Exploring the Motivational Spectrum

By George A. Boyd © 2021

Have you ever noticed that people approach their activities with different levels of willingness to engage in them? Here are some examples of different motivational mindsets:

  1. Enthusiastic embrace of an activity – you do it joyfully and freely; you look forward to doing the activity.
  2. Encountering difficulty – you may have an initial enthusiasm for the activity, but you experience disappointment in your results from doing the activity—you discover you are not very good at the activity. You may become self-critical, wary and vigilant that others may criticize you or make fun of you. You may try to find out why you encounter these difficulties and try to improve them.
  3. Trepidation – You have reticence to begin and continue an activity. You may not trust your performance or your ability, and you may do it with some anxiety or fear that you will fail or that you may risk hurting yourself.
  4. Avoidance – You have a resistance to do an activity. You find excuses for not doing it. You procrastinate in starting it. You may sabotage your efforts so people won’t trust you to do activity correctly.
  5. Defiance – You stubbornly and defiantly refuse to do the activity. You cannot be persuaded to consent to participate in the action.
  6. Capitulation – You do the activity only because you are coerced, threatened, or intimidated to do the action. You may have genuine dislike for the activity, but you feel you must do it, or you genuinely face negative consequences: violence, abuse, punishment, incarceration, or death.
  7. Surrender – You carry out in response to an inner command or direction you receive from your Soul, from your spiritual Master, or the Divine. You carry out the activity as your duty in service to your Soul or God, in spite of your personal feelings or the opinions of other people.

You may wish to examine which of your current activities fall into each of these categories. You could do a brief inventory to see what activities your truly enjoy and love to do, and those that being up stress and conflict.

The Role of Desire in Motivation

Positive motivation is founded upon desire: you want to do something. Negative motivation is founded upon aversion: you don’t want to do something, but there are consequences for failing to do the action.

People cope with their desires in different ways, depending on whether they can satisfy them directly, whether they are attainable, whether they or other people approve or forbid them, or whether they are attempting to relinquish desires to achieve a state of spiritual transcendence or enlightenment.

You may wish to notice what you desire, and which of the following strategies you are using to fulfill, suppress, or transcend your desires:

  1. Direct action – You have a desire: you act on the desire. No deeper aspect of your psyche or a “Higher Power” hinders you from taking direct action. You bear the full responsibility for the consequences.
  2. Fantasy – You cannot act on your desire due to your circumstances. You may fantasize about achieving what you desire. You may feel envy or jealousy for those who are able to enjoy the desire, but you can’t. You may feel something is wrong with you, because you can’t have what you want, when others can have it. You may engage in a symbolic or substitute activity to vicariously enact the desire. For example, someone might resort to masturbation instead of having a regular sexual partner. In this strategy, you feel frustration and unhappiness.
  3. Taboo – Your conscience forbids you from enacting certain activity. Alternately, those around you may forbid the activity. You may attempt to indulge in the activity secretly. This inner conflict may make you split your perception of yourself into a good, obedient self and a bad, defiant self. You may find that part of your psyche aligns with your values of goodness, truth, and righteousness; part aligns with rebellion and to the sense of entitlement to do forbidden things. Your conscience may criticize, argue with, and punish your bad side; your bad side may feel it is persecuted or under attack, and may redouble its defense of what it desires and its right to have it.
  4. Dissociation – In this strategy, you enter an altered state of consciousness through prayer, meditation, or hypnosis, and identify with a spiritual essence. While you are in this altered state of consciousness, your bad side’s activities may be temporarily suspended. You may disidentify with your ego and your personality, and re-identify with this spiritual essence—you may distance yourself from your former behavior through regarding the part of you that did bad behavior in the past as your sinful self, but now you have abandoned that sinful self, because you have been saved and reborn.

If you remain in these altered states of consciousness for extended periods of time, you may experience dissociation, where you can no longer feel your authentic feelings; depersonalization, where your life no longer seems real; or de-motivation, where your personal desires no longer seem worthwhile pursuing anymore. Instead of acting on your desires, you may instead enact a prescribed lifestyle. If your authentic desires emerge, you may attempt to meditate or pray them away.

  1. Decompensation – At this stage, you experience vivid hallucinations and projection of your repressed desires as intrapsychic demons and devils, which appear to attack you. You are engaged in a pitched inner battle to overcome these resurgences of your desires, which appear to personify in the depths of your mind. It may be difficult at this stage to identify these demons and devils as your own desires, because you have disowned them. Instead, these personifications appear to be part of a universal force of evil—Kal or Satan. Some people may adopt severe austerities at this stage to attempt to suppress this evil they see within them. Some people become psychotic at this stage.
  2. Monastic surrender – You surrender your desire for wealth, sex and sensual pleasure, and to pursue your personal dreams or desires. You may take a monastic vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. You live a life according to the dictates of the scriptures of your faith at this stage; you may belong to a monastic community. You may engage in isolation to avoid temptations; you may become a hermit or holy wanderer. You spend you day in prayer, contemplation, and meditation. In some religious communities, you may carry out service or ministry. You submit yourself to the guidance of a spiritual mentor, who gives you regular guidance and direction for what you must do.
  3. Agya – Your life, desires, mind, and will are completely surrendered to the Will Divine. You enact this Divine direction in your daily life. Those who become Gurus, Prophets, and spiritual Masters operate from this platform. When you function from this level, you allow yourself to become the instrument for Divine Light, Grace, Love, and Wisdom to express through you. This inner Divinity fully overshadows and controls your life.

You may wish to examine which of these strategies you are using to avoid fulfilling your desires; through psychotherapy and coaching you can sometimes free yourself to embrace your natural desires and let go of the self-torment of strategies two and three—fantasy and taboo.

Those of you who are trying to avoid your desires through strategy four, dissociation—and you have gotten involved in a religious or political cult—can often benefit from a structured program such as our Cult Recovery Coaching Program, which can walk you through the steps to re-own your life, your sanity, and your genuine desires.

Those of you who have moved onto the platform of decompensation—strategy five—may frankly not be reachable though psychotherapy, coaching, or spiritual intervention. If you are functioning at this level, your challenge is to determine whether you seek to dedicate your life completely to God, in which case, you may opt for the wraparound support of a monastic community, or whether you will embrace your authentic human life and its desires again, and come back down to earth.

It may be valuable to determine which of your desires could be satisfied through direct action, and which legitimately need to be deferred—or outright jettisoned; for not every desire of the human heart is noble, worthy, and good. As you reflect upon the motivational spectrum, you may wish to identify healthier ways to achieve your dreams: psychotherapy may help those of you who are deeply entangled in the throes of self-torture and self-sabotage.

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