been triggered.
When a potential love interest didn't call it triggered my belief that "I'm unlovable." Subconsciously, I perceived the love interest not calling as evidence that he didn't like me. This quickly led me to recall other relationships that ended with me feeling rejected. This brought up fears about whether or not I would EVER find the "right" person. What if there was no right person for me? What if no one could ever love me because I was simply unlovable?
I share this example because I strongly believe in practicing what I preach. I spend a lot of time with my patients identifying their negative core beliefs and talking about how to change them. The first step in changing negative core beliefs is to recognize when they are at work. If you can't recognize them then you can't change them.
I know it is possible to change negative core beliefs because I've done it myself. First I started noticing when my belief had been triggered. Then I identified and acknowledged how the belief made me feel. I countered the negative belief with more balanced ones -- "Everyone deserves love, including me," or "You are a lovable person." I also tried to make a more realistic appraisal of the situation that triggered the negative belief. Sometimes that meant having to accept that the person was not interested in pursuing a relationship with me. Sometimes it meant he was at work and just hadn't had a chance to call. Either way, I realized, his actions said nothing about whether or not I was lovable.