Drive, Ambition and Energy, an IPNB and Empathy Perspective – November 2011
Until yesterday morning, the thought of writing this month’s newsletter hung over me like a knell of doom. When I imagined it, I was filled with dread and exhaustion. I tried invoking images of future panic, overwhelm, catastrophe and loss to drive myself toward accomplishment. I tried to just put one foot in front of another and get my hands onto the keyboard. I offered myself treats if I would just get it done. I excoriated myself with judgments and labels of laziness and general lack of worth. I compared myself to others – my good friend had gotten her newsletter written, why couldn’t I?
And how effective were all these strategies? For me, this time around, they were completely useless. I think maybe they used to work, when I had no other model, but now I see them as strategies, rather than truths, and they have lost some of their power. This time, there was another voice in me that I could hear at the same time, of compassion and gentle holding, speaking up for the power and ease of accomplishment that comes from self-connection. This voice remembered that these two weeks of fall are filled with anniversaries of trauma for me, and was able to remember that I recover from these temporary periods where the ground of motivation falls out from under me, once the anniversary is past.
Which brings us to the theme of this month’s newsletter and teleseminar, the question of drive and motivation in our experience of being human. The question I am enjoying this month is: how do we shift from being driven by our fear, shame or anger, and move into being compelled by our love, passion and curiosity?
We shift in three ways:
1. We begin to develop the neural pathways that support connection between our capacity for compassion and our emotional life, as well as developing our sense of self – who we really are and what we really stand for; for me, this happens through my on-going study and practice of Nonviolent Communication and Interpersonal Neurobiology, and my ever-deepening willingness to accept and claim the love of my friends and relatives.
2. We begin to use these pathways and this compassion to actually calm and hold, toregulate our emotional upsets; just as I was letting myself hear that gentle voice this year.
and 3. We begin to integrate all of the different parts of ourselves so that everything has a voice that is heard with compassion. When we berate ourselves, we hear our own longings. When we threaten ourselves with doom, we hold our fear with compassion and reassurance. And this year I remembered what was happening, held onto my sense of self and my trust and faith, and harvested meaning from my experience.
Gradually, we begin to move out of a different place. We begin to be able to tell what we love, and to reach for it. As we heal the small and large traumas that have left us with a sense of disconnection or hopelessness, we start to notice that we are fueled by curiosity, passion and persistence, and that we have new delight in and are inspired by autonomy, mastery and purpose.
If you’d like to dive into a light presentation of some research supporting this approach to motivation, I recommend RSAnimates piece (based on Daniel Pink’s presentation on Drive):
RSAnimates YouTube Video
Here is the passion that pulls me: to be present as people clear out the residue of the past that keeps them from knowing what they love, and to bear witness to the new reaching that happens as they begin to move in the world with a strong sense of who they are, mixed with huge compassion, myself included.
And on November 12 this year, after my anniversaries were over, I woke up suffused with a warmth and radiance in my chest, ready and willing to move in the world the way I do when my being is coherent. And here we are on November 13 with some writing and some offerings to invite you along on this journey of integration of self and healing and understanding.