Two weeks ago, 5X held a workshop in collaboration with Groundwork, a company that helps folks with productivity, facilitated by the company’s CEO Amrita Ahuja.
I was excited to attend and learn what Groundwork had to offer, especially as someone who has often felt overwhelmed by looking at my calendar. As I walked into the venue that night, I could feel an instant calmness in the environment, which motivated me to let my guard down.
Ahuja began by describing how many of us use the fight, flight or freeze survival patterns when we are overwhelmed with our workload or are in moments of distress. It was interesting to learn that we tend to have all three survival techniques and use different ones depending on the situation.
As the conversation continued, people who had already unpacked their survival patterns with Ahuja shared their experiences with the group. Apparently, survival patterns aren’t good in the long run because they are our developed ways to avoid addressing the root cause of our issues.
All this information was new and exciting to me; I questioned if it was just me who did not know this, but then I looked around the room, and I could see everyone in the same state of disbelief or confusion.
We were all learning that things that we thought were our friends and helped us deal with life could actually, in some cases, be our enemies. I am sure we all have been in a situation where we learnt that a person we thought was our friend was indeed a backstabber—that is how I was beginning to feel.
I began to focus on Ahuja again, and she explained that survival patterns are usually a combination of our thoughts, feelings, physical symptoms, behaviour, etc.
While I was listening to her, I had an epiphany.
To give background, I have been writing small poems, short stories, articles, couplets, and other pieces since I was in grade 5. My love for writing and this creative way of expression is immense, and I have wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember.
I want to publish a book and even more pieces of writing; I have the storyline, the characters have their names, and a draft is in my head. I believe it, and people have told me I have the talent and capability to make it happen, too. Considering everything, I know that if I put my mind to it, I can create the first draft for formal submission in a few months.
However, I’m 28 years old today, but I still don’t have the first page of my book. I refuse to believe that in 28 years of my life, I could not spare two months for a dream I have had since I was a child.
Before attending the Groundwork event, I went to India for a vacation. For the first time in four and a half years, I wasn’t working, and my brain suddenly had space to reflect on why I never sat down to write my novel.
The more I interrogated and looked deeper into myself I found some answers. The prime reason is that I want my novel to be an independent project; I want to write it, edit it, take care of copywriting, design the cover, market it, design the PR campaign and publish it; I don’t want to ask for help.
My hesitance to not ask for help stems from traumas, which can certainly be a different article altogether. Still, the problem with this approach of doing it all alone is not practical and reliable because I don’t know how to do so many of the things I want to, which makes me so overwhelmed that I don’t even start.
Moreover, I want my book to be perfect. I want everyone to love it, cherish it, re-read it etc., which is not wrong to hope for your first book, but that also made me realize that I am putting too much pressure on myself. I am not allowing the beauty of imperfection to exist.
Since I had these realizations in India, I have been working on understanding and managing them. Then, within 15 days of my return from India, I was sitting here listening to Ahuja.
As she laid down and explained the facts one by one, my mind suddenly realized that what I had discovered about myself in India were, in reality, my survival patterns and I did not even know about them.
After years of dealing with trauma and abuse, I had picked over these patterns and thought this was the only way to live—the only way to survive. But unfortunately, I was overwhelming myself with these patterns and not letting my true self breathe.
As I overcame the effects of my epiphany, I looked around the room and saw almost the same expressions on every attendee’s face. Everyone in that room was shocked by some personal discovery they had made that night.
This made me think about how common it is to have survival patterns and how common it is for people not to know that something they do might be their survival pattern. We all are fuelling our lives with coping strategies thinking we are helping ourselves, but the truth is far opposite from it.
I realized how essential it is for our society to be aware of this and have an open dialogue to help each other navigate and unlearn our survival patterns.
As we approached the end of the night, Amrita reminded us that moving forward; we should be more attentive toward our survival patterns and work on not entering the loop again.
For example, whenever we question ourselves, things like, am I good enough? Can I do this? Why do I take up so much space? Am I seeking attention? Or we start feeling sad, disconnecting from people, and staying in panic mode; we must gently remind ourselves that these are our survival patterns and not the reality of our lives.
We must gradually learn to take control of them and not let them control us. She explained how we need to be more kind and polite towards ourselves and be our biggest allies and supporters.
Amrita left us with this message, “It is paramount to remember that these thoughts will still come and go; the only difference is that now we know they are not our friends, they are not helping us, and we need to take action to stop them from overpowering our minds and lives.”
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