As I got introduced to Transactional Analysis, each concept opened up new avenues of learning about myself. Here I want to share with you the amazing discovery of Drivers – unconscious parental messages that drive us to act in particular ways. Taibi Kahler, a psychologist, first spoke about these.
When I first learnt about “Drivers” it was like a light turned on in a dark room. I understood many things about myself with this one understanding. Drivers as the name suggest, “drive” you to “do” or “not do” things outside your conscious awareness. Also called “motivators”, they are both, your best buddy and your dysfunctionality.
There are five drivers:
We all have them in various combinations and permutations. Each one comes with its own set of identifiers – language, words, body gestures, tone and facial expressions. As you read the piece, you may recognize yours.
Unbeknown to me, I am enslaved by these Drivers; and oh, how they drive me!
Try-hard is in my very DNA; it is in my language, in my actions, in my thoughts and in my every frustration. Forever trying never arriving.
Hurry-up, Hurry up, cracks her whip. Like the White Rabbit I am late, I am late – perpetually! Hamster on the Wheel going no place fast.
I flag a little, Be-Strong kicks in; my body protests, my mind protests, I hold on steadfast! I Be Strong no matter the cost.
In all this hurry burry I am firmly, unequivocally reminded to Be-Perfect. Though there be no such thing, except in my head.
If that isn’t impossible enough, I smile and accommodate for the ‘perceived’ needs of others. Please-Others makes the impossible utterly unattainable.
I don’t know this, however.
With my drivers at the helm of things, there is no time to be, no time to think, to breathe even. Quite literally, I am being driven through life, holding my breath on this runaway train hurtling through time towards a breakdown.
I can’t think, I Be-Strong instead. I can’t be, I must Try-Harder. Hurry-up there is no time for a full breath. Be -perfect is my nemesis.
Did someone frown? Oh, dear, were they displeased?!! Try harder dear, be strong, hurry up, be perfect and yes.. please others!!!……………… and so it goes. One feeding off and into another in an endless loop. I am trapped in the curse of being driven – mindlessly.
I’m lonely and disconnected from self!
Along comes therapy, bearing the gift of awareness.
Awareness brings grand relief. It brings a smile and playfulness into the mix.
“ Aha ! That be my “please-others” at work.”
“ I see my “try-hard” is giving me a hard time again.”
“Hurry-up”, my Driver says. “Why?”, I ask.“Where are we going and why are we going there?”
Awareness and observation bring choice into the equation. For I may choose “NOT” to please others. I need not TRY at all, if I choose not to. Slowly, I begin to get the hang of things. I become a keen observer of self. Kindness finds a home in me. Patience is her companion. And then comes love- love of self, budding slowly. The three of them embrace me. I feel comforted and at home in my body.
Change came slowly though.
Transitions brought confusion. There is embarrassment and shame – how could I be so blind, so ignorant, so very stupid; be perfect pushing back hard. Each rears it’s head, in turn, fighting to stay justified, to live on.
Awareness and observation are my torches, shining light on untruths. It takes time. One by one, I reclaim the decisions I made as a child, the ones that serve me. And those that don’t, I re-decide. There are many small causes for celebration along the way. They keep me going.
Over time my drivers lose their death grip on me. Now often, I find that I drive…I decide. I am more in control of this journey, that is my life. Everything is relative to before.There is always more work to be done, the journey is yet incomplete, the road ahead long– oops, who spake thus? I am okay with this “to & fro”-ing.
Each of the drivers have their positive side.
Be perfect helps set standards; Be strong builds resilience in you; Try hard gives us the ability to multi-task; Hurry up helps us think on our feet in tough situations and Please others make us more cooperative and sensitive to others.
Awareness of these drivers allows us to have the choice to use them effectively. Choice creates room for joy and freedom in this otherwise difficult space. Permissions are the tools.
I recommend this journey to anyone and everyone who will stop to listen.
This piece is a modification of the piece “Oh how My Drivers Drove Me” I wrote for the SAATA Journal last year.
For more information and to identify your drivers, check this questionnaire out.
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