How do we even know what we want?

intention nlp values why May 03, 2022

How do we even know what we want?

Tough question, especially when it comes to make decisions. 

As a psychotherapist, I have been exposed to, and trained in a wide variety of approaches to increase mental health and recovery. There are some that I resonate strongly with, and did when I first studied them, and there are others that just didn’t sit as well with me, and still don’t. And there are others that switched camps over time.

I like the framework around NLP. In many ways, my relationship with this approach is much like my relationship with other ideas, and people for that matter. I get to know a bit, and then decide if I want to get to know more. Some people (and ideas) I like right away. Others, it takes me a while to warm up to.  It’s only been recently that I have actually felt more comfortable with the idea of something (or someone) leaving my circle of “liking,” even if I had to be the one to decide to leave.

As a teenager, I participated in a youth group through the Y that went to an annual, week-long conference called “High School Values Conference.” It was pretty much the highlight of my summers. While it explored values, it was framed in the Christian tradition.

In NLP, I have been exploring the notion of values, in a more generalized sense, and not through a lens of a given religious tradition. I work in a new way now, using the great resource of a person’s value structure and hierarchy, to help people increase mental health and recovery. This has increased people’s “felt sense” of their truth, and brought a more soul-filled way of working to my work.

How do you discover your own value structure and hierarchy? There are four main concepts that are useful to begin the process: 

  1. We have a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. When we are actively learning new information, we are using our conscious mind to learn and retain the information. Once we learn something, neuroscience has indicated that this learning goes into the unconscious mind. Sometimes this learning is useful (walking is a good example), and sometimes it isn’t useful (various triggers which may lead to unhelpful responses).
  2. Many of us often use language to explain our experience of ourselves as “parts.” While this is metaphorical, on an emotional level, our “felt sense” is that we may feel we have a committee of people inside of ourselves, battling for control.
  3. Every behavior has a positive intention. Again, learnings that were useful at one time go into the unconscious mind, and the feeling, thought or behavior has a good reason for doing what it does, from its perspective. Exploring what that might be is one way to discover what it values.
  4. And finally, knowing the why of your why of your why (of your why of your why, etc.) leads you into deeper discovery of what your values really are for any given context. Sometimes these values may cross over into other contexts.

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