Finding negative core beliefs

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This is based on a technique used for personality disorders called the "Dead Link Removed." The technique finds automatic thoughts, meaning your instinctive behavioural thoughts that you use which cause symptoms due to being a negative thought.

You don't apply this technique to all thoughts, just ones that are automatic, instinctual, a part of you, not a fleeting thought.

The first process is to keep a thought journal log. You want to record:
  1. Who, what, when & where (Situation)
  2. What did you feel and rate feelings least 0 - 10 worst (Feelings)
  3. What did you think during and after the event? (Automatic Thoughts)
You don't need me to include a downloadable one, as you can create your own freely using Google Docs. Google it.

Keeping this log for a while, you will compile a list, and you will see repetitive patterns within that list. You will identify strong emotional situations that provoke you more than others. You will see a pattern of automatic thoughts that regardless of situation, you continue to think the same negative beliefs.

Now, highlight "thoughts" and not feelings. Don't use feelings, use the thoughts that go with your feelings. You read these all the time across these forums, they sound something like:

"I feel so ashamed of myself for letting him rape me."

That includes a feeling, so lets strip the thought from the feeling, being:

"I let him rape me."

That is the thought, with the feeling (emotion) stripped away.

Now the question that you ask yourself based on each thought as you progress, ensuring you answer only with thoughts, not feelings. Remember, you're finding a core belief/s about something you automatically feel, based only on your thoughts. It is your automatic thoughts that are the problem, which create your negative emotion, which create / heighten your symptoms.

The question: And if that thought is true, what does it mean about me?

You keep that questioning going until such time as you cannot answer it any more. Then you have your core belief which is what you must deal with. The below are short examples, yet this can become quite lengthy and it may take you days or weeks to really piece together. You may piece it together in minutes.


An example could look like this:

I let him rape me.

And if that thought is true, what does it mean about me?

I am weak and pathethic for not fighting back.

And if that thought is true, what does it mean about me?

I am just like my mother, doing nothing whilst my father beat her.


Hello, suddenly a core belief that stems back to an incident where you watched your father beating your mother, raping her even, and doing nothing. Now you would have just discovered the core root of your thought in which you can deal with, instead of chasing your tail trying to remove emotion based on a thought you believe that you let your rapist rape you.

Some may endup simply at, I have zero self worth; that is a core belief which can then be worked upon by not poking around in your trauma further, but instead focusing first on rebuilding your self esteem and assertiveness. So instead of reviewing your trauma, you would focus all attention to assertiveness and self esteem building exercises.

Poking around in trauma in the above case will make things worse, as the core root of your concerns is that you believe you're worthless, and this is why you're trying to kill yourself regularly.

I'm not saying you will like the answer, but I am saying it takes you into the core of your thought, so you know what to focus on, instead of poking around wasting aimless time in areas where your core belief is being ignored.

When used in personality, a core belief could be "other people should take care of me."

If we ran that through the same process, using the downward arrow, it could look something like:


Other people should take care of me.

And if that thought is true, what does it mean about me?

I need other people to help me.

And if that thought is true, what does it mean about me?

I always need lots of people around who are willing to do things for me.

And if that thought is true, what does it mean about me?

It means there's something wrong with me and that I'm not able to take care of myself.

So the core belief is now self admission that the person has a problem, so they just broke through a denial barrier in order to admit to a negative aspect that they can now work towards changing. Having that true negative core belief provides you the foundation to begin focusing upon for correction, for change within your life.

You can see two examples of very different thoughts being targeted to find the core belief that must be targeted, instead of trying to target the upper level thought, which is not the real problem, its just what you're masking the real problem with.
I’ve read this 3 times now and still can’t understand it: I’ve got a brain injury and to me this just doesn’t make sense – either it’s wrong or I’m too stupid (it isn’t explained clearly/simply enough)?

I don’t know if I have ANY ‘core’ beliefs (about myself = as this, I think, is trying to say?) because what I believe about myself is based on how I am and how I am is affected by EXTERNAL/environmental stressors – remove them and I’m much better and oh, what a surprise I feel more confident because I’m able to do more.

Plus if/when I’m given way-too-difficult tasks to do and cruelties to endure = I feel terrible, oh quelle surprise. Some tests just don’t need doing and I don’t consent = they are WAY too cruel and unethical and we already know the answers. But I have NO choice apparently = extreme cruelty.
A brain injury can have all sorts of complications in your ability to comprehend this for self-help.

You’re reading this and doing exactly what you shouldn’t, being that you’re trying to assess yourself in the now. As it says, “The first process is to keep a thought journal log.” You cannot do anything before finding out what your real and actual core beliefs are, and they will show clearly from a thought log vs fleeting thoughts you have right now.
Hi Anthony, I really AM dim I think: I’m having mega panic attacks because there’s way too much stress in my life, the worst ones being: crying when I come back into where I live because I’ve hated it for 18 months but can’t move/find place that fits my disability+ (prisoner) now threatened with eviction (been moved on 8 times in 3 years, exhausting in every way, expensive etc., no healthcare cover or doctor, no income at all/no benefits. Try to carry on, do my art but very very difficult. 10C where I live winter and 33C summer, with my neuro probs = harder to cope/worse neuro stuff.

Not sure how a thought diary helps me cope with all this? Overloads my brain so it works worse = even less able to cope/think rationally.

I wrote diaries for some years and examined how I felt but I STILL can’t understand what exactly a ‘core belief’ is? Sorry, I just can’t work out what a core belief IS = if there ARE such things. Any REALLY simple examples please or am I a hopeless case?!
Oh and I had a core belief that doctors would always care for you however you became injured = I was wrong so that core belief was smashed. I had a core belief that if I told the truth I would be believed = I was wrong so that core belief too was naive and wrong. I believed that we are innocent until proven guilty = how naive I was.

I still believe I am a person who tries to treat people how I want/need to be treated, naively I thought others try to do the same = especially if they’ve hurt me bad (made me disabled) and they know how lying about what they did (and didn’t do) will hurt me more.

I believed (was told) that Andrew the NHS PALS head bloke would help me be heard/get info = I was wrong, I was stupid to believe their propaganda/lies.

I was told that the meeting the NHS held was to sort it all out and that ‘we are ALL on YOUR SIDE’, I believed them, silly stupid me: I was wrong, I didn’t know they/he (the NHS Consultant tasked as NHS spokesperson = odd because he VERY involved & responsible in many ways/not impartial) would lie to me. Naively I believed what they told me, derr-brain.

I believed (was told) that as soon as The Hospital/NHS was aware of what had happened to me they would contact me/sort it = I was wrong, so gullible.

All these core beliefs smashed because the guilty cared more about themselves than me, the injured patient. And nowhere on your site (that I can find) and almost as invisible EVERYWHERE is the ‘invisible’ harm and deaths this causes. Odd that: ‘oops, just an oversight/mistake?
Your present and past issues are not core beliefs. They’re just what they are, trust issues and such, being let down, so forth. Believing in something and having that belief smashed is not a core belief.

Core beliefs are about getting past all these thoughts in your head to the true cause, the true belief, that has stemmed all further and ongoing concerns.

A thought diary is a short term thing. You keep it for a week, two maybe, which will outline common thoughts. Those common, recurring thoughts, are where you start your work. You take them and begin slowly drilling down. Eventually you will have no further answers, thus finding the core belief. The root of an issue.

We disguise true problems with our present tense thoughts and feelings, and feelings are not a good indicator to find a true root issue.

Any good therapist will quickly see the right patterns in the diary, and begin drilling downwards with you to find the core root issue.
Thanks for trying but I give up (tried reading other explanations etc. too).

True problems for me are daily living with my pain and disability but I do the best I can, try to ignore them BUT I MUST try to think/take them into account because if not I get too exhausted and eg hurt myself when I carry shopping.

I know my true problems (and have been helped to learn what they are) but errm: I forget = prob with brain injury/memory problems. And no: sometimes there are NO ‘solutions’.

NO idea how you think you can compartmentalise thoughts, feelings and ‘true problems’ into different unrelated boxes when PAIN+ comes into the equation.

I know I must live with ‘true problems’, not my duty to try to be different than I am: others must ACCEPT my difference and disabilities and not create specially high barriers to test/exclude me, they know that but are deluded and think it’s a ‘good’ thing to do, it isn’t: they must look at THEIR core beliefs!

Trouble writing even notes in my agenda, no spare capacity (or will/desire) to give myself MORE jobs to do: got plenty already. I really can’t be bothered with all this, too busy, sorry. And VERY sick of everyone telling me that ALL the problems are to do with ME and that they are MY fault/choice. It’s nutty, cruel, unfair and dangerous.

Please can you remove me from your mailings to my inbox – I don’t want them: I’ve got more fun/important things to do. Thanks, Ta ta for now.
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