December 2016 By Punya Srivatsava Many, even outstanding achievers, have been driven by past hurts and slights. to prove themselves or avenge themselves against detractors. Punya Srivastava traces the trajectory of their journey and how they eventually return to wholeness. “Some people take disappointment and let it destroy them. Others take disappointment and let it drive them. And, you get to choose.”– Tony Robbins Tony Robbins’ quote may seem like the perfect recipe for success, but then again, perhaps not. It may well be that in allowing disappointment to drive us, the disappointment eventually transmutes into peace and contentment. It could also be that the disappointment does not get transmuted.What then? “A person operating from pain is full of stress, rage and egoism and therefore, despite a lot of achievements, he continues to be in a state of misery. The need to prove himself is so strong and never-ending that the happiness he gains from any achievement is short-lived,” says Delhi-based Dr Pulkit Sharma, clinical psychologist and founder of Imago – Centre for Self. Anupam Srivastava: The need to prove his worth to his father was the driving force of his material success. Anupam Srivastava, who has successfully established his own foster care agency in Leicester, UK, admits that the need to prove his worth to himself and to his father was his driving force for a significant part of his adult life. He was labelled a good-for-nothing throughout his academic life by his father, and the constant rebukes and chastisements scarred the adolescent for years to come. “I grew up telling myself that I could do nothing in life. I had major self-confidence issues. I would immerse myself in work in order to prove my worth – to myself and to others. Amidst all this, I got an opportunity to visit a friend in the UK and somehow bagged a job there. My low self-confidence was my co-traveller,” he says. Muses Chennai-based psychologist and Heal Your Life Teacher Trainer, GL Sampoorna, “External validation is important for all those operating from pain. However, any satisfaction is short-lived and swiftly transitions to a sense of restlessness. Often, the person uses this restless energy towards further accomplishments. It drives him to strive for more, with an impatience to move from one achievement to the next,” she says. Dr Pulkit Sharma: When people realise they are driven by wounds, they transform. When we look outside ourselves for the salve to the pain, such as through fame, fortune, success or the trophy spouse, we will seldom gain the contentment and inner connect which is the true prize of a successful life.The CEO of a leading MNC once sought help from Pulkit Sharma regarding relationship problems. “He would feel like dirt despite his achievements. Each event, whether big or small, including even routine office meetings and friendly get-togethers would scare him. He always sought to be in the limelight. He would get depressed if he could not have the last word in any discussion. We could trace this to his history of being teased and bullied as a child at home by siblings and at school by classmates. He felt that he needed to prove to the world that he was flawless and perfect, and therefore always fiercely tried to be one step ahead of others. Despite all his achievements, he felt extremely stressed out, fragile and depressed,” shares Pulkit. According to Delhi-based Access Consciousness facilitator, Amrisha Ahuja, most of our lives we are either trying to validate what our parents thought of us or are rebelling against it to prove our worth. “Imagine a child who grows up hearing statements like, ‘You can never do anything in life’ or ‘You will always remain average.’ On reaching adulthood, he or she might turn out to be someone who receives a lot of appreciation at work, is very hard working but always misses the promotion. Or one who draws their identity exclusively from their achievements to the point of ignoring their inner connect and relationships. Thus no matter what they achieve, they never fill their inner void,” she says. Amrisha also points out that a person’s perception of success, control and love is greatly influenced by his childhood experiences. For instance, if the father controls the pursestrings and gets away with the emotional abuse of the mother, the child concludes that money is the source of his father’s power. “Such a child might grow into an adult who focusses heavily on earning or hoarding money to always feel in control or in power, to the extent that even though she might have abundance, she will continue to strive for more,” she explains. This is a common behaviour pattern among successful careerists, whose aggression, though the most significant driving factor behind their success, leaves them hollow from within, because of the lack of meaningful relationships in life. This situation further fuels their need to exert greater control on everyone around them, pushing them further into a space of emotional bankruptcy. Failed marriages, broken relationships, emotionally distant children, indifferent colleagues – all these can be the detritus surrounding an achiever driven by negative motivations.Success in areas other than work can also be defined by the belief systems we inherit in childhood. “The little girl who was told that she has to be obedient and soft-spoken and docile because that’s what girls are supposed to be, grows up to be a woman who can never stand up against injustice in her marital setting because her definition of being a successful wife goes against it,” explains Amrisha. Love bites Rejection in love is another potent wound that can drive many people to achieve success, fame or wealth. A young jilted lover might vow to achieve great success in order to make the other person ‘regret their decision’.Pranav Gupta, who works as an assistant manager in a public sector bank, shares how the zeal to ‘become a hero’ almost ruined his life. He planned to sit for various competitive exams in order to bag a government sector job. However, his steady girlfriend of college days started pressurising him to find a job so that she could introduce him to her parents who had started seeking alliances for her. Eventually the girl broke off with him in order to marry someone with a steady job. “My world came crashing down. I had emotionally invested a lot in this relationship. However, I decided to pull up my socks and focus solely on clearing my exams. I would do nothing apart from studying day in and day out. Her betrayal and her stinging words kept me motivated,” he says. Belonging to a middle class family in a tier two town of Allahabad, clearing the exam was a great achievement for his entire clan. He became an overnight role-model for younger cousins across the extended family. “And yet, after bagging a position in a reputed bank, my joy was short-lived. I wanted to throw my recruitment letter at her face but she was already happily engaged to someone else. I didn’t exist for her anymore. All the feelings that life without her was futile, came rushing back and kept me in their embrace for a long time,” he recounts. In other ways too, love can be a potent drive. We all know of the youth who falls in love with a girl, is put to a test by her father or circumstances, and in meeting and vanquishing the challenges, he grows up and becomes, not just a man, but a hero, someone worthy to win his lady’s hand and attain happiness. Sometimes, though, the potency of passion can drive people to rash and foolish actions and ruin their lives. The Great Gatsby deals with the story of Jay Gatsby, who transcended his impoverished roots to become a wealthy man through his dealings with organised crime. Gatsby threw weekly parties in his garden in order to entice Daisy, a beautiful and upper class girl whon he was deeply in love with, and with whom he had had a relationship in the past. Daisy was married to Tom, a callous man of wealth and privilege, but the two contrived a clandestine relationship. However, it all blew up into tragedy when Gatsby was murdered and no one except a handful showed up at his funeral. Even Daisy had no time to pay her respects. Father-son conflicts“What was always incomprehensible to me was your total lack of feeling for the suffering and shame you could inflict on me with your words and judgments,” wrote German novelist Franz Kafka about his father in Letter to My Father. He went on to say that the hostility his father expressed against him when a child, he later turned against himself. “My father’s method of upbringing had saddled me with a general load of fear, weakness and self-contempt.” As an adult, Kafka was haunted by his father’s hostile and impatient presence in his mind. Anupam too grew up with similar experiences. “I was a naughty child and my father was a strict disciplinarian. He was a firm believer of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’. My grandfather and my mother were the only two people who loved me dearly, as per my childhood perception. However, I lost my grandfather when I was just nine, and my mother passed away when I was 14. These deaths made me bitter. I had been a believer until then, but was filled with anger against God thereafter. My grades went downhill, though I was quite good at fine arts and other extra-curricular activities. My father, however, decided to pay attention only to my academic performance, as was the norm those days, and declared me the black sheep of the family. This broke my confidence and to save myself from this pain, I cloaked myself as a rebel,” he says. How wounds fuel ambiti
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