October 4, 2011

6. Values and Beliefs

“I am a cool guy. Happy go lucky sort..”
“People have never judged me fairly. It is their loss. Who cares?”
“I am two people living in one. My private self, is not known even to my wife. And there is a happy public self- laughing and joking all the time. These two selfs dont get along too well. I am having difficulties now- being one..”
“I am a fighter. I never give up. I had to fight for every thing in life. But it has made me strong..”
“I am alone but never lonely. I dont care for human company. I would rather spend time with a good book..”
What do you think of yourself? What do you guess people think about you? Do you think others have been unfair to you? Have you been a victim all your life? If you could HONESTLY answer these question or write it down, you will be surprised to see the predominantly negative content of your self-image. If you believe this image, why should the world think any differently about you? If the parents think that their son is worthless, why would neighbors think otherwise of the young man? You get the point?
Now, where has this predominantly negative image come from? One main source is the off-hand comments from people around us- family, teachers, friends, colleagues; their chance reactions. Stereotypes in media (stories, movies, plays, folk-tales etc.) also strengthen such negative ideas. Later, we too start passing severe judgments on ourselves- often in the form of critical self talk : I dont deserve it. It is sheer chance. This good luck may not continue for long. Something bad is bound to happen to me. etc.
When a job interview has gone bad and you return home, what kind of thoughts pass through your head? What kind of things you say to yourself? THAT is a good example of obsessive negative self-talk, which only worsens the problem.
Once we develop a particular image of ourselves (stammerer/ unsuccessful/ unsocial/ socially inept/ unlucky/ martyr), we maintain this self-image by selectively interpreting what we 'hear', read, believe, understand, remember, recall, do etc. It becomes part of our long term memory and perpetuates itself. In other words, we may go through hundreds of new experiences, meet hundreds of new people, BUT it only strengthens our pre-conceived image of ourselves. Can any therapy or self-effort succeed in the face of such beliefs? Self image is also known as self-schema, because it is a collection of many strands of thoughts. Here is a definition:
“This high-speed mental "highway" that takes us rapidly through life may appear to be externally generated and perpetuated (i.e., by the fast-paced society in which we live). However, if we were to examine it more closely, we would find that it is constructed primarily of habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that uniquely characterize each of us as individuals. Psychologists refer to the underlying structure of these habitual patterns as 'self-schemas.' (from http://info.med.yale.edu/psych/3s/3S_overview.html)
If we recall Sheehan, his theory of stuttering Iceberg is pointing to these difficulties only. This explains why relapse is so common and why many therapies dont succeed in the first place. Now, what do we do? Here are two, among many, practical approaches to know ourselves more deeply and consciously - and then work on it.
Take a test
There are many on-line tests and self-help resources. Here is one (from http://www.mtstcil.org/skills/image-test.html):
Answer these statements as “ true” or “false” for yourself on a paper.
1. My glass is always half-empty, not half-full.
2. I'm always apologizing for things.
3. I'm always telling myself I "should" be doing this or that.
4. I constantly criticize myself.
5. What other people think about me dictates how I feel about myself.
6. I am critical of my mistakes and relive them over and over.
7. I always let the people who care about me down.
8. I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.
9. A partial failure is as bad as a complete failure.
10. I bend over backwards to please others.
11. I am not sure I have done a good job unless someone else points it out.
12. It's hard for me to forgive and forget.
13. I have to work harder than others for relationships and am afraid that the relationships I have will fail.
14. If I don't do as well as others, it means that I am not as good as them.
15. If I can't do something well, there is no point in doing it at all.
Give yourself 1 point for each question you answered with a "true".
0 - 4: You have a generally positive way of thinking and should feel good about yourself. Keep it up!
5 - 8: You may be struggling with some negative emotions. Take time to review your good qualities.
9 or more: You can be very critical of yourself. Challenge yourself to change your way of thinking!
This same website (link above) gives you many ideas for self help using positive thinking skills. Check it out.
JO-HARI window
Jo-Hari window is a broader tool to understand your self and work on it. Take a big paper and draw the matrix as below, on it. Fill it with your qualities, or whatever you know about yourself- according to the labels of the quadrants. Google JO-HARI window and read more about how to fill the matrix. After filling it, keep it safe for quite some time, review it after some weeks and keep on adding to it and editing it for 2-3 years or more. Think of it as an ongoing PROJECT. If need be, photostat it and stick a copy wherever you spend lot of time.
1. Public Self (what is known by the person about him/herself and is also known by others)
2. Blind Self (what is unknown by the person about him/herself but which others know)
3. Hidden Self (what the person knows about him/herself that others do not know)
4. Unknown Self (what is unknown by the person about him/herself and is also unknown by others)
Obviously, Unknown self quadrant will remain blank- because these are the potential traits, neither you nor the world knows about yourself. To fill Blind self quadrant, you will have to seek feedback from others – family, friends, colleagues, even strangers at times (Pic 2 below). Information under Hidden self will be your personal and private thoughts. Now, the purpose of the exercise is to bring more and more area under the first quadrant (Public self). Sincerely seeking feedback from others and making self disclosure (pic 3 below), gradually and thoughtfully, will enlarge the first quadrant and reduce the second and third quadrant. To reduce the 4th quadrant, you must put yourself in challenging situations and constantly explore yourself (Pic 4 below). May be you did not know that you could do good mimicry, till one day, when you tried it in the office, on being challenged by a colleague. Every “problem” is an opportunity to know something new about yourself. 
Doing this exercise in a group, with a trusted friend or coach can be very helpful. Repeating it again after some months can help you change your self-schema gradually. Over the months or years, your window may undergo transitions somewhat like this.

As you become aware of your self-image, you will find it easier to change it slowly, one small step at a time. In this process, there are two very important ingredients: To change your negative self-image, you must learn to accept and love yourself. Love, not in the sense of self-indulgence, but more as a compassion towards a hurt child. Secondly, reading and thinking about self-image, beliefs, values is fine but the change comes through ACTION alone. If you want to be a social person, you must act like one and accept the invitation and go to your friend's birthday party, even if you find it very challenging or just “waste of time”! You change through hundreds of action, you undertake everyday, not by wishes and thoughts you entertain. 
Best wishes on this life time journey of knowing who you truly are! 


Er. Umesh 8529982551 said...

Very nice and immense knowledge to understand deep inside of ourself! Thanks sachin sir, for showing us new path to live a happy life!

sachin said...

Thnaks Umesh. Discuss these ideas in your SHG.. It will further clarify many things..