Core Beliefs and Happiness in Life

CPTSD Foundation
7 min readMar 27, 2023

Are you happy? Do you wake up ready to face the day, or do you wish you could fall back to sleep and hide? Complex post-traumatic stress disorder can often lead you down a path to unhappiness, especially since your core beliefs are harmful.

This series on core beliefs has tackled many subjects. We’ve examined how core beliefs can and do affect your life and how negative core beliefs and CPTSD often go together.

This article will tackle core beliefs and how they affect your happiness.

Core Beliefs

Core beliefs are the underlying thoughts, always starting with “I,” that we hold to be true about ourselves, the world, and others. Core beliefs developed when you were a child and highly depended on how you were treated growing up.

You formed your core beliefs based on your relationship with your caregivers and experience. Core beliefs help you interpret the world around you.

If there is trauma in your childhood, your core beliefs can become skewed, and you develop thoughts about yourself that are not true. These thoughts, however wrong, served you in childhood, allowing you to get your needs met by conforming to the adults in your life.

Today, these negative core beliefs inhibit you from reaching your full potential as they tell you that you are hopeless, worthless, or worse. You likely have complex post-traumatic stress disorder and struggle daily with your self-worth.

The good news is that you can change these thought patterns to live a better life today.

Positivity and Core Beliefs

Adopted in early life, core beliefs are powerful because they have been ingrained in us for many years and have reached the status of “always true” and “unquestionable.” The belief that our core beliefs are always true can hold down adults stuck in negative feelings about themselves.

The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach tells us that adverse life events do not always lead to negative results. It is, instead, the reactions that people have to these negative events that make all the difference.

Adverse events impede you from forming healthy judgments and solving problems adequately, leading to more negative thoughts and actions.

Your behaviors and thought patterns make the difference between being happy in your life and being miserable. It is true that you were mistreated in childhood and that your core beliefs reflect the words and actions of your caregivers, but you need not remain stuck in the past.

It is crucial, therefore, to identify and understand how such negativity in your core beliefs happened and challenge them. Changing your core beliefs is the only way to achieve a healthy and happy life.

Core Beliefs and Happiness

Core beliefs are the door to becoming happier. Negative core beliefs will leave you empty and unhappy, while positive core beliefs allow you to feel in control, full of life, and happy.

Positive core beliefs about yourself and your world are essential to feeling happy and belonging. Although you are composed of the sum of your parts, each is an area or category.

There are five categories involved with core beliefs.

Your Self-Concepts. Your self-concepts are those core beliefs that are unquestionable thoughts in your mind of who you believe you are and that you believe to be true. It is critical to your happiness that you have a healthy self-concept. Although childhood trauma dramatically affects how you see yourself, this can change and, in the process, make you a happier person.

Your Relationships. The beliefs you hold to be true about your relationships, including how you see the roles of significant others are major. Negative core beliefs significantly alter your relationships, but it is possible to learn to change your thinking patterns about others to grow in happiness.

Your Health. How you see your body and respond to its needs greatly enhances or destroys your happiness. By changing core beliefs about your health and body from negative to positive, happiness will inevitably follow.

Your Money. Your beliefs about money and finances and your relationship to them can affect your happiness. Your relationship with money and how you handle your finances are critical to your happiness. Holding core beliefs where you don’t feel you have enough money or that cause you to mishandle it will bring discomfort and unhappiness.

Your Life. Beliefs about your life tend to be broad and affect many aspects of your life. It is critical to take control of your life and not simply allow yourself to drift. You are in control of your life and your happiness now, and it is up to you to gain control over your negative thinking patterns.

Your Relationship with Other People. These are your general beliefs about other people, whether they are strangers or someone you know well. This category can also include your thoughts about humanity. Your happiness depends upon how you get along in society.

Although life will never be easy or fair, much happiness awaits you if you take your core values by the horns and pull them into the shape you want.

Reframing Assumptions

If you assume you are unlovable or ugly, your behaviors will align with that belief even though others see you differently. In other words, your core beliefs can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Having negative beliefs about oneself and the world leads to an unhealthy outlook on your life and unhappiness. Core beliefs are highly resistant to change, and even when confronted, these deeply seated beliefs about oneself remain rigid and are often associated with unhappiness.

Assumptions maintain core beliefs by explaining life experiences that contradict your self-thought patterns. A good example may be that you believe you are unlovable, yet someone tells you they love you. The core belief of your unlovability might lead you to sabotage that burgeoning relationship making you extremely unhappy.

Beliefs thus stated are predictive and can be challenged. You may ask yourself if the assumption is 100% true. You will find that no assumption can be correct in all situations 100% of the time.

Reframing negative assumptions into an “if this, then this” format will aid you in testing your assumption. For example, if I find love, then I will enjoy it. Reframing allows you to see an alternative to what you originally believed.

Challenging and Changing Core Beliefs

If you experience complex post-traumatic stress disorder, you likely have a boatload of negative core beliefs. Because core beliefs are deep-rooted and persistent, they are difficult to challenge, but it is possible.

Challenging core beliefs takes a lot of patience, hard work, and self-compassion; it can also take more time than you’d like. However, the process of overcoming negative core beliefs that have held you down in life is worth it.

The first stage in healing and changing a core belief is acknowledging it exists. Acknowledging those core beliefs that have changed your life’s path for the negative is a powerful beginning.

Next, you will want to explore the ways that a core belief affects your life and that it is a limiting belief.

For instance, your belief is that you firmly believe that you are not intelligent. This certainty in your mind inadvertently leads you to avoid going to college or training for a job that pays more than minimum wage.

If you find that you are having a tough time identifying your core beliefs or are having a hard time challenging them, it may be time to seek mental health professional help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may work best for you so that you can have aid in challenging those core beliefs that have been harming you (Otani et al., 2018).

In Closing

I have had core beliefs that have greatly limited me. I once believed I was so damaged by past abuse that, after entering a psychiatric ward, I decided not to leave. It took a therapist who cared and knew how to help me challenge and overcome that thought.

Today, I am a successful writer who is happy in her life. There were other core beliefs that I am currently challenging that limit me, but I am confident I will overcome them too.

It is important to remember that core beliefs aren’t all bad, as many of them aid you in your life. You are the only person who can overcome this stinking thinking, so make sure to listen to yourself in your self-talk to recognize your core beliefs and change them if they are a hindrance.

“Authenticity is an alignment between your beliefs, desires, and choices in the world. Desires that are in alignment with core beliefs generate powerful actions. Like a wave that draws from the depths of the ocean, actions connected to your authentic self are more likely to manifest your intentions.” — David Simon

“If our core belief is based on what other people think, then we eventually will allow their opinions to become our reality.” — Darren Johnson

References

Otani K, et al. (2018). Marked differences in core beliefs about self and others, between sociotropy and autonomy: personality vulnerabilities in the cognitive model of depression. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877496/

Originally published at https://cptsdfoundation.org.

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CPTSD Foundation

Successfully equipping complex trauma survivors and practitioners with compassionate support, skills, and trauma-informed education since 2014.