The Vicious Cycle of Our Interactions

Henry Grayson, PhD on Feb 16, 2023 in Mood and Feelings

Stress from your interactions and relationships with others may be caused by something much closer to home than you realize. The beliefs that cause your perceptions of reality and influence how you behave and respond in your world — especially to the people in it — are at the root of much of your distress.

Here is a brief summary of that process:

Your core beliefs create →

Thought patterns which create →

Interpretations or perceptions about what is going on which create →

Emotions, which create →

Your behavior which causes others to →

Respond in ways that usually confirm the belief that you have about how you and the world are!

In this article, we will look closer at each part of the cycle in more depth, and I will teach you how to recognize and how to derail the cycle.

Core Beliefs

Most of our typical and repetitive thoughts and subsequent behavior grow out of our core beliefs. Core beliefs are those fixed conclusions we drew as children about ourselves, people, and the world — and particularly who and what we are.

These core beliefs can be either negative or positive; and we need to be most concerned with the negative. Negative beliefs are those that come from the disturbing ego voice and need to be dismissed. Let's explore some of these beliefs and how they affect our behavior towards others.

For example, if you were loved unconditionally, you probably have come to believe that you are lovable. This positive belief has therefore become part of your foundation for having happy, satisfying relationships. You believe and trust in love.

    However, if you were judged, neglected, or criticized frequently as a child, you may have come to believe that you are inferior or imperfect and not worth very much just as you are.

      As a result, your relationships are probably founded on the negative belief that you don't deserve love.

      When you carry such a belief, it becomes difficult — often impossible — to actually experience love. The negative core belief cancels out the reality.

      If you were treated like a prince or princess, you may feel entitled, having come to believe that the world should revolve around and cater to you. You may overlook other's feelings and needs.

      If you were given affirmations about your abilities, you might trust your capacity to learn or perform, or you might conclude that you are inadequate if praise, approval, or belief was lacking.

      If your basic needs were not responded to with some love and consistency, you might believe that:

      • The world is not a trustworthy place for your needs to be met.
      • People are loving or rejecting, trustworthy or depriving.

      If you were abused (emotionally or physically) or if you were neglected or overprotected by close family members, you might conclude that:

      • People are dangerous...
      • especially in intimacy.

      Our experiences help to reinforce our sense of ego separateness or strengthen our awareness of the True Self.

      Let's follow a core belief to the end. For example:

      If you were criticized a lot as a child and came to believe that you are rejectable and not okay as you are, then..

      Your thought constellations/patterns will include repetitive thoughts that you are not good enough; these will powerfully reinforce such beliefs.

      You may remember times when you were rejected and anticipate situations where you know there will be a repeat of the pain in the future, or you may focus on something you believe is rejectable about you.

      As a result, everything that you see in the world will reflect something about rejection, or it will be interpreted that way by your perceptions.

      Your perception will likely be colored by a rejection interpretation.

      There Are No Objective Perceptions

      Physicists tell us that everything we experience, even the results of scientific experiments, are influenced by how we are looking at things. Because so much of what you see is your interpretation of the situation, there are no objective perceptions.

      Neils Bohr put it this way: "What we experience is not external reality, but our interaction with it." In this context, perceptions — or what you experience as reality — are profoundly influenced by your beliefs and the thoughts that keep them alive.

      Therefore, if you believe you are not lovable and that you are rejectable, then you are likely to view other's behavior as confirmation of your belief. Let's look at how the pattern of a belief that you are rejected might play out:

      Someone makes a comment to you about something you have done →

      You perceive this statement or behavior as criticism or rejection because this is a core belief →

      Your emotion is likely to be hurt, fear, or anger →

      Your behavior will follow suit in that you are likely to be defensive, retaliate, take flight, or shut down →

      These behaviors will usually cause the other person to respond with a counterattack, by getting defensiveness, or by running away from the situation →

      The way the other person reacts to your angry behavior then serves as confirmation for your old belief that you are not lovable or that you are rejectable!

      This is what I call a "vicious cycle" that can repeat over and over throughout our entire lives, disturbing all of our relationships. The only way to stop it is to become aware of our beliefs and thoughts and choose to do something about them.

      Until we do, we will continue to hold the false belief about ourselves, whatever it may be.

      How Can We Stop This Cycle?

      First we must become aware of our thoughts. You need to identify the "themes" or patterns that occur over and over again in your life. Is it rejection, feeling not good enough, a sense of unfairness?

      People often speak of entertaining thoughts in their minds. The word "entertaining" implies a certain attitude of welcoming and continuation instead of just a fleeting thought. When we entertain a guest, we welcome them in, ask them to stay for coffee or a drink. Sometimes we let them stay for dinner and sometimes even as an overnight guest.

      Occasionally, we invite one to stay longer. It is much the same with our thoughts, especially about ourselves and our partners or any other relationship. It is those thoughts that we allow to linger by welcoming them into our minds that have their persistent and continuing effects.

      On the other hand: Thoughts, even very negative ones, cease to have any lingering effect if stopped, reversed, or substituted. And the sooner we stop such thoughts, the sooner we curtail the negative effects in our lives. In fact, even the frequency of their appearance in our minds quickly begins to decrease with continual thought monitoring.

      Many people don't exercise control over their thoughts because:

      • They aren't ready to accept this truth that their perceptions are controlling their relationships.
      • They fear their own power to be happy.
      • Sometimes we get so attached to our self-image as little, weak, and victimized that it feels intensely threatening to let it go.
      • They don't know how.

      Until we are ready, we will remain in our state of suffering, which will likely increase until we cannot take it anymore.

      A Simple Technique To Stop a Negative Thought

      Here is a simple technique that you could use to interrupt a negative thought that you notice:

      1. Notice the thought or that you are feeling negative for some reason.

      2. With your hands, trace around your ears as though you are tucking your hair behind them.

      3. Repeat: "I choose peace (or an opposite emotion) instead of this." Repeat until you feel more in control and the negativity has ceased.

      Taking responsibility for our thoughts and the emotions that follow them is the first step in changing how you view the world around you. Learning to interrupt your negative thought patterns or constellations can help you be more in charge of your emotions and break the cycles that have kept you stuck.

      Henry Grayson is a Psychologist in New York, NY.

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