Values in Human Life
Talking about values in human life is quite a complicated task. The question arises: are they not merely an intellectual addition to the surrounding reality? Is it possible that they are only a creation of the human mind, seeking some escape from the material world?
It is hard to deny that human values are a form of abstraction. Their existence is difficult to prove unequivocally such as the existence of God. In both cases, it is a matter of belief. So, is a belief in the existence of value simply a form of self-therapy?
To understand the essence of this problem, I began to look for a definition of human value. It appears in Kazimierz Dąbrowski’s Mental health and human values.
Dąbrowski distinguished psychological human values or essentially humane values, which differ us from animals. They are responsible for the human capacity for individual and social development. Thanks to them, one is capable of more and more creative and original development. In this case, it is not only intellectual but also emotional and impulse development.
Values in Development
Higher feelings are developed in this process, such as empathy, responsibility, self-awareness, and especially dynamism subject-object in oneself. An attitude of a developed person is full of kindness and authentism. In addition, the influence of internal stimuli is stronger than the external one because of the autonomy and creativity of a person (Dąbrowski , 1974).
According to Dąbrowski, the expectations of reality and own attitudes are changed. In human life, the existential goals appear. They crystallize expectations of “what should be”, which Dąbrowski calls “essential developmental values”. Thanks to them, the simple impulsive behaviors are replaced with more sophisticated ones. Now human behaviors go beyond the canon of instinctive behaviors such as the struggle for dominance, escape or freezing in stillness.
Multilevelness of Values
Thanks to values, one climbs up on more multilevel development. Dabrowski writes here about exploring multilevel and multifaceted reality. It is about the ability to perceive from different points of view and understand others. It is also about seeing multilevel reality, which increases a positive solution for a human problem. Moving to a higher level of reflection may even make you aware of the shallowness of the current problem.
Dabrowski’s theory strongly connects values and mental health. Sensitive people are open to common human values. But the majority of society is blind to them. Therefore, people on the lower level of development are egoistic, mentally inflexible, narrow-minded, harmful to others, or even have criminal tendencies. These people without awareness of values are in Dąbrowski’s opinion incapable of development. Furthermore, maladjustment to everyday life and mental weakness show openness to developmental values (Dąbrowski, 1974).
Definition of Values
How can we define these values? They are closely related to higher social feelings, such as responsibility and altruism. They are also an expression beyond the desire for power or the need for possession. All this relates to the reorganization of the inner world. One focuses more on their own expectations than on the expectations of society. Rebellion against social norms is the same as an expression of a different hierarchy of values.
In Dąbrowski’s interpretation, the hierarchy of values develops at the edge of the unilevel and spontaneous multilevel disintegration. For many people, it is a basic and deep experience. It leads to a new perception and definition of reality. This type of values is called transcendental, coming over pleasure, adjustment, power, and ambition (Dąbrowski, 1989).
Development through values gives not only meaning of human life, but also shapes one’s personality. Hierarchy of values is based on own experiences and beliefs. On the other hand, one tries to show an alternative way to solve the existing problem. This does not mean that they want to convince someone to their point of view – but only remain faithful to own values. This attitude results from the internal axiological determinism of a person. In this sense, we can speak of the existence of essential values, which define personality.
In this context, Dabrowski talks about developmental values. With individual essence, they are interests and skills, which a person develops and deepens. The second part of individual essence is love and friendship. These feelings are unique and unusual bonds with others. The third part of this essence is self-awareness of own history of life and development and existential separateness. The development of personality enriches social essence, which is sublimation and affirmation in social relationships. With time, values are becoming unchangeable qualities that make sense of human life, and they are a source of empirical norms (Dabrowski, 1974). In this sense, values guide human development.
Summing up: Values are an important element of human life. On the one hand, they are something abstract and debatable, as the idea of God. So, they give meaning to human life and carry the potential of self-therapy. The values allow you to exceed simple pulses. In this aspect, developing your own hierarchy of values is a very important achievement in life. It is related to the development of personality. It is based on two essences: individual and social.
Dabrowski K. (1974). Zdrowie psychiczne a wartościci ludzkie [Mental health and human values], Warsaw: PTHP,
Dabrowski K. (1989). Elementy filozofii rozwoju [Elements of Philosophy of Development], Warsaw: PTHP.