What drives us to be how we are?
When we were young we learned ways of being – ways of behaving, thinking and feeling that are responses to our environment. Some ways of being are really positive – if you grow up in a caring loving family and are taught values of caring and loving for example.
Positive lessons on how to think and behave which might result in good manners, raised social awareness and a sense of responsibility.
Perhaps the environment of those early years has an underlying message too – try your best, never give up, always help, keep going until its perfect, etc. What might seem like a good value, for example “there’s no such thing as can’t” which reflects the ideology of keeping going until a solution is found, can result in a personal ‘driver’ – for example ‘try hard’.
A problem with these learned drivers is that they can become deeply rooted aspects of who we are, the ‘try hard’ person who finds it hard to let go, who gets frustrated with others who don’t try ‘enough’.
Here are the classic drivers that are identified in “Transactional Analysis”:
· Be Perfect
· Be Strong
· Try Hard
· Please Others
· Hurry Up
In principle these might seem like good qualities, and in moderation they probably are. A problem might occur when distortions in ways of thinking occur, or the driver becomes overly dominant. For example, where a person has a driver such as “Be Perfect” and finds that the stress of continually trying to attain that perfection is really draining, resulting in low energy and then even more stress as more personal values are not met. Or for the kind, caring person who’s “Please Others” driver results in them putting themselves last all the time, resulting in no personal boundaries, being treated as a ‘doormat’ and walked over – their self-esteem suffering and low-mood resulting. The stress and anxiety that comes from “Hurry Up” when taken beyond liking to be prompt can turn into worry about being late and excessive compensating by being very early for appointments, flights or meetings. The “Be strong” (Man up) driver can lead to suppression of emotions and emotional vacuums followed by angry blow-ups.
If combined, drivers can have even more negative impact – A “Be Perfect” combined with “Hurry Up” could result in feelings of needing to spend more time achieving the perfect standard and anxiety over being late, or alternatively feeling anxious about not achieving the perfect standard in order not to be late.
Becoming aware of personal drivers can help a person to notice when the drivers are excessively impacting on personal behaviour. Noticing how and when a driver affects your thoughts, feelings and behaviour, you have the possibility to start a process of learning to adjust or reduce the effect of that driver. For example, the person with a “Be Perfect” driver can learn to say “its good enough”, or “I am fine as I am”. This might be a hard process at first – accepting less than your driver demands, but it is possible to learn new ways of being where the driver is not dominant.
One of the ways that I work with people is in helping them to notice their driver and how it might be impacting their life; noticing the thoughts that go with the driver and finding alternative, perhaps more balanced thoughts; we might look at what behaviours follow a driver and consider finding alternative ways of behaving in response. Finding ways of being that result in feeling less anxious, more engaged, and having better self-esteem.
Please do get in touch if you would like to find out more.