Healing Starts Within: Using Discernment to Turn Negative Core Beliefs into Positive Ones

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In this course, you will learn how to practice discernment, which is one of the most effective strategies that you can use to turn negative core beliefs into positive ones.

If you get value from this course, please share it to help others heal.

Alright, let’s start this off on the right foot by clarifying what “discernment” and “core beliefs” mean and their connection with healing from narcissistic abuse.

Part 1: Understanding Discernment

Discernment refers to deeply understanding your thoughts and emotions and distinguishing them from your core self or identity.

It involves critically examining your thoughts, feelings, and experiences while assessing whether they serve your well-being and align with your true self.

In the context of healing, discernment means recognizing that your thoughts and emotions do not define you – instead, they are changeable aspects of your experience. 

For instance, you might feel anger or sadness or have negative thoughts, but these do not determine who you are at your core.

Part 2: Understanding Core Beliefs

Core beliefs are fundamental principles about identity, relationships, and the world. They are the underpinnings of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and are often shaped by early life experiences and influential relationships.

These beliefs may be about yourself – such as your worth, capabilities, and character; they could also be about others – like their intentions, reliability, and how they generally behave; or about the world – whether it’s a safe or hostile place, just or unjust.

Whether positive or negative, core beliefs are usually deeply rooted in our minds, acting as the lens through which we perceive and interpret our experiences and interactions. 

They influence how we live our lives, the decisions we make, and how we respond to adversity and challenges.

Part 3: Understanding the Connection That Discernment & Core Beliefs Have with Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

When you’ve been subjected to narcissistic abuse, it’s common to internalize the narcissist’s negative messages and manipulation, causing damage to your core beliefs. 

As a result, you might start to believe that you’re not worthy of respect, love, or kindness or that all people are out to harm or exploit you. 

These beliefs aren’t accurate reflections of who you are or what the world is like, but rather distortions created by the toxic experiences you’ve been through.

Narcissistic abusers often use tactics like gaslighting, where they distort your perception of reality to make you question your thoughts, feelings, and memories. 

This can lead to negative core beliefs, which can impact your self-esteem, decision-making, relationships, and overall well-being.

For example, imagine that you’ve made a painting you’re proud of.

You show it to the narcissist in your life, and they laugh at your painting and say, “This isn’t art. Anyone could do better.”

When you tell them they hurt your feelings, they say, “You’re too sensitive. Can’t you take a joke?”

This invalidating interaction is a form of gaslighting.

Over time, interactions like these can make you believe you aren’t talented and that you are too sensitive.

These negative core beliefs can harm your self-confidence, cause you to doubt your abilities, and stop you from sharing your interests with others because you fear they might also make fun of you.

Practicing discernment can play a crucial role in overcoming situations like this and healing from narcissistic abuse.

As mentioned, discernment is about developing a deeper understanding of your thoughts and emotions and distinguishing them from your core identity. 

It involves recognizing that the abuser planted these negative core beliefs and that they don’t reflect your true self.

The discernment process enables you to step back and evaluate these negative beliefs, putting you in a position where you can start to see them not as inherent truths but as distortions caused by the abuse. 

With this awareness, you can then challenge and reframe these beliefs. Instead of viewing yourself as ‘unworthy’ or ‘powerless,’ you can cultivate beliefs of self-worth, resilience, and personal power.

For example, let’s say one of your negative core beliefs is, “I am not capable.” 

Through discernment, you can recognize this belief as a distortion caused by narcissistic abuse. 

You can then challenge this belief with evidence from your life where you demonstrated capability. 

Over time, this allows you to transform the belief into a positive one, such as “I am capable and have the skills to handle life’s challenges.”

Now that you have a better understanding of discernment, positive core beliefs, and their relationship with healing from narcissistic abuse, let’s move on to the next section, where a therapist will teach you more about practicing discernment.

Part 4: Insights from Psychotherapist Veronica Vaiti about Practicing Discernment

Part 5: Belief Reboot: Your Journey to Positive Self-Perception: Practicing Discernment

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Step #1: Identify Your Core Beliefs

Start by writing down your beliefs about yourself, others, and the world around you. These could range from beliefs about your self-worth and capabilities to your views about others’ intentions and the nature of the world. 

Be as honest and comprehensive as you can. Don’t worry about whether they are positive or negative at this stage.

This is the initial step of self-awareness and discovery. You need to know what you’re working with before initiating any changes. 

By identifying your core beliefs, you’re bringing the subconscious thoughts that guide your feelings and actions to the surface.

Here are some journaling prompts to help identify both positive and negative core beliefs:

  • List five adjectives or phrases that you believe describe you. Doing this will help you see how you perceive your character and personality and create a foundation for understanding your core beliefs about yourself.
  • Reflect on a recent situation where you felt strong negative emotions. What beliefs about yourself, others, or the world were behind these emotions? Doing this is essential because emotions often arise from our beliefs. By analyzing emotional experiences, you can uncover the beliefs that underlie your reactions.
  • Consider a time when you faced a challenge or adversity. What beliefs did you hold that influenced your approach and response to that situation? Doing this is important because our beliefs influence our actions, especially in challenging situations. This prompt helps you identify beliefs that drive your behavior.
  • Think about the kind of person you aspire to be. What beliefs do you think this ideal version of you would hold? How do they differ from your current beliefs? Reflecting on your aspirations can help you identify positive core beliefs you want to develop and negative ones you want to change.
  • What are some messages you received about yourself, others, and the world growing up? How might these messages have influenced your core beliefs? Childhood experiences significantly shape our belief systems. Reflecting on these can shed light on where some of your core beliefs originated.
  • Consider a time when your perception of a person or situation drastically changed. What beliefs did you hold initially, and how did they change? This prompt helps you understand how adaptable your beliefs can be and fosters the understanding that change is possible.
  • Reflect on the values that are most important to you. How might these values influence your beliefs about yourself, others, and the world? This is an excellent prompt because your values are closely linked to your beliefs. Exploring your values can provide insights into your core beliefs.

Step #2: Categorize Your Beliefs

Next, take each belief and categorize it as either positive or negative. For example, “I am a quick learner” might be a positive belief, while “People are not trustworthy” might be a negative belief.

This step helps you discern which beliefs are serving you well and which are potentially holding you back or causing you pain. 

It’s not about judging yourself but understanding your thought patterns and identifying areas needing attention.

Here are some guidelines to assist with this step:

  • Define the Belief:

    Start by defining whether the belief is empowering or disempowering. 

    Empowering beliefs are positive and enable you to grow and achieve your goals. Disempowering beliefs are negative and hold you back.

    Doing this helps you categorize your beliefs based on their influence on your life, making distinguishing between positive and negative ones more manageable.
  • Reflect on Your Emotions:

    Pay attention to the emotions that arise when you think about a particular belief. Positive beliefs often evoke joy, confidence, and optimism, whereas negative beliefs can stir up sadness, fear, or hopelessness.

    Doing this is important because your emotional responses can provide insights into whether a belief is positive or negative.
  • Consider the Outcome:

    Think about the outcomes each belief produces in your life. Does the belief lead to constructive or destructive behavior? Does it open doors or close them? Does it lead to healthy relationships or toxic ones?

    This is a crucial third step because the outcomes of your beliefs are strong indicators of their positivity or negativity.
  • Check for Absolutes:

    Absolute thinking often leads to negativity and limits your ability to see the full range of possibilities.

    Because of this, negative beliefs often include absolute words like “always,” “never,” “can’t,” or “must.” 

    If you notice these in your beliefs, they’re likely negative.
  • Seek Outside Perspective:

    Sometimes, sharing your beliefs with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist can be helpful. They can provide an outside perspective and help you identify whether your beliefs are negative or positive.

Step #3: Challenge Your Negative Beliefs

Pick one of the negative beliefs and challenge it. 

Ask yourself, “Is this belief true?” Write down any instances or evidence that contradict this belief. It could be accomplishments, compliments, or times when you’ve proven the belief wrong.

Doing this is important because challenging your negative beliefs is key to breaking their hold on you.

It helps you to realize that these beliefs are not facts but subjective viewpoints that can change for the better. 

Challenging your negative beliefs is a powerful way of practicing discernment and beginning to shift your perspective.

Here’s a drawing exercise to help you do this:

Drawing Exercise: Visualizing the Challenge
Materials needed: A piece of paper, colored pencils, or pens.

  • Step #1: Draw Your Negative Core Belief

    In this first step, think about the negative core belief you have identified and wish to challenge. 

    Once you have this core belief in your mind, try to encapsulate this belief into a visual symbol or a series of symbols. 

    It could be a dark cloud, a broken heart, an anchor, or anything that resonates with your feelings toward the belief. 

    The goal here isn’t to create a masterpiece but to express and externalize the belief. This act of visual representation is a form of expression that allows you to see the belief as separate from your identity and, therefore, something that can be changed.
  • Step #2: Draw a Barrier

    Once you’ve visualized your negative belief, surround it with a barrier. It could be a wall, a shield, a box, or even a circle of light. 

    This barrier represents your intention to protect your true self from this negative belief and to hold it at a distance.

    Drawing a barrier reinforces the idea that you have the power to limit the influence of your negative beliefs. 

    This is a crucial aspect of discernment because it involves recognizing that these beliefs do not define you and that you can guard yourself against them.
  • Step #3: Draw Your Evidence

    Now, think about the evidence that contradicts your negative belief. Draw a symbol outside the barrier for every instance, achievement, or quality that disproves the belief. 

    These could be rays of light, stars, flowers, or other uplifting images that symbolize your strengths and accomplishments.

    This step helps you visually confront the negative belief with the positivity of reality. 

    It serves as a reminder of your worth and abilities, showing you that the negative belief is not an absolute truth but a subjective viewpoint that can be challenged and changed.
  • Step #4: Draw Lines of Connection

    In this final step, connect each piece of positive evidence to the barrier with a line. 

    Drawing lines of connection signifies your positive evidence directly challenges your negative belief.

    It serves as a visual affirmation of your efforts to dismantle the barriers created by negative beliefs and replace them with the truth of your experiences and self-perception.
  • Step #5: Create a Positive Counter-Belief

    Now, formulate a positive belief that contradicts the negative one. Use the evidence you wrote down in the previous step to help you. 

    For example, if your negative belief was “I am not lovable,” your counter-belief could be “I am deserving of love and have people in my life who care for me.”

    By creating a positive counter-belief, you’re taking an active role in reshaping your thoughts. This step moves you from deconstructing negative beliefs to proactively creating positive ones. 

    It’s an empowering part of the healing process.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to reframing negative core beliefs into positive counter-beliefs:

    1.) Express the Negative Belief in First Person, Present Tense: 

    Begin with your negative core belief. Phrase it as “I am…” or “I always…”. For example, “I am not worthy of love.”

    By stating the belief in the first person, you acknowledge its presence and influence in your life. 

    It’s like shining a spotlight on something that has been lurking in the shadows. This is the first step to transforming it.

    2.) Convert Negative to Positive: 

    Now, flip the negative belief to its opposite. If your belief is “I am not worthy of love,” its positive opposite is “I am worthy of love.”

    Identifying the opposite of the negative belief gives you a direction to move towards. It’s like having a compass that points towards positivity.

    3.) Personalize the Positive Belief: 

    Make the positive belief personal and specific to you. 

    For instance, instead of saying, “I am worthy of love,” which can feel abstract, personalize it by saying, “I deserve a healthy, reciprocal love that respects my boundaries and values my uniqueness.”

    Personalizing the positive belief makes it more relatable and tangible because you’re creating a positive belief that directly counters the specific negative belief you have been carrying.

    4.) Affirm Your New Belief: 

    Start integrating positive beliefs into your life by affirming them regularly. 

    Please write it down in a journal, create a daily reminder on your phone, or say it aloud in front of a mirror. 

    The key is to make the affirmation a regular part of your daily routine because regularly affirming the new belief helps your brain accept it. 

    The repetition helps to reinforce the belief and encourages your mind to accept it as part of your new self-concept.

    5.) Visualize Your New Belief: 

    Use the power of visualization to support your new belief. Spend a few minutes each day imagining a life where your positive belief is true. What does it look like? How does it feel? What are you doing differently?

    This is important because visualization can help your brain create a mental image of a future where your positive belief is true. This can motivate and inspire you to take actions that align with your new belief.

    This process of reframing requires time and persistence. Changing long-held beliefs, especially those formed during traumatic experiences, can be challenging.

    So remember to be patient with yourself and celebrate each small victory.

    Step #6: Repeat and Reinforce

    Finally, write down your new, positive belief every day. Each time you write it, recall the evidence that supports this belief.

    Repetition is a powerful tool for reinforcing new beliefs and habits. 

    By regularly reaffirming your positive belief, you’re helping to embed it in your thought patterns, replacing the old negative belief. 

    Over time, this can help you default to a healthier, more positive mindset.