• jennagosta m.d.

Core Beliefs and Fight-or-Flight

Hello Everyone -

I thought I’d write a little bit about the link between Core Beliefs and the Fight-or-Flight response.

Core Beliefs can trigger the Fight-or-Flight response in us, and they can even keep us there.

How does this happen, and what is a Core Belief ?

A Core Belief — also known as an Early Conclusion — is a very deep, very basic, and very old thought about ourselves. It is a belief that comes from our earliest days.

Sometimes the beliefs are valuable, and give us strength: I have what it takes - I act in accord with my values - My judgement is good and I make good choices for myself - I can do it!

Sometimes, however, a Core Belief may be toxic, eating away at the self-esteem we are trying to build. A toxic Core Belief often comes from having been in an emotionally or logically impossible situation, where it seemed impossible to even survive. The conclusion we come to in those kinds of circumstances, when we are very young, is often a realistic conclusion for us, at that time of our early circumstances.


“I must have to be perfect to survive here.”

“I always fail, no matter what I do.”

“I have to be invisible in order to make it.”

“If I have needs, I won’t survive.”

…and so on.

As you can tell, holding thoughts like these puts us in quite a bind. We are pinned into conditions that are impossible to satisfy — so of course we always fail (!), and the belief turns out, once again, to be accurate. Oof - what a circle. And our survival feels deeply threatened.

Because this kind of Core Belief puts us in an impossible situation, it creates ongoing internal stress. Because the impossible situation is connected with survival, our situation becomes “life-threatening,” and the deep brain pushes us into the Fight-or-Flight response.

Because the Core Belief driving us into the Fight-or-Flight response is always there, Fight-or-Flight never lets up. We spend our days in a state of heightened worry, anxiety, deeply uncomfortable, even emotionally triggered, much of the time.

Feeding on the toxic Core Belief, the deep brain continues to interpret our circumstances as threatening, and we stay in our Fight-or-Flight state. And yet, the threat is not connected to outward circumstances anymore, the way it was at the beginning.

So even if we do not have a history of specific trauma events, the deep brain can keep us in a Fight-or-Flight state a lot of the time. This situation creates an experience in us that is a lot like PTSD for the brain, even when there is no single experience that has become an emotional flashpoint or trigger. We are always on edge because the toxic Core Belief drives us there.

Very hard on the nervous system, very hard on us.

When we recognize this set-up in ourselves, it is really important to acknowledge that the Core Belief truly does reflect and hold what we were experiencing at one time. That feeling of “I must have to be invisible to survive here,” for example, was a real and appropriate conclusion to what was going on around us. But we do not want to carry the conclusion forward into our adult lives, and there are approaches that help shift and replace such a toxic Core Belief, or Early Conclusion.

Before we get to those approaches, I want to mention one other possible outcome of toxic Core Beliefs: we can end up in the opposite of the Fight-or-Flight response.

While for some, the toxic Core Belief pushes the nervous system into the heightened anxiety of Fight-or-Flight, in others, the system may just “collapse.” It is almost as if the nervous system is shot, and instead of being hyper-vigilant, vitality and natural energy have drained away. Here the ongoing experience of the toxic Core Belief and the impossible situation leaves us depleted, exhausted, and maybe chronically depressed.

So how to approach this?

The good news is that there are some solutions, and there is more than one starting point.

Using VoiceGuided VisionWork and the techniques of memory reconsolidation (see earlier blogs on the site), we can start the healing process.

We can start with the Core Belief itself, if we know what it is, and begin our work there.

But often we may not even know what that toxic belief is. And that doesn’t matter. When we don’t know what the toxic belief is, we start with the effects. We start with the anxiety, depression, self-esteem troubles. We start on the “outer edges,” so to speak, and work in to the Core Belief.

Either way, the deep self has the opportunity to heal. Whatever the life challenge is, it has a real cause. Anxiety, depression, challenges to self-esteem, panic attacks — all of these are rooted in something — usually an experience and the belief we came to based on that experience.

The deep brain knows how the experience, the resulting belief, and the effects, are all tied together. All along, the deep brain, and the deep self, have been aware of those original circumstances, have been doing their best to manage, and may now be ready to move beyond that.

The guided imagery and brain exercises of memory reconsolidation and VoiceGuided VisionWork give the deep self the opportunity to close those old circumstances, to find and replace the Core Belief that no longer serves. We replace that belief with one that is accurate for now, so that we move forward, free from the Early Conclusion that applied to circumstances we are no longer in. We move forward in peace and in clarity.

The VisionWork process is gentle, using a state of awareness very much like that of meditation. Really, the only difference between a VisionWork session and doing a meditation is the specific healing focus of VisionWork. We are taking a journey to discover, clear, replace, and to heal. And at the end of a session, clients often find that a gentle shift has already taken place. That shift integrates more and more deeply in the days and weeks that follow.

Welcome to VoiceGuided VisionWork.

Please feel free to contact me with questions, or to set up a time to talk.

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