Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – email@example.com
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Why are some things important to us, while other things are not? Some of us are ambitions to do well at work, others are perfectly content to plod along. Some want to excel in their hobbies, others just want a nice relaxing pastime. Some feel they must do the best for their elderly relatives, others feel no such obligation.
The theory of Transactional Analysis talks about five “drivers” – to be perfect, to please others, to be strong, to try hard, to hurry up – and I think these can be very useful categories in helping to understand ourselves and others. But sometimes people can categorise themselves too readily. “I’m a perfectionist so I can never leave things half done” : “I’ve got a hurry up driver so we mustn’t be late….”
The problem with this is that you can typecast yourself – you can become a slave to the categories you identify – you can them as unchangeable. But I don’t think that these drivers are embedded in our DNA, I think they are learnt. This is empowering, because it means that we have the ability to be different – to change these character traits, though it’s by no means an easy thing to do.
These drivers can be two-edged swords. They motivate us, they provide a framework for making decisions and they are an influence on our personal code of moral values. But there can also be situations where they are a nuisance. Sometimes the perfectionist would do well to settle for “good enough”; the person with the “be strong” driver to let themselves cry.
If you want to do some things differently – to behave differently in certain situations – one important step can be to go beyond these drivers and ask yourself that most intrusive of questions : “Why?” Why do I feel the need to be strong? Why is it important for me always to try my hardest? It might be difficult to answer the “why?” question – “It’s just the way I am” – “I’ve always been like this”. What this tends to suggest is that you have adopted these drivers from a young age – it’s something you’ve learnt to do. Maybe your father was a caring sort who always encouraged you to think of others, maybe your mother criticised you if you fell short of perfection, maybe your sister used to laugh at you and tease you if you cried, so you learnt to be strong.
A client of mine told me that he had a “hurry up” driver, and we explored this together. He was able to track it back to pre-school days, the age of about 3 or 4, he thought. Mornings in his house were always frantic – his father and mother both used public transport to get to work and the whole process of getting ready to go out was always done to a tight deadline. He seemed to remember that if he wasn’t getting ready in time, his mother would become very flustered and sometimes angry – and he linked this with feelings of panic and fear if he was going to be late for a meeting or even a social event, even 50 years later.
With my client’s understanding, came the ability to change. When he found himself starting to panic about being late for a social event, he could ask himself “who cares?” – and the answer would be “My mother cares”. And since his mother was not going to this social event (indeed, she had died more than 20 years previously), he was then able to calm himself with the thought that actually nobody would really be bothered if he was five minutes late – that it really didn’t matter.