Who’s Running Your Life?
Get Drama and Trauma Out of Your Karma
By Keith Varnum
You finally make a friend or get a hot date with someone you’re attracted to-then blow it by acting aloof or not being yourself.
Have you ever had the experience of deciding to take a certain action, but end up doing something quite different? Crazy! Why do we do that? Often our actions are being run by decisions we made as a kid. Decisions that went on automatic, underground, behind-the-scenes, and now, affect us unconsciously. Decisions that are now controlling our actions in the present moment without us being aware of them.
You land an exciting job-then blow it by “copping an attitude” with the boss or customers.
Why do we get so off track after we begin with such good intention and courage? It’s those pesky childhood decisions! As we grew up, we developed strategies to survive at home and in school. We wanted our parents’ love, attention and a safe place to live. We wanted to belong, get asked to the prom, and pass exams-while not getting beaten up by the school bully or humiliated by gossip.
We decided to act in certain ways to keep ourselves as socially acceptable and secure as possible.
Congratulations, You Succeeded!
The survival strategies you developed as a kid worked! These behavior patterns were good, positive, beneficial, even brilliant. They succeeded in doing the job they were designed to do in that situation at that time. The proof-you’re reading this. These tactics kept you alive! Perhaps a bit bruised, but still breathing. Breathing, but maybe not as happy as you could be.
Once a Friend-Now a Foe
Have you noticed you’re still using some of the same behavioral strategies to get what you want as an adult that you used in your youth?
Playing naïve. Being passive-aggressive. Manipulative. Moody. Sarcastic. Confused. Spacey. Overly sexy. Other kid tactics: Pouting. Flirting. Whining. Complaining. Hiding. Running away. Giving up. Fantasizing. Acting dumb. Having accidents. Getting sick. Playing tough. Acting the fool. Telling white lies. Acting like a victim. Pretending you’re someone you’re not.
Do these tactics work currently in your adult life to create what you really want-loving mutual relationships, lasting support from people and the universe, vibrant health, boundless energy, real joy? Usually not!
Since the circumstances and nature of our adult challenges have changed dramatically since we were young, most kid strategies are no longer appropriate or effective. In fact, these old tactics now get in the way of reaching our goals.
Why Don’t Childhood Successes Work for Adults?
Because any behavior that is unconscious and automatic can’t adjust to new, different and changing situations. So, these conditioned childhood survival strategies come back to haunt us when we use them as adults-like disruptive ghosts from the past. As adults, we still seek to be liked, to be included, and to make the grade at work. But instead of applying fresh intuitive responses that are appropriate to the current challenges, we are on autopilot-unconsciously controlled by the programmed decisions we made to deal with the trauma and drama of our childhood.
Here are two real-life examples my friend Sulana shares from her life that demonstrate how childhood decisions affect the way we create life in the present:
The Great Pretender
“When I was young, my punishment du jour was being sent to my room. My room became a safe haven from the rantings and irrational behavior of my alcoholic parents. To lessen the scoldings and whippings, I quickly learned to stay silent about what I felt or observed. I naturally created strategies to keep myself as safe as possible: hiding my feelings, telling white lies, using sarcasm, and spending lots of time alone. And I discovered I got attention from my parents by getting ill or acting confused. So, I developed asthma and played dumb.
“Now as an adult, I long for honest, expressive relationships with co-workers and employers-and playful, truthful relationships with friends and lovers. But my own unconscious behavior sabotages the openness and intimacy I so deeply desire. I try to get people to talk about themselves without revealing anything about myself. I pretend to not know information that I do know. And I look for attention and love from other people by getting sick and playing helpless and spacey.”
The Ex-Flower Child
“At first my new job delivering flowers was right up my alley. I enjoyed the time driving gave me to be with myself. Then the management changed our original agreement and required that I work more hours and drive longer distances for less pay. Running on my childhood programming, I kept my resentment to myself and became moody. I felt like a victim, taken advantage of, powerless. I pouted and whined to myself. When I talked to the boss, I was angry and copped an attitude. It wasn’t long before I got fired.”
Who’s the You Who Makes You Do?
What do YOU do to try to make friends, stay safe, fit in, be loved? Until we undo these conditioned strategies, the decisions we made when we were children run all aspects of our lives in the present: from relationships and health to finances and work.
You can easily discover the automatic behaviors that are running you. Scan through your life. Make a list of the challenges you encountered throughout your life. What are the specific, unique problems you had to face at your home, school, college, job-and with your parents, relatives, friends, teachers and co-workers? What personal strategies did you develop to get yourself through the challenges of your journey? Are you still using similar tactics? Are these approaches successful?
Intuition to the Rescue
The good news is that when you identify the past programmed strategies that don’t work in your present life, you can create new strategies that do work. The once necessary kid tactics that kept you safe and balanced-like training wheels of a bicycle-can be discarded. You are now capable of keeping yourself balanced and safe using the guiding wisdom of your intuition and acquired life experience.
Successful Alternatives Surround You
Exciting and playful alternative strategies are all around you. Lots of people have discovered original, creative ways of dealing with situations similar to yours. Fresh ideas and models are demonstrated in the lives of truly happy and successful people. With keen eyes and perked ears, you can glean fun and compassionate life strategies from biographies, interviews, TV, movies, books, news, magazines and advice columns. Seek out a mentor, shaman or other personal advisor. Let your intuition guide you to an inspiring workshop or professional coach.
Good luck. Have a good time creating new approaches to life that work!
After what you’ve been through, you deserve it!