Thursday, September 1, 2011

Knowing yourself is about knowing your Core Values

A major part of counselling is to help the person understand themselves better.  By understanding, I really mean "understanding", and that is, to know youself at a deeper level and knowing your core values.

To appreciate this further, I usually use the analogy of an onion as a "model".  We all have "layers" of values just like the layers in an onion.  Some layers are deep and are very hard to change, and we refer to this as  "core values".  Some layers are more superficial and easier to change, and I like to refer to this as "surface values".  Sometimes, these values are in conflict and hence, can lead to a lot of "internal conflict" and stress.  For example, if you have a core value, "Life should be fun" and also, "My family life is very important to me and I need to be responsible", then you can see that at times, this will create some internal conflict particularly when you want to go out and have fun with your friends.  By knowing what your core values are and what is in conflict with what, it will give you a chance to either change it, prioritize it or accept your core values as they are and accept the consequences.  Often, we cannot have our cake and eat it too.

So, where do our Core Values come from?

Core values generally come from your genetic makeup, temperament, what has happened to you in the past, how you have been raised, your friends, your role models, your past "traumas", your past successes and last but not least, media and Hollywood.

Unhelpful Core values are things like:
  • Iam not good enough
  • Things has to be fair
  • People cannot be trusted
  • Life should be fun
  • Things should be done perfectly
  • There is something wrong with me
  • People will leave me in the end
  • Things are either right or wrong
  • If someone do something wrong, they need to be punished
More helpful Core Values are:
  • Iam good enough not because Iam perfect.  In fact, Iam NOT perfect.  Iam good enough because I grow as a person.  I try to learn from my mistake and for me, growth is more important than "absolute" achievement.
  • Out of something bad, there is always something good
  • There is no such thing as "failure".  It is just an outcome that I do not like and if I do not like it, I will do something different to get a different outcome.
  • Life is a journey, not destination
  • If other people can do it, I can do it too
  • Sometimes, it is good to agree to disagree
  • Some people can be trusted, some can be trusted with certain things, and some can't be trusted at all.  (This is as oppose to "No-one can be trusted")
Self understanding can often be the key to happiness, so take some time to know your Core Values.

Dr Vin Tran
MBBS FRACGP Qld Australia