Do you ever wonder how some people can go calmly about their lives, responding effectively to each new challenge as it arises? I became fascinated by this behaviour, especially as I found myself in a continual struggle to remain present and balanced in my approach to life. I wanted to uncover the source of my struggle so I could adopt a more conscious, present and wholehearted way of being.
We each have deep-rooted behavioural drivers, which Taibi Kahler identified in 1975. These are born in our unconscious and they try to keep us in the same patterns of behaviour. Although they have some very positive attributes in terms of helping us to get things done, they often take over our lives, wreaking havoc, with little regard for our emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
The five most common drivers that can overwhelm us are Try Hard, Be Strong, Please Others, Hurry Up and Be Perfect. Each of our drivers has an imperative, for example:
Try Hard: “I am not good enough as I am. To be regarded, I need to try harder.”
Be Strong: “Vulnerability is a sign of weakness. I need to suppress my emotions.”
Please Others: “Other people’s happiness is more important than mine.”
Hurry Up: “Whatever I am doing, I am not fast enough. I need to hurry up.”
Be Perfect: “I must be perfect and correct in every way and in everything I do.”
We have all five of these drivers at work in our unconscious to some degree, and some will be more dominant than others. The important factor to be conscious of is that as long as we allow our drivers to run the show, we are going to find it difficult to step forward and take care of ourselves. Consequently, we will not have the internal resources we need to wholeheartedly engage in life.
I believe that in order to be successful in honouring our inner purpose, we need to recognize and acknowledge our drivers. The big question is how do we do this?
I like to think of our drivers in terms of the voice of our internal controlling parent who motivates us to get things done. Most of us can identify with this inner-voice. We might associate it with a parent, a teacher, or a figurehead that we do not know personally but in whom we identify our drivers. We each internalized and adapted our drivers in a very specific way, at a very specific time during our development.
We also have an internal nurturing parent, who cares deeply for us and wants the very best for us. This voice stems from nurturing role models. For example, it can be a loving parent or family member, a friend or acquaintance, or sometimes it’s a figure we do not know personally, but whose voice and message resonates with us. I am always fascinated by where my internal nurturing parent finds its nourishment. For example, I have recently noticed that the owner of my local coffee shop has a really caring nature. He connects with his customers and nurtures a very unique relationship with each of them.
When we focus on nurturing inner compassion and love, we are drawn to kind and compassionate people. We also strengthen our internal nurturing parent, who can negotiate and compromise with our drivers. Therefore, when the voice of “you have to try harder”, “be strong”, “be perfect”, “hurry up”, or “please others” emerges, we can find some middle ground by allowing our internal nurturing voice to speak. We can do this by:
Making a decision to stay present and connected to each task, instead of allowing our “try harder” or “hurry up” voice to distract us. By consciously giving ourselves permission to focus on each task, one at a time, we give ourselves a chance to succeed. The same applies to when we take time out for ourselves−we do not distract ourselves with the voice of “I should..”
By writing a quick list of the tasks we have accomplished and then a list of our next priorities, we can clarify our thoughts and take stock. This simple exercise can put our drivers at ease so that we can grant ourselves permission to take a step back and take care of ourselves.
By consciously listening to ourselves, we can acknowledge our feelings when they emerge. Our feelings are our greatest source of connection with ourselves, and others. When we listen to our “be strong” driver, we suppress them. Consequently, each time we suppress our uncomfortable feelings, we also inadvertently close the lid on our feelings of inner love, self-worth and joy.
Like any practice, the more we allow our internal nurturing voice to speak, the more we strengthen it an allow ourselves to make choices that prioritize our well-being. This is how we truly care for ourselves. Importantly, when we take steps to see ourselves and honour our experience; we allow others to see us. This is the essence of self-care. It is what lies at the heart of honouring our true selves.
I have devised a four-step practice that can act as a support when uncomfortable or intrusive thoughts and feelings emerge. This practice recognises, understands, soothes and nurtures uncomfortable feelings. In doing so, we choose to see ourselves and bear our feelings with understanding and compassion. Through this caring and compassionate process we allow others to see us, and connect with us. Importantly, we no longer stand in our own way of developing mutually caring and supportive relationships. You can access this resource below.