What is your motivation? This was an ongoing question we would all be asked as Drama Majors, while building our character’s back story.
What’s the motivation for that line reading, that movement, that emotion?
It was a question that often stopped us and gave us pause, while we made sure that there was a valid reason for our choice.
Long after leaving theatre work behind, it still remains a valid question, doesn’t it?
Let’s go back to the definition:
“the reason one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.”
The reason — the rub.
So often, when we’re interacting with others, we have some kind of agenda: to plead our case, to convince someone of their wrongdoing, to prove our point ( which is, of course more viable than others’ ), to exact a payback of some kind, to placate, to create connection, to hope for some unspoken payoff—in short, to get our needs met—regardless of how ineptly / inaptly we may do that in the moment.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? We all have needs. We all want to get them met. It’s the human condition. The key is to come at those needs with as much clarity, authenticity and openness as possible.
No small feat at times, is it?
The more I personally practice this concept, the more I’ve realized that so many of our actions are couched in ulterior motives of some kind. There is an ongoing weighing of checks and balances—a score keeping that keeps wounds fresh and untended. It also keeps us connected in many ways that no longer serve us. And yet …..
The simplest end of the spectrum would be: S/he said / did this, so I’m going to say / do that! Pretty clear cut and obvious. It’s when the moments get more complicated that we tend to lose sight of our motivation. Then our needs don’t get met, they can become even rawer.
Years of an untended pattern, cowering in the face of confrontation, “rehearsing” a script only to have it collapse as we spin into tangled emotions—they all have two things in common—a hoped for / expected outcome—and the wild card of not being in the Present.
The minute we create a construct of because that happened / this needs to happen, we’re out of the moment. We’re letting our past impede us, rather than inform us. Am I saying that we need to forget what happened that brought us to this point? Not at all. I’m reminding us that drawing information from the past allows us to keep our wits about us in the Present. Our perspective becomes much broader, there are more resources for us to access, and the charge of the past / hope for the future becomes softened.
So what are the nuts and bolts of the practice in these moments? How do we recognize our motivation? The long term practice is to take a few steps back from the charged moment itself and get a sense of the territory we’re about to move into. Any hot button exchange is ripe: family gatherings (always the best teachers, if you ask me); an abusive boss; the careless friend or lover; discussions involving politics or religion—these are all emotional mine / mind fields in which we can get triggered to get those scales out and start weighing away.
The immediate practice is to start witnessing Your Self:
What specifically comes up for You in moments like these?
Is there a common thread / overriding emotion or sensation that surfaces?
How far out of the Present can / do You go?
Do You like keeping score?
Do you really want to heal old wounds? or not?
How does it serve You to keep this pattern going?
That ought to be a good start.
As with all tangled / new practices, be gentle with Your Self and give it time. There is no rush and no need to meet a deadline, is there? I guarantee you’ll have plenty of time to practice this in any number of situations, for many years to come.