Pennick Family Therapy - Watch out for Icebergs!
Pennick Family Therapy - "a place for change"
Watch out for Icebergs!


Watch out for icebergs??? Okay. Admittedly, you've been through a very difficult time.

But...... are you viewing your tough circumstances with an accurate lens, or are you catastrophizing? Are you blowing the whole thing out of proportion? It's very easy to lose perspective when you're emotional. But why do we get so emotional in the first place? Good question... "If you find yourself snowballing an unfortunate event into having dramatic, horrible consequences, this might be because you have an underlying "iceberg belief," explains Dr. Karen Reivich. She is professor at University of Pennsylvania and the co-author of a great book, The Resilience Factor. Iceberg beliefs are the thoughts that float beneath the surface of your consciousness; they get triggered and can be powerful forces that can significantly undermine your resilience and cause you to overreact to a particular situation. For example, you may have grown up in a home where there was never enough money and suddenly your boss confronts you about a delay in finishing a project at work. You are devastated and triggered by your own iceberg belief that you will be poor, broken and homeless.

Iceberg beliefs begin forming in childhood and are often passed down from generation to generation like that old ugly lamp.

Here are some typical ones:

1. Things should always be fair.

2. Women should never show their anger.

3. Boys should not cry.

4. Never let them know you are hurting.

5. If you don't do it right, it isn't worth doing.

6. People need to be appreciated for what they do.

Do any of these sound familiar?  You have probably come up with some of your own just reading these.  People's iceberg beliefs tend to fall into the areas of control, acceptance, and achievement, and they can really wreck havoc during a crisis by making you feel unbearably uncomfortable, out of control, rejected, resentful, or as a complete failure.

The best way to melt away from iceberg beliefs is to use your adult-thinking mind to reevaluate them - just as you did with other childhood beliefs. 

"Your feelings are a result of your thinking," explains Dr. Reivich.  "By changing the way you think, you can control your emotional reactions to stressful situations."

In other words, you will rewire your brain.  Have your thought about all the wiring and triggers you have in your brain that work against you?  These are all beliefs that we have had installed and activated sometimes daily. 

There's no question that shattering beliefs as strong and deeply seated as icebergs is no small tasks.  I tell my clients to stop their thinking process before they develop the feeling side and consider the thought.  It takes time, becoming mindful of your thoughts but with help you can melt those icebergs.

But what about all those other things you used to believe as a child:

1. There is a big hairy monster living under my bed and want to come out at night to eat me!

2. There is nothing better than cake! Nothing.

3. My parents know everything!

4. My brother is the meanest worst person in the world.

5. Kissing is so gross!!!

As you grew up, you changed your mind about a lot of things.  Why not those iceberg beliefs, too?  Isn't it about time to stop being limited by your childhood beliefs?

Think about what your iceberg beliefs are.  Write them down. Then next to each one, write a proof of inaccuracy.

If you can reprogram your thoughts, you can reprogram your emotion responses.  It's not brainwashing, it's not even positive thinking.  It's accurate thinking!