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Core Beliefs

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

By Thea Iberall

It’s taken me a long time to understand why I hate when my head is touched. When a hairdresser cuts my hair, my breath gets shallow and I want to run away screaming. There are other things about myself that I don’t understand. How I need to keep my arms covered even if I am uncomfortably warm. How I start hyperventilating when I am rejected. I lose the ability to breathe as fear rises up and takes over my body, as if I am being abandoned and I will die.

I’ve read that core beliefs are a person’s most central ideas about themselves and the world. Everything we experience is filtered through our core beliefs. Even if it isn’t true, it still shapes how we see the world.

I couldn’t ask my mother about these reactions. There was a huge chasm between me and my mother. I thought it was because she was too busy to acknowledge me. No matter what I wanted from her, she was off doing something else.

Slowly, through family stories, I pieced it all together. When I was 18 months old, I contracted dysentery and was hospitalized for almost two weeks. My parents couldn’t stay with me so I was left alone, abandoned. At night, a nurse tried to comfort me; she would rub my head. But she wasn’t my mother. I cried and cried. I hyperventilated and couldn’t breathe. My arms flailed about. I felt cold and afraid. Three months later, my mother had a hernia and she could no longer pick me up. It was a double whammy. And as I grew up, I internalized a core belief of being abandoned. None of it in my conscious awareness. But it defined me, my relationships with people, and my lack of connection with my mother.

In the book Emotions Revealed, Paul Ekman says that our emotional responses to traumatic experiences are written into a write-only memory in our minds. It can’t be erased. No wiping of the slate. But he says there are ways one can reduce the trigger. Ways such as therapy and facing situations with awareness.

It took years of therapy to sort out my core beliefs. It took years of journaling and spending time in the rooms of recovery. I started visualizing my abandoned inner child. At first, she would cling to me like a scared little monkey. I talked to her, I played with her, I got to know her. I brought her with me wherever I went, and if I couldn’t, I’d leave her with a loving babysitter. She became a presence in my life. I also went through all the painful memories that created my core beliefs and placed my loving adult presence in each one of them. One day, I was at a large gathering at the Agape Church in California, and I felt my inner child get off my lap as she went off to explore. She wasn’t feeling so abandoned anymore.

And my mother and I healed our relationship. We had the courage to reach across the chasm. We had the courage to start anew, to talk honestly, to be in our hearts. It was my joy to be able to be there for her for the last five years of her life.

I no longer hyperventilate if I’m rejected. And when I go to the hairdressers now, I smile and laugh through it.

by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui of A Life in Progress

Fear is loud and bossy.

She can be vicious at times.

And the worst of it is that

she often mingles truth with fiction.

But you must learn to challenge

the stories she feeds you.

You get to be the boss of your thoughts.

You can learn to question

whether or not

everything she tells you

is truth,

whole truth,

and nothing but the truth.

Since you have done the work

to deepen self-awareness

and self-compassion,

when she throws all your past failings

in your face you won’t crumble

because you already know you are imperfect…

AND you are beautiful

and resilient

and worthy

of building a

thoughtfully crafted life.

Participants’ Reflections

  • I came in late but I think I got most of it and grateful I heard it. From what I heard, self-love being modelled by you is an invitation for self-love in my world. I journal which helps a lot. You point out that there’s what life gives us and also there’s how we respond to it. We’ve been talking about this for the last few days (see blogs from Feb 23, Feb 22 and Feb 12). You and your mother lived in that painful place for a long time, but you were not doing nothing. You were doing all that inner child work which was beautifully expressed in your reflection. You offered that inner child unconditional, unwavering, constant love. Lastly, both and Shirley model such gentle acceptance for us in whatever our past, our present is. In fact, everyone in this group models that. So thank you to all.

  • I loved this one today. I really think life doesn’t begin until we come to the realization that we reevaluate what is instilled into our core values. Until we reevaluate as an adult, make those values true to us, that’s when life begins. How ironic, it’s our core value, but it’s not our values at all until we come to that point in life and decide what is really core values for us, and not what we’ve been raised to believe or programmed by society to believe. I think it is freeing when you get to that point and really make it our own true beliefs. How amazing you couldn’t get the haircut without all that emotion and now you can sit in the seat and feel good.

  • I think that is what Attar’s first valley is about in Conference of the Birds. Letting go of other’s values.

  • Thank you. I’m somewhat going through a pretty significant crisis in my life right now. I really liked the reading. I can resonate with that. Thank you.

  • How courageous of you to acknowledge there were issues and bring them out and be able to talk about them and resolve them. Yesterday’s reading was about things unsaid, and you were able to say them and work through them. That’s courageous. I applaud you for that.

  • There are no coincidences. This morning, I was asked about my naming story. It caused me to reflect on my name. On naming, we begin our unique personal life journey, the beginning of a core belief. It seems embracing my name has been a life journey into myself and a legacy of love. I was named for my mother and for my father’s mother. I loved my nickname more than my formal name, maybe because of the tension between these adults. That core, as we are named, we are no long a baby spirit that came into being; it’s loaded. That’s the beginning of the loading.

  • The idea of the core. Thank you for that thought. I spent the meditation thinking about core. The image came to me of the red buttes in Utah that are spread out over this beautiful area. All of these buttes have the strong core at the top. And along the sides, erosion has brought down what was there so that there is a ring of debris. Thinking about that process in our lives, trying to find the hard, solid core that is us, and letting fall gently away what isn’t us, so that we become these beautiful red buttes against a crystal blue sky.

  • Thank you so much. I appreciate your reading, this group. With your reading, you gave me courage and hope in my heart to heal that inner child. I need her to be alive and full of joy. I so appreciate it.

  • I never thought it was possible. But if you do the work, show up for yourself, miracles happen.

  • I was going through a really hard time, very depressed. Thankfully, I have a friend who is a retired psychotherapist. She invited me to sit on my rocking chair on my porch and hold the baby that was me and literally rock it. Talk to it. I cried and cried, and got such release from that. When I was growing up, my mother did not hold me. I spent her last few years taking care of her. I got the courage to ask her about that and she said I was such a complex child that she didn’t know what to say to me. I told her that she could have just held me. She said “I should have.” But just talking about it helped. In her generation, they didn’t take the time to talk about many of the things we express here. They were too busy just trying to survive. Not only do we have to think about how we have come to embrace and deal with our core values and how they sometimes change, it helps me to realize that my parents didn’t have the opportunity to do that.

  • I’ll never forget, about 30 years ago I read Gail Godwin’s A Mother and Two Daughters. I always identified with the older daughter who had to hold things together in this dysfunctional family. I got the nerve to ask my mother why her and my father never said ‘I love you.’ The answer was, “You didn’t need it.”

  • We’ve been talking about core beliefs. It’s amazing to watch myself change as I respect my fears and respect these beliefs that are set in stone inside me. I can keep them hidden. They make me stop doing things because of the power of them. The minute I give them air, and speak them and write them and honor them, and not bully them back into silence, there is a releasing that happens. I am learning to welcome that and warm to the fact that I can do the things I think I can’t. It’s become a movement in me. When I wake up in the morning and am not sure how to handle a task, it’s a process of letting go of the control. Letting the thoughts and feelings come in and honoring them. As the adult that I am—and I can see it in others – we work on our core beliefs. I love the metaphor of the red buttes because we do shed the stuff and we can’t forget it, it’s all around us as we rise to keep moving. I really love the authenticity of this group. Thank you.

  • Thank you everyone for joining us today. Thank you for giving yourself 15 minutes of focusing on yourself. I hope you all think about your core beliefs and work on releasing ones you don’t need anymore. Have a wonderful, gentle day.

Photo credit: Red Cactus Flower by Linda Lundell. Oil painting and gliclee print.

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