by Lauren Berley, republished from February 1, 2014
ICD can drive us like a runaway eight-horse draft hitch. But learning to funnel these traits productively empowers us to make great strides.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ICD (Intensity, Complexity, and Drive) and as I am learning to balance these traits, I have no choice but to look in the rear view and see an illuminated picture of how things went down, and why. It’s a pretty big relief, not so much because things make more sense looking back, but because Lord knows how grateful I am that those things will NEVER happen again. Moreover, I will no longer be a misunderstood, hypervigilant, overwhelming, flammable person.
Those traits have no power over me anymore, because I can see them clearly and shuffle them around. In essence, I can access them when I choose, instead of blindly misallocating them while spinning like the Tasmanian Devil in Doing mode.
When I think of the gift/curse of ICD, I am recalled to the months following the 9/11 attacks in a post-apocolyptic New York City, where I found myself overtaken by ICD.
At this time, ICD was both a dear friend and a humiliating, brutal enemy. It was running my life, building me up, up, up…. only to crash me flat into a heap of shameful perceived-failure.
I was in a particularly high gear of ICD, having flown to NYC within two weeks after 9/11, knee-deep in purpose. On 9/11 proper, I had been in Los Angeles restless, but comatose. A fashion/entertainment photographer who yearned always for more. I remember judging so harshly the people of Los Angles, because after a day or so of not leaving the house and waving flags, their lives resumed their normal course, and mine was forever changed. Overnight, I found myself suffocating in a shrinking room of comparative-shallowness… the complexity, drive, and intensity of my own inner architecture choking me.
I sprung. Basically, on a leap of faith. I could certainly not afford this mission to NYC, but intuition and synchronicity kicked in (and God takes care of fools?!) so with $100 in my wallet, I landed in NYC and effortlessly found the perfect volunteer opportunity where I could offer my talents, even though I’d have been content on the bucket brigade. Everything began to unfold. And my needs were met, on the practical (food, transportation, introductions, new friendships and kindreds… and even paid assignments!) and on the human (using my talents to offer relief to thousands and to provide other creative people with volunteer opportunities using theirs!)
The public service announcement born of this drive and blind faith is my little masterpiece, and a big benchmark, looking back over listening to inner yearnings. The subsequent opportunities, museum placements, appearances, historical installations, documentaries, accolades, and everlasting social intrigue had no value to me. In fact, it mattered so little that it has taken me until very recently to see that what I did in a call to action was access parts of me I had, otherwise, no way of knowing about. A combination of perfectionism and low self-esteem upstaged any glory. I never considered myself particularly talented, powerful, or influential. I was just a socially-awkward girl with a camera and no particular success to speak of (self bar-raising) from LA. Nothing special. I could go on and on about how the nothing special continued along the through-line of my life, but that’s a different blog post for a different set of gifted traits to examine. On 9/11 ICD birthed hidden talents in me, thrust me into a Self-trusting space, and auto-piloted me into a world beyond my known. This is the good side, the gift of ICD.
Lately I have been pondering the shadow side of ICD, be it an an imbalance or poorly-directed misuse. And how it had wreaked havoc interpersonally. I am taken back to the same time in post-9/11 Manhattan. Upon completion of my volunteer project, I was offered a permanent position in New York, and I leapt at the opportunity. For the first time in my life, I was earning a living with my talents AND involved in something of historical and humanistic value: a purpose. And I was high on this drive, passion, achievement, and purpose. I packed up the last of my things in LA and settled into the ash of Ground Zero, open and receptive to the very bigness of it all, and the spectrum of emotion.
But intensity, complexity, and drive have their own time and place, and usually are best accessed when working solo or in the privileged position of one who delegates (big-picture nature well-nutured.) In any environment other than a creative workspace, and in poorly-managed doses, ICD is the spawn of pure evil! I know this because I misallocated my ICD into the relationship realm in the early months of my new life in NYC, and it was not a pretty picture.
I spent my days photographing firefighters at work in the pit, families mourning, volunteers from around the globe, celebrity donors, corporate sponsors, milestone recovery days (very heavy) and the likes, day after dynamic day. The feeling inside was that I’d shed an old skin and stepped into a new BEING, only I didn’t know it. In the shade of my “not knowing it,” somehow it transmuted into a mission of passion that took no prisoners. I was, in essence, the picture beside “Hellbent” in the urban picture dictionary.
Hellbent was, however, working in a big way, so like Pavlov’s dog, I kept doing the same thing to get the same result across the board. If Hellbent got me past the vetoing Port Authority Police Chief and into an armored car to escort me (socially-awkward smart-pretty girl with no self-esteem or notable resume) with a movie camera, to a forbidden International Terrorism Crime Scene only a couple weeks after the biggest disaster on American soil since Pearl Harbor, why shouldn’t it be applied in all areas? ICD rocked, baby!
Well, apparently my drive… and its symptomatic high, the uber-efficiency, responsibility, and sense of societal significance… was not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially when I tried to romantically partner with a person who had stepped down from an offer for his own column at the New York Times because he “didn’t really feel like it.” GASP!
An un-driven man I could not accept, so instead of walking away from said unmotivated, party-going, undirected man, what did I do?! I unleashed the ICD-crazed energy I’d been operating on for months, and set out to MAKE him into a motivated person and fix his life, to my liking.
At first, it looked like a gentle, supportive nudge at examining his dreams. Noble enough. Then came a little more gas, reminders and invitations to things that might be “good” for him. Without success, my own personal bar was challenged, and Operation Changing Dan was launched, in the form of “control freak girlfriend,” which wasn’t always modeled from kindness.
As you can guess, Operation Changing Dan was a continual failure and resulted in complete shutdown, translating to “more challenge” in my hypervigilant mind. So help me God, I would succeed at this, and instead of dealing with Dan the person, I was now butting heads with Dan, the Mission, my next goal. I could make this happen. I could make anything happen. My ICD had completely overshadowed the other person from the equation and I began to interact not with Dan, but with the Lauren’s-Goal-Dan, who really didn’t exist.
Since my ICD was so out of balance, I disassociated completely with relating to him on any kind of intimate level or friendship, and had become the “overseer of the project.” When I left Dan (the most appropriate choice, given the mismatch,) the ICD was still flying high, and I imagined he would come back a changed man any day shortly thereafter, full of drive and life-architecture.
And when he didn’t, I turned into the friend-on-the-outside-but-agenda-filled-on-the-inside chick, failing to let go of the Project I had undertaken, and it ran my life for a while. Too long. I did things one might consider a bit psycho, all in the interest of hitting the mark. I made a fool of myself, made embarrassing proclamations, statements, and insincere visits within our group of friends, and then basically dropped out of the scene in shame.
I knew that some of my behavior had been perceived as psycho, and I understood why. I just didn’t understand how I’d gotten there.
It was a miserable train wreck. And you know what the worst part is? Failure to meet that goal caused my self-esteem to plummet, taking what little shine there was off my newly-launched life in fabulous New York City, using my gifts for both livelihood and humanitarian efforts. I was now one of the fallen, defeated by my own misallocation of resources, the runaway traits of intensity, complexity, and drive.
It’s amazing to look back at how these traits have played out in my life, and how I danced, ungracefully, like a marionette on strings at their tugging.
And it’s also amazing to experience the capacity of my own mind to shift into the seat of Mind Observer, and the clarity thereof. I am no longer a victim of my own ICD. I can actually hold it in clear view at most times, and either bring it down to reasonable level, redirect it into a productive wandering, or even let it go. Gifts, indeed, when given a deliberate assignment. But left unchecked, the Gifted mind can certainly wipe out an army in a poorly-designed mission to win a futile war.
A Practice to Begin Shifting into the Mind Observer
I’m guessing that everyone’s ICD manifests in different ways, so I will speak of its manifestations in a more generalized way. My own comes in the form of anxiety that, when unanswered, can spring into an impulsive leap at fixing it, without any real thought or plan, often causing an undesirable outcome. So here is what I do…
I feel that energy (anxiety) and instead of reactively making steps to alleviate it, tune it out, ignore it, or busy myself with a distraction to overcome it… I sit with it, eyes closed, and become fully present to it. I let it escalate inside me in full technicolor, and I tell myself that it is okay to sit quietly here and DO nothing. Just be with it and see what it wants to show me. It’s really quite amazing what happens when you allow this symptom to just be there. At first, it’s uncomfortable. We all want to bolt. Run. Have a drink. But in a short time of staying with they symptom (feeling) it loses its power over me.
I sit with the anxiety ball until its flames begin to die down. This is the point where I can reason with this aspect of my mind makeup. In this stage, now that I have stood firmly in front of the symptom, neither running nor quick-fixing, and allowed it to be as it is, I can observe as it transitions into something that is basically nothing, just a thing.
Once the ICD anxiety is calmed, clear, and settled to a workable place, not generating its own energy and taking over the rest of my mind, I am able to inquire more deeply about the nature of its mission. What is it about? What is its stimulus? What is this inner pull? What is the urgency?
Is it vibrating around something useful, transformative, creative, or productive? Is it about something else, something hidden?
I sit there with it, eyes closed, until I have a much better grasp on what it’s responding to, and if it is a worthwhile endeavor. When I have ascertained a deeper understanding, I am able to either go forward with a mindfully-rationed level of ICD toward a productive interest, redirect the ICD toward a more useful or meaningful one, or let it go altogether, after having disengaged its power over me.
It takes a while to get used to being a Mind Observer, particularly if you are new to turning inward. Those who sit for meditation or other do Mindfulness practices may slide into Observer seamlessly. For others, it may be a amore painstaking process to calm the mind enough to observe it. Don’t give up! It is a very powerful tool worth mastering.
Journaling is another means I have of objectively observing my mind. It starts as a content-dump, a download, a blather, meandering babbling of all that is spinning around up there, directly aimed at my notebook in frantic scrawl. Splat. A mess on paper. Like an incessantly-nagging child, my mind is now silenced after the satisfaction of being heard. Peaceful. Pacified. Ready to look at the more meaningful questions and reveal for me the answers that the symptom (anxiety) was trying to point me toward. I then ask questions and journal, more neatly, the answers, in a relaxed state, with clarity. And the anxiety is gone. It has been addressed and transformed. I am becoming my own harbinger, instead of the messenger of misinterpreted signals and knee-jerk reactions.
It may take some time to really understand what you find inwardly, and you might even question the validity of your answers’ delivery system. But fear not. The mere intention to observe your mind and its workings will ignite a great change in how you experience your Gifted Self, because you will be using your own gifts to transform other ones not fully developed. And you will begin to experience your own power, and its impact on your life. Both experientially and in the concrete, life will transform. You will be using your own innate power to make it so, and redirect who you really are, without the shadow side of ICD, into a productive and free-flowing clear direction. This is truly a reallocation of Gifted resources.
My name is Lauren Berley and I am a Certified Professional Coach. I am also a working contemporary artist. Film maker. Photojournalist. Writer. Small-scale farmer/farm stand artisan. And your kindred partner on the Gifted & Creative journey.
I help Gifted and Creative people unblock pathways to creating their most meaningful lives. And my artwork expresses the sensations and yearnings from deep within my little seed of Spirit.
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