Revealing the CORE THEME
Up until this point, the body will have shown us various seemingly random events and stories. They may have appeared to be disjointed vignettes.
However, if one returns to the Inner World often enough, one starts to notice that the stories actually connect, or have something in common. Our Inner Stories have recurring symbolic themes.
Our various internal heroes and villains ultimately seem to have the same underlying motivations.
Your Core Themes are your underlying unconscious beliefs or inner statements that seed your life stories. These basic beliefs are in the backdrop of all your life activities.
The Core Themes are the reason you get pleasure from specific experiences and also the reason you dislike other specific things. Your Core Themes are what makes you uniquely and particularly you. They are the genesis of your personal point of view.
The Core Themes are not necessarily negative. Your particular style of power, enjoyment, optimism and problem resolution also come from this place.
However, sometimes, your core beliefs don't work so well for you. They don't contribute to your sense of well-being.
When the Core Themes are not beneficial to you, they are frequently, rooted in a trauma or an inner conflict that started in childhood. They might even be intergenerational. They are often beliefs that have a "no way out" theme. They are dead-ends or catch 22s. They are beliefs in bogeymen or some tragic inevitability. Because they live in the unconscious, we can't quite grasp them leaving us with the experience of guessing what's really bothering us.
The only evidence of these Core Themes lies in your daily life creations. They cause you to re-create certain experiences over and over again. This is usually most obvious in close relationships or at work.
It's the theme you can't seem to get away from no matter how hard you try, because it's just below the surface of your self-awareness. It's what every problem in your life seems to boil down to.
Identity Work sessions,
the Core Theme
Core Theme samples.
To find the core theme of a person's life, we simply need to notice the common thread running through all the varied topics in their sessions. We need to find the pattern, the background message, so to speak.
Below I give some very simplified samples.
Sample Theme #1
A person might see a story involving dead trees in one session. In later sessions, they might see devitalised teeth. Then again, in another, there may be a dying animal, and so forth.
The recurring theme at the core of this person would therefore be this feeling of being devitalised and dying.
In waking life, an event that goes against their will may provoke feelings of profound fatigue.
They might feel as though, no matter what they try, they can never get past their inner fatigue.
Their core theme is vitality vs. devitalisation.
Whether they see trees, or teeth, or animals is not significant in this case. The specific symbols are not important. What is important, is the FEELING that all of these convey.
There is a single common feeling that runs through all the different symbols. On the Inner Journey, we know to pay special attention to any scene in which that feeling arises because it's a core issue.
Sample Theme #2
To give a second example, in one session, a person might see a very small child being chastised. In another session, they might see a frog about to be stepped on. In a third session, they might see a tiny light incapable of shining fully and fading into a dark abyss.
In all of these different scenes, they would recognise the same feeling - a powerlessness, a barely there feeling.
In waking life, this person might feel powerless at their core. They might feel incapable of changing their circumstances.
Their core theme is small powerlessness vs large powerfulness.
We can see in the examples above, that person #1 and person #2 have different core themes in their Inner Worlds. The first one struggles with fatigue, the second, with powerlessness and feeling small.
Now, the value of this core theme work really lies in being able to discern which is the most important problem for a person. Which is the problem upon which all others build?
In other words, a person might have problems of both fatigue and powerlessness in waking life; they commonly do. But only one of those will be symbolically significant in their Inner World. We can answer the chicken and egg dilemma with the Inner Journey. We can know whether someone is tired because they feel powerless or whether they feel powerless because they are tired. The symbols generated within will clarify this and give us a clear direction for the most fruitful and transformative work.
It will also explain why every distressing thing in their lives, ultimately leads them to feel that familiar feeling of fatigue or powerlessness.
Your Distress Signal
The Core Theme is also often closely tied to a main distress signal that the body manifests when something is touching that deepest level of self-conflict.
The distress signal is like a flag the body is waving to get your attention. It's trying to say, "look here, this is important".
In the first example above, that person's distress signal was the sense of fatigue, while their Core Theme was the inevitability of death or devitalization.
The fatigue is the physical reaction, or distress signal, triggered by the pessimistic belief in the Core theme.
The distress signals are usually unique to each person. Some common distress signals are physical sensations of tension, pulling, accumulation, fullness, nausea, stuckness, pain, inflammation, numbness, emptiness, hollowness, paralysis, anxiety, anger, depression, or resignation.
People's bodies generally tend to stick to one or two general type of distress signal at a time. In other words, a person who has a distress signal in the form of tensions and numbness will not also have a distress signal in the form of accumulations and fullness. There's usually a primary or dominant distress signal.
If we don't notice the body's distress signal when it's a mild message, often, it will intensify with time, eventually forcing us to pay attention to it. On the other hand, when we tend to what the body is trying to get us to notice, the distress signal is no longer necessary and finds respite and ease.
Reaching the Core
Working with the Core Theme is very deep work. We're touching bottom. We're at the place that makes you tick, the core of the ego, or the personality. These are your deeply entrenched, unconscious beliefs that trigger your habitual reactions to life's dramas.
It's actually the place that partly creates the world as you experience it. Your core, unconscious beliefs determine how you approach any given experience.
It's what you walk into a room with, before you're even had the chance to experience an event.
Wherever you go, there you are.
How people react to you, and the situations you find yourself in will be determined by your attitude. Your attitude is determined by your core beliefs or Core Themes. Most people are unaware of their core beliefs.
You can tell yourself... "I'm going to be really happy now, and have a positive attitude." But if your unconscious core belief is one of doom and gloom, your mental discipline will not be enough to overcome that. The unconscious core belief will win.
Situations you create.
People will be attracted to you, or repelled by you, or will treat you a certain way, based on your core beliefs.
People are always interacting on an unconscious as well as a conscious level. Others can unconsciously pick up on your core beliefs and will react to them regardless of how you present yourself consciously.
Thus, you will draw certain people and their reactions to you from a nonverbal place. This holds true for positive experiences as much as it does for negative experiences.
Credit: The Wizard of Oz (1939 film)
So what do you do with a core theme?
The most important step is to simply identify it.
Once you identify what your core theme is, you can see how it shows up in your life over and over again, albeit in different iterations.
You have, essentially, pulled back the curtain, and revealed "the Wizard." You can finally see how everything you have been experiencing has been partly emanating from this deep theme.
You are the Author
When you have the realisation that all your life situations have somehow been reflections of your core theme, you no longer feel at the mercy of a random world.
Instead, you realise that, in large part, you have been the author of your experience. And, as the author, you also have the power to flip the script.
You can rewrite the core theme in a way that brings ease to that deepest, central conflict, and that soothing of inner tension will reverberate in all areas of your life.