Core Safety Beliefs

Cognitive Processing Therapy taught me that PTSD has affected my core beliefs in many areas. The first module we covered was safety. Below is the worksheet we discussed in class and an example of the challenging beliefs worksheet completed with a safety issue. This is the one provided for us, not my own feelings. I’ll give my own example a bit further down.

safety

I was not aware until I completed this course how many fears I was/am carrying around. I was not aware that I feared for my safety. I had gotten so used to this fear, grew up with this fear, it was simply a part of me, and nothing I had ever named or examined. I thought I was careful, methodical, a good planner…and did not know these actions were in place to keep me in control and feeling safe. Planning each day and event down to the minute, knowing each route, mapping grocery store trips before entering, making sure I knew everything and no detail escaped my radar. This hypervigilance was normal to me and in place to keep me safe. I preferred to be home alone because I cannot control the behavior of other people and I do everything under the sun to reduce the possibility that I will not be in a situation where my control is taken from me.

safety2

My experience growing up was that those that say they love me are out to harm me. So I developed a defense of never getting close to anyone. I have no fear of strangers. Strangers come and go every day, passing by. I only get hurt by those I allow to get to know me. My wall went up decades ago. None shall pass. I’m trying to let Hubby, my kids, and my in-laws in first. But damn if the alarms don’t keep sounding no matter how much I try to silence them. This isn’t something I can simply decide to do one day. I built this belief slowly and reinforced it my entire life. It will take some time to rewire this one. Once people know the real me, they either have ammunition to truly hurt me, or I’ll be hurt when they leave me. Either way is devastating and seems too high on the probability meter right now. I still feel safer alone. My strongest safety concerns surround my children now, more than myself. I keep myself safe by staying home alone, but I know I can’t do that to my kids. I have to challenge many beliefs to send them out into a world that I know is not safe, but somehow it has always been easier with them, than with myself. Like in my mind they have better chances, or it’s not pointless for them to try. Before this CPT class, I’d never thought about that conflict in thinking before. This new counselor doesn’t allow me to get away with anything. Grrr.

safetychallengeairplane

This airplane example seems so simple because I’m not afraid to fly. As soon as I fill in column A with my own event I get stuck for quite some time, battling my own thoughts, digging deep into analysis, and mostly just “sitting with myself” to figure out what I might be feeling. My safety fears usually center on the fact that I can’t run, can’t walk quickly. I have a huge fear of being chased, needing to get away from someone, or out of a burning building. There are many activities that are dangerous that I don’t do because I can’t do them. I might fear them if I had any chance to do them but my bad back and leg have made it possible to avoid so much: no horses, skating, ziplining, atv riding, motorcycles, hang gliding, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing etc for me.

A. A safety fear I do have is walking alone to my car in a city parking lot at night. I’ve avoided a few outings with friends because of this fear. It’s not every parking lot, only certain ones “feel” dangerous and I’m not sure why. I know part of it is the distance I have to walk, I’ll already be tired and limping. My fear is heightened when I can’t hide my limp, which I try to do always. I have a secondary stuck point related to people knowing what is wrong with me, keeping my secrets hidden, making it impossible to ask for help or let my friends know of my concern.

B. It is dangerous to walk at night, I’ll be an easy target, I can’t protect myself or run away  – 100

C. Afraid-100, Helpless – 100, Alone – 100

D. Evidence against – It is a safe area, no one has ever been attacked in those parking lots that I know of, I wouldn’t be alone it is always busy when we go out, I have never been chased or attacked EVER

low probability – I could be attacked anywhere but it is a very low chance, no reason to fear those lots over other lots

E. emotional reasoning-feeling fear does not mean there is any actual danger

F. I can use my wits and caution to keep myself safer – 80,  and the chance of being attacked or chased is very low or non-existent – 90

G-H. This should be lowered now, but I still don’t feel like this is resolved so there must be another issue to examine and challenge. When I picture myself driving and walking by myself to that lot, it seems impossible, still 100% against it but it seems like it isn’t all fear of safety. I’m also feeling inadequate, like I can’t do it, and ashamed. I would have to do separate worksheets for those. When new emotions come up, it is likely because one event can trigger multiple stuck points, and they can work in levels and layers, one triggering the other in a lovely dysfunctional cascade.

 

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4 thoughts on “Core Safety Beliefs

  1. I was reading along, bobbing my head. I get it. I get it. Then I read your example. My first thought was “Isn’t it normal to be afraid of parking lots?” As I continued to read, I realized how much I live in fear. I knew I did, but it’s different having it pointed out to clearly. I also know I work hard to do things anyway. Knowing all this, knowing my last counselor worked extensively with me to help me overcome my fear of living on my own, I’m still afraid. Feeling like I’m beating my head against the wall and wondering when the pain will stop. Not giving up.

    • Yes Judy, exactly. I am living in fear, extreme fears. What I am learning is that my thoughts are unbalanced. It may be normal and even advisable to exercise some caution in parking lots, but it should be low on the fear spectrum and should not be preventing me from going to the restaurant when I was invited. My fears are so much a part of me that I didn’t see how crippling they were. The other point my counselor made is that I need to be able to actually enjoy going out, not this “I’ll grit my teeth and get through it” mentality I’ve always had. She said when you battle your fears through sheer willpower like that, your mind never gets to rest and relax. So even though I am not agoraphobic and homebound, I guess this isn’t much better. I had no idea all of these fears were under my calm facade. Layers and layers, and we are still digging. I’m beating my head against the wall too. It seems impossible, but not giving up either. ((hugs))

      • In my head, I know that identifying the problem is half the battle, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Then I remind myself that I can’t work on the problem if I don’t know what it is. Here’s to being a work in progress. Go us! You are doing great, and I so appreciate you sharing your journey. ((r2b))

  2. I love this exercise. Like you I had early trauma from those who should have protected me. But then later I also had Stranger Danger. The two sides made it very difficult until I did a similar exercise, rinse and repeat. That is the thing, it doesn’t happen overnight. As you said, you can’t simply say it and it happens.

    You are my hero right now, you are doing so much.

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