Last updated on 9th February 2012
See the two earlier blog posts - "Therapeutic writing & speaking: inspiration from values (background information)" and "Therapeutic writing & speaking: inspiration from values (how-to-do-it)" for fuller details of these self-affirmation, self-transcendence approaches.
This "instructions" post is downloadable as a Word doc.
introduction: Affirming key personal values and life areas can be very helpful - as stress management, to boost wellbeing, and to support optimal functioning. The companion handout "Therapeutic writing & speaking: inspiration from values - background" provides both explanatory context and links to much relevant research. This sheet gives basic how-to-do-it instructions. You're welcome to be creative and build on these suggestions, but here's a good, initial, research-supported structure to try:
getting started: Choose a key personal value or life area/role that you're going to explore. If you're doing this exercise as a form of stress management or as a way of helping yourself deal with a crisis in a particular aspect of your life, it's probably sensible to choose a life area/role or value that is not the particular life aspect that's feeling threatened. The companion sheets "Respected figures exercise" and "Roles/activities/life areas" can help clarify subjects you might choose.
first exercise: For 10 to 20 minutes, write or speak about the value or life area/role that you've chosen. Describe how important it's been in your life and how it has evolved over the years. Then choose one of the particular events or times when this value or life area/role stands out in your memory or was especially important. Try to describe the event/time as if you're back in your body then, looking out through your eyes, experiencing again the sort of things that you would have heard, sensed and felt. Really "get into it". Allow yourself to re-live it, possibly even re-enact it, and try to contact deeply the good feelings once more.
second exercise: For a further 10 to 20 minutes - either within a few minutes or hours of the first exercise, or after some days - write or speak again about the value or life area/role that you've chosen. What touched you most, what did you feel most strongly when you did the first exercise? What seemed most important to recognise or remember? Choose another (or the same) example of an event/time when the value or life area/role stands out in your memory or was especially important. Again try to describe the event/time in the "re-living", "re-experiencing" way that you did before.
third exercise: Once more, after some minutes or hours or some days, write or speak again. For 10 to 20 minutes imagine a future when you have lived this value or life area/role as well as you possibly could have. It's probably best to imagine some years into the future, but you could choose a shorter time interval if this fits better for you. Describe what you would most like this future state to look and feel like. How do you experience it? How do you affect others? What else is involved? And, as with the memory you chose in the first two exercises, really get into this experience. What do you feel? How is your posture/body position in this state? What is most precious and good about this? What advice and encouragement can you give from this "achieved state" looking back to yourself in your current situation? What could this future state say or do that would support you, as you are now, in taking a next step towards achieving this "dream"?
follow-on: Experiment with using either or both - the key memories & the "perfect future" - to boost your commitment, effectiveness & depth in living increasingly as you would most want to with the value or life area/role you have been focusing on. See too additional sheets giving further suggestions about this process.