Do you ever wonder why you experience happiness in some of your relationships but not in others? Happiness in relationships is not just about having things in common or loving one another. Rather, it’s about compliance with rules.
Each of us values particular things like determination, love, health, success, freedom, security, adventure, power, passion, courage, loyalty, fidelity and perseverance, just to name a few. Values guide our every decision and, therefore, our destiny.
Values are the things that we place importance on.
Take a moment to write down the top 10 things that you value in life. Next, rank them in order of most to least valued. You might find that some of them are competing for the same spot. Approach the value ranking as if you were being forced to prioritize one above the other. Now, set aside this list, for now.
It’s important to understand that as you complete the value elicitation exercise above there are two types of values that you have: ends and means values.
If I ask you, “What do you value most? you might answer, “Love, family, money…” Of these, love is the end value you are pursuing; in other words, the emotional state you desire. Conversely, family and money are merely means values; they are simply a way for you to trigger the emotional states that you really desire.
In addition, we have values that we move towards and move away from. While it is completely true that you and I are constantly motivated to move towards the values that allow us to feel pleasure, it is also true that we value some emotions more than others.
If I asked you, “What emotional states do you value most in life?” “What are the emotions that you think will give you the most pleasure?” Love or success? Freedom of fidelity? Adventure or security? These are called pleasurable states that we value most because we will do the most to attain them.
Anytime you make a decision about what to do, your brain first evaluates whether that action will possibly lead to either a pleasurable or painful emotional state.
For example, if I asked you if you would like to jump out of a plane or swim with sharks, and the number one emotion that you would like to avoid feeling at all costs is fear, it’s pretty obvious that you aren’t going to take me up on my invitation to do either of these things!
If, however, the number one feeling that you will do anything to avoid is rejection, and you believe that I will reject you because you don’t do any of these things, then you might decide to jump out of a plane or swim with sharks, in spite of your fear.
Take a moment to list the top “moving-away-from- values” that you have. Examples, might be: rejection, guilt, shame, loneliness, depression, humiliation, anger or fear.
You’ve identified your values and ranked them. Now, let’s talk about rules. Rules are your beliefs about what has to happen in order for you to feel good about what you value; rules determine if you feel pain or pleasure.
For example, let’s say you value love. Some people, who value love, believe that, in order for them to experience love, they need to have sex 5 times a week or get cards and flowers each Friday or hear “I love you” at the end of every phone call from their significant other.
If these rules are complied with, the person with these rules experiences pleasure; if they are violated (the rule is unmet in the way they believe it should be met), then the person experiences pain.
Every upset that you have with someone else is a rules upset.
Take a moment now, and get another piece of paper. Draw a circle in the middle of the sheet of paper perhaps the size of a golf ball. Inside that circle write the word love (you can also do this for any other value you have).
Imagine that this circle is the center of a sun. Now, draw lines that extend from the circle outward; like rays of sunshine. Draw as many as you are guided to draw.
Next, write your rules down for your value of love. What rules are met on a regular basis that allow you to feel and experience love? Which are unmet sometimes or all of the time? Knowing this will help you identify whether or not you should keep, discard or flex your rules so that you experience more pleasure and less pain.
These exercises will help you understand why you repeatedly experience pain in your relationships. Have a rule that keeps being violated? You might want to adjust it or eliminate it all together! Knowing what your values and rules are helps you to craft a higher quality of life for yourself and for your relationships