We usually associate the word “rebel,” with defiance, but anyone who exhibits great independence in thought and behavior might be considered a rebel. However, rebellion that breaks laws or causes harm to others or ourselves; stems from misunderstanding, rather than honoring our rebel.
Teens usually have no problem honoring their rebel, but it’s actually a sign of good mental health necessary to individuate and find their place and purpose in the world. This requires a pushing back on rules being imposed upon them so they can decide for themselves if this is a value they want to uphold in their own life. As adults, it’s important we continue to engage our rebellious spirit when faced with anything that threatens living a life of congruency with our values.
If we listen carefully, the rebel inside us is the voice of……….
what we value about others & ourselves.
what is incongruent between our values & choices.
our hardwired drive to be safe & thrive in the world.
Our value system can be a template to help us navigate our world when faced with difficult or ambiguous situations. Our values often shift or expand as we develop, learn and grow. Values we once held, may not be serving us well today and our rebel maybe trying to tell us that. Being curious and informed about the origins of our values allows us to understand their purpose and relevance in our past, present & future life. Example: Daughter calls Mom and says, “I’m baking a cake today and placed a pan of water in the oven right next to it like you always did. Why do you do that?” Mom says, “I don’t know, Grandma always did, lets call Grandma.” To which she replied, “I don’t know why you two have been doing it, but I always did it because my oven rack was uneven.”
1.) Understanding Ourselves is always a safe BET~
If we are not sure about our own values, we can BET our Behaviors, Emotions & Thoughts will help us define this. The ABC show “What Would You Do,” is a great example of this; revealing social values by exposing people to re-created real life controversies with a hidden camera to capture how they will respond. Afterwards, when interviewed, many are visibly surprised by the intensity of emotion it stirred within themselves . Ask yourself, “Do my BET reflect what is valuable in my life?” Not sure about your values? Do you have a person who inspires you? What about HOW they live their life do you admire? An informed rebel can respectfully rebel against anything that threatens living an authentic life when armed with knowledge. I highly recommend “Values Clarification,” by Simon, Howe & Kirschenbaum as a practical and straightforward guide to learning about your values.
Often times we reject our value template for fear of expressing our authentic self. As a result, we often experience some degree of sadness, irritability, guilt or general discontent. This is how our rebel speaks to us!
2.) Be transparent with yourself.
Taking responsibility for our feelings makes room for humility when revamping & maintaining our template in good working condition. A client once shared she felt “less of a woman,” having not experienced vaginal birth with any of her children, until she took a value inventory & realized that she chose to become pregnant to bring a child into the world, not to experience labor!!!! . It’s important our rebel be flexible in thought & behavior in order to serve the value we are trying to uphold. Ask yourself…
How does my rebel respond when life doesn’t go as planned?
Is this response helping me get my needs met in a healthy way?
Does it reflect my values?
Is this behavior getting me closer or further from my goal?
What goal can I create that will help me live in more congruence with my values?
How do I WANT to think, feel & act towards what is valuable in my life?
We all have a physiological drive to get our needs met, grow, and keep ourselves safe in the world. Did you have to tell your baby when to crawl or take their first steps? Psychologist Abraham Maslow referred to “self actualize,” as our desire to realize our full potential. In “Man’s Search For Meaning, Victor Frankl’s refusal to give up hope on the meaning of his life while in Nazi concentration camps will forever be an awe inspiring example of this drive within all of us. Sometimes circumstances beyond our control can limit our choices in life, but here’s where our rebel can really be our ally!
3.) Draw upon the reservoir of energy created from our rebellious spirit to cultivate our creativity, spirituality & perseverance.
When & how often do you feel or act upon creative urges?
Is there an activity or interest to which you look forward, or are able to “lose” yourself to the outside world?
How do you spend your leisure time?
Creativity is not exclusive to the arts, but also resides within us all and is one of our purest and intelligent forms of rebellion. This can be a buffer to stress &/or the place from which we build our occupation around. Nothing remains stagnant, infusing our own creativity into determining our future is quite empowering!
Spirituality is having faith in, and connecting with, the profoundly powerful and divine force that is present and available to us all. Customarily expressed in prayer or meditation, allowing us to connect with the sacred, which helps us to hear, and understand our own internal process. When we believe in God, a higher power or something outside of ourselves, it helps validate our purpose, strengthen our resiliency when our values are challenged, and offers a level of trust that eclipses our human fears.
Being authentic requires perseverance because we are never sure how others might respond. In order to keep ourselves safe from rejection or embarrassment, we may adopt fears that limit our opportunities to take risk in being more authentic with others and ourselves. Author and expert in predicting violence, Gavin De Becker, shares in his book, “The Gift of Fear,” how he has helped victims keep themselves safer by identifying the value to which their unwanted fears are attached. A woman was experiencing excessive fear walking alone to the parking garage after working late. When he asked why she couldn’t leave work earlier, she shared she feared co-workers would view her as lazy and she would lose her identity as the employee who worked the longest.
I first learned Carl Jung’s quote, “What resists, persists,” early in my journey as a therapist. This simple 3- word phrase has served as a tool for many of my clients to unearth the values their rebel is desperately trying to honor the best they knew how. The discovery begins to lift the guilt and shame and converts rebel from enemy to ally. Unearthing our values takes commitment and practice, but the results will sustain us for a lifetime. These brave individuals did exactly that by listening carefully to their rebel!
Experiencing frequent bouts of exhaustion and tearfulness, a young woman recognized this as her rebel reminding her she valued authenticity after living within an inauthentic, chemically dependent family.
After untangling our belief system, we may discover living in congruency with our values will require big changes over time. A few, small changes held in place are more effective than introducing too many changes at once. Most importantly, remember to be patient with yourself and your efforts in honoring your rebel and living a more authentic life.