“It takes 1,000 “Atta boys” to overcome one, “You’re worthless and no good.” –Dr. Phil
A few months ago I was sitting at my daughter’s softball practice when she came up to me frustrated because all she was hearing from her coach was “swing harder, swing faster” which, to her, translated to “you’re not doing it right, you’re not good at this.” Now, you’re probably thinking where in the world she could go from point A to point Z…after all, the coach was simply giving her pointers to help her get the bat around fast enough and with enough momentum to hit the ball farther out into the field. But, to my 9 year old, she heard different… Now take another little girl that is inundated with direct/indirect verbal and nonverbal messages throughout her childhood that translates to “not good enough, not lovable enough, not worthy enough” and you are likely to see this little girl grow up to be a woman that struggles with depression and anxiety because her core beliefs are so distorted and engrained in her being that she doesn’t know how to get out of that.
At The Refuge, I see many little girls trapped in women’s bodies functioning from distorted core beliefs. These core beliefs develop over time as a result of traumas: emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect to name a few. These core beliefs contribute to lifelong battles with depression, anxiety, addiction, etc. Personally, I struggled with a distorted core belief that said my needs were not as important as others. This core belief took root at 16 months old as I was relinquished to the care of my father when my youngest brother was born; my mother now had a newborn to care for and she figured my needs could be tended to by my father. Over the years, I developed a sensitivity to what was going on around me as the indirect verbal messages dictated to me that I should be careful and attentive to what my siblings were doing so as to not disrupt the order of things in my family. At some point in my childhood my mother took to sharing things my siblings were doing that upset her which made me approach my choices with caution regardless of my needs or wants as I did not want to disappoint her. This ultimately led me to marry a man that I thought I could fix. Throughout our marriage I found myself denying my own needs and wants because I wanted to make my husband happy which I believed would make me happy, too. He rocked my world one day by telling me he was not happy and my marriage ended in divorce leaving me depressed, anxious and unsure of myself and my belief system. Now, I am not minimizing my own story or the impact it has had on my life, but the truth is our clients at The Refuge suffer this and then some, which is why they come to us for help.
Part of the work we do at The Refuge is to unravel the trauma story and help clients make sense of it in order to learn and move forward to the happier, healthier lives they dream of and long for. Part of what I do comes from my understanding of CBT—Cognitive Behavioral Therapy— a form of treatment that focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. By exploring patterns of thinking that lead to the development of core beliefs, I try to help trauma survivors modify their patterns of thinking to improve their coping. I work with them to see the error in their beliefs and help them to formulate healthy, balanced core beliefs. These distorted beliefs took a lifetime to develop, and take time and effort to undue. It is important for me to help them see where these core beliefs took root as it aids in the unraveling process and allows me to use other interventions to help debunk and replace these distorted core beliefs. It is not easy work for my clients and requires me to be patient and innovative in my interventions. But, it does work and it does help them to let go of the jerk that resides in their brains that continue to reiterate those ingrained negative messages that have kept them stuck.