C. Franklin Truan, PhD

Author, Professor & Clinical Psychologist

Category: Personal Growth

What is the Value of Your Values?

Excerpted from Meta-Values: Universal Principles for a Sane World by, C Franklin Truan, PhD

The value judgments we make determine our actions, and upon their validity rests our mental health and happiness.

Eric Fromm: Man for Himself: an Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics

For better or worse, the values we each choose to live determine the course and quality of our lives. To experience psychological health, emotional nourishment, and fulfillment in life, man must choose to value and live that which is actually good for him. By good, I mean the chosen beliefs and resulting values must be beneficial, in that they contribute in some constructive manner to the individual’s survival or nourishment be it physical, intellectual, or psychological. Psychologically, good and beneficial values are not only necessary for sustaining mental health but also provide for man’s need and desire for self-development, self-enrichment, and enable fulfilling interaction with his environment.

The act of valuing is the mental and emotional act of preferring one object, action, idea, or person over others. As man perceives something, he defines its existence and thereby initiates the process of deciding its value. If he believes the idea or object of his perception is truth and it holds personal significance, it is valued and becomes part of his perceived and preferred reality.
Everyone claims to have values, but when asked what their specific values are, most can only give broad categories as values in response. God, country, family and so on are not values. They are categories in which to form specific beliefs and values. For example, when anyone says to you that he believes in God and family, what has he actually said? Both words are meaningless unless defined according to the individual’s beliefs as to their meaning and application.

Where do Values Come From?

In the broadest sense, values are anything and everything a person believes to be of personal significance. Our values are learned early in life as a result of what we learned to believe as truth about ourselves and the world. As one’s life proceeds, all purposeful action aims at the achievement goals driven by beliefs and values. In other words, everyone has and lives by values, and all decisions and actions be they harmful or beneficial are based on them.

The values held by an individual express:

  • An orientation to objective and functional subjective reality (does your thinking match or contradict reality),
  • Attitudes toward the self: self-concept: level of self-awareness, self-esteem, self-efficacy and self-confidence,
  • Attitudes about what is possible for you in life: work, achievement, lifestyle, relationships, pleasure, existence, and intimacy.

Understanding the nature of values must include an explanation about what values are not. Values do not emanate from nature as intrinsic to man nor are they a gift from a divine entity. Values are abstract, subjective conceptual creations of man’s mind. They are created, learned, lived, and discarded according to man’s will. In short values are a product of man’s biased thinking, for better or worse.

Professed and Actual Values

To be ethical and functional, values professed by individuals or societies must be consciously chosen, validated, and actually lived. American society is hypocritical in that it professes ethical and constructive values while not holding itself accountable for actually living them. This problem is not unique to America. It is the problem of all mankind.

In addition to not living professed values, current American values are also hypocritical because they are both ambiguous and contradictory. Values vaguely formed are self-serving and prevent accountability. Ambiguously stated values can be reinterpreted at will or ignored when it’s convenient. They are in effect only empty words to be redefined at will and used to rationalize what is desired in the moment. Constructive values, which are beneficial, non-contradictory, clear, and specific and are therefore open to critical evaluations are avoided in favor of values with little or no accountability.

Individuals and societies seem to believe in the idea of values, but do not know the specifically what they are or if an when they are actually living them. Individuals and societies believe their values are critically important in their lives, even though they don’t know what they are and when they are being applied in an irrational, contradictory or irrelevant manner. For example, when a president is in office that one likes, the individual thinks everyone should respect him and what he says. However, when someone who is office is not of their party or is disliked personally, they feel free to trash everything he says or does.

trueTo be sure you’re living good and constructive values you must be able to clearly express them to yourself and others. Then and only then will your beliefs and behavior be consistent. If you do not consciously know your values, then you cannot express them clearly to yourself and others. Neither can you be sure you are practicing them well, or with any consistency. Additionally, if your values are not consciously known to you, you cannot know the quality of what you value. What you value could be harmful to you and those around you.

Lastly, to be both valid and effective values must be lived in all areas of one’s life all the time. If not lived totally, professed values are just words. If values are lived inconstantly, they are just words. Incomplete or inconsistent application of one’s professed values is self-deceiving and self-defeating. It will only lead to diminished self-esteem and increasing failure to experience fulfillment in relationships and life in general.
In my book, Meta-Values: Universal Principles for a Sane World, I present the philosophical/psychological meta-values that are fundamental to nourishing man’s healthy character, growth and well-being. In addition to being values the meta-values are ethical life principles that give meaning and direction to all other beneficial human values. As principles, meta-values act as internal guidelines for validating thinking as well as behavior. Meta-values are also universal, in that they are applicable to everyone, regardless of culture, subculture, race, age, or gender.

The Importance of Truth in Being Mentally Healthy

mind“The man who tells you truth does not exist is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.”
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy

Identifying and living truth are fundamental to healthy psychological development, interpersonal competency, and emotional fulfillment in life. Denying or being unable to know and live truth is a recipe for discouragement, depression, self-deterioration and destruction.

First let me explain what I mean by truth. From a big picture standpoint, there are two types of truth; objective and subjective.

Objective truth: Objective truths are absolutes; meaning that they are obvious reality and no alternative to their existence as truth is possible. The most basic example is the absolute fact that each of us exists and that we will also die. Another example of objective absolute truth is the fact that everything has a cause, this is the law of cause and effect. For example: In the case of human behavior, thinking causes feelings and feelings cause behavior.

Subjective truth: Subjective truths are man-made, which means man has decided that a given belief or fact is true. Subjective truths are not absolutes, but are rather products of people’s choices as to what is true. They are mutually agreed on truths. Examples of man-made truths include: morals, civil and criminal laws, religious beliefs, the definition of an inch, believing that one race of people is better than another. Simply stated, a man made truth is anything we decide to believe as true. These beliefs are for better or worse in man’s existence. They are all open to challenge. And, to be a psychologically healthy person you must challenge many if not most of them.

About now you’re probably asking yourself, What does all of this “talk about truth” have to do with mental health? The simple answer is that everything you believe to be true about yourself and the world determines the quality of life you experience. The accuracy and quality of your personally held beliefs determine your mental health, your perception of the world, and your ability to find fulfillment in life. This is particularly true when it comes to the beliefs that you have about yourself. What you believe to be true about you, for better or worse, influences everything in your life.

As children we all were taught selected subjective truths about ourselves and the world by our primary caregivers, which in most cases were our parents. What our parents taught us was their perception of truth. My point is that the subjective things we are taught can be valid or invalid, rational or irrational, and beneficial or harmful to us and to those around us. In large part, it is what we are taught as truth early in life that determines our mental health and our ability to find fulfillment in life.

The following are some questions about early learned beliefs about yourself: Remember to honest about your REAL self as you answer them.

  • Am I a good or a bad person?
  • Am I a happy or sad person?
  • Am I deserving of love?
  • Do I trust my mind to know what is true?
  • Am I afraid most of the time or am I confident and even courageous at times?
  • Do I feel depressed about life in general?
  • Do I continue to do things that I know are harmful or destructive in my life

Your answers to these questions, point to underlying beliefs you have about you, the person. It should be obvious to you that your beliefs are either positive or negative. The important question is, are these beliefs that you hold about yourself really true? For example, your responses may be positive, but are you being honest with yourself? If you are not being honest, you and those around you will suffer for your denial of truth. Alternatively, your responses about yourself may be negative. You may accept your negative self-beliefs as your lot in life something you just have to live with and do the best you can. What if you are wrong?? In reality, your negative beliefs about yourself could be wrong, yet because you believe them, they become truth. They control and determine the course and quality of your life. Because of negative beliefs your life is increasingly depressing, disappointing, and destructive to you and those around you.

As an individual, whatever you believe to be true about you, determines your thinking, feeling, and your behavior. If you believe you are unlovable, you will feel unloved and you will behave in ways that will ensure your perception of your belief. The bottom line is that if your beliefs about yourself are negative, you should change them. You are the one that created these beliefs at some point in your life, so it is within your power to change what you believe. This is true if your negative beliefs about yourself are accurate and it is also true if your negative beliefs about yourself are inaccurate.

So how do you change your beliefs? First you must recognize what your real beliefs are. Then, you must determine whether they are harmful or beneficial to you. By the way, you might also determine whether your beliefs are harmful or beneficial to those around you. By taking responsibility for the quality of your thinking, its positive or negative nature, and its effect on your life, you can change the actual quality of your experience of life.

You may be able to make these changes yourself. Your own experience of your attempts to do so will provide you with feedback about whether you are actually able to do it on your own. You might consider purchasing my new book: My Enemy-My Self: Overcoming Your Self-Defeating Mind as an aid to your self-help endeavor.

Does Fear Rule Your Life?

fearAre you one of the millions who live with fear as a constant companion?  Don’t deny it too quickly.  You may miss an opportunity to significantly improve the quality of your life. If you have been living with fear as a constant companion for a long time you may be one who denies its existence, or, you have probably accepted it as the only reality possible in your life.  If you are one of these people, my message to you is that you have the power to change yourself and remove fear and its limiting and destructive influence from your life.

Take a few moments to consider your answers to the following questions:

  • Do you avoid saying what you really think and feel to most or all people?
  • Are you afraid of what others think about you?
  • Do you avoid exposing yourself to any activity that might cause you to be afraid?
  • Are you afraid to try new things; especially those that would bring pleasure to you?
  • Do you fear making decisions and being wrong?
  • Are you afraid to ask your boss for a raise?
  • Do you avoid confronting your spouse’s poor treatment of you?
  • Do you avoid your own feelings because they are generally bad and disturbing?

Did you find yourself?  Did you feel fear while you were answering questions?  Did you try to deny that any of them are about you?  Did you read the words, but not feel anything while you are reading?  Maybe you should read them again.  This time connect with your real self and listen to your feelings.

If one or more of the questions describes you then being afraid is probably a significant if not a primary motivator in your life.  This means that fear determines everything you do and everything you do not do. 

Living in fear is caused by a lifetime of believing negatively about you.  You have a self-concept that is negative.  Having a negative self-concept is not a rare phenomenon.  Feeling and believing badly about one’s self, damages or destroys the lives of millions every year.  A negative self-concept takes on a variety of forms and is prevalent in all societies.  In fact, more than half of all people hold predominantly negative beliefs about themselves.

Too often, the mistaken solution to a negative self-concept is to deny its existence and to find an escape in destructive behaviors that only complicates the problem.  To escape from trouble negative beliefs about themselves people turn to: alcohol, medications, emotional and physical isolation, overeating, overworking, being excessively critical of others, or other addictive and destructive behaviors.  Denying a negative self-concept and denying your fear does not work.  Denial, when successful, leaves the individual cut off from his real self and cut off from genuine and healthful relationships with others.  Isolation, emotional and physical, becomes a way of life.

Over time the quality of life diminishes.  Sooner or later denial is impossible.  Such mistaken solutions only make life increasingly worse for the individual and for those who relate with him.  If self-defeating thoughts and behaviors progress too far, they cannot be reversed.  The individual is destined for eventual self-destruction.

Being excessively afraid is a sign, in fact, a billboard, telling you that your development as a person has not been completed.  You are not an adult because you are still a child psychologically.  Being excessively afraid means that you are still controlled by an immature primitive-self that focuses only on day to day survival and hiding your negative self from you and all others.

The rest of your life does not have to be ruled by a fearful negative primitive self.  You can learn how to stop fear from controlling and limiting your life.  You can learn to be motivated by positive constructive thoughts and feelings.  You can learn how to challenge your primitive self’s dominating and destructive influence by developing an adult healthy self.  You can learn to like who you are.

So, do you know what the opposite of fear is? 

If you have trouble coming up with the answer to this question, there is a high probability that fear is your primary motivator in life.  The opposite of fear is courage.  Psychologically healthy people (and those who want to be), are motivated by courage; the courage to know the truth about their real selves and challenge anything they discover that impedes their help and fulfillment as human beings.  To them, fears are to be identified, challenged, and overcome.  They have courage as a primary motivator because they have faith in themselves and in their ability to solve any problem.  They have courage because they trust their own minds to know truth and guide them accordingly.  They have the courage to attempt anything that will make their lives richer and more rewarding.  They consistently challenge themselves personally and grow as human beings from their experience.  They experience lives of valuing and respecting themselves.  They have the ability to give and receive emotional nourishment.  They have the ability to experience life as meaningful and fulfilling.  They have the ability to live a life of psychological quality.

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