June 10, 2022
“Who am I? What do I believe in? Which relationships and life pursuits really matter to me?” These are common questions I hear from my clients, and they typically appear when an individual is feeling stuck or has reached a fork in the road and they are unsure how to step forward. The person struggles to know how to proceed because he/she/they seemingly do not have access to the “inner map.” That map, or one’s inner voice, cannot predict the joys, pitfalls, or the outcome of a given path. However, it can provide information on a) how you feel about each choice and b) whether a given option moves you in the direction of being who you want to be and the life you want to live. While the inner map, or voice, comprises several parts, we’ll dive a little deeper into the two aforementioned components, your emotions and values.
People often find themselves struggling with their emotions, particularly those that are uncomfortable or painful to feel. They work hard to distract themselves or to push the emotions away. The strategies used to accomplish this may work in the short term, but in the long term, the emotions return and can be accompanied by new concerns (e.g., addiction, financial crisis, etc.).
Instead of fighting with, or trying to ignore, your emotions, the alternative is to connect with them and tap into the information they provide.
Emotions have messages to tell us; they show us the heart’s desires, needs, hopes, etc. For example, loneliness tells us of our need to be seen and known, and it will move us to pursue social connections. Anger energizes us and points us to our passions; it sends us into action – to stand up for what we believe in and to advocate for change when we witness injustice. If we breeze past these indicators of how we feel, there is an increased likelihood of pain because we choose a path that is not in line with our authentic selves; we stay disconnected and alone or we remain in discomfort and dissatisfied with the status quo.
In my view, emotions are essential ingredients for decision making, and we do not want to miss the information they are trying to share.
Values, like emotions, serve as part of our inner map and guide us in the direction of our life’s goals. Not only are the goals meant to align with our values but also our steps along the way toward reaching the goal. In other words, values will indicate whether our choices and actions are congruent with our living in a manner that is like the individuals we want to be. So, who do we want to be? How do we want to show up in our close relationships? In what ways can we serve our communities and how do we want to be remembered? Values can be situation specific or they can be enduring across the lifespan; either way, they provide an answer to these questions. As a mental health counselor, my values include being accepting, authentic, compassionate, mindful, and supportive. These qualities describe how I relate to my clients and how I hope they will remember me after our work has concluded. Values can be applied to any “hat” we each wear, such as parent, spouse, friend, mentor, volunteer, boss, etc. They highlight whether we are living in line with who we want to be (e.g., parental values may include being loving, caring, trustworthy, and patient) or the need to course correct because we have become remote from our identified values. When you notice the path toward your goal has stalled, I encourage you to be kind and understanding toward yourself; listen to the emotions that have surfaced (like anger or sadness) and use them, along with values, to connect to your inner voice, as they light the way back to your desired path and assist in helping you get unstuck and move forward.
The content of this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for a therapeutic relationship.
If you’re wanting to connect with your inner voice, or if you want a talk therapist who can help you through life’s challenges and transitions, as well as self-worth and acceptance, you can book with Kathleen here.
Kathleen is EMDR and ACT trained.