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Understanding Cognitions, Automatic Thoughts and Core Beliefs

Understanding what influences our automatic thoughts will allow us to better see how these thoughts can directly affect what we believe about ourselves, our world, and the future (whether it is true or not). Getting a grapple on these concepts is key to getting a handle on our negative thoughts and help us bring more reason and realism into the picture.

This post will include simple definitions along the way to help better explain the concepts:


Are mental processes that can change our thoughts and perceptions which in turn will change our behavior/experience.

Notice, How people feel and behave is largely determined by their cognitions and changes how people structure their experience.

The cognitive triad developed by Beck proposes three types of views or perspectives, which are thoughts about the self, thoughts about the world, and thoughts about the future.

For example:

Thought about self: "I am worthless"

Thought about the world: "The world is a dangerous place"

Thought about the future: "Thing will always go wrong"


Influence the cognitive triad. They are patterns of thoughts that are organized into categories of information that influence our core beliefs

Core beliefs

Are rigid rules a person gives to themselves such as, "things will always go poorly for me".

Note that schemas affect our core beliefs because core beliefs are influenced by the schemas we have about our world, our future, and ourselves, allowing us to truly believe and feel deeply affected by thoughts that may not even have truthful value.

Automatic Thoughts

Can be triggered in a person's mind every day. When a person believes things about themselves such as "I will always be alone " these thoughts will cause the person to automatically think no one likes them and automatically think negatively about their world and environment in general. This can cause a person to adapt negative thinking and see his or herself in a self-critical manner, causing them to feel unpleasant emotions and develop negative behaviors such as withdrawing or being avoidant

The key to managing our cognitions, automatic thoughts, and core beliefs is to understand that thoughts are simply just that- thoughts. We must see that just because we think something, does not necessarily mean it must be so. Calming down our mind takes practice and can be a challenge, but with consistently providing ourselves with positive affirmations, moments of quiet, mediation, and self-care we can better manage the false cognitions, stop the vicious cycle of negative thinking and return to baseline.


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