I like to keep things simple. Life can sometimes find its own way of throwing complications into the mix, so why add to the furore? Would you like up or down? A or B? Left or right? Two options, simple to choose between. Most of the time you cannot have both. It is one or the other. What about when it comes to how we behave on a day-to-day basis? Are there just two options? Surely, we have a vast array of behaviours that we can choose from, don’t we?
Are we really spoilt for choice?
Busy, relaxed, excited, anxious, eager, cautious, aggressive, casual, compassionate, loving, caring, dispassionate, et al. There is a very large menu to choose from. Yet if I remember something that I learned in my studies of unconscious human behaviour and how our brain works in that way, our choice may well be very simple. Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (A theory of human motivation), we can break our behaviour down to see that we essentially have two simple modes of operation. Equally important is that they are neither emotions nor feelings, but two fundamental behaviours.
Growth or protection.
Which means what, exactly?
Growth = Self-actualisation.
Creativity, spontaneity, experience, and inner potential. Think of a completely new experience that makes you feel excited. Also, what about learning something new, that captivates your imagination and makes your brain feel ‘fired up’. For example when you are being a little stretched or ‘in flow’.
Protection = Holding onto what you already have.
Think of everything you love and everything that makes you feel comforted. Now imagine you are trying to hold all these things in your arms, all at once to keep them and yourself, feeling safe. Your entire focus would be on simply holding these things close to you. And why not, it is a safe place to be and it feels comforting.
Do we have to choose?
We can only be in one state at a time. Growth OR protection. The only problem is that we cannot always, consciously choose between the two. Sometimes our brain chooses for us and on these occasions, this is done unconsciously. What I find truly fascinating is, each state tends to feed itself. If we retreat into protection for a little while to muster our resolve, then that’s a good thing. But if we loiter for too long then it can become harder to move back into growth. Likewise, if we spend too long in growth, we can become stressed and potentially head towards a ‘burn out’ of some kind.
Which is better for us?
First, we need both. You cannot step into growth unless you feel a certain safety or support. This includes the basics that we all take for granted. Food, water, shelter, safety, rest, warmth, and security. Second, you can now see that even if we are thriving in a growth mode that we will need some food, water and perhaps the need to rest, at some point. To conclude, I think it is important for us to experience both. A good blend of the two, of course but making sure we do not spend too long in one state or the other. Feeling secure enough to stretch ourselves but taking care to recharge our batteries as and when we need it.
P.S. You don’t always have to dive into the deep end. Sometimes it’s nice to feel the bottom of the pool. Even if you are on tippy toes!