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  • Monica Vermani C. Psych

Where Our Negative Thoughts Come From

How to identify the sources of our self-limiting beliefs.

Where Our Negative Thoughts Come From

  • Our thoughts about who we are and what we can accomplish shape our lives.

  • When thoughts hold us back from achieving our goals, it's important to build awareness about their origins.

  • We need to examine our core beliefs, blueprints, and schemas.

  • We need to begin to move beyond our negative thoughts and emotional debris to create the life we want.

Our thoughts about who we are, what we can accomplish, how we behave and interact with others, who we should be, and what we deserve — both positive and negative — shape our lives. When our identity, sense of self-esteem and self-worth, competencies and capabilities support us and compel us to strive for what we want in life, everything is great. But when our thoughts leave us full of fear, self-doubt, and hopelessness, limit our choices, and hold us back from achieving our goals and living the life we want, it is another story. In order to address the thoughts that hold us back, it is important to understand where our negative thoughts come from.

Where Our Negative Thoughts Come From Therapy Appointment

Blueprints, Modeled Behaviors, and Core Beliefs

We are born alone and die alone, but we are born into families where, from early childhood, we absorb modeled behaviors of our parents, siblings, and caretakers. We watch, listen, interact, and absorb it all. This is where and when our core beliefs and blueprints come from—early childhood experiences, often before the age of 10. The core beliefs are the deep-seated thoughts about ourselves that we take on during this phase of development.

The reality is that our core beliefs are not necessarily accurate or true. If, for example, we grew up in a household filled with conflict and violence (emotional or physical), or if we were raised with beliefs about the way the world works or the ways women or men should behave that do not align with who we are today, we often struggle in our relationships and choices and grapple with inaccurate fears and prejudices. When our core beliefs include that we are not smart enough, worthy of, or capable of achieving what we want in life, these beliefs or thoughts can lead to settling for less in life. In this case, it is important that we have compassion for ourselves and what we have experienced and take positive steps to address the thoughts that are holding us back.


From an early age, each time we’re exposed to a new environment, learn something new, or take on a new task or experience, we create a schema of it. Pioneering child psychologist Jean Piaget introduced the term schema, which describes two things: the act of organizing massive amounts of information, and the maps we create from this act that enables us to make sense of and navigate the world. Without consciously doing so, we are constantly organizing, storing, and operating from the schemas or maps we create in our minds. These maps are extremely useful in helping us navigate the world and sort massive amounts of information.

The Good and Bad News About Schemas

Negative Experiences and Emotional Debris

The reality is that life is a series of experiences that we label as positive or negative. As a result of an unpleasant or negative experience we can end up with emotional debris, which can influence our schemas (maps of the world), and lead to taking precautions — also known as safety behaviors — often unnecessary and usually self-limiting fear-based steps to prevent unpleasant situations or interactions from recurring.

Incorporating safety behaviors can come with additional downsides. When we take on such behaviors, we are giving into fears that we will not be able to handle what comes along without them, and that the world is an unsafe place. When we take as a matter of fact that the world is an unsafe, perilous place, we begin to doubt ourselves and others, catastrophize, and imagine worst-case scenarios playing out.

Where Our Negative Thoughts Come From In Person Therapy Appointment

Where Our Negative Thoughts Come From Virtual Therapy Appointment

Moving Beyond our Blueprints, Core Beliefs, Schemas, and Negative Experiences

Think about it. When it comes to our thoughts, we need to build awareness about where our self-doubts, fears, and feelings of hopelessness come from. Our thoughts about who we are, how the world works, how people should treat one another, and what we deserve out of life matter. They determine our inner dialogue and impact our self-esteem.

The reality is that when we understand the source of our negative thoughts, we can begin to examine, challenge, and replace them with more accurate and healthy ways of thinking that align with who we are and what we want to achieve in the world. We can then move forward and live an authentic life, as our strongest and best selves.

Monica Vermani, C. Psych., - Website - Book -


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