How to Challenge your Own Perspective
It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves. - Carl Jung
When something happens to us to cause insult or injury, the pain is often harder to bear if we feel that it came about through injustice or betrayal. When perceive that we have been wronged, we can often remain incredulously stuck in the processing of how and why a person could do this to us. This is because, when we are hurt by someone, intentionally or otherwise, there is great emotional weight to the situation for us.
As we have discussed in previous articles, we all have our own individual model of the world consisting of information from childhood and past experiences coupled with our own genetic blueprint. We also develop a set of core beliefs about the Self and those around us. These help us to form what appears to be a complete understanding of the world and our place in it. The fact is however, that everyone’s model of the world is different.
During our experience in training health professionals and the general public in wellbeing and resilience, we have come to distil the many negative core beliefs that people have about themselves down to two simple statements:
I am unworthy.
I am not whole or broken in some way.
As we have said so many times, in childhood we are hardwired to survive. It is our nature to cultivate behavioural strategies and habits designed counter these negative core beliefs. We strive in our actions to avoid rejection and abandonment and foster acceptance at all costs. In childhood, our survival depends on it. These strategies follow us into adulthood and our need for acceptance remains. We shape our personalities in such a way that we gain approval. We compromise the true Self to ensure our safety.
We become the person that the world sees.
If I am kind, helpful and do not put myself first, people will like me (I will be accepted)
Cleanliness is next to Godliness – if I am dirty or untidy, I will be disapproved of (I will be rejected)
I need to succeed so that my family will be proud of me (I will be accepted)
When we are meeting all of these personal requirements for acceptance and approval, we feel safe.
When someone hurts or betrays us unexpectedly, all of our strategies are challenged, and our negative core beliefs confirmed. We tell ourselves that betrayal and injustice is, in fact proof that they are true.
1. My friend said malicious things about me because I did not warrant her loyalty – I am not worthy
2. My partner left me therefore I am unlovable - I am broken
3. I lost my job because I am rubbish – I am not worthy
4. I was the last person to be asked to perform a difficult task because I am not trusted – I am broken
5. I was not invited for drinks after work with everyone else because they do not like me – I am broken
Each of these initial statements has a fact at the beginning followed by an assumption which allows us to confirm the negative belief. This is known as ‘selective evidence gathering. These assumptions are thoughts and not necessarily truth. As we understand when we consult the CBT cycle, thoughts lead to emotions. Negative emotions are uncomfortable body experiences, which in turn lead decisions designed to protect from discomfort.
For the above examples these might be as follows:
1. I will never trust my friends again with my truth.
2. I am better off single.
3. I will stay in a job I know I can do.
4. I will never volunteer for difficult tasks in case I fail.
5. I will change myself so that people like me more.
In her book ‘Warrior Heart Practice’ Heatherash Amara teaches an invaluable tool for unravelling our distorted thinking and seeking the truth.
As always, the key is to recognise these processes within us and to challenge their truth.
When you find yourself hurt or wounded by the actions of another, be it intentionally or not
You can take a moment to congratulate yourself for the progress you are making in your ability to observe. By stepping into the shoes of your Observer Self you are becoming conscious of your thoughts and emotions. This is the first step towards shaping your responses.
As always, take a moment to foster gratitude here.
Notice how the situation makes you feel. Where does the emotion sit within your body? What one word would you use to describe it?
Now take some time to examine the assumptions you are making to flesh out the story, to feed your fears and to confirm your negative core beliefs. These are thoughts and present as whole sentences rather than single words as emotions do.
My friends are all talking about me
Everyone thinks I’m rubbish at my job
I’m one of those people who just can’t meet the right person
Nobody cares that I am upset
Now ask yourself what the truth is. This presents as simple fact without the why’s and wherefores.
My partner left
My friends made other arrangements
I was challenged about my actions at work
Sit with the truth and know that there are unlimited reasons why people behave a certain way and we can never know exactly what is going on with them. We can only know what is going on for us, and that is where we begin our work.
With gratitude, you can appreciate that an emotional response to the behaviour of another can point you towards where you can work to become more resilient. With humour, kindness and humility you can know that this work is never finished. You will always have the capacity to learn new ways to nurture, support, embolden and champion your Self. It is up to you and only you and there is no person better suited for the job!
For a deeper look at our conditioning, other aspects of self-awareness and over 60 tools and techniques to improve wellbeing and mental health try our book:
‘How to Rise – A Complete Resilience Manual’