From functioning to aliveness

I feel like I’m just functioning.
I’m caught in a hamster wheel.
We just live next to each other and organize everyday life.
I’ve gotten so used to meeting other people’s expectations that I don’t even feel myself.

We hear these sentences almost every day in our coaching sessions and seminars.

And when I stand in the subway during rush hour, I mainly see rather tense people scrolling  through their cell phones with a blank expression on their faces, frantically typing messages or pushing their way through the crowd in annoyance.

Hardly anyone looks really alive there.

On the other hand, when I pick up my daughter from the forest kindergarten, I get a glimpse of what true vitality is every day.

Children laughing, playing catch and climbing trees…
Children who build a sandcastle with great concentration and then proudly present it to the teacher with beaming eyes…
A child, crying loudly with a bruised knee, runs to its mother and is lovingly comforted there…
A child who angrily wants to get his way because he doesn’t want to go home just yet…
Lots of movement.
The whole spectrum of emotions.

What distinguishes these two worlds from each other?

Why do so many adults these days feel like they’re just “functioning”?

And how can we change that?

This is exactly what this article is about.

To "function" is a protective mechanism from our childhood

As so often, the answer lies in our childhood.

Because how much aliveness I allow myself as an adult is usually very closely linked to how my parents dealt with my aliveness as a child.

For most parents (especially of previous generations), the ultimate goal was for their children to be better off than themselves. This means finding a good job, having a steady income, and being successful in life.

So… that they work well in the system.

And that means as much as: adapt, be good, get good grades, meet expectations, be better than others, learn / work a lot and show good results.

Of course, there is little room for one’s own emotions, desires, wildness and aliveness.

Most people sooner or later had to experience very painfully in their childhood that they are “not right” or “not good enough” the way they are…

That their authentic self-expression (their fierceness, will, anger, sadness, their pain, their fear,…) was condemned and rejected.

Now stop fidgeting and sit still.
Don’t be a wimp.
No need to cry like this.
If you yell like that again, you’ll stay home alone.

We’ve learned that Mom and Dad obviously love us more when we “function” and meet their expectations.

And our teachers, professors and bosses too.

Because well-functioning employees don’t complain if they have to work a few hours of overtime or have to sacrifice family vacation for the next job promotion.

The worst thing about the whole thing, however, is that our parents’ ideas usually shape us so much that we internalize the sentences and voices at some point and our own “inner critic” develops from them.

This means that even if our parents live far away today or have long since died, these “inner drivers” remain within us and prevent us from getting off the hamster wheel to follow our true longing.

And when we’ve learned to function for our parents and our careers, then of course that affects our relationship as well.

Firstly, in this case the general stress caused by work is usually very high and, in addition, the people who are susceptible to it also put a lot of pressure on themselves at home to meet their own demands and the expectations of others.

To be the perfect partner and lover.
To be the perfect mom/dad.

In addition to a job and children, ideally getting involved in social projects as well.

It might work for a while, but eventually most people get to the point where they start questioning everything.

Because they seem to have everything (success at work, relationships, children) but are still not happy.

This “midlife crisis” is often accompanied by problems in the relationship and many are tempted to give up everything – quit their job, end the relationship, etc.

But most of the time, that doesn’t change much.

If we are not willing to dig deeper and solve the ACTUAL problem.

And that is rarely the partner or the boss.

But rather your own thinking.

Tip #1: Create awareness for your own protection strategies

The first step to breaking out of the hamster wheel is to become aware of your own patterns and protective strategies.

What are the voices and parts in you that keep making you “work”??

Classic inner drivers from transactional analysis are:

  • Be strong
  • Be perfect
  • Please everyone
  • Give your best
  • Be fast

Sometimes it can also help to look at what you were most criticized for as a child (too sloppy, too slow, too lazy, too selfish, too whiny, etc.)

Because very often the inner protection strategies develop as a counterbalance to this.

In order not to have to feel the pain of our own parents’ rejection for our slowness, we develop an inner voice that ensures that we are constantly pushing and going fast.

Observe yourself consciously in your everyday life.

What are the voices in your head saying – especially in stressful and trigger situations?

Try to identify the different voices and sentences and realize that they only served to protect you from criticism from your parents, but are often not that helpful anymore.

If you like, you can also imagine entering into a conversation with this “inner critic / controller / perfectionist” or similar.

It is important that you meet the part with curiosity and openness and not with accusation and condemnation (this usually makes the reactions even more extreme).

You may want to thank him for his tireless efforts to protect you throughout your life.

Maybe you would like to ask what he is afraid of if he no longer does his job and feel inside you what kind of answer comes to you intuitively.

You may want to explain to him that you are not 5 years old now (most of the time the parts are stuck in the past) and you no longer need that protection today.

The most important thing, however, is that you become more aware of yourself in everyday life when you fall into old patterns and to build new habits instead.

If the patterns are very strong and you can’t get further on your own, it can also be helpful to seek support from a coach or therapist.

Tip #2: Healing the inner child

The second step is to consciously connect with your inner child.

What old limiting beliefs are there, like…

  • I am not good enough
  • I am wrong
  • I must not be too loud, wild, emotional, etc
  • I have to achieve, be successful, perfect, pretty, or whatever in order to be loved
  • And and and…

It can often also be helpful to consciously remember a painful situation from the past that caused this belief in you and to imagine how you are now – with your adult self – taking your inner child into your arms, comforting him and explaining to him that he misunderstood something.

That the parents only reacted so unlovingly because they themselves were stressed, overwhelmed or triggered. But that all of this has NOTHING to do with your worth as a human being.

Tell your child how lovable and valuable they are… without having to do anything for it.

This healing work can be very deep and very emotional.

Therefore, if you had a very traumatic childhood, we recommend that you go through this process with professional support.

If you find it very difficult to get any memories and emotions at all, it can also be helpful to support this process with breathwork, fantasy journeys, hypnosis or guided meditations in order to really get into your own subconscious.

Tip #3: Create more space for vitality in everyday life

In addition to this often very deep healing work, joy must not be neglected. After all, it is about reconnecting with your vitality.

It is important to consciously create time periods that are not full with to-dos.

Maybe you would like to ask your inner child what it would most like to do?

  • To paint? Craft?
  • Play soccer?
  • To sing? Dance?

Personally, what helps me the most to feel alive are things that get my heart beating, so I can feel my body and myself better…

  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Sauna
  • Breathwork / Pranayama
  • Taking cold showers or swimming in cold lakes
  • Sex

And actually most other sports too

But also things that bring me in contact with my emotions, like…

  • Breathwork
  • Emotional films
  • Time with children / my daughter
  • Extreme sports
  • Tantric sex

You might also like to make a list of things that help you feel alive and then incorporate something from your list into your everyday life.

Children can be a great inspiration and our teachers

You will see that this can make a big difference.

Tip #4: More room for aliveness in the relationship

Perhaps your list has already given you a few ideas on how to bring more vitality and passion into your relationship.

Because here, too, it is important not only to work through to-do’s together and to do the things that have to be done, but to create space for all the small aspects that really make a relationship come alive.

In your relationship, do you feel more as part of a well-functioning team or as lovers???

What makes the difference?

A team has a common goal and performs complementary tasks to achieve that goal.

In love, on the other hand, the focus is on connection.

Real, deep encounter, presence, space for authenticity and emotions.

Less efficiency or goal orientation and more space for the love game… without an agenda. Following the joy together, BEING in the here and now and enjoying the moment…

Don’t stage everything perfectly, but also make mistakes, “make a fool of yourself” and laugh heartily about it…

And an important aspect is of course the common physicality.

Dance together.

Experiment with different touches together.

Make love together.

Because sexual energy is life energy and – together with breathing and our emotions – one of the most important keys to our vitality.

To be truly alive means…
To breathe.
To feel.
To love.


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