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STS project diary 6 – Managing Mental Trauma - The Place of Value – a mind state

Updated: Apr 24, 2022

Managing Mental Trauma part 3/3 June 20 & June 27 – Both Cohorts

The Place of Value – a mind state

building sustainable resilience

living a motivated life

The last part of Managing Mental Trauma vividly brought to life the importance of being in a place of value and establishing qualities as a foundation for sustainable resilience.

The participants shared their experiences and challenges encountered in seeking and placing value in whatever they do, each hour, each day. It can be hard to stop, think, reflect. Some described being moved by the qualities, strengths, and efforts of colleagues to those in need; Others noted with interest the fabric of principles that seemed to guide what they did; the qualities of love, faith, and service always within reach in their lives..

Shifting our mind to be in a place of value means consciously making a choice to change our automatic lower functioning state to higher functioning.

cognition, self-efficacy, values, and qualities

Once Bitten Twice Shy

‘Once Bitten Twice Shy ‘- for example, the first time we tried to touch a cat or a dog. What if it bites us, scratches, attacks? So naturally, we are cautious when we meet one again. We may feel cautious or apprehensive even after being around other friendly cats or dogs – still feeling at risk.

Our Cognition guides our behaviours and reactions based on what we see, process, and experience at all times. What and how we perceive what happens to us is different for each person.  (CBT – Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy – aims to make people more aware of these processes in them, their triggers, thoughts, feelings, etc.)  This is well described in the expression:  ‘Once bitten twice shy’ –  which speaks volumes about the fact that once we have experienced failure, hurt, or a traumatic event, we become cautious, even fearful, before we let ourselves try something again even if we did have a few positive experiences.

This happens in the Limbic system.  While it is a great resource for any automatic routine activities (drive a car, read, write, cook a meal, speak publicly, etc.) it runs on the reactions and energies of the past. The limbic system learns quickly, repeats the routines we create- and increasingly manages our response to all that we encounter. If we do not actively seek higher functioning mind states, the limbic system can govern the running of our days. When our days mimic a driverless car, we increasingly find it difficult to find substance, meaning, and value. Values are not automatic. They need to be actively sought after and actively placed, loaded into our lives. They represent us in what we do.

Research has shown that some people are more resilient and fare better than others in difficult settings; in situations which might otherwise lead to trauma – and these people are distinguished by a simple belief – that they will find whatever it takes to be effective, no matter what. A desire to handle it, an inner drive to seek and seek again, to find a way through.

‘Can do, want to.’

This distinguishing motivation is sometimes described in Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) as ‘self–efficacy’.

Remember the little engine that could?

We listened to three, real-life stories – each about an individual who, alone, faced incredible events which brought their lives to a halt, with no help and seemingly no way through.  Yet each of them succeeded in breaking through, and because of the experience – transformed the rest of their days.

Anthony Lawrence - the Elephant Whisperer - Thula Thula Reserve

One of the stories told was the story of Anthony Lawrence – the Elephant Whisperer, he was asked to take in a herd of wild elephants, that would have been killed if not taken in. Not knowing anything about being with or taking care of elephants, he was greatly motivated by his love and belief to preserve life and provide them safety, which provided him with the energies to believe in his ability to manage and take care of them. Click on the image to watch the video clip for the story.

The limbic system can be programmed to deliver positive thinking – and it does help. However this ‘can do, want to do’ attitude is not a function of the limbic system. This motivation is more interesting.

Two key enablers – values and qualities – lead to mind-states that cause and sustain the attitude and are the foundation of true resilience.  Here’s why:  In linking our values, in repeatedly connecting what we do to what we love and care about, we establish stronger neural pathways to our higher rational systems which are more qualified to handle complex challenges and lowering stress hormones.

This has nothing to do with logic, IQ or academic degrees, but has much to do with values and qualities inherent to all humans.

As we open up our lives, consciously placing values in whatever we do, we become better equipped to recognize nuance, depth, substance, qualities in both self and others.   The qualities you work to establish in yourself, add to your resilience and intactness.

The suffragettes in the UK and USA - women's rights to vote

The Suffragettes – campaigned for the rights of women to vote, who persevered through great obstacles and resistance for women to have that right.  Their movement triggered changes in human rights laws around the world by causing civil society to re-examine its values, to agree that women do have inalienable rights – including the right to vote – and subsequently – equal protection under the law. The movement’s governing values continue to impact and inspire civil society more than a century after it began.  That self-efficacy was energized by their deep value and unshakeable belief that their efforts would prevail. This was a movement founded on motives and self-efficacy which continues to impact us all.

Can we choose to be resilient? Yes – we can. Even when feeling weak and unable, we can develop beyond what stops us by changing what motivates us.  In connecting to our driving values, in being accountable within, our motivating forces change. This can be achieved by constantly seeking them out consciously, learning from ourselves, fixing our inner gaps within our values; to provide our limbic system with a developing fabric of values, present in all we do, see and touch.

Look for the qualities in what you value – for example – simple chores, such as taking out the trash – with care, doing the dishes – with joy, writing a report – with accuracy, teaching math – with warmth, and the list goes on

Find the value in the reason why you are doing it? Why is it important?

What quality appears as we do? Patience? Respect? Compassion? A great exercise is to also seek out values, and qualities in acts of others.  Pause and note these qualities, highlight them to the person, develop them, cherish them.

Work for that change within yourself first, to build yourself from the inside out with the qualities you want. When feeling weakened or nervous, pause – call over the value of what you are doing, keep calling it over until the feeling, the mind-state softens all and quietens the nerves. Intactness, being oneself, starts here.

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