‘What I Believe He Will Believe’ by Abby Theuring, MSW – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer
I came across the concept of Core Beliefs in grad school for Social Work. The idea hit home with me as I could relate to it on many levels in my personal life. I was able to identify my own Core Beliefs and see how these affected my thinking habits. It wasn’t until recently that it hit me that now that I am a mother this concept is far more important than I could have ever imagined.
Core Beliefs are the basic beliefs that make up how we see ourselves and our relationship with others and the world. These beliefs are developed at a very young age. These beliefs come directly from our primary caregivers. These are where our conscious thoughts and feelings originate. Core Beliefs live deep inside of us and are not accessed directly. Because they are so long in the making and so deeply ingrained, they are inflexible and rigid. There are positive ones such as “I am lovable.” “I am worthy of love.” “I matter.” “I am good enough.” “I am safe in the world.” “I have control.” And there are negative ones such as “I am not good enough.” “I am not lovable.” “I don’t deserve love.” “I am not valuable.” “I am powerless.”
A few of my personal negative ones that affect my thoughts and feelings are “I can’t handle this,” “I am not safe,” “I am not good enough.” These affect me in my daily life when I have big emotions that feel unmanageable, scary and never-ending. For example, if I am feeling overwhelmed with Jack I can become consumed with frustration. The frustration rises and I perceive it as bigger than me, scary and threatening. I tell myself I can’t handle the emotion or situation. Because I tell myself that I can’t handle it the feeling increases and I feel even more out of control. With a lot of work I have learned that I can intervene by using positive self-talk; “I can handle this,” “I can manage my big emotions,” “I am OK.” Or in a similar situation with Jack I might tell myself that I am not good enough to be a parent. That I am not capable of being a good mother. I try to remember to intervene by telling myself I am good enough and I am trying my best.
Intervening as early as possible is key. The earlier we intervene in our negative thinking (that is ultimately a result of our Core Beliefs) the easier and quicker we can ward off intense negative feelings. It’s a matter of remaining aware of our emotions at all times. But seriously, who does that? It’s normal to become overwhelmed and feel trapped by certain emotions. Every single one of us has a list of positive and negative Core Beliefs that affect how we react to situations. It’s really not possible to be aware at all times unless you are some sort of Zen Master. Which I am not. So just trying our best to recognize when our thoughts are leading to negative emotions and intervening as soon as possible is what counts.
I learned a lot about this in training as a Social Worker and the personal therapy that I engaged in as a young adult. It all seemed fine and well until I had Jack. Then I got to learn about the receiving end; Jack. I was always looking at this as the adult who had many years ago developed my Core Beliefs from my parents. Now I think about it as the mother who is affecting a tiny boy’s future Core Beliefs. It’s difficult to accept that I am passing down negative beliefs to Jack. It hurts to know that Jack will take all of this in and live his life with negativity passed down from me. But it is true, it happens to all of us, and I want to remember this so that I can continue to do the work to understand myself, make changes and challenge my negative thinking when it arises.
Jack sees me struggle to handle big emotions, become overwhelmed and tell myself that I can’t handle it. He will learn to react this way to big emotions if I myself don’t routinely work to manage my own. He will learn that big emotions are scary and are to be feared and overcome by. When he is having his own big emotions I try to tell him everything will be OK, that he is safe, that mama is here. No, this won’t fix everything, but it’s my effort to give Jack what might have been missing when I developed my personal Core Beliefs. And that’s all I can do. He will develop his own and maybe the very ones that I try to ward off. But I tried. I put in the effort to understand myself and how I affect his life in the long run. I gave him… something.
It becomes clearer and clearer to me that gentle parenting is not about Jack. It’s really about me becoming self-aware. Learning how my early experiences affect me now and how I pass this onto Jack. I came into gentle parenting through breastfeeding struggles that led me to Attachment Parenting that led me to a broader sense of parenting gently. I look back at Attachment Parenting as a beautiful set of tools. They say “the 7 B’s are tools not rules.” I truly understand this now. Bed-sharing, breastfeeding, babywearing and so forth are wonderful concrete concepts to introduce parents to that they can fully understand and participate in if they choose. But these truly are just tools. Being close to my baby, being fully present for my baby and focusing on positive attachment depend on something much bigger. This comes from a place deep inside me. I can bed-share until the cows come home, but unless I focus on being aware of myself and what I am passing down to Jack I am not really present in our relationship. Which is the whole point. To me it’s the thing that takes the word “parent” from a noun to a verb.
Abby Theuring, MSW has a master’s degree in Social Work and worked with abused and neglected teenagers for 14 years before her son, Jack, was born. Upon the birth of her son she quit her job and refocused her passion for advocacy to breastfeeding and gentle parenting. Abby struggled to get started with breastfeeding and now hopes to empower mothers through blogging and public speaking to breastfeed, breastfeed in public and practice gentle parenting. Abby’s blogs can be found at http://www.thebadassbreastfeeder.com and www.breastfeedingbasics.com. Facebook-TheBadassBreastfeeder.
L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.