By Kris Kile
Early in life we figure out that negotiating life can be a dangerous process. We don’t really ponder that as children—it just occurs to us instinctually, unconsciously.
Losses, disappointments, betrayals and tragedies all occur in this imperfect world. Even if you were raised in a “pristine” home environment, even you didn’t escape recognizing that disappointments sometimes happen and there is often nothing you can do to prevent them.
We intuitively recognize that the way we are being isn’t preventing these things from happening. So, ultimately, we determine that there is something wrong with me, or something wrong with the other(s), or something wrong with the situation I am in. Almost always, this realization is occurring primarily in our unconscious.
So, we start naturally gravitating
towards “compensation strategies.”
When we feel we are not enough, we often compensate and adjust the way we are in order to more effectively navigate the uncertain waters of life. We adopt various ways of being and different strategies of living in order to chart a safer path through the perceived dangers and challenges we face.
This is instinctual, and we rarely, if ever even think about it. It is just “the way it is” and “the way I need to be” in order for life to turn out.
The survival strategies we adopt can initially be helpful. There is nothing inherently wrong with adapting to life in order to manage dangers and challenges more effectively.
But, what happens is we start relying on these strategies to carry the day. It unconsciously occurs to us that these compensating behaviors and ways of being are absolutely essential for our life to turn out. They are not just a tool in the toolbox. They are the solution.
We end up masking what is authentically so for us,
in order to project an image that we conclude is safer and more likely to work than just being us.
The heart of this mindset is scarcity. We unconsciously determine somewhere along the way that just being us is not enough, and we need to adapt these strategies or else life is not going to turn out. We adopt behaviors and attitudes and ways of being that seem to help us get along.
For example, when I was a boy, I determined that if I worked hard, was competent, and constantly strove to excel, that this was the surest path to success, being liked and being accepted by others. And I carried this orientation right into adulthood.
I never consciously thought about this, or pondered it. It just instinctually occurred to me as a path to take.
Of course, hard work and competence generally are very good. But, I came to rely upon them to carry the day, and sometimes competence and hard work are simply not enough. So, if things weren’t working, I would just double down and work harder and try to be more competent.
This led to being driven, ultimately fueled by a fear of failure. That led at times to insensitivity, impatience, and judging myself when I missed the mark. For decades, none of these drivers occurred to me consciously.
My achiever mindset was a mask–an image I felt compelled to embrace and project. It limited what I saw possible in any particular situation. I actually had more solutions, or “tools in my tool box” of life I could have used. But, it didn’t occur to me to use them because I was so fixated on my idealized view of how I needed to be.
It is my view that every human on the planet has this dynamic working in them in some fashion. We all have different compensation strategies.
- • Some might become perfectionists,
- • Some may become great helpers or care takers,
- • Some may seek constant stimulation through activities,
- • Some might work consistently to create an environment of peace,
- • Some might sell out to right the injustices in the world…
There are lots of compensating strategies that can be embraced.
But, the reality is that by embracing and adopting these strategies, we end up selling out to that image as the means to our success in life.
And that image is only a partial view of who we are. It usually includes some strengths and useful attributes. The mischief comes when it is projected and primarily relied upon for survival. This leads to us protecting and hiding any elements of ourselves that don’t fit that image. So, over time, it, in reality, is a false image we are projecting.
In my view, this universal dynamic
is the greatest obstacle to authenticity.
To be able to relax our dependence on this
and allow a more full expression of what
is actually true for us is the work of a lifetime.
One short blog is not going to do justice to providing details on unraveling this. But, what I ask you to do today is to simply consider this dynamic as a possible way in which you relate. Just consider it, reflect upon it and observe yourself from a point of view that it may be so for you, also.
What are your favorite strategies for negotiating life?
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