It looks so simple. Four short words, I understand them all, and yet, it feels so familiar to be uncertain in the face of this question.
To want is powerful. So it behooves us to know what we want.
Wants are impulses. They can be momentary, frivolous, wants can morph into longing, and they can be a compass to our life purpose. They can also be driven by the teachings of our society, parents, religion, and education, such that what others want us to do overrides our connection with what we want.
Impulses are signals from the nervous system and can originate from one of three places: the internal guidance system (also known as our intuition, following our hearts, or body wisdom), instinct (a somatic response to a stimulus), or learned patterns of avoidance (moving away from something we’ve been taught is dangerous - also known as internalized systems).
Internal guidance system impulses are the ones we are often looking to follow when we are searching for our own way. They are the pull to do the thing from our congruence, and from befriending our will. They are the things that are “correct” for us, even if they’re difficult or require us to travel through the unknown.
Instincts are a somatic response to a stimulus. They bypass the conscious brain and create an impulse to pick up our foot when we step on legos, or to swerve when the car in front of us suddenly stops.
Learned patterns of avoidance are internalized responses to stimuli based on “how the world works.” This can be wildly different for different folks, but gets at our internalized (but learned) rules about what we are “allowed” to be like. This is where we can say “I followed my heart” but really mean “I operated according to the rules that said I shouldn’t disappoint someone else.” The bottom line is that learned patterns of avoidance are not always wrong, but they can be.
The learned patterns of avoidance that are incorrect undermine our ability to trust our internal guidance system because the impulses it creates can often feel similar. One of our tasks in deepening our self-understanding and finding our congruence is to learn to tell one from the other.
This is an experiential task. One that we do through paying attention, through befriending ourselves, through learning how to recognize our congruence (or lack thereof). It is something we spend our whole lives doing.
The Mothers that help me when I'm looking for my congruence, to know what I want, are Wind Mother, Island Mother, and Mountain Mother. The three of them provide the skills and hold me in the tasks of unhooking from those learned responses, noticing what is arising in me, and befriending my own will. They are available to you too, should you want to call on them.
Author: Jill clifton
Hi, I'm Jill. My intention with this space is to share how exploring the archetypes of motherhood can make room for us to be whole people within our roles of nurturing our children.