Healing Power of Character Strengths
June 28, 2012 by Dr. Neal Mayerson ·
We are all born into this world with genetically determined tendencies – both physical and psychological. Then the world starts layering on its influences. Good diets help our physical characteristics unfold. Nurturing parents help our psychological-being unfold. Then life events pitch to alter, direct, and mold even further. Certain opportunities, tragedies, and events have contributed to the way we feel, act, and relate to others.
Early on, predetermined expectations from parents, teachers, and family members guide our psychological development. Some children inclined towards shyness have parents that are just fine with that, while other parents encourage their shy-oriented child to be more extroverted. Creativity can be discouraged by, let’s say, parents who are concerned that their child will struggle financially if they pursue a path of the creative arts.
So, as all of this unfolds, many of us lose parts of ourselves along the way. Parts of ourselves that are natural and core to who we are become suppressed and concealed.
The VIA Strengths Survey can be a triggering event that reintroduces us to ourselves in ways that can be powerfully healing. Here is a story that has recently come to the VIA Institute:
An alternative healing practitioner had been suffering for 13 years with intractable anxiety and headaches. Over this period she saw traditional medical specialists, chiropractors, and alternative healers. Nothing helped. Then one day her chiropractor asked her to take the VIA Character Strengths Test and when they reviewed the results together they noted that humor/playfulness was near the bottom. When he asked about what had happened to her playfulness that is ubiquitous in children, she began crying. At that moment she was able to connect with all of the things in her past that caused her to stop being playful. Serious events and tragedies as a young adult had caused her to stifle this strength of humor, and she had never reclaimed it. She also realized at that moment how much she missed this part of herself.
At her therapists urging, she began searching for comedic books, television shows, and movies to re-charge this strength, but at first, nothing seemed to be funny. Until, one day, she came across old Carol Burnett television shows. It began as a small spark, but as she continued to watch these shows she loved so much, she began noticing that her taste in humor was broadening and she was finding more and more things funny. She describes this process as one of being reborn. Her sense of flourishing went from a “3” on a 10 point scale to an “8”. Oh yeah, and by the way, her headaches and anxiety pretty much went away! Amazing!
I am fortunate to be privy to these stories throughout all the time. It is amazing to me that a life can take a turnabout so dramatically based on self-reflection about character strengths. There is so much power and so much healing that can occur when we find what’s best in ourselves and live true to that knowledge.
Re-discover your strengths today.
Filed Under: VIA Strengths general