Hidden Agenda

What is a ‘Hidden Agenda?’

A ‘Hidden Agenda’ is an objective of an action or behavior that isn’t openly admitted or known, or visible on the surface. It might be ‘hidden’ from observers but known to the person acting (as so often the case in politics!) or it might be hidden from the person but fairly easy for others to spot even though the person is oblivious. Their conscious mind might not permit them to realize their subconsciously-operating hidden agenda.

A ‘hidden agenda’ is a kind of motive. It’s a result you want to achieve, a goal of acting or behaving, but a result or goal that you are hiding from yourself and/or from others. In other words, you are hiding your true ‘motive’ for doing what you are doing. The true motive is to achieve or complete the hidden agenda. The surface motive is something else, some fake motive you are kidding yourself or others about, that it’s your ‘motive’ or desired result.

What ‘Hidden Agendas’ are related to this Theory?

As I developed this theory over my 25 years of introspecting, discovering, and thinking, I discovered my mind was full of ‘agendas’ and ‘motives’ that I had hidden from myself and others for many decades.

In a nutshell, what I realized was that nearly everything I did was to get approval, either from myself or others; the ‘good feeling about myself’ which came from approval. My motives were NOT actually to have a clean house, or be well-rested, or be an expert musician. Those were all actions in the service of my ‘hidden agenda’motivationto get approval vibes!

What creates Hidden Agendas?

So then I had to dig deeper into mypsyche and figure out how I got that big hidden agenda motivation!

The answer was what happened in my early childhood.

Here’s what happened to me, and I now see, happens to many others. Maybe you!

If an infant or young child hasn’t been treated, regarded, or acknowledged as an independent, ‘real person’, by her primary caretaker, she’ll experience – because Nature has arranged it that way – an intolerably painful inner void. That kind of treatment or regard is necessary to develop a natural, healthy sense of being a ‘Self’. The painful void is a lack of a (healthy) Sense of Self.

Nature programs us to try to fill that void in the next best way: Getting approval from the caretaker for our achievements, our behaviors, our way of acting and being.

What is the Goal of the Hidden Agenda?

Approval vibes is the goal.

Note this approval is not just ‘nice’ to get. The stakes are higher than that. The approval is necessary to give us a substitute for the ongoing fundamental sense of ‘Being’ everyone needs in order to function appropriately as a human being. We are ‘motivated’ to get this approval because without it, we don’t feel we exist at all.

Early in childhood, the ‘agenda’ is not ‘hidden’. The child’s motive/agenda is direct: to get approval. But the story gets more complicated, because the next question is ‘How can I get the approval vibes I need to fill this unutterable void of not-Being?’

The answer always seems to be ‘I have got to act or behave in ways which seem to get me that approval. It’s up to me to change and control myself so the approval results’. In other words, behavior is now NOT being done for any ordinary reason, but to get the result of being approved by the primary caretaker. Now the needed positive ‘mirroring’ is the ‘Hidden Agenda’ of the behavior.

Nature programs children in that situation, of not being regarded as a real person, to engage in trial and error acting and then seeing how the caretaker responds, with approval or some other way. Eventually we subconsciously figure out what we can do to get that approval. That feeling of being approved, even years later as an adult, is still the Hidden Agenda; the ways to get it are described separately in this website and are called ‘Ego-References’.

How Do We Get Stuck in Having Hidden Agenda Motivation?

To sum up so far what I discovered: Our hidden agenda-motivations arise because we have Lack of healthy Sense of Self, and that starts in childhood. In the appropriate period, we didn’t get what we needed to develop a healthy Sense of your Self so we get stuck in the loop of trying, trying, and trying again, and always failing, to fill that bottomless hungry intolerably painful void with a substitute: approval vibes.

Our development as an independently-existing person stops – it never really gets started – and the rest of our lives play out our vain attempt to get that basic human need met.

So the ultimate goal of person with a lack of Sense of Self is to fill the void of that unmet basic human need; we could say, it’s to reduce the painful void of feeling like an ‘invisible ghost’ to the caretaker.  Certain behaviors (Ego-References) which seem, after some (subconscious) trial and error, to get approval – which is the closest the child gets to filling that void – thus acquire hidden agendas. (or Indirect Motivation)

How to Detect a Hidden Agenda

The Hidden Agenda for behaviors, of getting approval, shows up in our lives with many faces, many different behaviors, which are not always easily recognized as all ultimately being about the same thing: being seen, heard, and acknowledged.

The approval itself also shows up with many faces, depending on what our trial and error got for us as children: getting a compliment, getting attention, being taken seriously, being smiled at, being hugged, being asked for advice, a certain look in the eyes of someone else, NOT being frowned at, getting a certain tone of voice from someone else, or being allowed to participate in certain family activities. Or any of a thousand other faces.

The feelings which result from successful achievement of the Hidden Agenda to get approval also have many faces: feeling acknowledged; feeling taken into account; feeling admired; a sense of ‘belonging’; feeling safe; feeling ‘alive’; the sense of having a voice; not experiencing being ridiculed or humiliated; feeling valued, a sense of relief, etc.

How Hidden Agendas Operate

So a person with a Hidden Agenda doesn’t do things for the standard motives that are usually linked to doing those things. She doesn’t smile because she feels good. She smiles to get a hint of approval for smiling, because it is part of her hidden agenda, to always work on getting that approval in order to fill the painful void of no sense of herself as a ‘real person.’

In Holispsych.com terms, we say her motivations for those particular behaviors are ‘Indirect’ and not ‘Direct’. She is motivated by a hidden agenda. You can read a lot about these two kinds of motivations here.

Why Discovering and Healing Hidden Agendas is Important

Hidden agendas are psychologically unhealthy motivations, even though they are common and wouldn’t need to be called ‘mentally ill’. They always lead to many kinds of suffering in oneself and in others.

Our actions which have hidden agendas are everyday little actions and activities. It all might seem pretty harmless. Not so.

Here are some reasons for ‘not so’. When behaviors have a hidden (subconscious) agenda like ‘getting approval’, they become compulsive and addictive.  And when the agenda’s success feels endangered, rage and violence can erupt and overwhelm us, and we don’t know why! Or we can get chronically depressed. Divorce, disease, insomnia and many other types of human suffering can all be traced to this root cause: being motivated by the hidden agenda of getting approval.

By cleaning up your Motivation you not only improve your own quality of life but you help make the world a better place.

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