What are beliefs? They are what you perceive to be true or think is true. Your beliefs and how you think about yourself, other people, and your environment have a great impact on your behavior, actions, and choices you make in life. It is common for trauma survivors to hold distorted beliefs that were formed as a result of their trauma exposure. These beliefs are typically related to their needs for safety, trust, control, esteem, and intimacy.
Below is the list of some of the common distorted beliefs that reinforce negative thinking process and may be detrimental for any relationships and stand in the way of PTSD healing and recovery. The following list has been adapted from the PTSD workbook, Third Edition by Mary Beth Williams, Phd, LCSW, CTS and Soili Poijula, PhD.
Your traumatic experiences may have also let you believe that no one can ever understand what you went through, why you react as you do, think as you do, or feel as you do. Some of these beliefs may have been interjected in your belief system by others, but most of them are likely to be your own. Psychological trauma disrupts the way you experience world around you and distorts your beliefs regarding your sense of safety, trust, control, esteem, and intimacy. These believes then have a significant impact on your identity, your general happiness in life, and your relationships with others. If you continue to view the world and threatening and dangerous, you are most likely suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. If you have difficulty trusting others, you are most likely guarded and reserved, frequently struggling with self-doubt, disappointment, betrayal, loneliness, and bitterness.
Now, here is the good news. Most negative, distorted beliefs can be challenged, modified, and changed if you choose to do so. This is by no means an easy process and it certainly takes time and effort. This work is best done with a help of a therapist; however, there are some things you can do on your own.
A good start is to ask yourself the following question about each of your core beliefs:
Many of my clients believe that they are helpless in controlling their actions and what happens to them and to others around them. A trauma survivor will cope with this belief by either becoming passive and giving in to other’s demands or attempting to become dominant and controlling over others.
Mary Beth Williams, PhD., developed the following exercise that I find very helpful in work with my clients. It is a journaling exercise, called My Power Shield. I would like to challenge you to give it a try and let me know how this works for you. Here are the steps to complete the exercise:
5. Each morning, or at night before going to sleep, spend some time (maybe 5 to 10 min) meditating and thinking about your power shield. Keep it in your journal so you can always have it with you as a source of an instant encouragement or make a copy to hang by your bed or your bathroom mirror.
As you look at this shield, preferably a few times a day, you will start accepting new beliefs about who you are and how much power you have. It takes human brain about 20 repeated exposure to a certain fact in order for it to start internalizing the fact as a belief.
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