Escape from freedom
For many people, being completely yourself seems very dangerous. After all, when this happened in childhood, they were ridiculed, threatened, scolded or reprimanded. So they separate themselves from many aspects of themselves, including their core values, in hopes of being liked. They wanted to avoid the pain, but doing so only made things worse over the years. Because although they lived according to social expectations, they did get gratification, but it was short-lived and superficial, and the feeling of emptiness became dominant. At first glance, they have everything they need to be happy: a well-paying job, a relationship, talented children, a big house or a good car, and yet inside they are completely burned out, they start to get sick, they suffer from depression. An overwhelming sense of meaninglessness and loss of joy becomes troubling signals: they may have led a life that was considered perfect for those around them, but not for themselves.
Immersed in daily struggles, we are unaware of our own values. In addition, it is not comfortable to think about it, because it encounters maladaptive patterns, and brings fear, guilt and shame. When we come to the conclusion that our values do not align with cultural norms, we fear rejection. Many people also do not have confidence in themselves and do not feel strong enough to determine the direction of their lives. They feel dependent, weak, clumsy, and incompetent. While they feel what their true path might be, they fear that they are expected to have competencies and abilities that they do not have. Fearing ridicule, they give up their desires. Although in daring visions of quitting a prestigious but ruinous job, they are still stuck in it, which is slowly robbing them of all their vitality. Various things can stop them: they will worsen the material existence of their family, they will let their partner down, they will get stuck in guilt, and criticism of the environment will spoil their self-esteem to the core. It is not surprising that changing jobs seems risky in this situation.
Working with values brings out the most painful beliefs out of the darkness of self: I am not good enough, persistent enough, brave enough, I am not worthy, etc. However, when we give values the function of being our guide, we take the power of critical voices into our own hands. our heads. Other people’s voices are also no longer in the lead. We can be inspired by what they say, and heed their advice, but in the end, to live our authentic lives, we must decide for ourselves.
Treasure in pain
Stephen C. Hayes, creator of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), in Mind Liberated, tells a story from his desk. When the client asked about her core values, she was silent for a long time and then began to cry: “This is the most common emotional reaction to communicating our values. I’ve met her hundreds of times in therapy. I suspect that’s why we cry at the sight of a newborn baby.” That’s why we shed tears at weddings and our eyes sparkle when we see gorgeous sunsets, because we feel connected to the aspects of life we hold dear.”
Although we turn our backs on our values out of fear, what we really care about are our true aspirations. We suffer from depriving ourselves of the wealth of experiences we can enjoy. Emotional pain is an important signal because it allows us to see the discrepancy between the way we live and how we would like to live. If we decide to stay with him and listen to him, he can motivate us to make great progress (sometimes even saving our health and our lives).
Within pain there is always treasure – information about our deepest needs and values. So when we notice that something has suddenly moved us strongly, we feel strong agitation, anger or great sadness, we may be touching on what we really care about in life. The value of self-reliance can be hidden in helplessness, in loneliness – caring, in a sense of meaninglessness – deep involvement in one’s life. Hayes suggests that when opening up about your pain, ask yourself, “What do I have to stop caring about so I don’t have this pain?”.
Value is not a goal
Values are not moral codes, moral principles, or virtues. They cannot be codified as universal standards of behavior for every human being. They do not come from outside, but from within the soul, because no one knows what is important to us.
Values in the ACT approach mean the voluntarily chosen way of understanding one’s place in the world. These are the qualities we live by, such as living a life of compassion, kindness, caring, perseverance, and courage. They are not synonymous with needs, because they are about how we want to act, not what we want to achieve. These are patterns of behavior that are not caused by external encouragement or promise of reward, but are self-satisfying. They are also not goals, because they cannot be attained, attained, or attained.
The goals we pursue often do not align with our values, but are merely an attempt to deal with emotional pain. Designed by the defensive parts of the self, they want to provide us with a sense of security. We may discover, for example, that for many years we have unconsciously strengthened our professional standing, because we thought that in this way we would deal with the conviction of our own inadequacy; Or we’re building muscle mass – we want to fight feeling weak that way. We may also have realized that by reading lots of books and getting degrees we wanted to prove our intelligence, enduring the painful conviction of being stupid and uncool. Meanwhile, only values can give a deeper meaning to our goals. If they inspire the activities mentioned above, building a professional position will result, for example, from the value of helping others, and intense training – a healthy body. In turn, educate yourself – from the value someone sees in science and knowledge itself. When we come to terms with our values, we give up pursuing goals of submission or avoidance. We choose activities that correspond as closely as possible to what we value.
Compass in a backpack
Once we know how we want to live, the next step is to persistently take value-based actions and make them new habits. Behavior change that persists over the years is always a challenge. Especially because old behaviors were protections to avoid emotional suffering, and new behaviors can expose us to pain. Therefore, patience and the method of small steps are particularly important. Seemingly trivial, small, and values-based mini-goals will coalesce into larger elements over time, leading to the desired outcome—habit.
Sometimes following the path of values is pleasant and natural, and sometimes, on the contrary, it will cause discomfort. For example, when we decide that learning is a value to us, we continually dedicate time to education. This may mean that instead of going on a trip on a sunny weekend, we will spend many hours at a lecture. Or spending on training will use up the money we could spend on vacation. But if science is a value that we value, engaging in it will be beneficial; In a few years it will bring deep satisfaction resulting from the knowledge and skills you possess.
When we try to put our values into action, don’t expect to be perfect. Let’s imagine that our value is health, so we introduce changes in nutrition. But we give in to temptation and eat cake. If our “inner critic” judges us useless, we can give up. However, as Stephen C. Hayes says, it’s never about failure, it’s about taking responsibility for the course we want to continue on. We can choose two paths: commit-default-resign or commit-default-commit-default-commit, etc.
In Living Without Addiction, Kelly G. Wilson and Troy Dufresne remind us that staying true to your values is like traveling without a final destination. In turn, ACT-related physician and psychotherapist Ross Harris reminds you to hold on to your values… lightly. We should be aware of it, but sticking to it too tightly may limit us like commands that we must obey. It’s nice to think of them like flexible tips, the compass we have in our backpack. If we have to keep the compass in a fist throughout the trip, it can be annoying for us. But knowing we can access it whenever we need it is helpful. Difficulties will inevitably arise when trying to live by values. They can come from the outside world or from the depths of our souls. We will certainly fail many times in this struggle, but it is the commitment to values that gives us the strength to face the adversities of life.
“Infuriatingly humble musicaholic. Problem solver. Reader. Hardcore writer. Alcohol evangelist.”