What’s Your Prime Directive?
If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, you know that Kirk and crew aren’t allowed to interfere in any way with the planet they are visiting that week. They go to great lengths to hide Spock’s ears. Their phasers. Even though they possess the ability to help a planet from destroying itself, they don’t. (Ok, usually don’t). Their prime directive is “do not interfere.”
I was contemplating this rule (yeah, I am a geek!) the other day and thought… what is my prime directive? What is the base level value or belief I can’t cross without significant harm to my sense of self? What are the things I never question about:
- Who I am?
- What I do?
- What I believe?
We create the prime directives that rule our lives. Their creation begins in childhood. Heard, thought or said enough times, a thought becomes a belief. We adopt the rules and beliefs of our caregivers; our friends. We don’t question the fact that these beliefs may someday harm us.
Psychology has lots of names for these rules we create, but the bottom line is that if you’re not aware of your prime directive, it will interfere with you in ways you don’t even understand. The unexamined rules we create as children are activated automatically. But it may be creating disharmony in your life.
Here’s an example of how they can interfere with our lives:
Mary was told as kid that she wasn’t good enough. Through a process called internalization, she turns this message into a rule – always be good enough. But the underlying fear of not being good enough becomes a defense mechanism, designed to avoid the feeling of “not good enough”.
BAM! She’s got herself a darn cruddy prime directive: “Always be on guard for someone telling me I’m not good enough.” Make sure they understand that I am good enough.” It seems harmless, right? How does the unexamined rule affect her?
- Romance/Friendship/Family: Difficulty accepting feedback, feeling criticized often, short-term/high conflict relationships,few intimate friendships.
- Work: Feedback is perceived as scrutiny: “My boss doesn’t think I’m good enough.” low morale, insecurity regarding abilities or worry about being fired, perfectionistic goals leading to unhappiness.
- Personal: Depression, hopelessness, constant fear, anxiety, difficulty with consistency and commitment, job-hopping, paranoia, low self-esteem, externalized locus of control and power.
Do you see how her prime directive to “be on guard for not good enough” harms her ability to feel contentment?
Our work as is to uncover the rigid, internalized rules that govern our lives. As parents, its to understand how the messages we are sending may be translated into these types of rules in our kids.
Once understood, we can easily rewrite our directive.
Turning that rewrite into reality takes time, patience and practice. We often become frustrated when we ‘do the same old thing’ and give up. Practicing presence and patience with yourself can provide the space needed to live without the shame of a prime directive.
Can you imagine a world where everyone’s primary rule was to love? or to promote contentment? or understanding?
Yeah. I want to live in that world. Get on it. Rewrite that prime directive.