Tell your Top Dog to shut the hell up


I’ve had lots of conversations lately about finding and acting on creating your own extraordinary reality. People generally buy-in to it being a good thing.  I’ve been struck by how many people have ideas of what they’d love to do (which I’m rather jealous about as I’m still working that out). But scratch the surface a little to explore why they can’t do it and a great big shutter comes right down – BANG!  Of course I can’t do it – I’ve got bills to pay, I’d never get it off the ground, I should be grateful for what I’ve got.

This makes me a little sad, and frustrated if I’m honest.  Think of all that wasted potential and happiness we’re storing up.  And I do it too – big style.  Every day I’m on this mission I get excited by all the possibilities and the amazing people who are sharing their thoughts and knowledge.  And then I get overwhelmed by trying to figure out how I will ever find a way to make my own unique dent in the world when there’s just so much stuff going on out there already.

Sometimes I listen to that annoying voice in my head.  But other days I manage to work through it.  I’ve tried to do this, not by telling myself that “you can do it!” and “think positive!” (ok, well sometimes I do) but by figuring out why we do this to ourselves.  And I’ve learned that we ALL do this, maybe to varying degrees, but we’re all subject to, and limited by, the demons in our heads.

Fritz Perls, father of Gestalt Therapy, describes this as “topdog vs underdog“, the self-torture game that we play within our own heads to avoid the anxiety we encounter when contemplating an action.  The Top Dog demands perfection and adherence to society’s norms and rules i.e. you “should” and “ought” to do X.  The Under Dog is the part of you that tries to resist these external demands by finding excuses for why these can’t be met i.e. I’ll never be able to do that, it never works out for me so why bother trying etc. etc.  And so if you listen to either of these dogs, you’ll never move forward as their prime reason for being is for keeping you safe from the big bad world, in your comfort zone where nothing new ever happens.

Will conforming to the demands of society, your family or your friends help you create an extraordinary reality?  Not if you want it to look any different to what you have now, I’d suspect.  Top Dog is like the caveman dad out of The Croods – “Never not be afraid!” But then the world changed around them, they were forced out of their safe cave and weren’t prepared for what was waiting for them.

The Top Dog is a residual part of our caveman brain that still works in some situations (I’m not advocating a self-centred approach to life here – you really should hold your tongue when dealing with annoying customers and old relatives.  There’s no need to be rude).  But leading your life how you want to live it (without harming anyone obviously) should, in the long run, make you a better parent, partner, friend, daughter etc.  In fact, the world would be a nicer, more productive place if we weren’t forcing ourselves and each other (think about the number of times you say people should do something – again, other than rudeness.  Surely we all agree on that one?) into pre-defined boxes based on what we think the world is like.  But we are at the beginning of an exciting new world of work people, based on our unique talents and interests (more on that later), but to embrace it we first have to be brave and tell our Top Dogs to shut the hell up.

Easier said than done, believe me I know, so I’d love it if anyone have some tips or stories they’d like to share!


2 thoughts on “Tell your Top Dog to shut the hell up

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