• 💖 [Donate To Keep MyPTSD Online] 💖 Every contribution, no matter how small, fuels our mission and helps us continue to provide peer-to-peer services. Your generosity keeps us independent and available freely to the world. MyPTSD closes if we can't reach our annual goal.

Trying to work on negative core beliefs with CBT

Ecdysis

MyPTSD Pro
I'm going through a really awful depression, where for the first time in my life I seem to be "internalising" all the negative stuff... I'm really struggling with a whole slew of terrible core beliefs at the moment...

One is that everything negative that happens to me, is a punishment from God(?) / the universe/ life/ fate... There's this weird, deep conviction that everything bad that's happened is to punish me for... being a bad person somehow... Relationship breakups, job losses, loved ones dying, etc etc... This week there's been my car breaking down and a huge vet bill to pay... It all feels like crushing punishment and with every bad thing that happens, it seems to confim this core belief even more that I'm bad and with everything bad that happens, I expect more and more and more bad things to happen in the coming weeks/ months/ years.

Connected to that, everything "good" that I do - doing chores, sorting out problems, paying bills - feels like it's completely "ineffectual" - I'm convinced that nothing I do will make a jot of difference - I'm totally doomed and all my attempts to "do" anything positive are just like snowflakes melting in hell...

Connnected to those two things is the conviction that everything will get worse and worse and worse and worse from here on in and that I will be ageing, getting sick, getting poorer, getting more isolated, accruing ever more problems and then eventually dying.

It's a constant stream of these thoughts 24/7 that I can't seem to stop and that drag me down into the depths of despair and overwhelm and paralysis and that I find it impossible to "counter" in my head with more positive or "realistic" statements.

I'm trying to do CBT for this stuff, but wow, I'm really drawing blanks... Everything feels like total doom and like I deserve it because I'm "bad".

I don't know how to stop internalising all this shit...

When difficult things used to happen to me in the past, I'd be mostly able to "externalise" them and to be angry/ upset that they were happening and to get into "fight" mode and work out how to attack and solve those problems.

Now, all the fight has gone out of me, I just accept that all the bad stuff is going to come my way because I'm "bad" and hence deserve it.

Edit to add: This depression started after being re-traumatised a few years ago... Since then, I seem to be in a "very early childhood mode" a lot... Like an inner kid that's 2 or 3 years old, basically non-verbal, very vulnerable and helpless... I think that's where all the internalising comes from.
 
Let me get you started then. You are trying to use a belief to rationalise beliefs. God is not factual, its a belief system. Prove to me that God exists to punish you in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to get you to not believe in your God, I am simply trying to get you to understand that God is a belief system, and not a factual being.

To counter negative beliefs you need to use facts. So the fact that you using a belief system to claim the negative beliefs to begin with (God is punishing me) is the start of the problem. Separate God away from things that happen to you.

Example, what does God have to do with your car breaking down? Why does a car break down?

Example, what does God have to do with your pet needing care? Why does a pet need a pet doctor?

Doing good does not mean good things will happen to you. Nor does doing bad things mean bad things will happen to you. Define good or bad? What you deem good or bad another deems the opposite or different.

You are you. You are unique. Remove God from this equation. God is a belief system that you pray to for spiritual guidance, not for good or bad things to happen. If anyone prays to a belief system for good or bad things to happen to them, is that not irony? Sounds like wishing to me? I wish upon a shooting star kinda stuff.

Which brings me to acceptance. You have to accept that God has nothing to do with what happens in your life. If you believe in God, then you believe in free will. Free will defines that you are the positive and negative to your actions. You are in charge of you, not God, in simple terms. This is why I say, remove God from this equation which is causing you to go round and round in circles.

Facts are required for acceptance, not beliefs upon beliefs.

A car breaks down because parts wear out. That is a fact. Animals need vets just as humans need doctors, shit goes wrong with us and animals, so doctors try to fix the problem. This is a fact.

CBT is a system to rationalise fact to counter fiction that we tell ourselves repeatedly (core beliefs).
 
I don’t know much about CBT but my suggestion would be to form a practice of gratitude and having someone you are accountable to, and preferably who you like, (like a T) who you can only reach out to if you are sharing something positive that happens in your life. I would expect such practices to be quite difficult in the state your brain has gotten into with habitual negative thinking, but not impossible. Then you can begin to form new thought habits with a considerable amount of practice and determination. Do you have a T?

There is a thread called “Gratitude” and a thread called “Who was your hero today”. Those are good places to start planting gratitude and thoughts of joy. There’s another one called “One thing that made you smile today” which is another one to practice noticing joy.
 
Last edited:
Hi @Ecdysis . I am no authority on CBT, but I do find it useful, or dare I say accurate. I sometimes wonder if it's because as people we think logic is innate, where it is actually a skill to learn?

It is my understanding it's very common to have ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts), and they need to be recognized and countered for what they are. Unfortunately, many things can set off a negative thought also, which leads to distressful feelings (depression, fear, anger, anxiety, somatic symptoms, etc), a tendency to explain it through (often) cognitive distortions and core beliefs, usually from childhood. Then we feel worse, depression increases, and so do the distortions, and that can lead to negative behaviours. Which sounds much as you've described if I am hearing you correctly.

Idk if this is the correct protocol to follow, but I try to first recognize the ANTS, and counter them with evidence otherwise. (And do them one at a time). And be careful not to put more weight in negatives than positive evidence if unknown. Then I try to see what distortions are there- black and white thinking, catastrophizing, fortune telling, etc. I can't remember them all without a list. Then I think, are there alternative explanations? (Usually the worst is all I can think of at first, so it may take time). Then I ask myself what the painful feelings are (name them), and how do they go back to my childhood, core beliefs and definition of myself. Then I decide what to do: act, wait, dismiss, stay undecided. If I could (or should?) be choosing a kinder explanation and don't want to, I ask myself why not? Am I unwilling to sit with risk or the unknown, or am I relieved to stay with what's familiar even if negative? If possible I do something that is opposite.

So in your example (loosely) I might recognize the ANTS; recognize they are automatic and pervasive. Check whether I've slept or eaten, or if a certain thought is particularly upsetting. Then ask myself what really bothered me about the thing that really set me off. I would acknowledge the discouragement and heavy weight of dealing with so many stressors in a row. I would ask myself if any good things have happened, or happened in the past when I didn't expect them. I would ask myself if it gives a sense of control to think I can somehow avoid bad things, or if I feel it is a heavy weight of guilt and I deserve them? I would try to remember what I learned in childhood and if that is part of a belief I am unwilling to be open to change my mind about. I would think of QTIP (Quit Taking It Personal), whether it be events or people. I would try to be kinder to myself, because that's a lot to face. To do the opposite, it might be to risk trying something that might fail. It might be to acknowledge how difficult these things are, but to see if there can be a plan to fix the car, help the pet, etc. Be grateful if it can be fixed and you have the resources to do so. And remember to sleep on it, and constructively add small bits that are positive- a break, a laugh, a change of scenery, a rest, a decision (based on facts) to let it go.

Quite frankly it's a lot of work, and I don't think can be rushed. It's also hard to do when depressed. I think part of even radical acceptance is the acceptance you are doing the best you can with the tools you have at the time. And semantics: it feels like doom- for now. it is difficult, for now. You feel helpless, for now. But feelings aren't facts; they themselves are real but not great predictors of what the future may hold, unless you act on them in a negative way. Because feelings too are so affected by thoughts and perspective.

ETA Some of (my) thoughts I can recognize and dismiss more quickly as fear and old habit, others are more critical. Sometimes I can ask for clarification, sometimes I accept Idk and will see. Sometimes I accept the only choice I have is the attitude about it. Especially if it's too large to solve by myself or involves other people.

I hope that's some help. Best wishes to you.
 
Last edited:
DID I WRITE THIS?!

Seriously, I struggle in a very similar manner.

Idk if you’ve seen any of my posts from the last 6 months, but I really struggle with obsessive thinking, and I do at times really believe I am “bad”.

I even had thoughts that God hates me.

If your thoughts truly are of an obsessive nature, then countering them with something good is just engaging in reassurance. I STRONGLY urge you to look into OCD and treatments for OCD. I am not saying you have OCD, but what I am saying is that I’m not surprised that what you are doing isn’t working, as “reassurance” is the exact wrong thing to do for obsessive, repetitive thinking. Reassurance just makes things worse because you can never have enough reassurance to change your mind. Even the type of CBT used for OCD needs to be modified as to not engage in this reassurance type behavior.

Joey Little once told me that sometimes the best we can do is to move to a more neutral stance, and she was spot on. I found a new therapist and she focused on getting me to a more neutral, balanced mindset…..and this is exactly what I needed. I lost her as a therapist (she left the practice to do something else), but the few sessions I had with her really helped, more than the previous 6 years put together. (Plus in those 6 years I was with a therapist who just ramped up the thoughts, unfortunately, and caused destruction in my life.)

My last few therapists who just fed into my extreme type thinking by labeling people in my life as toxic and just telling me I needed to get away from them without any sort of nuanced discussion.

Maybe I’m completely off the mark here. But, maybe some of what I’ve said can help you. I know I’m not being completely clear as to exactly what did help me, because I can’t…. What shifted my mind was tailored to me by my therapist and likely wouldn’t help you much.

I wish you the best because I know this isn’t easy. I do have more good days nowadays, at least in terms of my obsessions. I wish I could give you a wrench to throw in the gears just to make the thoughts slow down, but what works for you is likely to not be exactly what worked for me.
 
the best we can do is to move to a more neutral stance
Absolutely. Look at both sides of everything. All or nothing is black and white thinking, a negative distortion in itself. That is often the first one everyone needs to focus on, as fixing that thinking style flows into fixing all others.

Related to the OP beliefs that God is punishing you. The counter to that is, why then do thousands of people die in random catastrophic events? Are all those who die in an earthquake, flood, tsunami, All Good or All Bad? So how do you believe God is singling you out when God kills newborns from random events? Babies die in womb, kids who have done nothing wrong in life other than being born, die. Cancer? Is that not a punishment to death?

Or is this all random? (neutral)
 
there is nothing in life either good nor bad. 'tis the thinking which makes it so. ~william shakespeare
do not seek the truth. only cease to cherish opinion. ~zen proverb

in my own case, i found my relief in suspending judgement. good/bad, negative/positive, punishment/blessing, etc./etc., are all judgements. learning how to be mindfully aware of my thoughts and actions without judging helped me reframe and/or serenely accept quite allot of the things i had previously judged harshly. reshaping and refining my core beliefs turned to be a whole lot easier than unlearning and/or starting from scratch.

but that is me and every case is unique.
steadying support while you sort your own case.
 
I'm going through a really awful depression, where for the first time in my life I seem to be "internalising" all the negative stuff... I'm really struggling with a whole slew of terrible core beliefs at the moment...
As someone who dealt with PTSD for, IDFK, a decade and a half? (Now upwards of 20). Before having to deal with depression? MASSIVE relating to this.

One is that everything negative that happens to me, is a punishment from God(?) / the universe/ life/ fate... There's this weird, deep conviction that everything bad that's happened is to punish me for... being a bad person somehow... Relationship breakups, job losses, loved ones dying, etc etc... This week there's been my car breaking down and a huge vet bill to pay... It all feels like crushing punishment and with every bad thing that happens, it seems to confim this core belief even more that I'm bad and with everything bad that happens, I expect more and more and more bad things to happen in the coming weeks/ months/ years.
So you’re a person who fundamentally believes in balance. In cause & effect. Ripples.

I don’t personally blame god/fate/life, as I don’t believe I’m important enough to be a plaything of either/any… BUT?… I very much believe that I keep repeating the same lessons over & over, until I learn them. As that’s proven true, for me, countless times in both my success and failure. Once I master a lesson? It doesn’t repeat. Or rather, it might start a thousand times, but I quickly head it off. So it’s not a thing.

A fast & easy trick to knowing I’ve totally missed the message / gotten it wrong? Is being in the same situation, again.

As making new mistakes? Creates different lessons to learn.

Because if I believe, for example, that “the” reason this is happening is that I’m bad? Knowin that would change the lesson. Repeating it? Instead of confirming I’m bad, confirms that whether I’m bad or not? Doesn’t matter. I arrived at the wrong conclusion. So? What are other possible conclusions?
 
Thank you for your replies...

I've been trying to work out how to reply, but I don't know how.

This depression has really screwed with my ability to communicate.

Reading your responses made me (again, as in other threads) realise how shockingly bad I am at putting my thoughts into words at the moment, because people reply to stuff that I didn't think I'd written and don't reply to stuff that I thought I'd written... And then I realise how badly I worded my thoughts...

Anyway... your responses have been helpful, nonetheless. They've acted as a catalyst and got these issues moving a bit in my brain... They're not quite as stuck deep in the mud, as they have been, for a long time.

And I think, part of the cathartic effect is even just voicing these weird/ crappy/ useless/ unhelpful core beliefs that confuse and dumbfound me.

I've been keeping them to myself, cos I know how shitty and stupid they sound... I guess I didn't want people telling me my thoughts sound shitty and stupid... But heh, they do and I guess it's healthy to have people basically pointing that out...

Anyway, thank you
 
Last edited:
Back
Top