Steps to Identify Your Unhelpful Belief Systems

The core beliefs that you carry can be insidious in how they creep into your your perceptions about just about everything.  Do you struggle with anger, depression, anxiety, stress or recurring relationship problems and have the sense that it might have roots somewhere in your past?  Trust your instincts. There’s likely something there worth taking a look at.

I work extensively with people in individual therapy to assist them in working through the past – to move on in the present. Part of the work is to slowly piece together a picture of who they are based on their experiences, particularly their relationships with key figures in their lives. If you can get an understanding of where your wounds lie, you have a greater chance of working through them and reshaping your belief systems which can lead to a change in your personal narrative and relief of the above issues.

5 steps to identify your unhelpful belief systems (core beliefs):

Identify your emotional triggers. What types of incidents get you the most angry, sad, fearful, etc? It could be something like a friend canceling dinner plans with you.

Label how you experience each of the emotional triggers. Perhaps if your friend canceled her plans with you, you feel let down.

Identify what the experience you labeled means about you. What does it say about you if say, your friend canceled your plans and you felt let down by it. Might this mean, “I’m not important,” or “I’m not a priority?”

Look for possible sources of your belief systems. Were there incidents in your past with your parents, peers or in other relationships where you received the message in question? For example, when did you start believing that you are not a priority? Were there times, particularly in childhood, when you felt this way?

Confirm with an internal assessment. Sit with the unhelpful belief system being examined and notice what’s going on inside your body. Any emotion coming up? Any twinges in your body? Heart? Stomach? Overall tension? If the answer is “yes,” you’re probably on to something.

Once you’ve identified the primary unhelpful belief systems from the past (core beliefs) that are impacting your present, you’re off to a great start. At this point you can journal about it, talk to a trusted friend or find a therapist who specializes in family of origin workto help you process what you’ve discovered and ultimately get to a place where you can more effectively challenge this unproductive line of thinking with self-compassion, empathy and an absence of shame.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in,, and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.

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