Anger in the Age of Entitlement

Cleaning up emotional pollution

How to Ruin Your Life: Devalue More than You Value

How much do you value your life?

Every emotion that lasts longer than a few seconds signals either an increase or decrease of value. The behavior that valuing emotions motivate carries non-verbal messages: "You are interesting, pleasant, essential, worthy, or possessed of fine qualities. Appreciating you enhances my life; failure to appreciate diminishes it."

The common valuing emotional states are:

  • Interest
  • Enjoyment
  • Appreciation 
  • Trust
  • Love
  • Compassion

Devaluing emotions motivate behavior that lowers the value of persons, things, ideas, and experiences. Their non-verbal messages include:

"You are unworthy, unfit, untouchable...."
"I'm better than you."
"I'm not as bad as you."
"Nothing's worth it."
"Who cares?"
"What's the point?"

These common devaluing emotional states, including moods, limit new value investment and scour out remnants of the old:

  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Contempt
  • Disgust
  • Hatred

Although very hard to see in yourself, you can probably notice it in other people: When they value someone else, they value themselves, i.e., they make their lives more important.

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On the other hand, devaluing is a primary defense against feeling devalued. The impulse to devalue always signals a diminished sense of self; you must be in a devalued state to devalue. That's why it's so hard to put someone down when you feel really good and, on the other side of the coin, to build yourself up when you feel blue or resentful.

The great swindle of devaluing is that it never puts you in touch with the most important things in your life and, therefore, never raises personal value. On the contrary, its whole purpose is to make someone else's value lower than your own. If it works, you're both down; if it doesn't, you're even lower than you started. In either case, your personal value remains low and dependent on comparison with the very person you devalue. Yet the motivation to devalue tends to grow more frequent and intense. It can become a way of life.

Part of the attraction of devaluing is that it helps expel internalized persons of value, those who have gotten under your skin, only to let you down. Devaluing is how you get them out of your heart. For most people, recovery from a bad relationship, particularly if you were the "dumped" one, takes a long period of devaluing the former loved one or at least the relationship.

"What did I ever see in him?"
"We were so wrong for each other."
"I can't believe I fell for her crap."
"That's what happens when you ignore your gut instincts."
"He'll never be emotionally open."
"I'm not good enough for her."
"He's not good enough for me."

It's a painful process, to be sure; breaking up is hard to do. But consistent devaluing, while it dilutes the hurt, drags it out much longer than necessary. Instead of getting you to a neutral state where thoughts of that person trigger no negative emotion, it produces pain-numbing contempt:

"I don't even want to think about her, much less be in the same room. Just let the lawyers handle it."

Contempt eventually turns to disgust: "It makes me sick to think that I was ever physical with him."

Devaluing helps us "throw up" the internalized remnants of value gone bad. The "thin line between love and hatred" is actually a description of the two sides of value. Valuing brings ‘em in; devaluing throws ‘em out.

The Deliberate Choice to Create Value
The emotional rewards for valuing are as great as the punishments for devaluing. Superficially, valuing makes you feel good, devaluing makes you feel bad. On a deeper level, too much devaluing alienates you from the most important things in your life; valuing puts you in touch with your core values.

Like everything the brain does, valuing and devaluing are subject to habituation. If you've gotten into the habit of devaluing more than you value, your life will be bad, regardless of how many good things happen to you. If that is the case, you must make a deliberate choice to create more value. If you value more than you devalue, life is good, regardless of how much money you have or the amount of hurt you experience.

When you value a lot more than you devalue, your heart soars.

CompassionPower

 

Steven Stosny, Ph.D., treats people for anger and relationship problems. Recent books: How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about It, and Love Without Hurt.

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