drive – to strive vigorously toward a goal or objective; to work, play, or try wholeheartedly and with determination.
Psychology: an inner urge that stimulates activity or inhibition; a basic or instinctive need.
Several months ago I had a breakthrough of sorts. While working on personal development with someone I’ll refer to as Yoda, I experienced a significant realization regarding a childhood experience, and I’m just beginning to piece together the past ramifications as well as a new future consciousness.
When I was 6 years old I was deeply shamed, punished and degraded by an immediate member of my family. My weekend homework from elementary school was to work on counting by 2’s. As I slowly worked through the concept, my “tutor” got increasingly irate, extremely impatient as well as physically abusive. I was severely disciplined for not learning it fast enough (as would become the case with all math homework). I was not good enough, stupid, slow, and a complete failure. The fact that I was emotional and crying didn’t help the situation either. This has always been one of my most painful memories from childhood.
I did not know it at the time, but I had just been branded as stupid, incompetent and worthless – a label I would subconsciously wear for many years to come. This event burned a mark in me so deep that I would spend much of my life building a suit of armor around myself, as well as developing survival and defensive techniques just to get by in the world around me.
Seeds of anger and rage grew quietly inside me. This act of brute force forever destroyed this person in my eyes and I have never fully forgiven them for it. This event was not an isolated incident, outbursts like this, often violent, didn’t stop there. Others in my household were also targeted. Alcohol was the common factor.
To say this event shaped who I am today, is an understatement. From this event as a 6 year old, I developed a strong sense of independence, resourcefulness, work ethic, perfection, and drive. I was usually suspicious of others, kept most people at a distance and had few friends. I found sanctuary in the ballet studio and regardless of lack of natural ability, I buried myself deep in hard work. I was studious and soaked up ballet like a sponge. I was always on time, my ballet shoes were sewn, my was hair up in a bun, I paid attention, I didn’t talk or goof around in class, I always remembered the choreography, and I was as professional as I could be.
Perfection became my primary drive. There is usually anger behind drive, it was certainly behind my drive. My subconscious mantra became, I will never be stupid, incompetent or worthless again!! Ballet (based on perfection) was the ideal vehicle for my drive. So I became quite good at all the things that accompanied my drive – maximum physical effort, precision, eye for detail, organization, timeliness, do what needs to be done without being asked, initiative, creativity, self motivation, generosity, and putting others first. It’s also important to note that I didn’t do something unless I was good at it, so needless to say, I didn’t stray far from dance.
I met my husband 9 years ago. Among other things, he is a skier. I had always wanted to try skiing, but never had the means or opportunity. Learning to ski as an adult has certainly been challenging for me. Learning to ski as a driven perfectionist as been damn near impossible. I’ve been skiing for about 8 years now, and am a proficient blue groomed run skier. I avoid black diamond runs as well as moguls because of my cranky knees & hips from dancing. However, I skied a black diamond in Aspen, which I consider a star in my crown.
As I mentioned at the beginning, a few months ago I had a breakthrough. Working with Yoda, I realized the lifelong impact that the “counting by 2’s” event had on me. I have been trying to prove my whole life that I’m not worthless, that I AM worthy, and I’m not stupid. As I worked with Yoda that day, I formed the intention and progressed through the steps to reduce my drive by 10%, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of it completely.
Fast forward to today, or rather several days ago – Christmas eve day to be exact. My husband and I were skiing, which has been a tradition for us (snow levels allowing) for several years now. While skiing down our first run of the day, I realized that although I was skiing a run I have skied many times, my energy output was fairly high. I looked ahead to my husband who appeared to be skiing effortlessly. I feel every muscle in my body tense, my feet are cramping and my hands are gripping the hell out of my poles. This is not an unfamiliar sensation to me – this IS how I ski. Only now, I’m acutely aware of it. The ski conditions were a skiers dream, lots of fresh snow, lots of powder, and a stunningly beautiful day. Try as I might, I was not enjoying myself, nor was I having “fun”. At the top of a run, looking down, I realized I have never had fun skiing. It’s just something I did. As we continued to ski and my realization increased, an intense sadness came over me. I realized I honestly didn’t like skiing. Every time I skied, my feet would painfully cramp, and my entire body would tense as I made it down a run. My extreme output of energy as I powered down each run, as one big moving clenched muscle began to take its toll. Despite the fact my husband said I looked effortless skiing, it was not effortless for me.
Four hours later, my husband and I had lunch. I fought back tears trying to explain my frustration to him. Picking the soup spoon to eat my soup, my husband noticed my right hand shaking. I also had trouble holding my drink glass up. I had been gripping my poles so hard, that now my hands were having spasms.
Leaving Crystal Mt. Ski Resort and driving to our Christmas Eve destination, Michael and I thought it best if I called Yoda. (Part of my coaching program is to call him whenever I need to.) I was indeed able to speak with him. As I mentioned earlier, I was now acutely aware of my output of energy because of my recent work on my drive. Yoda mentioned that skiing was like putting my drive under a microscope. I had been branded as stupid at the age of 6. The protective armor and self-defensive mechanisms I developed, resulted in a powerful drive through being physically strong (physically active through my whole life), a hard worker, a perfectionist and so on. Therefore I wasn’t capable of skiing any other way – IE maximum physical effort and wanting to be as proficient at it as quickly as possible – and getting frustrated at the steep learning curve.
I still feel a bit melancholy about the difficulty I had skiing on Christmas eve. As if I’m somehow at a precipice, afraid to go forward. This is often the feeling when I realize the past is no longer serving me, and I need to let go of what is holding me back in order to evolve. I feel vulnerable, almost naked. It is time to renounce my drive.
As far as a game plan, I have a few different options. As I work on letting my drive go, I may need to take a break from skiing. It may turn out to be like taking one step forward, but two steps back if I continue to ski while working through my drive. However, if I decide to give skiing another go, and it doesn’t seem to turn around for me, I may need to stop skiing altogether. I’d very much love to return to the peaceful snowy landscape I loved as a child . . . I may possibly take up snowshoeing.
May peace be with you.