We’ve talked about how our deepest voids lead us to our deepest values. In this post, I want to show how our deepest emotions are also signposts to our deepest values. Think about when you find yourself feeling the most sad, mad or enthusiastic. What is going on?
Harvard Medical School psychologist and author of Emotional Agility, Dr. Susan David, says those with social anxiety value connection. Parents who feel guilty about not spending enough time with the children, value feeling close to their children. Our values peak where we feel strongly.
The cool thing is not only do our emotions point to our values, but our values lead us out of heavy or paralyzing emotions.
Behavior and emotions are contagious
As a society, we experience emotional and social contagion. I would argue introverts and highly sensitive people experience this at an even higher degree. Think about how hard it is to fall asleep at night if our partner or child is suffering or if they are mad at us. We feel it too.
They have done studies that show if the person next to you on a flight buys candy from the flight attendant, you are 30% more likely to buy candy too. If the person next to you is someone you know, the chance of a purchase doubles. Social contagion.
How to rise above social and emotional contagion
According to Dr. David, values are the way out of succumbing to social and emotional contagion.
In my post, Reduce Anxiety with Values and Goals, I talked about how to let values get you out of your fears. They are the way to rise above heavy emotions too.
I have been stressed lately because there are a lot of changes occurring in our household. Mark and I are getting married this summer. He and his two sons are moving in with us at the end of May. There are a lot of wedding plans to be made and a lot of house preparations to do before June 1st. Of course, staying aware of everyone’s emotional status weighs heavy on my mind and heart too.
Listening to emotions
I’ve noticed a lot of big emotions running through my body as we go through this transition. My therapist said to listen to the emotions. I wanted to get through them as quickly as possible. If I pause and reflect, I can see that my values speak through these heavy emotions. I deeply value connection with my dearest people. With all the work to be done and the size of my dear people circle growing, I feel stressed. My connections feel strained.
Emotions + Actions —> Values
I recently heard fulfillment defined as the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing things we value. In this definition, I feel accomplishing is the key word. If we have values but don’t let them guide our behavior, they remain unsatisfying. We don’t feel fulfilled.
As I tick off tasks on the to do list in preparation for the wedding and move in date, I feel less stressed. Dr. David also said that our values are not just concepts we dream about or hold in lofty aspirations, they are action points that drive our behavior.
Because I value the long-term connections and relationships the wedding creates, I can work through the stress and fears involved with the changes and preparations. I have also found the courage to ask for help, so these important values can come to fruition.
Boundaries and focus
Another useful aspect of values, is that they allow us to narrow our focus and create boundaries. We can say no to distractions or requests of our time that do not serve our values.
If we value a healthy body and diet, we won’t buy the candy even if our flight neighbor does. I am taking action toward one of my most meaningful values — having a close family.
Values give us energy, courage and focus. They guide us. Emotions direct us to our values.
What are your big emotions saying? What actions do you take toward your values? Do you feel fulfilled?