Today I am happy to present yet another great post by Dasha Lukiniha, where she explores the inner motivation behind saying “yes” to whatever comes your way, shares her personal journey and asks important questions to ponder about. Please welcome “Are you saying yes to life or simply unable to stop relentless doing?” by Dasha Lukiniha.
Are you saying yes to life or simply unable to stop relentless doing? by Dasha Lukiniha
I used to suck at saying no (heck, who am I kidding – I still can’t do it as often as I’d like). And in all truth – I used to think that saying yes in general is a very good thing. So I used to be very proud of myself for my uncanny ability to say yes to everything. In fact, I used to give myself a little pat on the back after every outstandingly done project, I used to think that dark circles under my eyes were a sign of belonging to a club of movers and shakers and my inability to get a life outside of work was a sign of high meaning and purpose in life. I mean who would argue that doing many things in life is good and perhaps better than doing less, right? Wrong.
I had a rude awakening some years back when my body just suddenly said – No. With a capital N. And I thought, well this is new… I have plans – get up and work harder! Guess what… that didn’t help one bit. And may I say – thank God for that, and a big thank you to our bodies for having this wonderful built in stop button in the form of the survival instinct which may seem annoying to our neurotically charged selves at the time – but is a complete blessing and a chance to really re-think our “why’s”. Why are we saying yes to so many things and don’t slow down when our bodies ask for it…. Oh the “ why’s” – my favorite question to ask… And it’s a crucial one in understanding the reason behind relentless doing.
I find that the “why” question really hits you when you try to take a break one day and find yourself unable to stop “doing” and start “being”. Literally unable to stop – working, reading, exercising, saying no to a friend’s invitation and so forth. It made me really wonder what that’s all about… Surely it should be very easy – if you’re full of energy you work on projects and if you’re drained you take a break and replenish your tank. Apparently it’s not always as easy as it seems…
So looking at the why’s – some are as straightforward as the fear of missing out or the good old perfectionism making it impossible to settle for good enough and so we find ourselves stuck in a race akin to a squirrel in a wheel.. All of these are of great help but the question I would really like to answer is – what lies behind the FOMO, or the perfectionism? In other words – what’s at the core of this neurotic relentless doing and the inability to stop?
Well you know what they say… when the student is ready – the teacher is here. After going through a large amount of literature I came across a book by Gabor Mate with a gripping title – “When your body says no – the cost of hidden stress”. Now, that was one interesting read. In large part because it terrified me and fully confirmed my suspicions – that this “relentless doing” is really an addiction as opposed to a path to self-improvement and personal growth.
Gabor Mate, a physician specializing in neurology, psychiatry and psychology, devoted a very large portion of his career to treating addictions and studying the causes of addictive behaviours. What he’s saying is that many of our behaviours are driven by addictive tendencies (and we’re not just talking about substance addiction or alcoholism here). Impulsive shopping, the necessity to be liked and yes, you guessed it – overachieving, striving to be better, excessive focus on personal growth, constant doing – all of these have the potential to come from a place of lack as opposed to the place of contentment.
What exactly do I mean by that? This sort of pattern always comes down to some sort of psychological trauma which sets the defense mechanism in motion to defend against pain. Excessive work or personal growth can sometimes be just this – a manifestation of the defense mechanism. And so the behavior becomes increasingly addictive – we want that rush of endorphins again and again. For example, a small boy who’s constantly criticized throughout his childhood for not being smart enough or not being “something enough” will grow up with the firm belief that he needs to change, he needs to be and do better and really that he’s not enough just as he is. That plays to our deepest fears as human beings – that we’re unlovable just as we are. And so it triggers a very powerful response in our brains – we deem this as a threat to our survival. And what do we do? We strive to be better, to keep doing at any cost, just to earn that love and appreciation, to feel safe. So one of the very likely scenarios of this is that this boy grows up to be a straight A student, a very capable employee, a very nice and a very likeable person…who’s also completely incapable of hearing his own voice and catering towards his needs. And there comes the inability to say no to things – because the amount of anxiety experienced when one slows down is completely torturous. That inner voice speaking in tormenting voices of the need to do more to be more and to not rest or else becoming an outcast, a loser and someone who fundamentally cannot be loved…
On the other hand, isn’t it great to achieve many things and to grab many opportunities in life? Yes, absolutely, if it all comes from a place of curiosity and contentment. However when our abilities to hear our own needs become compromised we lose our unique personality, we fail at accomplishing things we, ourselves, really want and instead we do what others want us to do. And this always leaves us empty in the end. Yet we cannot stop because that hungry for love inner child deep inside of us is still desperately trying to earn that love. And eventually our body gives in to these demands. Gabor Mate describes really well in his book a host of chronic and fatal diseases that tend to follow as a way of our bodies pulling on the emergency lever and slowing down forcefully. The price of doing too much and being unable to say no when our bodies need us to do just that is very high… Healing those inner traumas instead will drastically increase our quality of life, even if that means achieving slightly less in life and sleeping a little more every day.