On the couch
Hurry Up: What COVID-19 Has Taught Me About Learning to Slow Down
Life is busy. In today’s fast-paced world, our days move by in the blink of an eye. Juggling priorities like work and interpersonal stressors can make it challenging to take a quiet moment to slow down and be present. We often feel like we do not have enough time to do everything our days require.
Being driven, handling a fast-paced life, and having a dynamic personality are all positive attributes that can assist us in life. However, what can we do when these traits become out of control? Drive can turn into working too much, fast-paced life can create an abundance of stress, and a dynamic attitude may lead to apathy for the moment.
The presence of COVID-19 has brought instability, changes in our daily structure or routine, and fear of uncertainty into our lives. This can be triggering and destabilising for many people. What can we do when we are forced to take a moment and slow down?
What are Counter Injunctions/Drivers?
You might believe that counter- injunctions can be beneficial to encourage us to achieve greatness in life. However, they can also create conflict and keep us stuck in negative life script patterns. These harmful life scripts can be signs of more significant problems such as burnout, poor work-life balance, and dissatisfaction in relationships.
Imagine if you lived by the motto, You can only be okay if you Hurry Up; what would the consequences of that mindset be?
Drivers are behavioural patterns, also known as counter injunctions or counter script slogans(Kahler, 1974). We will discuss them in detail below.
Drivers and Behavioural Patterns
When parents observe their children lacking success or personal confidence, they often attempt to counter the effect of earlier messages (seen as the cause of these issues) with counter-injunctions. These new messages come from the parent ego state, be unconscious, and are delivered at the social level. They convey the shoulds, ought to’s, and dos of parental expectations. Five main counter-injunctions are:
- Be perfect
- Try hard
- Hurry Up
- Be strong
- Please Others
However, the psychological level messages are much more powerful and enduring than those we receive at the social level. This is when the problem arises. Because, no matter how much we Try Hard, Be Strong, Hurry Up, Be Perfect, or Please others, we constantly feel as though we are still not doing enough or being enough.
My Hurry Up Experience
I have struggled with my own Hurry Up messages over the years. Living in the present and mindful way has given me permission to slow down and enjoy life, but I still meet bumps in the road (just like everyone else). Simple activities such as going for a walk, doing 10 minutes of yoga between sessions, or taking time to sit down and enjoy my lunch allow me to feel more grounded and take life in at a slower pace.
Reflecting back on the past year of my life, I realise how much has changed. In early February, I came back home from a trip with some friends. I recalled seeing people in masks, which was still a strange concept to me (although it would not be for much longer). After the trip, I went full-force into work, travelling back and forth between Manchester and London twice a week. It is difficult for me to imagine doing this now.
After some time, I had decided enough was enough, and it was time to travel less. I returnedto Manchester to slow down. During the first lockdown period, I was in limbo–I found myself in between jobs. This was a strange phenomenon for me, considering I had worked consistently since the age of 18, sometimes doing two jobs at a time. I had a month to go before I started my new career. The novelty of doing nothing all day crept into my life. This was when I had to face my Hurry Up. I explored my Hurry Up in my personal therapy over the years, but now I was met putting into practice the act of slowing down into action.
The Hurry Up driver may present itself in many different ways in different lives and experiences.
Identifying the Hurry Up Driver
There are commonly recognisable commands that can define the Hurry Up driver. ‘I am not doing things quickly enough’ and ‘there are just not enough hours in the day’ are two common phrases that you may find yourself thinking when you are amid your Hurry Up.
Certain behaviours can help you to identify when you are in your Hurry Up. Some of these are fast speech, constantly checking the clock, irritability or anger over being held up, impatience, and being high energy, action-focused or enthusiastic, which can be anxiety symptoms. While some of these behaviours can be seen in a positive light, bringing about high levels of focus, results, and met deadlines, they often indicate a more significant problem.
A few of the problems that can come about are pursuing high speeds over the accuracy, having unrealistic expectations of others if they cannot keep up with your pace, and becoming bored quickly.
The Effects of COVID-19
COVID-19 has impacted people’s lives in ways that we cannot control. We may not have chosen these changes for ourselves, which can lead to psychological resistance. Going fromworking long hours and living a fast-paced lifestyle to doing nothing can significantly impact a person’s sense of self, identity, and the way they structure their time.
Social restrictions, lack of family contact, and this change in routine were not our choices, and so this can trigger psychological and emotional resistance to change in many people.
So, how do we solve this problem? One way we can combat our Hurry Up Driver through something called Redecision therapy. Redecision therapy works by slowing down the drivers. This form of therapy is based on the premise that adults decide based on messages that we received from the adults around us in our childhood. These messages, along with decisions we have made in the past, inform our current decision-making processes and the development of our life scripts.
In Redecision therapy, the client revisits and experiences the child part of self, enjoys his childlike qualities, and creates fantasy scenes. He safely gives up the constricting decisions he made in childhood (Goulding and Goulding, 1979).
Berne defined an ego state as “a consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly relatedto a corresponding consistent pattern of behaviour.”
The messages are often delivered via three main Ego States:
Parent Ego State: Hurry Up–Growing up in a busy household, bereavement, parental illness,a strict or harsh environment, and parental stress can potentially contribute to a Hurry Up driver.
Adult Ego State: Be Realistic–Be realistic about what you can achieve in a period, and do not overcommit or take on more than you can handle. Acting in the here and now and relyingon facts, data, and practical information.
Child Ego State: Take Your Time–Give yourself permission to slow down; you may feel some natural resistance at first but stick with it! Be more compassionate toward yourself. Access your inner child by connecting to some of the things you enjoyed in childhood.
We are constantly moving through our ego states minute by minute; if we spend too much in one ego state, our well-being can have consequences. Being mindful of our emotions and exploring what we might want to change in our lives can help us to alleviate some of this emotional resistance.
How Therapy Might Help You
Within my practice, I enjoy facilitating Inner Child work, TA, and utilising creativity as a therapeutic tool to help clients explore their drivers and assist in making new decisions. Remember: driver behaviours have positive and negative consequences; it is all about balance.
It is never too late to make changes.
1. Berne, Eric. Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy. Page 13.
2. Kahler, Taibi (1975) Drivers: The Key to the Process of Scripts, Transactional Analysis Journal, and 5:3, 280-284, DOI: 10.1177/036215377500500318
3. Robert Goulding & Mary Goulding (1976) Injunctions, Decisions, and Redecisions, Transactional Analysis Journal, 6:1, 41-48, DOI: 10.1177/036215377600600110
4. Robert Goulding & Mary Goulding (1979) Changing Lives through Redecision Therapy. Grove Press, New York