When Bad Advice Becomes Bad Beliefs

Psychology Today had a section on bad advice this month.  It got me thinking about the bad advice we often hear and, in many cases, internalize.

Throughout life we receive advice from parents, family, friends, teachers and other authority figures.  Some of this advice is repeated so frequently or presented so definitively that we take it as truth.  Over time, we may not realize where advice originated.  We can take it as fact and incorporate it into our internal belief system.  Unfortunately, bad advice and internalized negative beliefs can lead to numerous life problems. 

Take a look at your history and see if any of these pieces of advice or internal beliefs sound familiar:

  • Saying “no” is selfish.
  • A mother (father, brother, son, husband, wife etc.) must sacrifice their needs to care for others.
  • Making requests and asking for help are signs of weakness.
  • Competent people solve problems on their own.

We all may have heard slightly different variations of these pieces of advice, but if any of these are familiar to you, you may find that your needs are often subverted for the needs of others.  If you have taken this bad advice, you probably have difficulty standing up for yourself and getting what you need.

Advice can encompass a wide range of topics.  The advice below can undercut your ability to manage your emotions effectively.

  • Anger is bad and destructive.
  • Being emotional means you are weak and out-of-control.
  • Frustration and irritation are a result of a bad attitude.
  • Expressing feelings is weak.

It’s normal to worry about standing up for yourself or expressing how you feel.  No one wants to feel rejected or to have others suggest their emotions are unfounded.  But taking advice that leaves you sacrificing your own sense of self and stuffing your emotions usually leads to problems.  Believing this advice keeps you from standing up for yourself, getting your needs met and righting wrongs.

Two strategies to counter bad advice are to:

  1. Argue against them. Tell yourself  “I have a choice to ask for what I need.”  Or “I may want to please people, but I don’t have to do it all the time.”
  2. Experiment and test if they are true.  Look around you and see if expressed anger ever leads to positive outcomes.  Can you find times when outrage over an injustice lead to problems being addressed?  Investigate whether there are people who are very successful and strong, who also ask for help.

We’ve all been the recipients of bad advice, but if you’ve internalized it or continue to follow it despite poor results, it may be time to create some of your own good advice.

4 Replies to “When Bad Advice Becomes Bad Beliefs”

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  3. After 7 months of DBT I got kicked out I have never in all my experienced of therapy been treated with such stigma& judgment and knee jerk reaction.
    When u are with an outside one on one therapist for 10yrs what ever you trust in confidence(verbally or in writing or e-mail) in the other remains private between 2 and is kept in context.With any ambiguities at least asked & questions clarified rather than acted hastily on.Doesn’t matter if its the inevitable topics of hate or rage or suicide or murderous thoughts come up -its kept in perspective as passing phases.
    No not in the case where the program is attached to a public health system. Its like a nazi security boot camp everything that gets said is vetted and u even get sent to a disciplinary board if you seem to be too verbally abusive. Never mind that its often been triggered by counter transferences & counter over reactions to my expressive vocal ways. Time again my trauma was retriggerd,my voice & consent was waivered, I was ridiculed humiliated& violated by all my thoughts/feelings aired to peer review team.-most of the time never warning me or omitting irrelevant personal feelings/material.

    Every time i kicked up a stink about privacy & asking/checking with me first to consult with me on decisions.When i pointed out this constant disrespect that kept puncturing out trust by thier irrass actions-the therapist in this program was naive and surprised at my reaction.At the end of it all I was spat out back on my own with no support or follow up by a cowardly good bye good luck message left on my answering machine. talk about non judgmental or non mindful or forgetting to use skills& over reacting in crisis situations.something they were teaching us. this experience leaves me cold & angry and thirsty for revenge. the health system get away with so much these so called skilled specialists offering support & advice.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you had such a negative experience with DBT. I hope that you have found some treatment. You seem to have a sense that the public health system interfered with how DBT is supposed to be implemented, which may be the case. If you have the opportunity for DBT therapy again, I hope you have a different experience. You seem to have already gotten some of the main points about the skills, like being nonjudgmental.

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