Journey to Intentionality: Self-discovery, Principles and Values (psychotherapy workshop part 1)
This piece has been written with the intention to make sense of this approach, and with the hope that those who have had a similar struggle as I will find some understanding and purpose using this method. I was writing this for myself, but as usual, I thought it best to share my thoughts with the world…
For a number of years I knew my ‘foundation’ was rooted in my experience of others and how their interactions (with me) moulded me. My mother, for example, had instilled values in me — whether via my observation of her actions or via direct teaching — that dictated how I reacted to, and interacted with, others. These values & behaviours were also impacted by others around me. But because I had such a connection with my mother, she was the core of my ‘foundation’. Aware of this, I knew I needed to ‘find’ myself or create a version of myself that I had come to terms with. Still, if something is not visibly broken, why fix it right?
In more ways than one, I attempted to address this issue in the numerous years before 2019; however, the part of me that looked to address this had a very small voice. Soft spoken and quiet, much like myself. Thus, it was easy to ignore this voice. So for years I did for others what I had not for myself — give love, empathise, show up. It was when my mother passed in 2019 did I finally actively begin working towards answering the questions: who am I? What is my purpose? Or better, yet who do I want to be and what should my purpose be?
As an over-thinker, I spent a number of days, months even, answering the above. What led to that was the beginning of a model (albeit incomplete) to help me define who I am and who I want to be.
The old me vs the current me
A number of other questions came to mind when trying to answer “who am I?”. Below is a list of the other questions:
- What are my values?
- Why am I here?
- What’s my purpose?
- Do we have no purpose & must I create one? (I’ve explored this in the past here).
- What do I want from & out of life?
I felt most of these questions would be easier to answer once I got a better grasp of myself (who I am) and established my values. In an attempt to do this, I put together this grid that looked at the past/old me and compared him to the current me.
*After sharing this with a friend of mine who studied psychology, she explained that what I was doing was similar to a repertory grid analysis. This is a style of interviewing / an analysis technique used to understand more explicitly what makes up a person’s behaviours and ways of being, and what contributes to how they organise and see the world. Comparing perceptions of past, present and future is a key way to begin to create such a picture.
Here is a breakdown of how the simple version of how my model works:
The top left quadrant is your past self* and should be filled with any good principles &/or values you think you had.
- I.e. Were you a happy person in the past? Were you more healthy in the past? Were you an honest person in the past?
- The points in the top left quadrant will include things that you may want to start doing more of or being like (i.e. if you were really happy before, you may want the current/new you to be really happy again), or you may want to continue doing these things.
*Where “past self” is the version of you any point before you have started using this model. When you revisit this model in the future, your “past self” will begin from the point at which you completed this model in the past.
The bottom left quadrant is your past self and should be filled with any principles &/or values you think you had that were less positive.
- I.e. Were you always angry? Were you always extremely withdrawn?
- The points in the bottom left quadrant are things that need to be cross-referenced with the bottom right quadrant and will need to be discussed (internally or with others). If you were a rude person in the past, why has that trait remained with you, and is it something you want to change or not?
- The top right quadrant is your current self (as of the last year, but could be less if you deem it appropriate) and should be filled with any good principles &/or values you currently possess.
- I.e. you are welcoming, you are “warm”, you are friendly.
- The points in the top right quadrant are things that you (may) want to continue doing, and they’re things that can be helpful to reflect on when you’re having a bad day.
If you find it difficult to articulate your strengths, maybe because you struggle to verbalise it or because you are very self-critical and don’t recognise the strengths that exist in you, make sure you enlist the help of friends, family and others to help you fill this section out.
The bottom right quadrant is your current self (as of the last year, but could be less if you deem it appropriate) and should be filled with any principles &/or values you currently possess that are less positive.
- I.e. you are extremely selfish, you are rude, etc.
- The points in the bottom right quadrant are things that you should address and develop solutions on how to improve on each. This aspect is more lengthy and can take a while, but it is the most rewarding.
The points highlighted in this section require a level of psychoanalysis that can be discussed with a therapist, (trustworthy) friends and family, or by yourself (if you are quite introspective).
Some of the points will be very subjective, but you can get friends and family to support you with filling this out if you’re struggling or need a second opinion. However, it’s up to you to make a judgement call on what is true and what isn’t, and what you want and do not want to work on.
If you do choose to follow suit and use this simple model* to learn more about yourself, bear in mind that some things will overlap. I.e. you may have been happy in the past (top left quadrant) and you may still be happy (top right quadrant). I would recommend you should still write it out.
*The more complex model uses the axis’ as a scale, where you plot each principle &/or value; but this can be explained further in 1:1 consultations or future workshops.
After filling out each quadrant, I took a step back and assessed all I had written. Using that information as a starting point, I was able to answer certain questions I had about myself, my approaches, my views. With this new-found clarity, I worked towards building the “new” me (where new doesn’t mean a completely different version of me; rather, a more conscious version).
In part 2, I cover how I went about building the updated me.
Read part 2 — ‘The Updated Me’ — here.
[P.S. I used principles, values, traits, virtues, interchangeably here. Though they don’t mean the same thing, the sentiment in my writing is the same.]