What are the thoughts that go through you head when you are at your lowest point? If you are like most adults they probably include: I am not good enough, I can’t trust anyone, I am unsafe, or It doesn’t matter what I do. These negative beliefs represent the three categories of thoughts that create the most mental health dysfunction in adults–deficency, lack of safety, and lack of control. In therapy, we work to identify the beliefs that create the biggest problems and challenge them. We challenge them by finding the events that created them and looking at these events in a way that leads to healing.
The first, deficiency, is the most common struggle adults face. This is feeling of being unlovable, not good enough, incompetent, wrong, stupid, unimportant, ugly, or undeserving of good things.
The most difficult thing about these feelings at times is that most adults know if their heads that they are okay the way they are. They are able to have positive thought patterns in regards to who they are and what they do but no matter how hard they try their feelings and their emotions do not match. Their feelings and emotions beat them up on a daily basis making it difficult to move forward.
The goal of counseling in this case is to help feelings and emotions catch up to the knowledge a person has about themselves. So when a person thinks “I am OK” they feel okay as well.
The second category of feeling unsafe can be trickier to work through. This is mainly because we have to determine if they feeling and emotion is legitimate–the person really is unsafe–or not.
Most of the time this feeling in associated with past experiences in which a person experienced an environment that was unpredictable for an extended amount of time or had a life threatening experience. Working through these past experiences therapeutically allows for a sense of safety in the present.
In rare instances the person attending therapy is still in an unsafe situation and the first goal is to create safety. This is done by either altering the current environment in order to increase the safety or by changing the current environment altogether. This could include things such as attending a self-defense class, increasing conflict resolution skills, or identifying safe people who can be relied on in difficult situations. This also includes learning to set and follow through with appropriate boundaries.
Finally, is a feeling of lack of control or powerlessness.
Like deficiency, this is a feeling that is false but at times can feel so incredibly true it is crippling. This generally stems from experiences in which people attempted to get what they wanted but felt as if they kept hitting roadblock after roadblock. It is also often coupled with a feeling of being unable to trust themselves, their judgement and other people.
Adult therapy works to assist clients in seeing the places in which they do have control and building from there. Emotional regulation skills are also a focus in this category as an increase of control comes most quickly when we feel in control of ourselves and our emotional state.
Negative Beliefs Impact Ability to Work, Parent, and Grow
By the time most adults walk into therapy they have been dealing with one or more of the above issues for years and it has gotten to the point where the negative beliefs and feelings are so strong it is impacting their ability to work, parent, and grow.