My shadow self is kind of like a dog…
The Survival Mechanism Whisperer
Lucy, my friend’s dog, reminds me of my survival mechanisms.
You know, survival mechanisms? The behaviours and tactics that we employ during times of stress and threat? (Honestly though, these behaviours are present almost every minute of the day, because most things that we don’t even see as stressors, are processed by our bodies and brains as stressors.)
In case you haven’t had your coffee yet today, some examples of survival mechanisms are:
- Perfectionism: avoiding imperfection, as doing things the ‘right’ way keeps you from being unlovable, worthless, useless, etc.
- Condescension: the need to be superior, intelligent, or in control of an intellectual situation, as feelings of stupidity elicit feelings of being unlovability, worthlessness, etc.
- Insecurity: the fear of lacking in something, which leads to compensating for it, to avoid being unlovable, worthless, etc.
- Martyrdom: Sacrificing your own needs because attending to other’s needs “keeps the peace,” and makes you more lovable, valuable, useful, etc.
- Coolness: Being aloof, cool, detached, or “unphasable,” to maintain an image of strength, and to avoid an image of being vulnerable or weak, as those traits make them feel unlovable, worthless, etc.
So anyways, back to Lucy the dog, and my survival mechanisms. Lucy is a puppy, is still being trained, and is still… Unruly.
un·ru·ly: (adjective) disorderly and disruptive and not amenable to discipline or control.
Alas, the behaviour of my survival mechanisms.
I can put each of them on a leash, tell them “SIT!” and “STAY!” with hopeful assertiveness, but usually… They try their hardest to get away, or try to pull me where I don’t want to go. (And if you have a pulse, you know this is true for you, too.)
Let me give you an example of one of my survival mechanisms. Perfectionism.
But, there are three things that keep me empowered with my survival mechanisms:
1. Your survival mechanisms aren’t going anywhere. You’re human.
2. What you call your “personality” is 90% survival mechanisms anyway, and
3. Living from CREATION and not DEFAULT does not come from getting RID of your survival mechanisms. It comes from knowing them intimately. From there, a whole other life awaits.
And the most fascinating piece of all: when you fully understand a survival mechanism, get the absurdity and costs of it, and do some cleaning up, it walks itself into a kennel to lay down in defeat. It gets tired. It becomes more of a distant memory rather than a piece of you that holds you back.
With whom do dogs behave? The owner that ignores them or resists them, or the dog whisperer, who knows exactly how they operate?
There are so many pieces of us, namely our survival mechanisms, that we resist, ignore, hide, or are embarrassed of. But like with a puppy, that doesn’t get us anywhere.
Success means being a dog whisperer with your survival mechanisms. All they are is a litter of misunderstood, unruly, untrained puppies.
You know what else puppies are? They’re adorable.
Why is this relevant?
Because when you look at your survival mechanisms objectively, and see what they’re really trying to accomplish (which is really just to be accepted and loved by others), they’re kind of adorable. They’re just tactics that come from our 5-year-old selves, that our brain threw together desperately, in hopes of fitting in.
And when you get to this place of having compassion for your adorable survival mechanisms, you can exhale. You can finally give up your resistance to them, and begin to really understand them.
And then, you can start to become a Survival Mechanism Whisperer. THAT, my friend, is powerful living.