Through my 20s and 30s and into my 40s, I was an entrepreneur, mother, performance artist, social activist and health nut. My days were full of doing. Pedal to the metal, multi-tasked to the max, hyper-productive, and compulsively self-reliant. In fact, like many of the clients I see these days, the idea of "just being" gave me the heebie-jeebies. I am what I do, right?
If I'm not getting something done, don't I cease to matter? To whit, here's a poem I wrote back in 1998 inspired by a line from Pablo Neruda:
To use the FEBI parlance, that poem was written by an out-of-balance Driver-Organizer--characterized by over-efforting and over-controlling, going it alone, bashing your head against obstacles until something is pulverized (your head or the obstacle), and never ever feeling like you have enough time to "get it all done." What I needed was the expansive trust of the Visionary and the resilient give and take of the Collaborator.
The first thing I had to do was admit I was addicted to Driver energy. Driver energy should be pulsed: step on the gas, then step away from the car. But I was constantly in full throttle, always-on, not now, but right now mode. The trouble is, your body can become addicted to that adrenalin. It ramps up your heart rate and respiration, sending extra oxygen, energy and endorphins coursing through your bloodstream, and that feels good. So you just keep giving yourself that shot, and then throw in lots of coffee when your body can't get you there on its own.
But I knew I had hit the wall when the insomnia and fatigue, sugar and fat cravings, lower back spasms, and caffeine addiction finally led to a feeling of depletion and ennui. I knew something had to give.
Somewhere deep inside me, I remembered "painting" on the sidewalk with water, climbing trees to read my favorite books, sitting on countless beaches looking out at the endless sea. I remembered singing made-up songs to my dog, riding my bike on winding Connecticut roads with no destination. In other words, I remembered having ample access to the Visionary energy pattern.
I just needed to rehabilitate that part of myself. So I decided to create my own Church of Universal Possibility. That tongue-in-cheek idea meant I'd carve out an hour or two a week to go to my studio by myself and "be." I didn't have to produce something, burn calories, self-improve or solve a problem. The point was to have no point, no expectations. I would simply show up and see what happened. As a closing ritual each time, I recorded something in a special "CUP" journal.
The first pages of the journal are tight didactic recountings of what I did--you can feel the shadow of guilt and the residual need to have something to show for myself.
But as the months and years went by, my CUP began to runneth over.
Eventually, I learned to just be present to the unfolding moment...to listen for the deeper meaning and purpose at the center of my life...to invite connection to something infinite, beyond time and space.
Now, "being" is at the center of my "doing." When I'm with a client, listening deeply, being fearlessly present to whatever surfaces, and allowing the past and future to fall away so that this moment can be transformative...that's the Church of Universal Possibility at work in the world. That's Visionary energy made manifest.
Oh, but what about Collaborator?
The first time I took the FEBI, my Collaborator score was significantly lower than any of the other patterns. Unlike with my access to Visionary, it wasn't a matter of getting something back, it was a matter of starting from scratch. I desperately needed to learn to take the easy way out, to become the other person and go from there, to ask "what wants to happen?" instead of trying to force what I thought "needed to happen." Most of all, my compulsive self-reliance had to give way to appropriate alliances.
Fortunately/unfortunately, I only had to look at how my over-reliance on Driver-Organizer energy had effected my significant relationships to find plenty of motivation to change. To protect the innocent, I won't give too many details. But suffice to say, over-driving means you drive over people--you get labeled intimidating, overbearing, insensitive--and if you are a woman...The Bitch. Over-organizing means you turn rigid and rule-based, and eventually The Resentful Martyr shows up. That's a whole lotta ugly.
With plenty of motivation to change, I began by just peppering my language with new Collaborator-centric phrases:
- No babies will die if I don't get this done.
- What if I took the easy way out?
- What wants to happen?
- Stop resisting what is.
- Become the other person and go from there.
- Lighten up.
- Sure, I could use some help.
Pretty soon, the language began to change my thinking, and my thinking began to change my behavior, and the behavior began to change my relationships--all in a positive reinforcement loop. I retook the FEBI in 2014, and my Collaborator score had climbed from Low to High! I almost cried when I saw that chart.
Now I access Collaborator energy daily. I play with problems to find solutions. I bounce back when I hit an obstacle, and find another way to flow around it. I attune to others and begin moving in their direction before trying to steer them to another path. I take the easy way out, and proudly. I celebrate, take naps, and belly laugh regularly.
Like any recovering addict, over-reliance on Driver-Organizer energy calls like a drug whenever things get stressful. But now I know it's just a siren call that will end with me dashed on the rocks, so I take a deep breath, and set my sails in the direction of balance and well-being and true productivity.
Need help overcoming your own Driver-Organizer addiction? Let's be in touch.