In a world that never seems to slow down, it’s so easy to find yourself perpetually caught in the whirlwind of busyness, stress, and exhaustion. It’s become almost a badge of honour, an unspoken competition of who can juggle the most roles and responsibilities while sprinting on life’s never-ending treadmill. You are praised for your dedication, admired for your resilience, and revered for your strength.
But what happens when the noise of our daily lives finally fades away, and you’re left alone with your thoughts?
How do those first few moments of the day feel, just before you jump onto the hamster wheel once more?
Do you wake up with a sense of peace and purpose, or is it more likely to be frustration and fear, or perhaps even dread about the day ahead?
I know, the relentless busyness and the chronic stress may seem like the unavoidable challenges of modern life. I know, you have real reasons why life “has to” be that way.
But this blog post is an invitation to look deeper, beneath the often misleading surface of things.
What if, amidst this constant chaos, there’s something deeper at play?
What if our constant busyness isn’t merely a result of our hectic life but rather a strategy—an armour we wear to shield ourselves from confronting unresolved emotions, lingering pain, or buried memories?
Let’s look at this question from the Internal Family Systems (IFS) perspective. IFS is a therapeutic approach that can unveil the intricate dynamics of our inner world. I will share with you real-life stories from my clients—women just like you, whose lives are extremely busy. Women, who found their busyness had a hidden agenda that was stealing their peace of mind and freedom to create the life they deeply longed for.
But first and foremost I will help you understand how your own protective parts might manifest as unrelenting busyness and stress, and, most importantly, how you can break free from this cycle, and reclaim your inner peace and balance.
It’s time to face your protective strategies, befriend them, and rediscover the path to inner freedom and authentic fulfilment.
The Secret Face of Busyness and Stress
In today’s fast-paced world, the constant state of busyness has become a symbol of success and productivity.
‘I’m always so busy.’ or
‘There is never enough time.’
‘Life has been hectic.’
seem to be an indispensable part of everyday conversations.
For many, these words have become a mantra, a way to navigate the demanding responsibilities of work, family, and personal life. The constant hustle is often viewed as a necessity, a rite of passage in the journey of modern living.
Let me give you two examples coming from my clients. Take Monica, a high-achieving executive who manages a demanding career while also being a loving mum and partner. On the surface, Monica seems to have it all together. She’s respected at work, her family adores her, and her friends wish they had as much energy as her.
However, behind closed doors, Sarah often finds herself overwhelmed by stress, plagued by anxiety, and haunted by the sense that her life is not really her own. Her constant busyness serves as a shield against the challenging emotions lurking just beneath the surface. As long as she stays busy, she does not have to face them.
Then there’s Betty, a talented artist who’s built a successful career in a competitive industry. Her days are filled with deadlines, meetings, and creative endeavours. People see her as a confident, creative and fearless woman. But what they don’t see is the well of insecurity stemming right from her childhood and from Betty’s mum who constantly criticized her. Betty’s busyness keeps at bay deeply internalised self-doubts and a sense of inadequacy and puts her on a mission to get external validation and approval instead.
Does any of that sound familiar? Most of us have mastered the art of appearing fine while secretly struggling with inner pain.
Monica and Betty are not alone; you are not alone; countless people share a similar story.
You appear to have it all together, yet something feels amiss.
Meet Your Protection Strategies
To understand this tendency to hide beneath our busyness and constant chase for more, let’s look at the Internal Family Systems (IFS) perspective. This therapeutic approach offers profound insights into our inner worlds, revealing that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are driven by various “parts” within us. Some of these parts are protectors, aiming to shield us from emotional pain and discomfort.
We all carry some deep pain inside.
Life’s experiences have left us vulnerable, scarred, and often feeling not good enough. This was especially true during our childhood when we absorbed everything we knew about ourselves and the world from the adults who cared for us.
Whether your childhood was marked by chaos or was relatively serene, there were likely moments when life felt painful and disappointing, and you experienced deep hurt. Because you were a child, this pain was often too much to bear – and too complex for your developing nervous system to process. So, you found a creative solution—to lock it away and assign guards to ensure it’s never touched again.
You have many various ‘guard- parts’ inside, each with their own strategies to make sure the locked-away pain will not resurface and create trouble in your current life.
Ready to meet one of them- your ‘Busyness Protector’?
This part is constantly on high alert, ensuring you stay occupied, focused outside, and on the move.
They are like a diligent guardian, working tirelessly to prevent anyone, including yourself, from getting too close to that vulnerable part inside that carries the hurt. When you’re always busy, there’s no time to peer into the depths of your inner world, no opportunity to face the pain that resides there.
Remember Monica? Her Protection Strategy keeps her schedule packed from morning to night. It’s constantly whispering in her ear, “You don’t have time to contemplate your emotions. It’s not safe. Keep moving, keep achieving; everyone depends on you.”
And Betty? Her protector manifests as an insatiable need for recognition and success, continually insisting, “If you accomplish more, if you become a renowned artist, then maybe one day you will feel good enough.”
These protectors, always well-intentioned, work diligently on your behalf. Nevertheless, they inadvertently generate significant stress and pain and make it impossible for you to experience your inborn deep inner peace, worth and a sense of freedom
Moreover, they are all destined to fail—the locked-away parts will go to great lengths to be seen and witnessed in the pain they carry.
Steeping Down the Hamster Wheel with the Help of Psychotherapy
So, how can we break free from constant busyness and reclaim our inner peace and sense of worth? The only way is to finally stop running away. We need to acknowledge and befriend our protective parts, and then take a loving and courageous look at the parts of ourselves we tried to suppress and forget.
1. You Don’t Have to Go It Alone – Seek Professional Guidance:
While self-awareness is a critical starting point, the journey to inner peace and freedom often requires the support of a trained therapist. Psychotherapy provides a safe space to explore and heal these inner dynamics in a way that is not overwhelming for your nervous system and doesn’t retraumatize the vulnerable parts of your inner self. All of your protectors serve a purpose – you need someone to help you lower their shields gently, ensuring your well-being. A therapist acts as your compassionate ally, guiding you through the labyrinth of your inner world, and helping you identify the protective parts that drive your busyness and stress and make sure they start helping you in a healthier and more efficient way.
2. The Freedom That Comes From Inner Exploration:
Psychotherapy facilitates profound inner exploration. You’ll learn to communicate with your protective parts and understand their intentions, goals, and fears. As they gradually release their grip on your life, you’ll sense a big, positive shift in your constant hyper-vigilance and the compulsion to chase/run away. This will create room for experiencing more peace, ease, and a sense of being present – both in life and in your relationships. Life undergoes a significant transformation when there are no secret agendas or concealed missions you need to accomplish. Now, you can feel secure – within yourself, most importantly, but also in the world and with others.
3. Healing the Past for Lasting Transformation:
Healing the past is an integral part of this journey. Our protective parts developed as coping mechanisms in response to painful experiences, especially during childhood. These experiences left wounds that, if left unaddressed, continue to impact how we think, feel, behave and perceive the world in adulthood. Through psychotherapy, you can delve into these wounded parts of yourself, providing them with the attention, care, and understanding they need.
Imagine your protective parts as guardians of a treasure chest containing your exiled parts – the aspects of yourself that hold the pain of these past experiences. These exiled parts have been locked away to shield you from overwhelming emotions and distressing memories. However, as long as these parts remain isolated, the protective parts will persist in their efforts to keep you distracted – with constant busyness (or with food, alcohol, toxic relationships and so on and so on…)
Psychotherapy allows you to gently unlock this treasure chest, guided by your therapist. You begin to reconnect with and integrate these exiled parts, acknowledging the pain and emotions they hold. This process is transformative, as it frees you from the grip of old wounds, gradually releasing their hold on your life. As you heal your past, you pave the way for a brighter, more peaceful and much more fulfilling future.