Step 2: Find what emotionally drives you

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Be aware that this is the most difficult step and the one that often determines whether you click or not. Coming to the rational conclusion that you, for example, have comfort as a core value because you spend your days sitting on the sofa is not enough. You need to feel a negative emotional connection to it.

To achieve that, you need to be truly honest with yourself while reflecting and analyzing the reasons behind why you did what you did in your life. The real motives behind these actions rise from what emotionally drives you on a core level.

This core value will often be traced back to the moment your inner child submitted his will to what gave him safety and it is usually connected to the feeling of not being worthy or not being able to take care of himself. That is the reason why most core values are either “social validation” or “comfort”.

Writing your life down and reflecting on emotionally loaded episodes might also help you to complete this step.

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If there is something that should be emphasized is that most people underestimate the importance of this step. It is not enough to conclude that your core value is comfort merely because you consider yourself lazy. You need to feel on an emotional level that your current core value is not good for you and most importantly, you need to want to change.

While some people might feel trapped within their thoughts and have a really hard time reaching to their emotional core, it is very hard to go through this paradigm shift if you aren’t being honest with yourself.

A very useful insight is the understanding that, at our core, we are emotional beings. Most people don’t realize the scope of what this means but each one of your beliefs was created as the result of an emotion. Take some time to deeply think about it because if you go through life without reflecting on your emotional drives, you don’t have any control over the formation of your beliefs. You never truly think for yourself if your subconscious core value is driving all your thoughts and actions.

There are 6 insights that will help you to find what drives you on an emotional level:

  • Be aware of all the barriers that might hamper your ability to reach the emotional core;
  • Review all significant events and processes that took place in your life from your earliest memories until now;
  • Think of numerous significant events/processes in your life, and get to the core of what drove you in those situations by asking ‘why questions’;
  • Think about numerous (significant) actions/behaviors that you habitually indulge in, and get to the core of what drives you to do them;
  • Dismantle all the rationalizations or layers that you created as a means to cope with the conflict in your mind every time your identity (self-image) was threatened;
  • Forgive yourself and others.

If you do everything correctly, it will give you a lot of insight into why you took certain decisions in the past and how your environment has molded you into who you are today.

Be aware of all the barriers that might hamper your ability to reach the emotional core

Before going through the inquiry process, it is important to be aware of all the roadblocks that might slow down your progress. Those are:

Not being truly honest with yourself

Honesty is really important while reflecting and analyzing the reasons behind why you did what you did in your life. You not only need to be able to accept that you have a flawed core value but also to have the willingness to get to your core and find what it is really driving your actions.

Sometimes, it might be difficult to accept certain ideas that put you on a negative light (for example, admitting to have low self-esteem). You might even feel the subconscious urge to lie to yourself. Anytime you pounder about a situation of the past and your first instinct is to come up with an excuse, stop there and investigate. These excuses are often happening involuntarily and you are not so much in control until you become aware of them.

Rest assured that as long as you are not prepared to question your current decisions in life and let go of whatever paradigm you have, you will not be able to emotionally trust in logic.

Note:

Being harsh with yourself is often very useful while reviewing your life.

Using logic as a slave to satisfy your current core value

The real motives behind your actions rise from what emotionally drives you on a core level. Neuroscience even shows that we experience our emotions before we are aware of them and only afterwards we use our rational part of the brain to contextualize.

This is important because some people tend to use their reasoning and logic as slaves to satisfy their core value. This means that they use logic as a tool to provide for their feeling of safety, adding to their comfort or social validation (or other core values).

People that consider themselves very rational are generally the ones being fooled into thinking that they already value logic on an emotional level. This is quite often not the case, as they still display a lot of illogical behaviors which they aren’t even aware of. In the end, applying logic to similar knowledge brings similar action and being mindful of this dynamic might allow you to begin scrutinizing your perceived rationality.

Your inner child deflecting every attempt to get to the core

Depending on how vulnerable your core value is, your inner child might have created a lot of defense mechanisms over time, impairing your ability to trace your core value back to the core.

There seems to exist a correlation between this vulnerability and the number of rational layers your inner child created to cope with your conflicting emotions. Deconstructing each layer one by one might seem a daunting process but a necessary one.

You should realize, though, that just because you struggle to reach to the core, it doesn’t mean you are emotionless. More often than not, your inner child has been simply suppressing your emotions for years.

A lack of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is generally required to be aware of all the mechanisms outlined in the previous 3 points. Meditation is very beneficial in this regard, as it improves your ability to be in the present and be more aware of your emotions. Taking notes of your thoughts and feelings during the day can also enable you to put things into perspective and help you to find what is driving your actions.

As long as your core value is not “logic”, you will experience duality between what you emotionally and rationally want to do. Once again, a certain level of emotional intelligence is required to first acknowledge the presence of this duality and then overcome it.

Reading the Emotional Intelligence guide will give you even more valuable information on this topic.

Strong emotional attachments to your identity or an active ego

People that fall onto this group generally don’t even reach this stage of the process. This is specially the case when clicking goes against what they emotionally value. Still, for those that are aware of the fictional nature of your identity and want to find a way to slowly detach from it, we will later outline a useful insight to accomplish it.

Review all significant events and processes that took place in your life from your earliest memories until now

A key event is a specific moment that was of monumental significance to how your ‘character and identity’ was shaped. An example of a key event could be if you almost drowned when you were a child, and hence developed a chronical fear of water. Key events do not have to be this dramatic. They must simply be of emotional significance.

A key process is either a series of key events or repeated happenings that were of monumental significance to how your ‘character and identity’ was forged. An example of a key process could be that you were bullied at school, and hence developed low self-esteem which lead to you to sitting and playing video games all day in the comfort of your home.

Everyone has moments in their lives that left an imprint. By remembering them and logically explaining how these moments affected you (and why they affected you in that way), you can find clues to your core value.

The process for doing this is very straightforward:

i.       Recall key events/processes;

ii.       Strive to understand their causes and consequences;

iii.       Look for patterns in causes and consequences to see if you can identify an underlying driving force behind your actions and behaviors: your core value.

Below, you can read an example that illustrates the three-step process of someone recalling their early childhood:

Used to talk to people → Traumatic Event: Was at day care and was left alone in the forest (left for dead by the group) → Stopped Talking to All People (except family) → Introversion (e.g. did not speak to anyone at day care; only spoke to teachers when it was an absolute must in lower school) → Progressively (with age) Became Less Severely Introverted (e.g. started making friends)

Through a reflection as the one exemplified, you could start to understand how your environment molded you to act and behave like you do today, which in turn could help you become less attached to your past and help identify your core value.

Note1

The importance of being brutally honest with yourself during this process can’t be stressed enough. Unless you’re completely honest, you’re wasting your time and energy as you’ll find no or false answers.

Note2

Write down your reflections. Writing them down will help you stay structured and focused, and you’ll be able to return to them whenever you need to without having to go through the whole process again.

Note3

If your family has told you stories of a traumatizing event that took place when you were a toddler, and you can’t remember that event, you may choose to use those stories as tools to understand why you behaved as you did in your later years. However, if you choose to do this, make sure to be aware of the possibility that the story your family has told you is distorted or incorrect.

Think of numerous significant events/processes in your life, and get to the core of what drove you in those situations by asking ‘why questions’

The next two points of advice for following Step 2 are in a sense very similar to the previous one. The only real difference is that you’ll be focusing on a few key events and you’ll be asking ‘why questions’ to get to the bottom of why you acted the way you did. This approach might shed a light on your core value within a matter of minutes.

Nonetheless, it’s important to keep analyzing more significant events/processes to gather enough evidence that corroborates your possible core value. If there is some minority evidence pointing out in a different direction, you can simply discard it as your likely core value is the most frequent occurring one.

The process itself is very simple:

i.       Remember a key event/process of choice and let it play out in your mind (visualization may help);

ii.       Ask ‘why questions’ that guide you in the direction of what emotionally drove you to act/behave in the way you did.

To give a general example, you’ll want to ask questions such as:

Q: ‘Why do I do X?’ | A: ‘Because it gives me Y’

Q: ‘But why do I want Y?’ | A: ‘Because Y causes Z.’

… until you find what ultimately drove you to act/behave in the way you did.

To elaborate with a possible chain of events:  

Q: ‘Why did I do so much personal development work?’ | A: ‘Because it made me feel good.’

Q: In what way? | A: I felt more confident, gave me goals and visions to strive for, and overall gave me enduring happiness, control, and direction.

Q: Why do I want to be more confident? | A: To feel comfortable in all social settings.

Q: Why do I want that? | A: I have low self-esteem and I don’t want others to know it.

Q: Why do you have low self-esteem? | A: I don’t think I can take care for myself on my own.

Q: Why do you think that? | A: I just don’t feel safe, I have no trust in me.

Note

Writing down your reflection may help you be more structured and can be handy for future reference.

Think about numerous (significant) actions/behaviors that you habitually indulge in, and get to the core of what drives you to do them

This point is, again, very similar to the previous one, except that your focus will be on your actions and behaviors rather than events and processes. Focusing on actions and behaviors allows you to deconstruct the work you already did previously and it is what generally brings you to the core. 

The answers on the example below are merely for descriptive purposes:

Q: Why do I feel anxious/afraid to have a call with a clicker, when he/she is going to help me make the click? A: Because I’m afraid of what the clicker might think of me.

Q: Why am I afraid of that? A: I want to be viewed as someone worthy of his time.

Q: Why do I want to feel relevant? A: I am not confident enough in myself.

Q: Why am I not self-confident? A: I don’t trust in my ability to deal with situations.

Q: Why the lack of trust? A: I have low self-esteem.

Q: Why? A: I never trained the ability of thinking for myself.

Q: Why did you never train? | A: I don’t think I can take care of myself on my own.

Q: Why do you think that? | A: I just don’t feel safe, I don’t have trust being “me”.

Dismantle all the rationalizations or layers that you created as a means to cope with the conflict in your mind every time your identity (self-image) was threatened

As we go through life, our core value starts being defined as we learn from the consequences of our actions (the ones that are rewarded contribute to its formation). For most people it is comfort, because that is what rewards them when they are young.

Note: The core value “Comfort” will be used in all the examples below.

When something happens in our life which shows us that we cannot trust in our comfort, we can either go through a paradigm shift and adopt another core value or we tweak it a bit to make our life comfortable again.

Since a paradigm shift would involve a very strong emotional experience that really makes us intensely disgusted by comfort, we follow an easier route - we tweak it. Whenever we do it, we add a layer. Tweaking is a rational process and a form of dealing with the dissonance that our rational part of the brain brings. It is commonly known as backward rationalization (or simply rationalization*) and it is generally a process of which we are not aware of.

All these layers create our own self-image. There is no compartment in our brain where our self-image is stored so this is just a fictional idea that we build. Every time we experience dissonance (due to conflicting emotions) and something goes against our own self-image (or identity), we tweak it in a way that aligns with it, adding a layer upon all the other layers that form who we think we are.

This is extremely important to understand because the way we perceive ourselves is merely a construct. We experience the emotion when something goes against our identity and instead of reflecting on the emotion, we react impulsively by forming a rationalization and adding a layer.

The process goes like this:

  1. First, we experience an emotion;
  2. It either reinforces or contradicts our self-image, and depending on it, it brings dissonance or reward;
  3. When it reinforces, our self-image gets rewarded and it is strengthened. When it contradicts, it brings dissonance and we try to align the contradictions with our own self-image (tweaking aka rationalizing aka adding layers).

Whether the emotion brings reward or dissonance, we always align it with our self-image. A self-image that is built upon layers and layers of a flawed core value. Instead of tweaking it to conform to our established core value and all the in-built layers, we should stop on the first pointer. We experience the emotion and then we reflect on it.

For explanation purposes, imagine someone with comfort as their core value is becoming aware, on a rational level, that it is not good for them.

“It doesn’t make sense to play games all day.” Rationalization (R): “Actually it is not so bad, it is still good to relax.”

“I kind of know that I should help others.” R: “But life has no purpose anyway.”

“Maybe I should stop sitting all day on the sofa, and instead exercise and eat healthy.” R: “Well, there’re people that smoke for years and are living longer than most.”

These are simple examples but you see the point: this person is coming up with seemingly rational excuses that steam from his emotional drive to feel comfortable. In the process, it creates an identity out of those rationalizations.

While completing the previous 3 points, you should be extremely aware of how your mind will try to rationalize every experience in your life that makes you feel uncomfortable. Not only that but identifying which layers or rationalizations you created throughout your life will also be very important to debunk your identity and reach to the emotional core.

*Rationalization – defense mechanism in which controversial behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation.

Forgive yourself and others

Your experiences in life define the extent to which you trust in your current core value. As an example, people that have a strong trust in comfort and in what provides for it (money, home, parents) have an easier time to debunk their core value and reach to the core.

However, people that were confronted with the downsides of comfort have a serious distrust in what emotionally drives them. As a result, they create a lot of layers on the weak core as a way to cope with their fears and insecurities.

Quite often, these same people are the ones who have a low self-esteem, a more active ego and a stronger identity. They basically create a defense mechanism to protect their weak core and, as a result, they have a much harder time to be honest with themselves (sometimes, even when they want to).

An example would be if you fail at something. Nobody perceives themselves as a failure so they often experience the emotion (might be anger, sadness, disappointment) and immediately create a rational layer to cope with the dissonance:

“The fault is in other people.”

“I didn’t do my best.”

“I was unlucky this time.”

This is a simple example but it shows how far we can go to ease the dissonance that is brought by new information that doesn’t fit our current self-image.

Whenever we come up with a “rational” excuse that fits our identity, we suppress the emotion instead of acknowledging and accepting its presence without judging. After years and years of doing this, we might begin to create a strong disconnection with our core.

One of the most powerful ways to reconnect with your emotions is by forgiving yourself and others.

A lot of people have a hard time forgiving themselves because they often can’t forgive others. As a result, they carry around all the baggage of their past (actions done to them or done by them).

Detaching from their identity is not an easy process but forgiving others is generally a very important step in the correct direction. Then, you can do the same for you and let go by genuinely forgiving yourself for all your mistakes.

Practicing acceptance can also help you in being more honest. This means that every time you feel an emotion, you don’t label or judge – you just accept it. Then, it gets much easier to get to your emotional core without all the layers of identity and ego.

If you do it correctly, you will likely feel very vulnerable, weak and might even experience fear. This is normal and it will allow you to realize that you can trust in logic more than your current core value or the intersubjective reality.

Note:

While going through this process, it is important to not be aggressive to your inner child. Be understanding, without becoming mad or being pushy.