How to Heal Core Belief-Fueled Emotional Reactivity
As I work through my attachment trauma, I am reflecting on all the many times I have been out of control–disregulated, unable to manage my emotional state, blaming, arguing, pushing away, internally spinning in distressing thoughts, feeling crazy and acting crazy. These are referred to as “protest behaviors” in attachment. (Imagine a child screaming in protest of their parent leaving.)
What I’ve realized is that any kind of out of control emotional expression is a cry for help. The problem is that the cry is directed at our past. Nobody in the present can really answer that cry, because it comes from that part of us that is still stuck in that trauma. It is the child (baby) within us that is screaming, not our adult self.
This isn’t exactly a new concept for me, but in the past, it would just stay stuck as a concept. I hadn’t internalized it. No matter how many times I did reparenting and worked with that little girl, she stubbornly refused to be comforted by anyone but the one she needed it from. Which, in the haphazard way that our subconscious mind operates, she would project onto my romantic partners, but in the end, they would never “get it right”, whatever “it” was.
Self-love was not enough; I needed to change my core beliefs.
This entire framework has begun to shift and fall apart inside me. And it wasn’t from using self-love to replace the parental love that was missing. I’m all for self-love, and it can help heal self-loathing, but sometimes there is core programming that has to be rewritten.
What started the process was the realization that she was really protesting the beliefs she created to explain the pain. She didn’t want it to be true that she was unlovable or bad. So she was protesting a world that seemed to be reflecting that back to her. In reality, she was projecting that belief onto the world, and making everything that happened about herself, just like a baby does. Because that part of us is our baby-mind stuck in trauma.
She didn’t need love, she needed truth. She needed to see the light. Love can’t change a belief system, because our mind keeps recreating it. All the love that comes in is filtered through that belief system, and it turns into something else before it hits our heart.
To change a belief, you have to have a reason to begin to doubt that belief.
You have to start to perceive that it’s just not real. It’s like the process of someone leaving a cult. You realize your entire belief system is based on a lie, and then your loyalty to it crumbles. You don’t have to fight anyone–you can just leave.
I was never bad. I was never broken. I was never unlovable. I was never anything but a baby who wasn’t being adequately cared for. Everything else I made up. And I’ve just been living in that belief system ever since. Forty years of believing shit that a baby came up with. It’s kind of baffling how persistent a one year old’s sense of the world can be to our subconscious.
So, if you can’t control your emotional expression, try asking yourself what exactly are you trying to prove? What are you protesting? What do you want so badly to be untrue?
Find the belief that you are fighting against. And then recognize that there is a reason that belief is there, and it has nothing to do with it being true. It’s just how our mind works at that age. A baby can’t do anything but make all the pain about itself. It has no other frame of reference.
Entertain the possibility that whatever you want to be untrue actually just isn’t true. It was never true. You don’t need to fight a battle against a ghost. All you need to do is see that it is a ghost.
I’m not a therapist or a guru, just a fellow seeker who has been there, healed that, and wants to share. I firmly believe we can all heal, and its often a winding road to get there. The more we share what works and help each other, the more we can all benefit.
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Thanks so much for reading! ~Emma
This was very helpful to me today (I’ve read it multiple times, and came back to it today). What I don’t want to be true is that I’ll never find another love as the one that I lost two years ago after my now-ex girlfriend broke up with me for the second time. (I though I had processed that grief, but it came back up recently after learning she had married and bought a house with her husband.) I was struggling (again) with emotions bubbling up, even though I’ve been healing watching some videos from Thaïs Gibson’s Personal Development School (I discovered her stuff because you recommended it). I let myself feel the emotions… and kept blubbering as I was trying to look for a job. So I came here.
The second I read “directed at the past” and the rest of this post, I calmed down; an image and feeling floated up; I remembered how my mother and father were, rather cold and distant. I felt how I felt at the beginning of summer when I was six or so, waking up in my bunk bed at our cottage, feeling the summer would be an eternity to get through, because I was hoplessly in love with a girl at school (this would have been grade 1 or 2!), and I felt completely bereft and alone, knowing I’d be at least two months without the warm glow of her presence (I don’t think we ever talked, I just found her beautiful and loveable beyond compare).So the false belief I’m protesting is that I’m unloveable and love will always be out of reach, a belief that developped possibly because I just didn’t get enough at home. The belief that I’m unloveable is false, and wanting to make up for a crappy childhood by securing a perfect love supply within arm’s reach is an understandable but woefully inadequate strategy. The belief that I had a normal good-enough childhood is also false. Thank you for everything you write here. Your personal journey and your sharing the tools you’ve learned and earned is deeply appreciated.