Negative Core Beliefs and Underlying Insecurities: Chaos versus Rigidity

by Monica A. Ross, LPC

The time that I spent working at a community health clinic in East Texas was good training.  I got used to seeing a high volume of clients with a wide range of issues, much like I do today.  I value the time that I spent out there.

Here I am now back in Austin. Typically I schedule 7 to 8 sessions per day. There are several reasons for that.  For one, you never know when someone will have to cancel last minute.  Also, my rates are pretty competitive.  I offer sliding-scale. I see clients with insurance. 

At the moment, I am subleasing space.  I limit myself to just 4 days out of the week for sessions.  Those days are Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  Working over the weekend is good for the 9-5 crowd and it’s good for families with adolescents that have extracurricular things going on during the week.

My style of counseling is psychoeducational.   I spend a lot of time listening, but I also spend quite a bit of time explaining the concepts behind the modalities that I incorporate. I’m very active and participatory and collaborative during sessions. I listen but I also challenge.

And my clients, well it always surprises me who finds me.  Such great people!  They keep me on my toes and thinking. I had several sessions this past week that really got me thinking in terms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and the search for negative core beliefs underlying what show up for people as insecurities.

Negative core beliefs lead to behaviors that either correct or overcorrect for our thoughts, in other words, they lead to adaptive behaviors. They may show up as the need for control, or behaviors related to shame and guilt, behaviors that may even perpetuate a feeling of being unsafe.

For example, being born into a turbulent family can lead to a kind of inflexibility in life that perpetuates the thoughts of being unsafe. By the same token being born into a strict family can lead to risk-seeking behaviors which perpetuate the thoughts of being not good enough.

I had one professor who put it this way—you can take all of the disorders found in the DSM and categorize them as one of two things.  They are often either disorders that come from a way of being that is chaotic or a way of being that is overly rigid. Think of mania.  Think of obsessive-compulsive disorder. That suggests then the value of balance in our lives. 

It's the playing off of opposites rigidity/chaos that’s got me thinking today.  And how even in relationships one partner may overcorrect for the other partner’s behaviors--a kind of counterbalance and adaptation. For example, a partner who thrives on structure may find themselves partnered with someone who is more laid back. A partner who lacks creativity might find themselves with someone highly creative.

The problem with identifying too closely with one role or another in relationships is that we can become stuck in our roles. One of the ways out of falling into a role whether it’s one that we place on ourselves or one that we inherit is to lay claim to that part of us which is forgotten or underused kind of like a muscle that atrophies. 

In other words, we have all of our parts. Though some of our parts may be experiencing neglect. The person who is structured does, in fact, have an unstructured and maybe more playful side.  The person who lays claim to no creativity does, in fact, have a creative side.

For all of us, I believe there is that part that prefers structure.  There is also that part that prefers fun.  There is that part that is laid back.  There is that part that is concerned. There is that part that is fill in the blank ________. 

And it’s important to feel as though we have access to all of our parts when we need them.  We don’t have to be estranged from the feelings of being playful or from the feelings of being in charge and responsible.  Though at one point in time, it may have served us better to adapt this way. No one part of us need to feel abandoned or trapped.