We live in a rule-bound world, the last 12 months having demonstrated how quickly we are able to absorb new ones – sidling off the pavement if someone comes the other way, shopping in face masks, not visiting your parents at Christmas, social norms that we’d not have dreamed of a little over a year ago.
Some of these rules are applied and others we apply to ourselves. A Highway Code and a Myway Code.
I have been known, when something is taking too long, to feel nearly sick with the sense of wrongness. I call it my Hurry Up Driver, (which is ironic, since I have the reputation, at least among my kids, of being about the slowest on the road).
Transactional Analysis terms this a life script, or counter-script; an early learning that tells you how to manage life. Sometimes overt, sometimes hidden, these are instructions that might sit around in the background, sometimes helping you out, sometimes getting in the way, and occasionally completely letting you down.
Hurry up is good for getting to places on time. It doesn’t work so well when an idea needs time to bed in; it’s not great when your partner needs to take things slowly, and it can be a hazard in groups. It particularly doesn’t work in times of difficulty and stress, when the best thing to do is to slow down, or even stop.
But my point isn’t really about the usefulness or otherwise of hurrying up. My point is that all of us will have these embedded truths; please people, never be wrong, put work before play, don’t be nosey. It’s hard to ignore with these deeply set instructions because our brains believe they are the only way to do life. But recognising them is key, hearing them as voices rather than givens, more or less useful ideas rather than global truths.
I wouldn’t want to give it up my Hurry Up Driver, not altogether. The trick is to realise when the instruction isn’t useful and politely ask it to step aside.
What are instructions that sit at the back of your life; when are they useful, when are they not?