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  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

Helpless to Healthy- Finding the Value in Distress

Do you get stuck thinking you are broken, anxious, depressed, helpless? Do you believe this is just part of who you are? Is this a problem in your life? For yourself? For your loved ones?

What do you do now? How does it make you feel when you FUSE or INVEST in this belief? For most people it makes us feel weaker to believe or even momentarily invest in the thought that we are broken or anything less than healthy in some way.

So if this game of life is all about FLEXIBILITY or WORKABILITY, and ADAPTING – how is fusing with those thoughts or feelings working for you? Do they help you live your VALUES? Do they make it easier to follow through on choices that are important to you? OR do they depleat you and make it harder to live your values?

What I am offering is an alternative to fusing  with that old story, that there might actually be an alternative to believing we are broken or helpless. Read on and allow me to remind you of who you really are, remind you of your strong and healthy self.


First we have to clarify the difference between a value and a goal.

A GOAL is something we can attain, a task one

sets out to accomplish and something we can complete.

A VALUE is the reason a goal is important, the principles we want to use to guide our actions and who we want to be and what we want to stand for in this life.


QUICK QUIZ:  Value (V) or Goal (G) Answers at end, no peaking!

  1. Work out twice/ week

  2. Make healthy choices

  3. Call my friends this weekend

  4. Work harder

  5. Loose weight

  6. Meditate

(ANSWERS: 1. G; 2. V; 3. G; 4.V; 5.G; 6. G)

So what are COMMON VALUES?

It turns out that all members of the human species share common values, which ones become our top priorities vary by culture, and how we try to live out those values can vary greatly (and can even sometimes be misguided or destructive, despite their positive intention). Nevertheless, fundamentally, we share these values across all cultures, races, gender and socio-economic backgrounds and whether or not we are living them, they impact our choices every single day

Here are some examples of common values….

core values 1



REFLECT– What are some of the common values you see? In your life? In the lives of others?

This is what I tend to see (you will notice that there can be a lot of overlap between these):

So how does this all connect to feeling broken or helpless? Lets quickly look at what sorts of things stress you out?

Distress I see

Value in Distress 1

Value in Distress 2

So when we stop at the distress, we just feel broken, but we are biologically programmed not to waste resources, so if we are upset, distressed or anxious about something, it is for a reason- and that is because some aspect of our well-being is not being met, one or more of our values are being threatened or not fulfilled.

So when we recognize that it is BECAUSE WE ARE HEALTHY THAT WE ARE DISTRESSED!

It is appropriate to be distressed and uncomfortable when we are not standing up for ourselves, when we are being treated unfairly, when we lack meaning or purposeful activity in our lives, lack a safe tribe with whom we feel we belong or are in an emotionally or physically unsafe situation at work or home. That IS the healthy response! (Just like it would be healthy to have pain if we stepped on a nail, yet when we get anxious, or upset, that gets interpreted differently. Just like being ok with stepping on a nail would be pathological, so is trying to pretend it is ok that one or multiple of our basic needs are not being met).

Then suddenly, by focusing on the value, we are freed from the paralysis of getting stuck on the distress and recognize that distress is a signalling system that is calling us to take action to address the situation. It is the calling card of the Strong and Healthy Self (follow link for more details about this).

So how do we move from being helpless to healthy? From panic to productive?

  1. By focusing on our VALUES

  2. VALIDATING for ourselves that our distress about not having our needs met and not living our values is warranted

  3. TAKING ACTION to have our needs met!

See you next week! And as always, we would love to hear your questions or comments on twitter or by email.

Also remember to check out yesterdays’ ACT group information and follow the Meditation link for the latest additions (this week was the Happy Place meditation).

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