We often underestimate the power of our thoughts – how they can influence our feelings, our actions, our future and our interpretation of the past. It is important to distinguish past events from our interpretation of them. Just because we have a certain perception of a situation, does not mean that it is the truth. This is where we tend to get ourselves into trouble.

We have all had moments where we jumped to conclusions about someone else’s intentions without going to them and asking for clarification. I know that I have. Maybe a friend or acquaintance made a comment that sounded derogatory because he or she was upset. Perhaps someone made a condescending remark about a vulnerable area of our life. If these assumptions are not challenged – either by us or by someone whom we trust – they can become core beliefs about who we are as a person. Once these beliefs settle in, we may start to interpret other situations through the lens of that belief.

It is important to try to become aware of these core beliefs. They often cause thoughts to arise automatically whenever we find ourselves in situations that feel like those past incidents. Maybe as a thought like, “I’m just not good enough to…” or “I am worthless”. These thoughts are just not true and they can lead to or exacerbate difficult emotions like anxiety or depression.

Once we become aware of these automatic thoughts and core beliefs, we can begin to challenge them with truthful, positive thoughts about ourselves. Over time, these thoughts can begin to replace those negative core beliefs. Then we may notice those difficult emotions (depression, anxiety, etc.) begin to subside and be replaced by more contentment and a more positive and truthful sense of self.

Written by: T. Ryan Snyder, MA, LPCC