Identity-Values-Reflection is a self-help therapeutic process that can guide a person towards healing. This article is a general starting point for individuals struggling with complex injury. Complex injuries include:

  • Mental illness
  • Healing after personal loss, grief, breakups, etc.
  • Healing from longstanding physical illness that have an emotional, spiritual, or psychological component
  • Workplace injury that never fully heals
  • Trauma

For a general introduction in IVR, please see What is Identity-Values-Reflection therapy.

IVR self-therapy doesn’t substitute for working with licensed professionals, including counselors, physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, coaches, etc. IVR self-therapy can complement working with these individuals. IVR self-therapy is another tool that can be used.

This article is a starter for helping people deal with personal injury. It is not intended for interpersonal issues (parenting, workplace communication, relationship problems, etc.).

This Article Contains:

General Steps of IVR self-therapy
(Pre-work) Goals of healing: What does healing look like?
(Pre-work) Understand Cycling
(Pre-work) Understand the three core domains: Identity, Values, Reflection
(Pre-work) Commit to healing
(Step 1) Identity / Purpose
(Step 2) Values and Feelings
(Step 3) Reflection and Listening

General Steps of IVR self-therapy

Here are the six steps to IVR self-therapy. There are three steps to complete before beginning. This is your pre-work. These steps will help you get started:

  1. Goals of healing: What does healing look like?
  2. Understand cycling
  3. Breaking down three core domains

After this pre-work is done, then there are three steps of IVR self-therapy. These three steps are repeated throughout the healing process until healing is completed:

  1. Identity/Purpose
  2. Values and Feelings
  3. Reflection and Listening

(Pre-work) Goals of healing: What does healing look like?

Before we begin, we need to establish some core goals to focus on. Here are a list of core goals that can be modified to a person’s particular situation.

  • Make understanding one’s injury/illness the primary goal. Read Apex Values: All Roads Lead to Understanding to understand why understanding leads to healing. Remember that healing is, at least in part, a feeling that cannot be forced. We cannot make ourselves feel like we’ve healed. By contrast, understanding our injury/illness is entirely within our power to accomplish.
  • Work towards understanding the full story of the injury/illness, which includes understanding predisposing factors, different individuals’ contributions to the injury, and post-injury reactions. What factors put a person at risk for becoming injured/ill in the first place? How did individuals involved contribute? How did post-injury reactions negatively affect and delay healing?
  • The work of understanding the injury/illness is a nonjudgmental process. Avoid assigning blame. Instead, focus on intentions, contribution, and impact.
  • Work to understand the purpose behind one’s feelings. Unresolved negative emotions surrounding an injury/illness tell us that healing is incomplete. As we make progress, those negative emotions should improve over time. See Feelings Have Purpose.
  • Work to understand how values play a role in healing. How do values affect the choices that are made?
  • Work to understand the social, psychological, spiritual, scientific, and moral domains of healing. Healing a complex injury is never just about one of these domains.
  • Using a reflective process, put together the “third story” of the injury/illness. This involves seeing how individuals’ habits have contributed to positive cycling, negative cycling and/or co-dependency.
  • Work towards establishing a genuine fit between individuals involved. This means eliminating fit distortions. See Do We Fit Together?
  • Let connection be the cure. Reconnect with individuals involved, including support individuals, one’s inner self, and people directly involved in the injury/illness. This may involve reconnecting with people with whom you may have harmed or been harmed by. When you cannot reconnect directly with important individuals, proxies can be used.

This is the basic work of healing a difficult injury/illness. In following these steps, a person should see progress over time. That progress is seen in one’s own feelings along with reactions from others as relationships become healthier.

Healing is a rhythmic process, rather than a linear one. Set expectations accordingly that there will be good days and bad days. See the 3-Step Rhythm of Healing.

From the outset, we do not know exactly what healing will look like. Acceptance is an important final stage of healing. Acceptance follows understanding.

(Pre-work) Understand Cycling

If a person is already making measurable progress towards healing, then they are involved in positive cycling. Chances are, such a person has a fairly positive attitude towards their situation that is absent of blaming, splitting, attacking, judging, and cynicism. They feel well-connected with loved ones, their inner selves, and the world at large. They have a lot of healthy habits and support people. They work towards healing by putting in a moderate amount of effort each day. While recognizing that nobody is perfect, they still believe in the good intentions of people. They can see measurable progress over time towards their goals. Read Guild to Positive Cycling to understand why things are working for these individuals.

So often though, people become stuck. Their healing is delayed, slowed way down, or it can even go backwards. Remarkably, some people’s injuries can worsen over time, even though the inciting event is over. This can be incredibly frustrating and debilitating as there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer why.

Negative emotions can tell us when healing is delayed or when we are regressing. In the past, the medical field has falsely believed that negative emotions, like anxiety, anger and fear, were the problem. The medical field often treated such emotions as pathological, as something needing to be suppressed or eliminated with treatment.

In IVR therapy, we will use our emotions. Our emotions will give us clues and guide us towards healing. That does not mean that we act on every knee-jerk emotion. We do not give in to every bout of anger, for instance. Instead, we listen carefully for the hidden meaning beneath our emotions. It is that hidden message that will guide us.

In IVR, we will examine a person’s habits to see how they may be affecting healing. There may be unhealthy habits that are impeding the healing process. Most often, these unhealthy habits were learned behaviors that once served the person well. However, the habits have become detrimental to the current situation. We don’t look at any particular behavior as being bad or wrong. Instead, we see the behavior as being problematic for the particular situation.

We will use an inquisitive, nonjudgmental approach to separate out unhealthy habits from healthy ones. We will conduct small behavior experiments to see which types of behaviors work best for our situation. We will reserve judgment until the outcome of those experiments is known. We can then use that evidence to determine which habits work best for healing a particular situation. Then, we can redirect the person’s energy towards those healthier endeavors.

So often people get stuck in difficult habits that impair healing. These difficult habits create a type of cycle. We do something, with all good intentions, and this has an impact on ourselves and the world at large. Then, in response, someone or something outside our direct control, reacts to what we have done. This reaction has an impact on us. Then the process will repeat itself to create a habit. If, over time, the sum total of behaviors and impact is positive for our healing, we call this positive cycling. However, when the sum total has a negative impact, this is negative cycling. If there is minimal change in healing over time, this is co-dependency.

Recognizing negative cycling and co-dependency is critical. A person needs to be able to differentiate these unhealthy phenomena from positive cycling, which leads to healing. Here are some general tips to identify co-dependency and negative cycling in yourself or a loved one. Keep in mind, co-dependency and negative cycling are closely related. Differentiating between the two isn’t as important as recognizing their existence.

Co-dependency: Healing is stagnant and incomplete. There is not a clear answer for why this has occurred, but a person generally doesn’t feel good about it. On the surface level, they may have accepted where they are. But when diving beneath the surface, there are often many simmering negative emotions.

We can start to suspect co-dependency in a relationship by a few common traits: lack of spontaneous positive feelings, lack of understanding or awareness, defensiveness, criticizing behavior, inflexibility, and/or stonewalling.

In co-dependency, there is typically a denial that a problem exists. The person has created an effective veneer over the problem, shielding it from outside scrutiny. They may use positive emotions defensively as a way to deflect attention.

Despite its profound impact, co-dependency may be very subtle and difficult to detect. Suspect co-dependency in these situations:

  • You have strong feelings that you don’t understand or don’t make sense.
  • You or a loved one exhibits behaviors that don’t make sense.
  • You or a loved one doesn’t appear to be acting genuinely. For instance, there is a mismatch between behaviors and words. Or behaviors are inconsistent over time.
  • You feel a sense of disconnection inside yourself or with a loved one.
  • There is unresolved conflict.
  • You don’t feel heard or understood.
  • You find it difficult to communicate with an important individual or loved one.
  • There are power struggles over important issues.
  • There is attacking behavior, withdrawing behavior, frequent criticizing behavior, identity attacks, and/or inflexibility on important issues.

Negative cycling: A person involved in negative cycling is regressing. They are getting worse over time. This is a common, challenging phenomenon.

Many of the problems present in co-dependency can be seen in negative cycling: lack of spontaneous positive feelings, lack of understanding or awareness, defensiveness, criticizing behavior, inflexibility, and/or stonewalling. However, these problems are often taken to a higher level. Criticizing behavior transforms into contempt, disgust, blaming and identity attacks.

In negative cycling, there is no effective layer of defense or denial that can hide the issue. Instead, when the issue is brought up, the person is instantly charged up and emotional about their problem. They agree it is a big issue and will readily grab onto it to make their opinions known. Their emotions run away with them. They find it difficult to speak rationally about the issue or listen to people whose perspectives and opinions may differ.

Often there is splitting behavior. The person will split groups of people into allies and adversaries along fault lines of the issue. Allies will be assigned overly positive emotions, especially trust, respect, and benefit-of-the-doubt. Adversaries will be assigned overly negative emotions including distrust, contempt, disgust, lack of benefit-of-the-doubt regarding their intentions, and disrespect.

A person engaged in negative cycling will often use logic and reason to justify their arguments rather than emotional impact and values. They may minimize the impact of emotions on their own decisions and behavior, when in fact it is certain emotions that have gotten them carried away.

Positive cycling: A person engaged in positive cycling will display certain qualities. There is genuine openness to listening to people of differing views. Rather than splitting into allies and adversaries, there is desire towards genuine reconnection of these individuals through mutual understanding. They do not work to manipulate or convince one side to abandon its views. Feelings and behavior reflect this: flexibility, lack of intense negative views towards those of opposing views, lack of personal insults, lack of contempt and disgust, and extension of benefit-of-the-doubt. Discussion includes exploration of values and feelings alongside logical arguments. They share some insight into their own emotions and the emotions driving others involved.

Read the Guild to Positive Cycling to learn how to differentiate between these three phenomena.

Three core domains to breaking down your problem: Identity, Values, Reflection

All complex injuries and illnesses will follow one of three paths: healing, stagnation, or regression towards worsening illness. Each of these three paths is a type of habit. A person learns the habit of healing, the habit of stagnation, or the habit of regression.

Luckily, each of these three habits has common features. These common features will define which habit the person has learned. We can break down the habit into its common features for the purpose of eventually breaking the habit and replacing it with newer, healthier habits of healing.

When regression and stagnation occur to impede healing, there are three common features that we can readily identify. There is identity disconnection. There is some type of identity crisis. A person questions their purpose and their relationships with others involved. There are misplaced values. This means that the person will favor the use of certain values over other important values. Finally, there is impaired thinking as a person attempts to cover up their guilt and shame.

When healing occurs, we naturally find three important pieces involved. First, there is a focus on identity, which typically involves repairing relationships and understanding purpose. Second, there is a reconnection along shared values. Finally, there is a listening process where each individual works to understand feelings, intentions, contributions, and impact.

The beauty of this three-step process, called IVR, is that you don’t have to do everything well. At least not at first. Doing one of the three steps well is enough to kickstart the process towards healing. Each step feeds in on the next. Each step creates a natural progression of building trust and connection. Doing one step well will increase the likelihood of success at the next step.

Another way of looking at this is to understand that both co-dependency and negative cycling require you to be doing all three steps poorly. These problems are a habit that requires all three of identity disconnection, impaired values, and impaired thinking. To break a bad cycle, you need only interrupt it at one step. An interruption at one stage is enough to disrupt the path of the cycle.

(Pre-work) Commit to healing

At this point, a person is nearly ready to begin. They should make a final commitment to healing. Ask an honest question? How much is healing worth to you? How much time is it worth? How much discomfort is it worth? How much energy?

To be effective, IVR self-therapy requires time, discomfort, and hard work. There are no shortcuts. Make a commitment in terms of time, discomfort, and hard work.

If this is an important issue to you, I recommend committing at least 20-30 minutes a day, at least five days per week, to active healing. On this website, I have provided sample exercises. Each exercise should be relatively uncomfortable. The person may need to set aside additional time for rest and recovery.

I don’t recommend doing these exercises right before bed, as it may keep you up thinking about them. Do them earlier in the day and give yourself that time to recover before going to sleep. However, if you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about your problem, feel free to do one of the exercises for 10-15 minutes to help get difficult emotions off your chest. Then do something relaxing for an additional 10 minutes so that you can hopefully resume sleeping, if more sleep is needed.

These exercises may only be the beginning of the healing process for you. Healing may require additional help and resources. You may benefit from personal counseling, couples counseling, group therapy, physical therapy, meditation, etc. Any of these modalities would count as active healing modalities so long as you are the one doing the majority of the work. However, seeing a chiropractor, massage therapist or acupuncturist is not active healing if they are doing most of the work to you. Seeing a chiropractor, massage therapist or acupuncturist might be effective resting modalities to supplement the active work that you are doing. See a physician if you feel like you would benefit from additional help and support, such as medications or support devices, to aid in healing. Avoid self-medicating with alcohol and marijuana.

To maximize your likelihood of success, don’t neglect other aspects of your health. Make sure to get regular physical exercise, budget appropriate time for sleep, schedule time for connection with family and friends, eat a healthy diet, and avoid starting new bad habits (smoking, alcohol, frequent marijuana use, etc.). Do additional reading on subjects related to healing (see my bookshelf for ideas).

Through IVR therapy, a person can expect to better understand their problem. With understanding comes connection and healing. A person can start at any of the three steps. Each step can offer varying degrees of complexity, depending on your situation. Anyone new to this process should begin by picking out exercises from each of the three steps. Go through all three steps, then repeat the process.

(Step 1) Identity / Purpose

In the Identity Step, we work on a few core concepts related to identity. We look at how connection and disconnection affect healing. We identify 5 core individuals who can be effective supports for us during a period of intense healing. We work on inner cohesiveness and being genuine through our lives. We evaluate our purpose in life as it relates to an injury or illness. We look at how our identity changes over time and how this can lead to crisis. Finally, we piece together the narrative of our own personal story.

(Step 2) Values and Feelings

In the Values Step, we dive into our feelings to uncover hidden messages behind them and reveal our purpose. Next, we will use core values to begin to channel those feelings into healing. We will uncover personal blind spots–values that have either been over-utilized or under-utilized. We will create safe spaces for healing to occur. We will evaluate and reinforce appropriate personal boundaries. We will build bridges to people we may have become disconnected to.

(Step 3) Reflection and Listening

In the Reflection Step, we will revisit judgment, blame, and cynicism. We will look at how impaired thinking may have led us away from understanding in the past. We will turn our focus to understanding contribution, intention, and impact. We will reveal sore spots that may be triggering of strong emotional reactions. We will uncover habits that we hadn’t yet realized were problematic.

Listening is the primary tool of this step. We will listen to the stories of others. We will weave those stories into our own personal story to create a “third story” that encompasses the entirety of what is happening with us. This “third story” is the story of understanding. As we tell it, it begins to shift towards the positive direction of healing.