We all have our ways of dealing with things in life. When we get put in an uncomfortable spot, an awkward encounter, or just nudged out of our comfort zone in some way, we generally react in a way to get us “back into” our comfort zone, back into balance, and back into “feeling good”. Some people might resort to humour, some may lash out, some may go quiet, and some might get louder. Some may try and control the situation, some may completely disengage, and some may get super anxious. Ultimately, we all react to the situation in some way to allow us to get through it and get the result we want.

The interesting thing is that many, if not most, of us don’t even realize that we do any of this. In some cases we may acknowledge it simply as “that’s just how I am” or “that’s just how they are”. From a coaching perspective, however, we refer to it as us running our lives through our “survival mechanism”.

Our survival mechanism has been developed and trained by all our life experiences. From a very young age we began to behave in certain ways to allow us to be comfortable, to be safe, to be noticed, to be accepted, to be whatever we needed. It is our automatic way of being and reacting to the world around us.

Now imagine the world filled with people like me and you, doing our thing, living our lives with our survival mechanisms at large. We react to things the way we learned through years of practice. We strap ourselves in and let our survival mechanisms take us for a ride - like a roller coaster at an amusement park. Think of our world being an amusement park where everyone we know has contributed a unique survival mechanism ride. We sometimes go on their rides and we sometimes take people on ours.

The thing about going on rides is that they bring out emotions that are outside of our “normal”. They make us scream, they make us laugh, they make us cry, they make us sick, and sometimes they even make us all of those at the same time. Our survival mechanism does the same thing in terms of changing how we act and behave - ultimately, it makes us act and behave how we wouldn’t normally be.

Now the nice thing about our survival mechanism is that we can stop and choose a different way of “being” at any time - whereas on a roller coaster, you have to stay strapped onto that ride until it ends. The key to being able to choose differently, however, is to first recognize when you’re on a ride. Without recognition, it’s hard to make a different choice.

Shameless plug: A great way to explore and learn more about your unique rides is to work with a life coach! They are trained to distinguish things like your survival mechanism and help you see an alternative to endless roller coaster rides.

So the next time you recognize that you’re at the amusement park, take a moment and decide whether you really want to go on that ride or not. And if you’re already on a ride, recognize that’s all it is, a ride, and that you don’t have to keep riding it over and over again!

Getting off the roller coaster

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