When the brain communicates with itself, nerve impulses use pathways to deliver their messages. When a pathway is used regularly through a repetitive thought or behaviour, white matter develops from the electrical activity similar to muscle building, which strengthens the physical pathway. More white matter allows impulses to travel faster, and the thought or behaviour to become spontaneous. The upside of repetition is, skills are improved and developed. The downside is, impulsive bad habits can develop. Abstinence, or lack of repetition, deteriorates white matter, causing a habit to fade. Mental illness and addiction consist of patterns strengthened over time. By changing the direction of our impulses, we can grow new pathways and encourage harmful ones to fade.
Symptoms such as depression, anxiety, paranoia, etc. can be habits that developed as a result of triggers in our past. Mental habits are fueled by our beliefs and attitudes which were shaped by our experiences. Correcting unhealthy ones requires some digging in order to examine ourselves. A well-developed belief such as, ”I am not good enough,” can make us ill since it affects our entire being: our thoughts, emotions, body, impulses and behaviour. Thus, one part of healing involves identifying and addressing these beliefs.
If we have a habit of going on a drinking binge when someone makes us angry, our brain will automatically use the pathway “anger = drinking.” The longer we practice it, the stronger it becomes. To correct it, we could replace it with “anger = walking.” We have to train ourselves to react to our triggers in healthy ways. At first it will be difficult, but soon a pathway will form, making it feel more natural.
Emotional pain = self-harm
Loneliness = drug abuse
Stress = smoking
Feelings of emptiness = spending sprees
Manic episodes = reckless driving
Emotional pain = write in a diary
Loneliness = join an activity club
Stress = relaxation techniques
Feelings of emptiness = create something
Manic episodes = jog on the beach
The Amygdala-Prefrontal Pathway
The prefrontal cortex, located in the front part of the frontal lobe, behind the forehead, is in charge of decision-making, emotion-processing, problem-solving and controlling thoughts, emotions, impulses and behaviour. The amygdala, a part of the limbic system involving our emotions, is designed to sense danger and related emotions and to notify the prefrontal cortex of these concerns, via the amydala-prefrontal pathway, in order to process and resolve them. During stress exposure the amygdala also activates the stress response by signalling the hypothalamus. Once the prefrontal cortex has dealt with the situation, the amydala calms down, deactivating the stress response. Together, they keep our thoughts, emotions and behaviour under control.
A study revealed that people who suffer from mental conditions typically have less white matter along the amygdala-prefrontal pathway compared to healthy individuals, signifying poor communication between the prefrontal cortex and amygdala. Furthermore, stress and psychological trauma can cause volume loss in the prefrontal cortex, resulting in an underactive state, affecting its ability to function. Scientists suspect that this is due to cell damage, cell death and decreased neurogenesis during stress exposure.1 The amygdala on the other hand becomes overactive when exposed to stress, and if the prefrontal cortex is too weak to calm it down the stress response stays switched on, causing chronic anxiety and other symptoms typically associated with mental illness.
Stress and trauma not only have an impact on our brain during childhood and adulthood, but also during fetal development. Studies have shown that prenatal stress can have long-term neurobiological and behavioural effects on an unborn baby as early as seventeen weeks after conception, putting the infant at risk of developing mental health problems later in life. So, besides the possibility of inheriting mental health problems through epigenetics, or having a neurotransmitter imbalance as a result of mental, physical or spiritual factors, another possibility is that we may have experienced stress or trauma in our lives that weakened our prefrontal cortex and over-stimulated our amygdala, creating a loop of stress response activation. Fortunately the brain is neuroplastic and the problem can be reversed by strengthening the prefrontal cortex, calming the amygdala and encouraging their communication.
Strengthening the Prefrontal Cortex
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) can be strengthened from three angles:
Cognitive behavioural therapy increases self-awareness, promotes self-control, reduces stress, creates a healthier outlook on life, promotes positive feelings, encourages self-development, increases self-esteem, improves self-image and relationships and strengthens the amygdala-prefrontal pathway by encouraging communication between the prefrontal cortex and amygdala.
Calming the Amygdala
The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic (stressed) and parasympathetic (relaxed) nervous systems. To calm the amygdala we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system by using strategies for emotional triggers, correcting faulty beliefs, processing emotions, converting negative thoughts to positive thoughts, solving problems, making decisions, taking time for enjoyable activities, relaxing, being creative, living healthfully, exercising, spending time in nature, and creating positive goals.
One day I was busy working, and for some reason everything was going wrong that day, which was unusual for me because my work usually went smoothly. My stress levels were escalating because I knew I only had a limited amount of time left to complete my work, and while in a flat spin other things also happened, adding to my frustration. By that time I was in a very bad head space and acting snappy towards others. Later that day I felt bad for being irritable, so I apologized, and analyzed what happened.
After some thought I realized, it wasn’t the fact that my work was going wrong, nor the other incidences that put me in that state, but rather because I was subconsciously worrying about the following day. I had to go to the embassy, a five hour drive away, to deal with passport issues and I had an unresolved fear that the day would turn out bad. This was the reason why my work went wrong. My mind wasn’t relaxed and focused. What I should have done, earlier that day, was to stop and analyze why I was feeling so agitated, then I would have been able to calm my mind about the embassy, and been in a better state of mind to do my work.
Underlying issues can also surface this way when traumatic or painful memories are triggered by current events, intensifying our emotional reaction. The outer perspective is we are overreacting. Our inner reality is we are dealing with two, or more, emotional triggers at once, however, we are not always aware of it leading to behaviours and moods that are difficult to understand and manage. The more unresolved issues pile up, the worse our emotional state becomes. Self-awareness is the “conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings”. Being able to access and understand our inner self promotes self-management and healing.
Resolving the Roots of our Problems
For every symptom there is a cause, and healing occurs at the roots. For example, if we were bullied at school it may have caused a deep rooted belief that we were the problem, but If we go to the root of our bullying, we may learn that we were never the problem. Bullies bully not because of the victim, but rather because of their own problems. Some of the reasons why people bully include:
They want to fit in or be cool.
It makes them feel powerful.
They need to protect themselves by joining other bullies.
They are bullied at home.
They are following a role model from television or elsewhere.
They are influenced or cheered on by others to bully.
They weren’t taught how to treat others.
They choose to be mean.
They are jealous of you, and bullying you makes them feel better.
They have a spiritual battle within themselves.
They are angry at the world and harbour bitterness.
They are hurting inside and are taking it out on you.
Finding the root of a problem can make a world of a difference even if the problem is not solvable because understanding a problem in itself provides a sense of relief. One of the most painful symptoms I struggled with, when I was ill, was the sense of being empty, disconnected and unloved. Cravings for more satisfying love kept building up in cycles and always ended with a crash, because the love that the world offered felt like a tiny drop in the ocean. I believed it was my illness that created this problem, since it was typical of the condition I had, until I finally realized the problem wasn’t me. The world is desensitized. Love is truly lacking.
In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman discusses the expression of love through different love languages. Sometimes when couples or families lack love in their relationships it’s because people don’t always speak the same love language. One person may appreciate it very much when they receive love through words, while another may prefer physical affection, gifts, quality time or acts of service. If there are five ways of expressing love, however, why only use one? I believe that if all five were used, we wouldn’t have gaps in our relationships. There are reasons why these avenues have become blocked and I believe this is the cause of many people’s pain. Love is food for the soul and if aspects of our soul are not being fed it results in emotional hunger, pain, emptiness and disconnection. A world that has become focused on outer things such as entertainment, status and materialism, as apposed to being interested and in touch with each other’s hearts and minds, doesn’t help either. This should pull our heart strings, not lifeless stimulation. If we could change our focus and spend more time admiring and appreciating those we love, and learning what makes them happy, we could create true inner fulfillment and cure our emptiness by solving the problem, rather than indulging in entertainment and other addictive habits in an attempt to distract us from it, making both the void and addiction grow bigger.
Drawing on our empathy helps us to understand people’s behaviour so that we can release the pain and unhappiness their actions, or lack thereof, have caused. Each person has a past that shaped them into who they are. Behaviour cannot be fully understood without taking into consideration the person’s background, underlying beliefs, thoughts, feelings and attitudes. How was the person treated as a child? How did their childhood affect their self-esteem, self-image, choices, habits, lifestyle and understanding of love? If the person experienced physical abuse, they may not be open to physical affection. If they were constantly criticized when they expressed their thoughts, they might struggle to express love through words. Some need to relearn these languages from scratch.
Resolving the roots of our problems involves examining all the facts in order to understand how they developed and affected us, opening the way for change. Realizing that I wasn’t bullied because I lacked lovability, but because they lacked love, enabled me to have positive thoughts as apposed to constantly feeling worthless. Secondly, understanding that I wasn’t empty and sad because I was ill or abnormal, but because the people who I had relationships with were not able to love me completely due to blockages on their part, enabled me to recover and find strategies to deal with my unmet need for depth, connection, and holistic love.
Correcting Faulty Beliefs
Many of us carry lies and unresolved pain, influencing our self-worth and happiness. To free ourselves, we need to identify and correct our faulty beliefs and store the memories of the events that created them in a new mental file, where they no longer hurt us. Think of the first painful memory that you can remember as a child. Note your age, location and circumstance and ask yourself:
What happened here?
In an ideal world what would have happened here?
What faulty beliefs did the incident create in me?
If I could visit the scene now, what would I tell my child/younger-self to correct the faulty beliefs it caused?
What new belief will I store in my mind to replace the faulty one?
Repeat this exercise with all your other painful memories from your youngest age to where you are now, and take breaks in between to allow yourself to truly take in and experience feeling better about what happened. If done properly, this exercise helps to integrate your past and present, and to dissolve the feeling of being shattered and broken, so you can feel whole again. If an incident did not create a faulty belief, then address your thoughts and emotions at the time by finding a healthier outlook on what happened. Does your child/younger-self need to accept something, forgive, have empathy, find encouragement, be loved, understood or heard? Although we cannot go back and fix the damage, we can support ourselves now, by giving ourselves what we needed at the time.
AGE 12, PRIMARY SCHOOL, I WALKED INTO THE CLASSROOM AFTER BREAK TIME:
WHAT HAPPENED HERE ~ A boy saw me walking into the classroom from where he was seated and said, “Ahhh, look who just walked in!” Then all the boys stuck their fingers down their throats and pretended to throw up, disgusted by me.
IN AN IDEAL WORLD ~ They would have smiled when they saw me walking through the door.
THE FAULTY BELIEF IT CREATED ~ I am disgusting.
I WOULD TELL MY CHILD SELF ~ “You are not disgusting. The problem lies with them. Anyone who is mean has a personal issue, leading to such behaviours. In fact, do you remember in your previous hometown when you overheard that boy saying to your best friend, “She is as pretty as the sun”? He was talking about you. He didn’t think you were disgusting.
MY NEW BELIEF ~ I am not disgusting. In fact, some people think I’m pretty. Anyone who insinuates that I am disgusting has a problem within themselves. Lack of kindness is a deficiency on their part, not mine. Besides, beauty is in the book, not the cover.
Triggers are external circumstances such as bullying, abuse, trauma, insults, criticism, rudeness, lack of love or empathy, loneliness, bad memories, control, arguments, changes, losing a job, failing an exam, unmet needs, etc., that create uncomfortable emotional reactions. Some people are able to manage these triggers in a healthy way, while others revert to self-destructive thoughts (e.g. depression, anxiety, loss of hope, self-hatred, negativity, etc.) or behaviours (e.g. alcohol or drug abuse, fits of rage, reckless driving, binge eating, self-harm, impulsiveness, violence, etc). To encourage healthier responses, we must analyze what the triggers are doing to us mentally and emotionally, so that we can process and resolve them. It helps to use a calming strategy to gain control over the emotions first (step 1), and then to resolve the trigger in a better state of mind with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) (step 2). Over time step 1 will not be necessary as the mind will be well trained and able to automatically resolve triggers with CBT.
Trigger Strategies (Step 1)
Some triggers require immediate attention, such as solving a problem under pressure at work, while others give us time to reflect and deal with our emotions first. The following strategies are for the last-mentioned. To create variety, the strategies are divided into four categories, allowing options for when we are triggered, depending on how we feel at the time:
A spiritual strategy connects us to a Source of strength outside ourselves when we feel vulnerable and unable to cope, allowing us to recharge within and restore our endurance, hope, love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, empathy and self-control.
Distraction is not a solution, but a temporary mental state that we resort to when we need a break from something in order to collect our thoughts, so that we can calmly come back to the trigger and resolve it with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). We must never bury, ignore or deny our feelings. They must be acknowledged and resolved. Sweeping emotions under the carpet can make us ill.
While distraction blocks our emotions out for a while, an outlet allows us to focus on them through an activity in order to release them, such as exercise to release anger, talking to a friend, or writing a song, poem, letter or journal to release sadness.
Focusing on our senses in a tranquil place (what we hear, see, smell, taste or feel), brings us out of the mess in our head into the present moment, where we can calmly gather our thoughts and unwind from stress, for better emotion-processing and clarity.
Resolving Emotions with CBT (Step 2)
Resolving our emotions involves looking at a matter in a different light so that we won’t be affected by it anymore (e.g. correcting faulty beliefs, finding a positive in the negative, finding comfort or hope for a better outcome in the future, acceptance, empathy, forgiveness, understanding, etc.). Other times it involves taking action (e.g. apologizing to release guilt). Cognitive behavioural therapy helps us to analyze our triggers, and how they are affecting us, so that we can change the way we respond to them:
What was the trigger?
How did it affect my beliefs? (about myself, others, God or the world)
How did it affect my thoughts?
How did it affect my feelings?
How did it affect my physical body?
How did it affect my impulses? (urges / desires)
How did it affect my behaviour?
How can I look at the trigger differently so that it won’t affect me negatively?
Do I need to take action to resolve this issue? If so, what do I plan to do?
When we have the power to change something that makes us unhappy all we need is an action plan. In some cases nothing can be done to improve or solve a situation and fighting against it creates unnecessary pain. In this case acceptance is the plan.
“I accept that I made a fool of myself during a psychotic episode when I believed things that weren’t true. In future I will only share my thoughts with people who I know won’t judge or reject me, but rather help me if there is a problem.”
“I accept that my previous relationships didn’t work out. Next time I will first investigate if my lifestyle, interests and expectations match a person’s before making a commitment.”
“I accept that some people hate me even though I apologized for my behaviour. I don’t expect them to understand.”
“I accept that some people believe lies about me. I know the truth.”
“I accept that I made mistakes in the past. I forgive myself. In future I will think before I act.”
“I accept that I can’t do something about a particular problem right now. I will wait until the opportunity arises, and work on an action plan to speed up the process.”
When we experience symptoms, such as anxiety, a shift in focus can help. For example, if we have a fear of sitting around a dinner table with people we don’t know, due to social anxiety, our focus is naturally on ourselves: “What if someone asks me something I can’t answer?” “What if I say something stupid and make a fool of myself?” Changing our focus onto the other people may help to relieve the anxiety: “I wonder what Joe does for a living.” “I wonder what Mary’s hobbies are.” First we must deal with our anxieties, though, before changing our focus: “It’s okay if can’t answer something. No one knows everything.” “If I think carefully before I speak, I won’t say something stupid, and if I do, I’ll ask them a question to take the attention off myself, or I’ll laugh and make a joke of it.”
If we have to give a presentation to an audience, we may not want to focus on ourselves, nor the audience, but rather on the task at hand. Concentrating on the message shifts our focus from people to facts. This can also be applied to the dinner table scenario, by focusing on the topics themselves, rather than how they are discussed. By asking ourselves, “What do I want to achieve here,” we can gain a healthy focus. Do I want to show interest, love, inform someone, share something, help, entertain, impress, or be myself, etc.?
Filtering / Tunnel vision ~ When we pick out one aspect and form an opinion based on that, while blocking other details out.
Black and white thinking ~ People and situations are either one way or another, and the grey areas are not seen. Also known as splitting ~ Alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation of others or ourselves.
Overgeneralisation ~ We see a once-off occurrence as an invariable rule. “If that person rejected me, all people will.”
Jumping to conclusions ~ We decide without evidence what people think of us, or what the outcome of a situation will be.
Catastrophizing ~ We expect something bad to happen, or something looks worse than it is.
Personalization ~ We feel we are the cause of negative external events, even if we are not.
Control distortions ~ We feel helpless and controlled by others, or we feel the need to control our surroundings.
Fairness distortions ~ We create unhappiness for ourselves because we expect fairness when life is not always fair.
Blaming distortions ~ We continue to allow those who hurt us in the past to damage us through our thoughts.
Emotional reasoning ~ We believe what we feel is true.
Expecting others to change ~ We expect other people to change for us.
Expecting rewards ~ We feel bitter if we don’t get the rewards we think we deserve.
Labelling ~ We ignore all contrary evidence to label ourselves or others. “I failed my exam. I am a loser.”
The need to always be right ~ We always try to prove that our opinions and actions are correct and refuse to lose an argument.
BLACK AND WHITE THINKING (SPLITTING)
Borderline Personality Disorder exhibits black and white thinking, also known as splitting. Splitting is the difficulty to bring together both positive and negative qualities of situations, ourselves or others into a cohesive, realistic whole causing us to view them in extremes. This leads to instability in everyday life (I hate my job / I love my job), self-esteem (I am good / I am useless) and our relationships (I never want to see you again / I need you right now). The mind can be trained to see that opposites can be integrated to form a closer view of the truth, a middle ground view, rather than constantly switching from one view to the other.
It’s not so easy when clients are difficult, but I do like those days when clients are friendly.
“I am good with creativity, but not so good with technical things.”
“I need to be alone for the next 24 hours, and then we can talk again.”
“I am okay to manage my life on my own, but I also need help sometimes.”
“I like myself the way I am, but I also have room for improvement.”
“Some people don’t like me, and some people do.”
“Some people can be trusted, while others can’t.”
“I don’t like this, but I can accept it.”
“My feelings are important, and so are the feelings of others.”
“My partner is a good person with personal struggles, just like me. I value his strong points and accept his weak points, just as I would like him to value my strong points and accept my weak points, which I am working on.”
Restoring the Reward Circuit
The brain becomes lazy from easy rewards, and stops using its built-in tools to gain inner satisfaction. An addicted brain must relearn how to trigger natural chemical releases through the high of true achievement. Attention, interest, desire and action is a loop of inner rewards. Changing our attention, changes our interest. Changing our interest changes our desire which ultimately changes our action. Immediate rewards (e.g. substances, media, gambling, lust, etc.) are short-lived. Self-generated rewards (e.g. creating, designing, accomplishing, etc.) are long-lasting with the added benefits of improved self-esteem, inner growth and development. Addiction is often a form of self-medication to relieve emotional pain. The underlying issues need to be addressed with cognitive behavioural therapy, and the development of new pathways should be encouraged by using strategies to overcome the harmful habits.
Core Values vs Anti-Values
Choose five core values from the list below that you want to develop at this point in your life. Write them on a piece of paper and mark them from one to five, in order of importance. Print the “Core Values vs Ant-Values” table from the Strategies page, and write your values in order of importance in the first column. Look at your first value and ask yourself, “What may be hindering me from experiencing and achieving this?” Write you answer in the “Anti-values” column. Below is a list of anti-values, next to core values, to give you examples. Next, ask yourself, “What action needs to be taken in order to more fully experience this core value in a healthy way”? Write your answers in the “Action” column. Finally, go to the last column and write down when you will implement your decision. In a month’s time, after working on your action plans, refresh your list of five core values and repeat the process.
Acceptance ~ Peace over life events.
Accessibility ~ Being easily reached or approachable.
Accomplishment ~ Successful achievements.
Accountability ~ Being a responsible person.
Accuracy ~ The quality of being correct or precise.
Achievement ~ Being successful.
Activity ~ Things are happening and being done.
Adaptability ~ Being able to adjust to new conditions.
Adventure ~ Unusual, exciting or daring experiences.
Adventurous ~ Being open to adventure.
Affection ~ Expression of the emotional realm of love.
Agility ~ Ability to move, think and understand quickly.
Alertness ~ The state of being watchful and vigilant.
Altruism ~ Having a selfless concern for the well-being of others.
Ambition ~ A strong desire to do or achieve something.
Amusement ~ The provision or enjoyment of entertainment.
Appreciation ~ Recognizing and enjoying good qualities of someone or something.
Approachability ~ Easy to be met, known and talked to.
Assertiveness ~ Being bold and confident (e.g. able to say no).
Attention to Detail ~ The ability to achieve thoroughness and accuracy.
Attentiveness ~ Being observant and paying close attention to things.
Authenticity ~ The quality of being genuine.
Authority ~ Being in a position to give orders, make decisions and enforce obedience.
Autonomy ~ The ability to make your own decisions without being controlled by anyone else.
Availability ~ The state of being unoccupied, or having freedom to do something.
Awareness ~ Perception of situations, facts and surroundings.
Balance ~ Different life elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
Balance of work and life ~ Time spent on both work and life.
Beauty ~ Pleasing to the sense of sight.
Belonging ~ An affinity for a place or situation.
Best ~ Excellence, achievement or quality.
Boldness ~ Willing to take risks or having confidence and courage.
Bravery ~ Courageous behaviour or character.
Brilliance ~ Exceptional intelligence or talent.
Calmness ~ The state of being free from agitation.
Candor ~ The quality of being open, honest or frank.
Capability ~ Ability to do things.
Carefulness ~ The quality of being cautious and attentive.
Caring ~ Displaying kindness and concern for others.
Certainty ~ Having firm convictions.
Challenge ~ Being in a position to prove, justify or achieve things.
Change ~ A process through which something becomes different.
Character ~ Mental and moral qualities distinctive to a person.
Charity ~ The quality of offering voluntary help to those in need.
Cheerful ~ The quality of being happy and optimistic.
Cleanliness ~ The quality of being kept clean.
Clearness ~ Being able to clearly perceive, understand or interpret.
Clear-Minded ~ The quality of being sensible in difficult situations.
Clever ~ Great with understanding and learning, or formulating / applying ideas.
Collaboration ~ The quality of working with someone to produce something.
Comfort ~ The alleviation of a person’s grief or distress.
Commitment ~ The quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity or person.
Common Sense ~ Sound judgement in practical matters.
Communication ~ Being able to exchange information with others.
Community ~ The condition of sharing or having certain attitudes, beliefs and interests in common.
Compassion ~ Sympathetic concern for the pain of others.
Competency ~ The ability to accomplish something successfully and efficiently.
Competition ~ Defeating or establishing superiority over others.
Completeness ~ Having all the necessary or appropriate parts needed for wholeness.
Composure ~ Being calm and in control of oneself.
Comprehensive ~ Being able to deal with all elements or aspects of something.
Concentration ~ Being able to focus with all your attention.
Confidence ~ The belief that one can have faith in someone or something, including ourselves.
Confidentiality ~ Being able to be entrusted with private or restricted information.
Conformity ~ Compliance with standards, rules or laws.
Connection ~ Being linked or associated with someone else.
Consciousness ~ Being aware of and responding to one’s surroundings.
Consistency ~ Stable behaviour or treatment.
Contentment ~ Being in a state of happiness and satisfaction.
Continuity ~ The consistent existence or operation of something.
Contribution ~ A part played in bringing about a result or causing something to happen.
Control ~ The power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or events.
Conviction ~ Firmly held beliefs.
Cooperation ~ The process of working together to achieve the same end.
Coordination ~ The organization of different elements to enable them to work together effectively.
Cordiality ~ Sincere affection, friendliness and kindness.
Correctness ~ The quality of being accurate and free from error.
Courage ~ The ability to do something that frightens one.
Courtesy ~ Politeness in attitude and behaviour towards others.
Craftsmanship ~ The quality of design and artistry made by hand.
Creation ~ The process of bringing something into existence.
Creativity ~ The use of imagination to create something.
Credibility ~ The quality of being able to be trusted and believed in.
Curiosity ~ A strong desire to know or learn something.
Daring ~ Being adventurous or bold.
Decency ~ Conforming to accepted standards of morality or respectability.
Decisiveness ~ Having the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively.
Dedication ~ The quality of being committed to a task or purpose.
Delight ~ Happiness and pleasure.
Dependability ~ Being trustworthy and reliable.
Depth ~ The quality of being intense or extreme.
Determination ~ Having firmness of purpose.
Development ~ Reaching new stages in a changing situation.
Devotion ~ Love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for something or someone.
Devout ~ Having deep religious feeling or commitment.
Different ~ Being distinct, separate and unique.
Differentiation ~ The process of becoming different through growth or development.
Dignity ~ The quality of being worthy of honour and respect.
Diligence ~ Giving careful and persistent work or effort.
Directness ~ The quality of being plain and straightforward.
Discovery ~ Finding new things.
Discretion ~ Avoiding causing offence, or the freedom to decide what to do in a particular situation.
Diversity ~ The condition of having variety.
Dominance ~ Supreme power and influence over others.
Down-to-Earth ~ Having no illusions or pretensions.
Dreaming ~ Imagining other outcomes for one’s life.
Drive ~ Determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need.
Duty ~ Being committed to responsibilities.
Eagerness ~ Having enthusiasm for something.
Education ~ Learning for a purpose.
Effectiveness ~ Successful in producing a desired result.
Efficiency ~ Being productive.
Elegance ~ The quality of being graceful in appearance and manner.
Empathy ~ The ability to understand the feelings of others.
Empowering ~ Giving / receiving power to do something.
Encouragement ~ Giving / receving support, confidence, or hope.
Endurance ~ The ability to endure a difficult process or situation.
Energy ~ The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.
Engagement ~ Being involved with and occupied by something.
Enjoyment ~ Experiencing pleasure in life.
Entertainment ~ Providing or being provided with amusement.
Enthusiasm ~ Intense enjoyment, interest or approval.
Entrepreneurship ~ Setting up a business or taking financial risks to generate profit.
Environment ~ Caring for the natural world.
Equality ~ The state of people being equal in various aspects of life.
Equitable ~ Being fair and impartial.
Ethical ~ Being moral.
Exceed Expectations ~ Being better than expected.
Excellence ~ The quality of being outstanding and extremely good.
Excitement ~ Experiencing feelings of enthusiasm and eagerness.
Exhilarating ~ Experiences making one feel very happy.
Exuberance ~ The quality of being full of energy and excitement.
Experience ~ Occurrences that make an impression on us, or practical contact with something.
Expertise ~ Having expert skill or knowledge in a particular field.
Exploration ~ Studying and getting to know an unfamiliar area or subject.
Expressive ~ Conveying thought or feeling.
Extrovert ~ Being outgoing, and socially confident.
Fairness ~ Just treatment of others without favouritism or discrimination.
Faith ~ Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on personal conviction.
Faithfulness ~ The quality of being loyal.
Family ~ Making family a priority.
Family Atmosphere ~ Creating connection and harmony with family.
Famous ~ Being recognized for who you are and what you have achieved.
Fearless ~ Showing and having no fear.
Fidelity ~ Demonstrating continuous loyalty and support.
Firm ~ Being solid and determined.
Fitness ~ Being healthy through exercise.
Flair ~ An instinctive ability for doing something well.
Flexibility ~ Willingness to change and compromise.
Fluency ~ The ability to express oneself easily.
Focus ~ Being able to pay particular attention to things.
Focus on Future ~ Being able to plan ahead.
Fortitude ~ Courage in pain or adversity.
Freedom ~ The state of not being bound by something.
Fresh Ideas ~ Being original with ideas.
Friendly ~ Being kind and courteous towards others.
Friendship ~ Creating lasting connections with others.
Frugality ~ Being economical with money or food.
Fun ~ Being amusing and entertaining, or experiencing it.
Generosity ~ Being kind and giving.
Genius ~ Having exceptional intelligence.
Giving ~ Providing love and emotional or financial support.
Goodness ~ Being morally good or virtuous.
Gratitude ~ Being thankful and ready to show appreciation.
Great ~ Being important and distinguished.
Growth ~ Personal growth and development.
Guidance ~ Counsel and direction for one’s life.
Happiness ~ Fulfilment and joy in one’s life.
Hard Work ~ Effort or endurance to achieve.
Harmony ~ People are peaceful and agree with each other.
Health ~ A state of being free from illness and injury.
Heart ~ Following one’s heart with the guidance of the mind.
Helpful ~ Being giving or ready to help.
Heroism ~ Bravery and courage to help others.
Holiness ~ Being pure and sinless.
Honesty ~ Being devoted to truth.
Honour ~ Having high respect or doing what is morally right.
Hopeful ~ Not giving in to negative thoughts, but being positive about the future.
Hospitality ~ The friendly and generous reception of guests, visitors and strangers.
Humble ~ Having a modest estimate of one’s importance.
Humility ~ Having a modest view of one’s importance.
Humour ~ Being funny and amusing.
Hygiene ~ Maintaining health and preventing disease through cleanliness.
Imagination ~ Forming mental ideas or images not present to the senses.
Impact ~ Having a marked effect or influence.
Impartial ~ Treating all rivals or disputants equally.
Improvement ~ Develop mental capacity and skills by education or experience.
Independence ~ Self-sufficiency, self-reliance, self-support without the help of others.
Individuality ~ Different from others, and unique.
Influence ~ The ability to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone.
Inner harmony ~ Harmony between one’s head and heart.
Innovation ~ To make changes by introducing new methods or ideas, and being original.
Inquisitive ~ Having an interest in learning or knowing things.
Insight ~ Being able to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something.
Inspiration ~ Being mentally stimulated to do or believe something.
Integrity ~ Being honest with good moral principles.
Intelligence ~ Having and applying knowledge and skills.
Intensity ~ Having full strength of emotions and aspirations.
Intuition ~ Understanding something instinctively without conscious reasoning.
Invention ~ Having creative ability.
Investment ~ Putting money towards something to make a profit.
Inviting ~ Being someone who others want to be with.
Joy ~ Experiencing happiness.
Justice ~ Being a person who stands for fairness.
Kindness ~ Being caring towards others.
Knowledge ~ Awareness or familiarity gained by experience or learning.
Leadership ~ A person with management skills and characteristics.
Learning ~ Acquiring knowledge or skills through study, experience or being taught.
Level-Headed ~ Calm and sensible.
Liberty ~ Being free within society from oppressive restrictions.
Listening ~ Taking notice of, and respond to what someone says
Lively ~ Being full of life, active and outgoing.
Logic ~ Reasoning according to principles of validity.
Longevity ~ Long existence, life or service.
Love ~ An intense feeling of deep affection.
Loyalty ~ Faithfulness.
Mastery ~ Comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or activity.
Maturity ~ An advanced or developed state.
Maximizing ~ Making the best use of something.
Meaning ~ Something or someone serious, important, or worthwhile.
Meaningful work ~ A purposeful career or projects.
Meekness ~ Being quiet, gentle and submissive.
Mellow ~ Easy-going, mature and experienced.
Merit ~ Being particularly good or worthy.
Meticulous ~ Showing great attention to detail.
Mindful ~ Conscious, aware and in the present moment.
Moderation ~ Avoidance of excess or extremes.
Modesty ~ Lack of vanity and pretention.
Motivation ~ Being inspired to act.
Mysterious ~ Having an atmosphere of strangeness or secrecy.
Neatness ~ Being tidy.
Obedience ~ Compliance with an order or rules.
Openness ~ Friendliness, approachability, honesty.
Open-Minded ~ Willing to consider new ideas.
Optimism ~ Confidence about the future or the success of something.
Order ~ Arrangement of something or someone according to a sequence, pattern, or method.
Originality ~ Being unusual and thinking independently and creatively.
Partnership ~ Collaboration with someone.
Passion ~ Strong and barely controllable emotions, or following a dream.
Patience ~ To face delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed.
Patriotism ~ Devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.
Peace ~ Tranquillity and freedom from disturbance.
People ~ Living for others.
Perceptive ~ Having or showing sensitive insight.
Perfection ~ Being faultless.
Performance ~ Performing a task or function.
Perseverance ~ Persistence despite difficulty to achieve success.
Persistence ~ Not giving up.
Personal Development ~ Growing through experience and learning.
Persuasive ~ The ability to convince others.
Philanthropy ~ The desire to promote the welfare of others.
Playfulness ~ Being light-hearted and full of fun.
Pleasantness ~ Pleasing, agreeable, or enjoyable experiences.
Pleasure ~ Enjoyment in life.
Poise ~ Balance in life.
Popularity ~ Being known and standing out.
Positive ~ Being constructive, optimistic or confident.
Potency ~ Having strength and power.
Potential ~ Having the capacity to develop into something in the future.
Power ~ Strength, influence or authority.
Practical ~ Doing constructive things rather than studying or working with theory.
Pragmatic ~ Being realistic and practical rather than theoretical.
Precision ~ Exactness and accuracy of expression or detail.
Prepared ~ Always ready to deal with something.
Preservation ~ Being caring and protective over things.
Pride ~ Satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements.
Privacy ~ Having your own personal space.
Proactive ~ Creating or controlling a situation rather than responding to it.
Productivity ~ Producing goods and being fruitful.
Professionalism ~ Good behaviour relating to a profession.
Profitability ~ Yielding profit or financial gain.
Progress ~ Onward movement towards a destination.
Prosperity ~ Having wealth and success.
Prudence ~ Having wisdom and good judgement.
Punctuality ~ Being on time for arrangements and appointments.
Purity ~ Freedom from immorality.
Pursuit ~ Going for something we want.
Quality ~ A good degree of excellence.
Rational ~ Being sensible and logical.
Realness ~ Being genuine, not fake.
Realistic ~ Being sensible and practical.
Reason ~ Being able to think, understand, and form judgements logically.
Recognition ~ Receiving acknowledgement of existence and validity.
Recreation ~ Taking part in activities for enjoyment, when not working.
Refined ~ Being elegant and cultured in appearance and manner.
Reflection ~ Serious thought or consideration about oneself and life.
Relationships ~ Being connected to others.
Relaxation ~ Being free from tension and anxiety.
Reliability ~ Being trustworthy or doing good work.
Religion ~ Believing in, and worshipping, God.
Reputation ~ Being seen in a good light by others.
Resilience ~ Being tough and being able to recover quickly from difficulties.
Resolute ~ Admirably purposeful, determined and unwavering.
Resolution ~ A firm decision to do (or not to do) something.
Resolve ~ To settle or find a solution to a problem.
Resourcefulness ~ Having the ability to quickly find clever ways to overcome difficulties.
Respect ~ A feeling of deep admiration for someone due to their abilities, qualities or achievements.
Responsibility ~ Having a duty or of having control over someone.
Responsiveness ~ The quality of reacting quickly and positively.
Rest ~ Relax to recover strength.
Restraint ~ Self-control.
Results ~ Rewards for effort.
Reverence ~ Deep respect.
Risk Taking ~ A situation involving exposure to danger.
Sacrifice ~ Give up something valued for the sake of others.
Safety ~ Being protected from harm or pain.
Sanitary ~ Hygienic and clean.
Satisfaction ~ Fulfilment of one’s wishes, expectations, or needs.
Security ~ Being free from danger or threat.
Self-awareness ~ Conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings.
Self-expression ~ The expression of one’s feelings, thoughts or ideas, (writing, art, music, etc.).
Self-Control ~ The ability to control one’s emotions and desires.
Self-Motivation ~ The ability to do what needs to be done, without influence from other people or situations.
Self-Respect ~ Pride and confidence in oneself and behaving with honour and dignity.
Self-Responsibility ~ Being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s control.
Self-Discipline ~ The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses.
Selfless ~ Caring more about others than yourself.
Self-Reliance ~ Reliance on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others.
Sensitivity ~ Quick to detect or respond to even slight changes, signals, or influences.
Serenity ~ Being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.
Serious ~ Earnest and sincere.
Service ~ Doing things to help others.
Sharing ~ Give a portion of what you have to others.
Shrewd ~ Clever and alert.
Significance ~ Being important and worthy of attention.
Simplicity ~ The quality or condition of being plain or uncomplicated.
Sincerity ~ the absence of pretence, deceit, or hypocrisy.
Skillfulness ~ Being trained or experienced to do something well.
Solitude ~ Time alone.
Speed ~ Fast pace.
Spirit ~ The non-physical dimension of a person: emotions and character.
Spirituality ~ Being concerned with the human spirit or soul.
Spontaneous ~ Being open, natural, and uninhibited.
Stability ~ Fixed and steady person and circumstances.
Standardization ~ Making something conform to a standard.
Status ~ Social or professional position.
Stewardship ~ Supervising or taking care of something.
Strength ~ Firmness, toughness and soundness.
Structure ~ Construct or arrange according to a plan.
Succeed ~ Achieve the desired aim or result.
Support ~ Help and assistance.
Sustainability ~ The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.
Sympathy ~ Feelings of sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
Synergy ~ The interaction of two agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
Systemization ~ To arrange in or according to a system.
Talent ~ Natural aptitude or skill.
Teamwork ~ The combined action of a group, to obtain efficiency.
Temperance ~ Moderation or self-restraint.
Thankfulness ~ Expressing gratitude and relief.
Thorough ~ Regard to every detail, as opposed to superficial or partial.
Thoughtful ~ Showing consideration for the needs of others.
Timeliness ~ Completing a required task before a designated time.
Tolerance ~ The willingness to tolerate the opinions or behaviours of others in disagreement with us.
Toughness ~ Strong, thick-skinned.
Traditional ~ Habitually done, according to others.
Training ~ Undertaking a course of exercise and diet plan to achieve a goal.
Tranquillity ~ Calmness, free from stress.
Transparency ~ Easy to perceive or detect.
Trustworthy ~ Belief in the reliability of someone.
Truth ~ That which is true or according to fact or reality.
Understanding ~ Sympathetic awareness and comprehension.
Unflappable ~ Having calmness in a crisis.
Uniqueness ~ Being unlike anyone else.
Unity ~ The state of being united as a whole.
Useful ~ Competent in a particular area.
Utility ~ Being a benefit.
Valor ~ Courage in the face of danger.
Value ~ Worthy and useful.
Variety ~ Being different or diverse: the opposite of unchanging or repetition.
Victorious ~ Winning or being triumphant.
Vigor ~ Physical strength and good health.
Virtue ~ Behaving with high moral standards.
Vision ~ The ability plan the future with imagination or wisdom.
Vitality ~ Being strong, active and full of energy.
Warmth ~ Enthusiasm, affection or kindness.
Watchfulness ~ Being alert and vigilant.
Wealth ~ Lots of valuable possessions or money.
Welcoming ~ Behaving in a polite or friendly way towards others.
Wisdom ~ The quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgement.
Wonder ~ Amazement and admiration, as a result of something remarkable or unfamiliar.
If the core value you are looking for is not on the list, write your own one in the column.
Abandonment ~ Being neglected or disregarded.
Aggression ~ Feeling hostile and angry.
Anger ~ A strong feeling of hostility.
Anxiety ~ A feeling of worry, nervousness or unease.
Apathy ~ Lack of interest or enthusiasm.
Arrogance ~ A sense of being better or more important than others.
Blame ~ Condemning others for certain issues.
Bullying ~ Being mistreated by others.
Conflict ~ A disagreement or clashing with others.
Contempt ~ Looking down on, or disregarding others.
Criticism ~ Finding fault in others.
Cynicism ~ Being sceptical, or believing that people are motivated by self-interest.
Deception ~ Being tricked into believing something that is not true.
Depression ~ Severe feelings of hopelessness and sadness.
Dependence ~ Forced by circumstances to rely on others.
Disapproval ~ Dislike or objection from others.
Disgust ~ A feeling of revulsion or strong disapproval.
Dishonesty ~ Lies and deceit.
Disobedience ~ Failure or refusal to comply with rules or authority.
Disrespect ~ Lack of courtesy.
Embarrassment ~ Self-conscious or ashamed.
Emotionlessness ~ Emotional numbness.
Envy ~ Jealousy.
Excuses ~ Finding reasons to get out of a situation.
Failure ~ Lack of success.
Fear ~ Distress or terror.
Frivolity ~ Lack of seriousness.
Greed ~ Selfish desire for something.
Grudges ~ Resentment towards someone.
Guilt ~ Feeling intensely bad about a wrong act.
Hate ~ Intense dislike for someone.
Helplessness ~ Unable to defend oneself / act without help.
Hopelessness ~ Feeling of despair or lack of hope.
Hostility ~ Unfriendly and bitter.
Humiliation ~ embarrassment.
Hurt ~ Emotional pain.
Hypocrisy ~ pretending to have higher standards than is the case.
Ignorance ~ Lack of knowledge or information.
Ill health ~ Poor physical or mental condition.
Immorality ~ Sinful or impure acts.
Indiscretion ~ Revealing things that should remain private or secret.
Inferiority ~ being in a lower position than someone else.
Infidelity ~ Being unfaithful to a romantic partner.
Intolerance ~ Unwilling to accept views, beliefs or behaviour which differ from one’s own.
Injustice ~ Lack of fairness.
Irresponsibility ~ Thoughtless or careless.
Isolation ~ Being alone.
Jealousy ~ Coveting what others have.
Lack of empathy ~ Can’t see through someone’s eyes, or feel their pain.
Lack of manner ~ Acting inappropriately.
Lack of understanding ~ Not having knowledge to grasp certain things.
Lack of willpower ~ Lacking inner strength to make changes.
Laziness ~ Unwilling to put effort in, and to work or do things.
Loneliness ~ Being alone, emotionally or physically.
Loss ~ Losing what is valuable or needed.
Lying ~ Not telling the truth.
Misanthropy ~ A dislike of humankind.
Misery ~ Painful circumstances and emotions.
Misrepresentation ~ Giving a false or misleading description of the nature of something.
Negative attitude ~ A feeling or manner that is not constructive, cooperative or optimistic
Negligence ~ Failure to take proper care of something.
Opposition ~ Resistance or disapproval from others.
Pain ~ Physical or emotional hurt and discomfort.
Pessimism ~ A tendency to see the worst in things, or believe the worst will happen.
Pomposity ~ Grandiosity, self-importance or arrogance.
Poverty ~ Poor financial circumstances.
Prejudiced ~ A preconceived opinion, not based on reason or experience.
Procrastination ~ The tendency to delay or postpone things.
Pride ~ Too stubborn to give in, be humble or apologize.
Rebellion ~ Defiance and resistance towards rules or people.
Rejection ~ Being unaccepted by others.
Revengeful ~ Hurting or harming someone in return for someone they did.
Shame ~ A feeling of humiliation or distress as a result of wrong behaviour.
Selfishness ~ Self-seeking, and lack of concern for others.
Stress ~ Pressure and inner tension.
Suspicion ~ Cautious distrust.
Unawareness ~ Not being in touch with our thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
Violence ~ Behaviour involving physical force to hurt someone, or damaging something.
Weakness ~ Lack of strength.
Worry ~ Anxiety and concern.
Worthlessness ~ Feeling unimportant and useless.
If the anti-value you are looking for is not on the list, write your own one in the column.
To live life to the fullest and enable ourselves to tackle the problems we encounter more effectively, it may be helpful to assess how we can improve the balance between our “energy takers” and “energy givers”, by adding more energy givers onto our list and managing or reducing our list of energy takers. Perhaps we need a change, or perhaps we need to do things we enjoy more often.
Bullied by the bugs and bees
I hide myself away
My self-esteem has broken wings
Because of what they say
You will always be a worm
No matter what you try
As long as I believe their words
I will never fly
~ Discover your true self. ~
1. “Traumatic Experiences Disrupt Amygdala-Prefrontal Connectivity,” by Dong Hoon Oh, from the Department of Psychiatry, at Hanyang University in Korea.
2. Butterfly poem ~ Written by me when I was younger.