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Understanding Values and Beliefs

This morning, I came across a reactionary comment on LinkedIn that was directed at me for speaking out against ignorance. I was taken aback when the person resorted to the tactic of putting words in my mouth, employing the classic "what I hear you saying" approach. It was a captivating display of a real-time trauma response from a man who struggled to confront the truth. As an autistic woman, I frequently navigate a world where I encounter both dismissive attitudes questioning my worth and the underlying loyalty to patriarchal norms, all in one fell swoop.

It's intriguing to be someone who perceives things differently, as we often face dismissiveness veiled as casual emotional manipulation. In this particular instance, the individual attempted to tug at my heartstrings, admonishing my self-identification as a heart-centered leader. The ego truly is a fascinating protector—it instinctively goes for the jugular when confronted with discomfort.

What a seamless transition into today's newsletter, serving as a reminder that my writing might not entirely resonate with you and could even stir some discomfort. However, it is precisely in that discomfort where the magic happens—where we open ourselves to contrasting perspectives. Today, even if my words fail to strike a chord, I implore you to engage in the values exercise it presents. It offers profound insights and opportunities for self-discovery, allowing you to define your personal values as a guiding force for a purposeful life.

It will give you an opportunity to take a moment to reflect on what truly matters to you, to delve into your beliefs, and cultivate a deeper understanding of your guiding principles. While other sections of this newsletter might not capture your attention, I encourage you to embrace this exercise as a valuable tool for self-exploration and personal growth.

On a personal level, I chose to abstain from alcohol on July 16th, 2019, shortly after my impactful experiences with MDMA. This personal journey of quitting alcohol following transformative encounters with MDMA highlights the profound influence of self-reflection and introspection in catalyzing positive transformation.

My transformative experiences with MDMA granted me access to a transcendent state of being, which unveiled a profound perspective on my own identity. In that heightened state, I found myself observing my existence from an external vantage point, enveloped by an overwhelming sense of boundless self-love and reverence. This extraordinary moment of self-realization became a catalyst for a life-altering revelation.

Within this revelation, it became undeniably clear to me that my reliance on alcohol as a coping mechanism had inflicted deep harm upon my overall well-being. Despite numerous attempts to break free from its grip, my previous efforts had proven futile. It was only when I reached a devastating rock bottom—a harrowing blackout drunk episode—that my sense of dignity and self-worth shattered. This profound crisis became a turning point, compelling me to seek help and embark upon a transformative journey of self-discovery.

Despite my friend Candice's persistent encouragement to seek assistance from Alcoholics Anonymous, my ego and resentment towards life had hindered me from taking decisive action. False pride, stemming from the fear of confronting my struggles with substance use, had trapped me in a state of denial.

This poem bears witness to a moment in time, a fleeting glimpse of my innermost thoughts and emotions at that time.

Black Hole

Oh, the black hole of loneliness, It captures us in moments of disparity But oh, how well we hide our vulnerability Behind a clever and adaptive facade

But when we're left alone in the abyss Our ideas fade into the weight of responsibility The darkness takes over, leaving us with nothingness Oh, the power of the black hole's invisibility

Let us not be consumed by this darkness Let us embrace vulnerability, for it is strength Let us shine a light on the black hole's emptiness And find a way to break free at any length.

Sher - 7/7/19

The turning point in my life arrived on the morning after my last destructive drinking episode, precisely on July 16th, 2019. It was then that I finally surrendered to the harsh reality of my situation. Overwhelmed by a profound sense of humility and vulnerability, I summoned the courage to take a transformative step towards healing by attending my very first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. Since that pivotal moment, my journey has been one of remarkable transformation, initially guided by the principles and support of AA.

The initial step of detoxifying my system from alcohol marked the inception of my voyage towards becoming an active participant and creator of my own life. Nevertheless, as a person deeply committed to feminist ideals, I have encountered certain challenges within the program of AA. It is important to acknowledge that AA was established in the 1930s, during an era dominated by the "White Male System," and its literature, philosophies, and rhetoric have remained largely unchanged over the past nine decades. This realization has prompted me to confront and navigate the unique hurdles that arise as a result of these historical underpinnings.

Despite the obstacles presented by the patriarchal undertones within the Big Book, my journey within AA was a continuous process of growth and learning. While there may have been moments where the program's imperfections ignited frustration within me, I have come to appreciate the unique value it offered. AA serves as a sanctuary where mistakes are embraced with non-judgement and compassion, and the pursuit of self-discovery and transformation can flourish.

Through my dedicated engagement with the 12 Steps and the fellowship, I embarked on a deeply transformative journey of self-discovery. Throughout this process, I have experienced both moments of criticism and admiration towards AA, acknowledging its limitations while recognizing the draw it holds for many. This program has granted me a fresh perspective on life, prompting me to confront my own powerlessness in the face of substance use. Although the fear and shame-based approach to sobriety no longer aligns with my personal beliefs, I wholeheartedly recognize the value of AA as a safe haven where individuals can make mistakes and find unwavering support.

Upon introspection of my challenging encounters within AA, I felt an undeniable urge to expand my understanding of addiction beyond the confines of the outdated literature found in the Big Book—the official literature of Alcoholics Anonymous. Motivated by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I made the decision to embark on a journey of higher education, enrolling in a degree program focused on the Psychology of Addictions. Simultaneously, I committed myself to obtaining certification as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Certified Recovery Mentor, and Intentional Peer Support Mentor.

It was during a profound Trauma and Recovery course that I was enlightened about the profound transformation that arises from the cultivation of personal values. As part of the curriculum, our instructor assigned an exercise that has since become a pivotal cornerstone in my own pursuit of self-actualization. I am eager to share this transformative exercise with you, as it has greatly impacted my journey towards personal growth and fulfillment.

Here is a breakdown of the steps involved in the exercise:

1. Begin by conducting an online search for "personal values" and explore the diverse examples available. Take ample time to contemplate the impact these values have had on your life.
2. Obtain ten plain white note cards and inscribe the ten values that resonate with you the most. Read them repeatedly, allowing their significance to sink in. Take the opportunity to research their definitions and reflect upon the emotions they evoke within you.
3. Organize the cards by arranging them in order from the most significant to the least significant. This process may require some time and deliberation. Lay the cards out on the floor and move them around until you feel satisfied with their arrangement.
4. Remove the four values situated at the bottom of your prioritized list.
5. Shuffle the remaining six values and examine each one individually. Ponder how they align with your life and consider their relevance. Proceed to establish a new order for these six values, ranking them from one to six based on their importance to you.
6. Eliminate the last two values, leaving you with four cards. These remaining cards represent your core values—the fundamental principles that hold the utmost significance to you. They serve as guiding beacons to aid you in making decisions and navigating through life's complexities.

After going through this process of introspection and self-reflection, I came to realize that there are certain principles and beliefs that form the foundation of my character and guide my decisions and actions. These were my core values, and they represented the qualities that I held most dear and strived to embody in my daily life.

I identified four core values that are particularly important to me: respect, integrity, compassion, and honesty. Respect, for me, means treating others with dignity, empathy, and kindness, and valuing their unique perspectives and experiences. Integrity is about being true to my word, following through on my commitments, and upholding my principles even in the face of adversity. Compassion is the ability to empathize with others, to put myself in their shoes and see the world through their eyes, and to extend a helping hand whenever possible. Honesty is the foundation of trust, and it means being truthful, transparent, and authentic in my words and actions.

Interestingly, I noticed that these four values form an acronym, RICH, which perfectly encapsulates the essence of my belief system. This realization has had a profound impact on the way I approach life and the way I talk about myself and my values. I now refer to my life as RICH, not in the material sense, but in the sense that I am fortunate to have a life that is grounded in respect, integrity, compassion, and honesty. These values are the cornerstones of my character, and they guide me in all aspects of my life, from my personal relationships to my professional pursuits.

Engaging in the process of identifying my core values has been an invaluable journey of self-discovery, enabling me to gain profound insights into my authentic self and my guiding principles. As I aspire to live a RICH life rooted in respect, integrity, compassion, and honesty, I aim to create a positive ripple effect in the world and inspire others to embrace their own values and beliefs. Through the alignment of my actions with these core values, I seek to make a meaningful and lasting impact, fostering a sense of purpose and encouraging others to embark on their own transformative journeys of self-discovery.

The interplay between our values and beliefs and their profound impact on our perspective of life is truly captivating. They serve as the compass that navigates us through the intricacies of relationships and decision-making. Take, for instance, the value of honesty. When honesty holds a central place in our core values, we naturally gravitate towards individuals who embody truthfulness and transparency. Similarly, if loyalty is dear to us, we are inclined to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals who share our unwavering sense of commitment and dedication. Our values and beliefs not only shape our outlook but also influence the choices we make, the people we surround ourselves with, and ultimately, the path we walk in life. They serve as a guiding force, illuminating our way and ensuring our actions align with the principles we hold dear.

The influence of our values and beliefs extends beyond our perspective on life to the way we communicate and navigate conflicts with others. If we hold the belief that compromise plays a crucial role in resolving disputes, we approach interactions with openness to negotiation and a genuine desire to find common ground. On the other hand, if assertiveness is a value we uphold, we tend to communicate directly and openly, even if it introduces some tension in certain situations. Our values and beliefs shape our communication style, guiding us to engage in ways that align with our principles. By being aware of these influences, we can navigate conflicts with integrity and authenticity, fostering understanding and creating opportunities for constructive resolution.

Our values and beliefs take center stage when it comes to decision-making, serving as a guiding framework that helps us evaluate options and select the most suitable course of action in alignment with our principles. Consider the value of environmental sustainability, for example. If this value holds significance to us, it will steer our purchasing decisions towards eco-friendly choices, reflecting our commitment to the well-being of the planet. Conversely, if financial stability is a core value, we prioritize long-term planning over immediate gratification, recognizing the importance of securing our financial future. Our values and beliefs become a compass that directs our decision-making process, ensuring that our choices reflect our deeply held convictions and contribute to the life we aspire to lead.

However, it's important to recognize that our values and beliefs can sometimes create conflict and tension when they clash with those of others or when we're faced with situations that challenge our principles. It's a balancing act, but by being aware of how our values and beliefs impact our relationships and decision-making processes, we can strive for consistency and harmony in our approach to life.

Values Exercise Round 2:

Upon completing this written reflection, I experienced a profound realization that perhaps it was time for me to embark on this exercise once again. In the midst of undergoing a significant life transition, as I bid farewell to a toxic work environment and prepare to embark on a transformative educational journey pursuing a MA/PhD program in Transformative Social Change, I believe it is essential for me, as the proverbial "Dr.," to heed my own advice.

Recognizing the transformative power of revisiting one's values, I am compelled to engage in this exercise anew. By delving into my core principles and reassessing their significance in this juncture of my life, I can cultivate a deeper understanding of myself and forge a clear path forward. Embracing this opportunity for self-reflection and aligning my actions with my values will undoubtedly facilitate my personal growth and empower me on this transformative journey.

Upon revisiting the values exercise, I have identified a refined set of four core values that resonate deeply with me. These values encompass the essence of who I strive to be and what I hold dear. They provide guidance and purpose as I navigate life's challenges and pursue personal growth and fulfillment.

· Authenticity: I value being true to oneself and embracing individuality. Authenticity means being genuine, honest, and transparent in thoughts, actions, and interactions. It involves embracing one's unique qualities and expressing them without fear or pretense.

· Curiosity: I believe in the power of curiosity to fuel personal growth, learning, and exploration. Curiosity encourages an open-minded approach to life, fostering a thirst for knowledge, new experiences, and different perspectives. It involves asking questions, seeking understanding, and embracing the joy of discovery.

· Humanity: I hold a deep appreciation for the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings. Humanity encompasses empathy, compassion, and respect for others. It involves recognizing the interconnectedness of our shared human experience and promoting kindness, fairness, and justice in our interactions.

· Reciprocity: I believe in the importance of reciprocity in relationships and communities. Reciprocity involves giving and receiving in balanced and meaningful ways. It encompasses acts of kindness, generosity, and support, recognizing that our actions can have a positive impact on others and that we can also learn and benefit from the contributions of others.

It is fascinating to discover that these core values form the acronym ARCH, even though the symbolism of the arch in relation to my values was unintentional. Nonetheless, it holds a profound meaning. The arch can be seen as a gateway, bridging the gap from my previous iteration of values represented by the acronym RICH (respect, integrity, compassion, and honesty). Upholding these values has undoubtedly contributed to the richness and fulfillment in my life. The unexpected connection between ARCH and my values adds an extra layer of significance, serving as a powerful reminder of the transformative power that comes from remaining steadfast in these principles. It reinforces the notion that staying true to these core values can open up new possibilities and lead to personal growth and fulfillment.

Furthermore, the ARCH serves as both a literal and metaphorical gateway to a new set of values that do not abandon the previous ones but rather incorporate them into a deeper and more enriched understanding of my journey of self-discovery. Just as an arch connects two points, this transition in values connects the past and the present, weaving together the lessons learned from the initial set of values with the wisdom gained along the way. The arch represents the transformative passage towards a more profound and holistic perspective on personal growth and self-realization.

· Authenticity: Just as an arch represents strength, stability, and structural integrity, authenticity emphasizes having a strong foundation of self-awareness and being true to one's values and principles. Integrity involves acting in alignment with one's beliefs and values, consistently demonstrating honesty, ethics, and moral uprightness. By embracing authenticity, we uphold the value of integrity by remaining steadfast in our commitment to truthfulness and honoring our core principles. This alignment between authenticity and integrity allows us to build a solid and trustworthy character, earning the respect and trust of others through our consistent actions and words.

· Reciprocity: Just as an arch relies on a balanced structure, reciprocity emphasizes the mutual exchange of respect, support, kindness, and understanding in relationships. Respect involves recognizing and valuing the inherent worth and dignity of others, treating them with courtesy and consideration. In the context of reciprocity, respect is at the core of creating a harmonious and mutually beneficial dynamic. It means honoring the perspectives, boundaries, and needs of others while also expecting the same level of respect in return. By embodying respect within the principle of reciprocity, we foster healthy and balanced relationships built on mutual understanding, empathy, and fairness.

· Curiosity: Just as an arch serves as a gateway or entrance, curiosity invites exploration and the pursuit of knowledge. When approaching new spaces or ideas with curiosity, it is essential to do so with honesty and an open mind. Honesty involves being truthful and sincere in our quest for understanding, allowing us to explore different perspectives and ideas without biases or preconceptions. By embracing curiosity with honesty, we foster a genuine desire to learn, grow, and discover fresh possibilities, enabling us to expand our horizons and develop a more comprehensive and authentic understanding of the world.

· Humanity: Just as an arch symbolizes connection and unity, humanity recognizes the interconnectedness of all individuals and fosters a sense of empathy and compassion towards others. Compassion involves understanding and empathizing with the experiences, emotions, and struggles of others, and extending kindness and support to them. In the same way that multiple components come together to form a cohesive structure in an arch, humanity emphasizes the importance of coming together as a collective, supporting and uplifting one another. By embracing the principle of humanity, we cultivate a compassionate mindset that promotes unity, empathy, and a genuine concern for the well-being of others. It reminds us to treat others with kindness and compassion, recognizing that our actions can have a profound impact on the lives of those around us.

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