The Power of the Past in Performance

Present Performance = Past

No, it is not time to lay down on the counseling couch and hold a box of tissue and talk about your past. It is time to talk about what really drives present performance, which I’m sorry to say, is the past. Specifically, unresolved trauma .

Over and over, I see a client’s current behavioral patterns at work arising from their past unresolved trauma, also known as baggage. When we experience trauma, or view something as traumatic, our unconscious mind encapsulates it to give us a coping mechanism to move on with life. When another event is similar, our unconscious mind identifies it to be the same as the first event, and creates another piece of baggage, creating a chain. Fritz Perls discovered this, so it is often referred to as a Gestalt Chain. I like to think of it like a pearl necklace. 

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All of this happens unconsciously and can turn into our operating system, and the way we react to things.  A client business-owner would be quick to become irritated with people. This could happen with team members, vendors, even peers. When we dove into what caused the anger, by looking at the past, he shared that the first time he remembered getting angry was at his father. However, he couldn’t display his anger because his father was domineering, ruling with an iron fist. His father also never gave him approval verbally or through actions and displayed anger as a primary emotion with his family. Thus, creating traumatic events that were never resolved. 

Often, the unconscious mind does such a good job of encapsulating trauma, they don’t remember consciously what happened. It’s simply displayed in current-day behaviors, usually at work because that’s where men identify most with themselves. 

This is not to say women don’t identify themselves with work. For women, it’s where they identify with themselves most. This can be at work, or with family or in their primary romantic relationship.

What do you do about this is the obvious question… The first step is to notice it happening. If your first reaction is any of these five negative emotions or combination, make a note of it:

  • Anger
  • Hurt
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Guilt 

Next, ask yourself when you first remember exhibiting this behavior, and what caused it. Was it a specific event, or simply these strong emotions because perhaps your unconscious mind caused you to block out the memory consciously? Whatever the case, write it down. 

Next, identify the trigger which causes you to feel this emotion. It could be when someone is domineering, or questions your decision (even in an innocent, inquisitive way), or even speaks in a voice which reminds you of a traumatic experience. When you have these three things, you are ready to begin the process of clearing the baggage.

The next step is being truly ready to release it. Many of us carry baggage around for years, even to the grave, not wanting to face it fearing it may be too painful or difficult. However, consider this; what is carrying this baggage keeping you from experiencing? Meaningful relationships, fulfillment, happiness, joy, success?   

When you are ready to release it, please reach out to us or any professional certified in this methodology. The technique used is straight-forward and quicker than you think, but does not lend itself to a blog format and is not typically something you can do on your own. I wrote about it here because it is never talked about and I find it among every leader with which we work. Even the ones who say they had a Beaver Cleaver upbringing still have trauma in life and therefore, baggage. It’s part of a being a feeling, human.