These seven dynamic types of personal interchange comprise the factors that surreptitiously “work” toward assassinating the implementation of our motivation. They are: exhaustion, hopelessness, toxic shame, perfectionism, procrastination, altruism and “reality.” They are all the result of post-verbal training. However, before we delineate these causes it would be prudent to review what we know in order to have a clear and simple understanding of what motivation is, especially, in a contemporary perspective.
What is it that gets you going? Is it a comment from someone else? A sense of awe? Curiosity? A feeling of responsibility? The specter of fun? Each of us has our own trigger(s) that serves to propel us into movement. This propelling, this triggering, this impetus toward an alternate place or state of being can be called our motivation. Simply put, motivation is stimulation toward becoming active through movement. Now, we can qualify whether this movement is internal or external. Externally it is, obviously, an observable physical action but inner movement is what gets our feelings and the mind into action like when we have observed or heard something and we tell someone that they or their action “moves us.” Essentially, this can be considered an inner stirring or even a restless feeling. Simply put, something in us that was once inert or still is now catapulted into motion. Whether it is internal or external is not as important as the fact that it has changed our state of being or impelled us to “arrive” there.
There is an old saying that states “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The implication here that even if we feel moved to act in the direction of our chosen desires and whatever the rewards or consequences, there always seem to be factors that not only influence our desires but also work against this created impetus and often has the effect of slowing us down or even altogether extinguishing our blossoming efforts and intents. The question then becomes how much encouragement toward movement is enough to overcome the inertia of feeling that it’s best to leave things as they are? After all, our natural animal instinct is to work toward a stasis or a quality of being at rest that will tend to conserve the most of our energy. For each person the required intensity of stimulation needed for movement is different but I will say that this is appears to be a factor of what and how much external influence we have experienced in our rearing as a child. There are childhood circumstances that are very encouraging toward independent movement and other circumstances that are not. Our culture and how it maintains order, socially and through the family, has a tremendous amount to do with how active we are “allowed” to be in the pursuit of our own personal interests.
The next step then, is to look at the spoken and subliminal (unspoken) messages that encourage or discourage our action and how they interact. At the core of this consensus and degree of “permissiveness” most of us begin with the feeling of hope. Hope can be defined as an often irrationally held belief (a preferred thought or premise) that what we wish will take place regardless of the currently present circumstances and regardless of our immediately perceived and/or observable conditions. Our hope is interwoven with our trust in our ability to handle life’s circumstances even in the face of factors that appear to deny our desires and efforts.
The survival of hope remains the strongest in early family environments that allow us to work through our own thoughts and feelings but, more importantly, have been allowed to decide upon and to hold beliefs that are a direct result of our own personal experiences, feelings and assessments even if those experiences might run contrary to the beliefs and experiences of those who mentor us. This “permissive” perspective is often only utilized by a parent or mentor who has arrived at a place of wisdom and understanding where their most solid and trustable sense of values has been gained by trusting their own inner urgings, personal experiences and feelings not the urgings or coercive influences of those who have not “found their own source” for inner validation and harbor doubts about their own existence and worth. Simply put, if we have experienced encouragement in their own childhood, we will be able to enable it in our offspring. It takes tremendous courage, patience and acceptance for us, as a parent or mentor, to allow a child to themselves decide in favor of participating in an experience, barring life threatening circumstances, which we know has produced difficult or hurtful experiences in our own personal history. The contemporary version of this permissive action, in the extreme, could be equated to what has been called “tough love.” It takes a solid and remarkable person to recognize and implement it.
In today’s social environment individuals who have been raised with encouragement in trusting themselves are, very often and unfortunately, few and far between. More often than not we find souls who have been indoctrinated with beliefs and perspectives of parents and mentors who have not yet personally found that solid, dependable and trusted place within themselves garnered through their own experiences in thinking, feeling and perceiving. Those raised in this fashion tend to be much more susceptible to external influences as a basis for making life and everyday decisions and tend to pass on to their offspring having trust in and taking direction more from the external world than their own internal world. Those raised with the encouragement of inner or Self-Trust have, so far, been able to maintain a feeling of hope and appear to have a larger facility for leaning toward what has been termed by psychology as an internal locus of control (L.O.C.). That is, allowing directional guidance to come from inner urgings rather than external rules and expectations. These children have begun life with faith in themselves and Self-Trust in that they have what is required to handle life’s circumstances honestly and openly. Those of us who have been raised without permission to self validate through our own beliefs are, non-ostensibly, less stable and less self-trusting of our own abilities to handle life and what comes our way accompanied by an often unconscious need to cloak our perceived inadequacies from the world and from those whom we take our cues and life direction. Factors that contribute to our feelings of self doubt and inadequacy I call the Seven Deadly Assassins of Motivation. They and our reactions to them are trained into our psyche by parents and mentors who have not had the benefit of childhood encouragement and who have learned to operate more from a feeling of hopelessness, whether conscious or not. Anything that tends to dampen our enthusiasm, curiosity and willingness to “risk” success and the exposure of our perceived or possible inadequacies falls into the category of an Assassin of Motivation. Every one of us has experienced some measure of this influence. Its effect depends on the intensity, frequency and amount of discouragement and external directing that we have received as a child. Let’s take a deeper look at these factors.
Exhaustion is one of the easiest assassins to see the mechanism off. We have all gone to work and had days that really test our strength and resolve. At the end of these days we have come home totally spent. Looking at anything else needing to be taken care of, let alone feeling motivated to do something creative, makes us recoil with a feeling that all we’d like to do is sleep or “veg out.” This in itself may not be a bad thing in light of the fact that we feel we may have often put noticeable effort into doing something that we generally think is necessary and acceptable in the course of maintaining ourselves in today’s accepted standard of survival and that the possibility exists that we can bring some tasks to completion. But our loss of energy and willingness to continue “doing” after, perhaps, being emotionally assaulted by someone, whether through intention or simple insensitivity to our needs, or overwhelmed by the stupendous effort needed edges on a more insidious kind of depletion through inducing the expectation that we will never be able to bring our tasks to completion. This type of exhaustion is much more intense because it often ties into our second assassin; hopelessness.
Hopelessness - or the feeling that what we wish to occur has no possibility of coming to pass, is learned through experience. It is learned through repeated criticism and invalidation of our efforts, actions, experiences and intentions by a person with whom we have placed our trust and respect with, regardless as to whether that trust and respect is love based or coerced by fear. That person may also enable that hopelessness within us unintentionally through love and lack of awareness but it is more often engendered through the creation of fear of unpleasant consequences. When this occurs in us as children, a lifelong attitude and perspective is created validating underlying doubt as to our adequacy and fear of failure in handling life’s normal issues and discouraging any action that might create personal empowerment potentially contradicting that perceived inadequacy. The underlying fear is then masked with a feeling of hopelessness. This is often perceived socially as us being “shy” or seeing the “glass as half empty.”
The hopelessness above almost always morphs into a personal feeling of shame. Shame is probably the most virile and effective of assassins. It is where our own psyche takes over and compounds the “inadequacy” training we received as children. Shame in itself is not a bad feeling as it makes us aware, sometimes painfully, of the normal limits we have has human beings. It lets us incorporate a rational understanding of danger and implements caution in our activities. But when that fear become irrational and is paired with a pervasive feeling of inadequacy, we no longer see our actions as “bad” but we see ourselves as bad through the actions we perform. When a child is reprimanded as having performed an act that was bad, there is still room to develop healthy shame as the act can be viewed separately from the child’s character. But, when the child is reprimanded as being “bad” for the act they have performed, it creates irreparable damage and becomes Toxic Shame in our childhood view of our own character. This learned belief mitigates any possibility that we might have any personal creativity or adequacy and assassinates any motivation toward risking ourselves in any endeavors beyond our remembered toxically shameful childhood expectations.
Toxic Shame escalates into another set of assassins; Perfectionism and Procrastination. How many times have we told ourselves we’ll attempt or finish something “when we’re ready?” The statement seems inert enough, right? But what are we really saying? “Right now I don’t feel competent enough and I have doubts about my ability to succeed” and “if I’m still in process I can deflect criticism on the grounds that I’m not finished yet.” Right? But where does that doubt come from? Somewhere in our psyche there is a feeling that we’re not up to the task. Somewhere in our history we have been trained that our best efforts are inadequate. Again, as with hopelessness, this may have been trained into us intentionally; or not. Neither matters. The effect remains the same. We have, again, engineered an insurmountable hurdle to success. In perceiving the task this way we are using our “distance” from perfection and the “incompleteness” of procrastination as our reasons not to risk or finish. Perfectionism and procrastination mask our perceived inadequacy and fear of failure and leads to reinforcing our toxic shame. Motivation is dead again.
Altruism may be seen as a spinoff of perfectionism. Our altruistic visions can often have an “unreachable” feeling or an attendant expectation of being unattainable. For the person who embodies Self-trust and Confidence altruism is simply seen as a direction or goal to be worked toward. As this person we recognize that these are performance goals set by the world and our social tradition. We are aware and accepting of the fact that we may never reach them and that it is no reflection on our character or adequacy if we don’t. But for the person who is “afflicted” with self doubt or toxic shame this is a “red flag” warning us not to tread there. In this light we are reluctant to invest ourselves for fear of failure or exposure of our perceived inadequacy. This also compounds into and includes a flavor of our prior assassin hopelessness.
Our last assassin is “Reality.” The word itself is not an assassin but becomes so in the context of accepting discouraging assessments from others. This only becomes a potential hazard when we open our decision making process to the opinions of others. To begin with, others don’t know our heart or the impetus which has led to our being motivated toward our quest. Most of us view a goal in terms of our own perceived abilities. When we observe what others are doing we often tell them about the “reality” of things but we must remember that it is only from our perspective and that all “reality” is subjective. So the opinion we offer others is not commensurate with their personal goals but with our own. So when we receive an opinion based on values and perspectives other than our own, it will likely feel to us like a discouragement or criticism. And, generally, because the majority of us focus on why we can’t do something not why we can, it tends to become a crushing blow to our attempt to empower our motivation.
We are a social culture who has been becoming more and more invested in our external environment rather than what we know or feel inside. Feeling our heart is no longer a valid or acceptable reason for the choices we make in our day to day endeavors. At every turn we are now required to submit validation, justification, proof, documentation and various forms of tangible evidence for approval of our choices by the world around us. I believe this is a function of our growing breakneck pace, ballooning population, diminishing food production, dwindling personal space and heightening competition that our attention has been increasingly more drawn to who and what is outside of us rather than inside. It’s has caused most of us to become deaf and dumb mutes relative to our true nature. In this light is it any wonder that the assassins of motivation have taken on such awesome power? This makes redeeming our Self-Trust and Confidence all the more a daunting task and vital necessity for our spirit to survive. Yet, there is still a small portion of us who are aware of this and are working to recreate ways to access our inner power for intuitive growth and self determination. The current social emotional blackmail that silences our intuitive urges and “knowing” in favor of social belonging and worldly support which has been substituted for the loss of our family structure cannot outlast our heart and its thirst to become aware and express love. Our intuitive self is at the root of our true identity. It existed first. We are not so far gone that it is still “doable.”