Right from an early age, we all find ways and means to cope with the challenges that life brings our way. Knowingly or unknowingly, we experiment with different responses until we find what seems to work for us. So a child seeking his parent’s attention may learn that throwing a tantrum often obtains the desired result. Or loud, accusatory complaining may generate so much guilt that the parent indulges every demand and the child never has to face refusal.
These learned ways need not be noticed or consciously chosen. Quite frequently, they are conclusions drawn by the subconscious and become the fallback response during difficult times. A good way to discover your favorite strategy is to identify a habitual response to stress.
Do you resort to aggression? Or do you become the ice queen who demonstrates no weakness? Perhaps you resort to a ‘poor me’, helpless mode, that encourages or forces others to handle things for you?
While the disadvantages of such strategies may be more easily evident, there are others which are far more subtle and well disguised. These are harder to catch and even tougher to release. These are what I call the plum ‘Winning Strategies’. They have served us extraordinarily well. These auto-responses form an integral part of our behavior patterns because they got us through difficult times, or accelerated our growth. Perhaps even enhanced our abilities in some significant way. Not only are they deeply ingrained, we are very attached to them and will find ways and means of defending, justifying or insisting upon their usefulness. A part of us is grateful and proud to have developed them. They are typically hard to let go off.
So a child from a broken home may have developed great independence and confidence in his own abilities. Which works wonders for him and helps him to get through the emotional chaos in his young life. However, as an adult, he may now have difficulty in engaging with others, trusting them or forming intimate bonds.
Or consider the young female who loses her father at an early age and learns to become the assertive leader in the family. She matures quickly, handles crises, goes on to become the bread winner. But even several years later, she is unable to believe that there is any nourishment or support available to her from anyone else. She feels lonely, burdened and unsupported. Yet, she is unable to relax, as not allowing herself rest or not looking to another for support worked well for her in the past.
At some point, the Winning Strategy starts becoming a limitation. A reaction based on historical experience with no allowance or recognition of revised personality and circumstances. What was once your greatest strength is now being used beyond its expiry date.
In itself, it may be a strengthening or useful habit.
But in the new context, it may be completely inappropriate and perhaps even damaging.
Instead of supporting you, it may now be misleading you. Self sabotage at its subtlest best.
Everything comes with an expiry date.
Check to see if your Winning Strategy has outlived it’s time and purpose and you need to let it go now.