After spending the weekend in Singapore with friends, I’ve come back to Penang to have some chill out time, enjoy the food and experience the Lunar New Year celebrations. As I start to figure out what the next chapter of my life holds I’ve been recently reminded of a question which I believe is a very valid one to consider when pondering life choices. That is – Are you driven by fear or by love?
It isn’t the first time this question has popped up, in fact, driving forces was one of the subjects Dr Jenn and I often frequented in our conversations. It’s also something that my Heal my PTSD audio book often makes reference to (gotta love those self-help books!). Seen as PTSD behaviour is mainly driven by the fear of being in that traumatic situation again, it’s very easy to become trapped in a comfort zone that you’re not happy in, simply because of the fear that you will experience the trauma or a bad response to a trigger. I’ve found that in my family and friends, the gravity of this fear is difficult to understand and unless you’ve been in the situation where you’ve feared for your life or your own reaction to a threat, then you probably can’t even imagine what this feels like. It’s intense, irrational and can be extremely difficult to control the behaviour that the fear evokes.
However, when you start to recover from the trauma and realise that you can control these reactive behaviours and also the intensity of which the fear is felt, it’s a very empowering feeling. The No I can’t flips over to becomes Yes I can, and when you have that attitude you realise that you can accomplish anything life throws at you – I mean if I can fend off a guy who is bigger and stronger than me, and who is trying to rape and possibly kill me, then handling life’s trivia should be a doddle right? I need to point out that it’s taken me a while to come to this point, and I’m still not totally convinced all the time… sometimes I still feel like curling up in a ball and disappearing, but these moments are of less frequency and intensity these days.
When you get to this point as a ‘trauma survivor’ (apologies for the cliché), that’s when you start to create a new post-trauma identity. When you start to question your life decisions, the driving forces and then start to steer them in the direction you want to go in. I think this is also part of the grieving process too, by realising that life is fragile, we start to take control of our own life. Seen as these two experiences were so intertwined for me, it’s difficult for me to say if these questions are provoked more by one than the other. Regardless, my arrival at these questions is the most important thing.
So as I sit here in Penang, having dedicated all my savings to this trip to give myself the nurturing I felt that I needed so badly to help me recover, I’m trying to work out my past and present decisions and ponder the driving forces behind them. The decision to go away at all – trying to escape the hum-drum of being at home, or being pulled by my love of travel as a nurturing experience? I’m confident that this one is pulled by love. The decision to (finally) start the ball rolling with my business idea – I hadn’t started it earlier because of fear of failure, but I overcame this with the love of entrepreneurship and the idea that I can make a difference, so this one is again down to love.
Looking at life’s decisions in this way isn’t always easy as it requires the mindfulness to really sense check and ask yourself for those home truths. It’s so easy to go through life making mindless decisions because we feel like we ought to or should do without stopping to considering that we actually have a choice in the matter. However when you can pause and take a step back, it’s clear to see that everything we do is a choice – it’s the driving force that makes us think that we don’t have choosing power. Obviously we all have obligations of some sort because we need basic things in order to survive, food, water, shelter but how we go about getting those things is entirely up to us.
At the end of the day I think I would rather be in a relationship with someone that I love, rather than because I fear to be alone. A job that excites me everyday rather than working doing something I hate because of the fear of not having money. And generally living my life in a way that makes me happy, rather than being constrained to behave in a certain way for fear of not being accepted by society.
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