On Values

Over the past year, I’ve been intelletually captured by the work of Danielle Nahon and Nedra Lander (2005). Their work, building on that of O. H. Mower, focuses on the curical role of Integrity in our mental well-being, way of living and relationships with others.

There are just two fundamental beliefs central to the Integrity Model (IM):

  • Humans beings have deeply personal values
  • Ones experinece of emotional distress depends upon the degree to which one violates these personal values

These beliefs in themselves are deeply challenging and insightful.

Where many of us may seek to remedy our symptoms of anxiety, “negative thoughts” and other experiences through the application of psychological tricks (aka “techniques”) or other means, the IM challenges us to reconsider our experiences.

Specfically, it challenges us to ask ourselves: what values that I hold central to me am I betraying?

I can certainly relate to this…

In 2018 I experienced a bout of “insomnia” where I’d fall to sleep OK but would wake up in the wee hours of the morning and struggle to fall back asleep again. All I could think about in these times was what I was doing with work? How could I overcome a particular challenge? Why wasn’t a colleague being co-operative?

In these ruminations, I would point the finger at my colleague. I’d blame them for the confusion I was experiencing and resulted in me not addressing the issue.

Instead I sought to find ways to get my solid 7-8 hours sleep that is held as the holy grail of optimal living. What if I read at night before bed, would that put me in to a sounder slumber? Maybe if I practice mindfulness if I do wake up, I could fall back asleep sooner? What if I just don’t worry about it?

Needless to say, the results were mixed. Some nights I could get back to sleep. Other nights I couldn’t.

The breakthrough was the application of the basic principles set out by Lander & Nahon (2005) described above.

Rather than seeking to remove the symptoms of lack of sleep, I sought to undestand how I was living my life. Or, more specifically, how was I being at work in relation to my own values?

A bit of reflection highlighted that I was hiding away from building bridges with my colleague in question. Afterall, pointing the finger at him wasn’t helpful. Globally labeling his whole character as “on the psychopath” scale (despite me knowing nothing about psychopathy!) didn’t help either. Doing so just created distance between us with my own crap being a key driver for this.

So, what did do about it? Afterall, we can philisophically reflect on our experiences all day but we must also live in the world!

Like all things, small steps are best. I simply took more an interest in my colleagues week, asking him where possible and suitable: “how’s the week been? Hows your son?” etc.

Nothing major but a way of being that is congruent with my own values. One that builds bridges.

Fast forward a year. THe relationship is still fraught but I’m sleeping better knowing that I’m doing what I can to keep things professional and moving forwards.

See beyond the symptoms, what values are you betraying in how you’re acting?


Lander, N. R. and Nahon, D. (2005). The integrity model of existential psychotherpy in working with the ‘difficult patient’. Routledge: New York.

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