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Core Issues and Core Meaning

teenage girl with strawberry blonde hair sitting in front of large rocks

A core issue is a person’s false, negative belief about who he/she is and how he/she fits into the world. Some common core issues are: “I am unlovable”, “I am a failure”, “I am weak”, “I am worthless”, etc. Since these are things we believe to be true, they often drive our emotions and our behaviors. Core issues are often the real problem behind intense negative emotions and poor decisions.

Unlike core issues, core meaning is positive in nature and can help us heal as individuals and families from the problems our core issues can cause. Core meaning is the realization that we all have innate limitless value, worth, purpose, and aptitude. When we work to transform our core issues into core meaning, we connect with the good things about ourselves and our families. We gain a more optimistic worldview. We are better able to work through relationship problems and our families become stronger.

Develop Your Detective Skills to Discover Core Issues

When you talk with your teen you can also use your own emotions to help you figure out what your teen is feeling. For example, if you are feeling frustrated, your teen might be feeling lonely, apathetic, needy, closed-off, etc. If you’re feeling threatened, he/she might be feeling scared, aggressive, angry, etc. If you are feeling hurt or hopeless, your teen might be feeling angry, scared, powerless, inadequate, or numb. Both of your emotions provide clues to what the core issue is. And once you identify and understand your teen’s core issues (and your own), you can work toward supporting each other as you both try to make positive changes.

As you uncover core issues and work to transform them into core meaning, be patient. This takes time and practice. Few, if any, of us are able to override our deeply-held negative beliefs about ourselves overnight. However, the hard work will pay off; over time, your core issues will drive your behavior less and less as your core meaning empowers you to make healthy, positive changes.

Discuss Core Issues and Core Meaning With Your Family

  • To help you think about core issues, make a list of your core issues. Include examples of the kinds of decisions you’ve made in the past as a result of those issues. Then, next time you talk with your teen, see if you are able to identify one or two of his/her own core issues and how that is affecting his/her emotions and behavior.
  • With your family, discuss how to identify the real emotional issue behind what is being said.
  • With your family, discuss the differences between core issues and core meaning. How do each of them influence your thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and actions in your lives?
  • Discuss what each family member would like to work on in regards to his/her individual core issues/core meaning.

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