Write down one of the self-defeating beliefs you are aware of. This may be a belief you listed earlier. Answer the following questions to help you discover where it came from (i.e., whose voice it really is) and how it influences your behavior:
1. Which significant adult(s) in early childhood said this or made you feel they believed it?
2. Which of your behaviors might stem from this belief?
Your program is at the root of almost every difficulty in your life. The exercise Identify Your Program is an extremely effective tool for recognizing the issues underlying every block or problem in a way that makes it easier to resolve.
This written exercise plays a pivotal role in the Uplift Program, which Peter attended after his private sessions with Bob.
To help you respond to the following questions on your own, we’ll share Peter’s answers. One problem Peter worked on was his inability to find and keep a well-paying job.
1. What are some of the self-defeating actions associated with the difficulty?
“I find critical bosses who make me angry and undermine my sense of competence.
Instead of confronting them, I use their behavior as an excuse to leave.” “I don’t work on a résumé for a better job or network with people in my real field of expertise to find out where to look for a good one.” “When I do get job interviews, I try to prove that I’m intellectually superior to the interviewer or give the impression that I don’t really want the job.”
2. What are some of the beliefs behind these actions?
“I’ll never be much good, so why try?” “I’m wasting my time since only very intellectual pursuits are worthwhile.” “Even if I did do a job well it would never be good enough for the boss.”
3. Which significant adult(s) in your early childhood believed or seemed to believe these things about you, themselves, or someone else?
“Dad always felt he was a failure.” “Uncle George saw anything except intellectual pursuits as beneath him.” “Mother made sure everybody knew she thought Dad and Uncle George were failures. Mother was sure I’d be a failure just like Dad and George.”
4. Which significant adult(s) engaged in similar self-defeating actions?
“Dad never seemed able to get anything right at the store.” “George hung out in his shack and didn’t try to better himself.” “Neither of them formed functional relationships at work or anywhere else.”
5. What childhood actions or behavioral patterns are similar to the self-defeating behaviors around your current difficulty?
“Fled Mother’s criticism by escaping into books—and I still do.” “Never tried to achieve anything because it would make me vulnerable to Mother’s criticism and abuse. I’m still afraid to take risks.” “Left a situation or relationship before I was kicked out or abandoned. Like in all my jobs and even with my wife.” “Never said what I wanted or needed because that brought more problems. Still don’t with anyone, look at how I let my daughter treat me.” “Stayed away from friends and even George so Mother wouldn’t get mad. I still don’t have any friends.”
6. Which significant adult(s) are you acting or thinking like now? Whose role are you playing?
“I’ve become my father in failing—or thinking I have.” “I’ve become George in not trying.” “I’ve taken on Mother’s belief that I’ll never amount to anything. I do things unconsciously that prove her right.”
7. Who are the people involved in the current difficulty (e.g., wife, child, friend, boss, interviewer, client, and so forth)? And which significant adult(s) do these people stand in for (remind you of )?
“Any potential boss is my critical mother and so I don’t want to have anything to do with this person.”
8. How can you summarize your program around this issue?
“My program around my difficulty in finding the kind of work I want is to defeat myself by not trying very hard to find a better job. This is due to my certainty that I’m going to fail anyway and to my attitude that no job is worthwhile unless it’s very intellectual (and I don’t look for jobs that are). I find bosses who are like my mother (critical and controlling) or else I goad them into being so. I’m unconsciously fulfilling my mother’s disparaging remarks that I’m a ‘failure’ just like my father and George. I don’t stand up for myself, explain how I feel, or ask others how they really feel about me or my work. Until I do this, nothing much will change.”
You might want to do this exercise yourself now. Don’t worry if you can’t think of the “right” answer to any question immediately. We’re just getting your brain used to thinking this way. You can return to this exercise at any time and make changes or additions.
When you’ve completed this exercise, you’ll understand much better how your program works against you regarding one issue. Obviously, you may find a number of problems, triggers, and blocks that you will want to understand in relation to your program. You will need to do this exercise for every one of them to defeat the program. We suggest that you return to this exercise often until you feel that you can see clearly the program’s influence on every troubling aspect of your life.
You may want to write out your summary of the program as it relates to each issue on an index card, on your PDA, or even as a pop-up on your computer. Whenever you feel stuck or in doubt about a decision, you can get a lot of clarity by reading the appropriate program summary. These index cards (or electronic versions) are a prime weapon against the inner saboteur.
(extracted from) Creating Optimism: A Proven, 7-Step Program for Overcoming Depression, Based on the popular Uplift program, written by Bob Murray Ph. D., and Alicia Fortinberry, published by Mcgraw-Hill