Impulses. They are often frowned upon by society. “Destructive”, some may say. “Hedonistic”, others may quip.
But have you ever stopped to consider why we have impulses in the first place? Is it possible that they have a positive purpose in this journey we call life?
And what is an impulse, anyway? I like to define it as a drive from within, which to one extent or another, almost feels beyond one’s control. And during an interview, the late Dr. Wayne Dyer was asked a question, and his answer may help to define and understand the potential our impulses have to lead us toward greatness. He was asked, “what is intention?”, and he responded:
It’s the difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and don’t let go of it until you make it a reality. Inspiration is the reverse—when an idea gets hold of you and you feel compelled to let that impulse or energy carry you along. You get to a point where you realize that you’re no longer in charge, that there’s a driving force inside you that can’t be stopped. Look at the great athletes, musicians, artists, and writers. They all tap into a source. (1)
Inspiration. Energy. Whatever you call them, impulses can carry us to some interesting places if we allow them to – if we don’t let fear or societal expectations get in their way.
So, let’s look at what could be behind our impulses and the carrying-out of them. Because most people will find that complete suppression of our impulses will only result in a build-up of tension so great that a “dam” will surely break, potentially resulting in more extreme, or even destructive, displays of impulsivity.
1. First, Ask “Why?”
If nothing else, when faced with an impulse to do something that is considered “bad” or “reckless” by some, it doesn’t hurt to explore the why behind it. Are these impulses letting you know that you are living a suppressed life? Are they making you aware of areas of your life in which you are not being authentically you? Are you being asked to look at who you are making happy most of the time? Yourself? Or others (at your own expense)? Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions of yourself about the impulses that you feel bubbling up in your soul.
2. A Prompt to Explore the Possibilities
There are times in our lives when we are faced with a crossroads and a decision is in order. Whether it be who to marry, which profession to choose, or how many kids to have, if any. Perhaps you are being prompted to explore several paths so that you can make an educated, informed and committed decision about which path is best when it is presented to you.
Consider a person who has a burning desire to start his own business. Create. Live life on his terms. Change the world. Yet he explores the path of being an employee to see what “job security” and “predictable paychecks” feel like. Perhaps he has to explore both sides of this issue to fully commit to a decision to step out in faith to pursue his life’s purpose.
3. A Look at Contrast, or Duality
The world is made up of so many contrasts. Some would call this “duality”. Good, existing alongside evil. Tenacity, existing alongside laziness. Self-discipline, existing alongside disorganization. Even within our own personalities, we have some days when we are going from one extreme to the next. Or we marry a partner who has opposite characteristics as us.
And consider the judgments we often make against people when, say, they continue dating that “jerk”. Could it be that the impulse to keep going back to a dysfunctional relationship is a way for this person’s soul to fully explore the contrast of exactly how, or how they don’t, want to relate within a romantic partnership? A person who is “awake”, or conscious, is ultimately going to have the natural tendency to explore the contrasts of life. So breathe, and allow the yin and the yang to emerge!
4. Impulsivity: Is it Really ADHD?
One thing I have learned, as a former middle school teacher, is that many school systems rely on suppression of impulses to maintain order over chaos. And some students have stronger impulses than others and are often labeled as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. However, anyone who knows much about ADHD can tell you that when these children are focused on something they are passionate about, the ADHD seems to melt away. Again, is society labeling a set of behaviors as “bad” or “diseased” because they don’t conform to societal “norms”? Is this how we should be teaching our children to view themselves? To suppress themselves?
I hope these ideas about impulses have shed some light on your own. Imagine if you took another look at your impulses, and considered where they could possibly take you in life! The best example I’ve ever heard of someone following a seemingly “rediculous” impulse is that of spiritual author, Eckhart Tolle, author of the books, The Power of Now and A New Earth. He explained in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he was living in England, working on his PhD, when the sudden impulse to move to California took him over. He blindly followed his impulse, and it was in California where the impulse to write The Power of Now, a New York Times Bestseller, grabbed ahold of him. And the rest is history!
Where could your impulses take you? Push fear aside for a moment and allow your mind to at least explore the possibilities. You just might be surprised. And liberated!