Thought for the week: Benefits of a Different Perspective (July 5, 2015)
Taking care of others is a part of normal healthy relationships. There are times when the boundaries may become blurred and you find yourself over-involved, over-reactive, frustrated and/or exhausted when it comes to dealing with loved ones. Sometimes part of our identity is caught up in the role we take on in the lives of others, making change all the more difficult. One of the reasons therapy is effective is because of the objective perspective the therapist can bring to these situations. Friends and family can also be helpful, especially if there is someone you trust who is also good at being objective.
Are you the “rock”, the “fixer”, the one who makes sure everything gets done? Perhaps you are the “therapist” that people confide in, lean on and seek advice from. Maybe your the negotiator between two others in conflict, or the one who makes sure everyone is happy? In the meantime, what is left for you? Stress, worry and a build up of your own emotions as you keep your concerns to yourself? Perhaps at time feelings of aggravation or ineffectiveness as others persist in their destructive behaviors? Unknowingly what you do for others may be enabling in negative ways.
While difficult to imagine, you might consider slightly decreasing your efforts. Consider this perspective: when you take a step back, you actually provide the opportunity for others to figure out how to step forward for themselves. They may not like it and they may struggle. They may unknowingly try to rope you back in to doing for them. They may not have even realized how much was being done for them. You may feel awkward, uncomfortable or fearful as you step back. Think of it as becoming an observer – you are in the audience watching what plays out on the stage but not getting involved. As they take over responsibility for their part in things, over time they will develop more of their own sense of capability and self confidence. You may say you would rather do it for them then to see them struggle. Unfortunately there is no end to this hamster wheel. The more you do it for them, the more they will tend to let you. The added bonus is the less you “over-do” for them, the more left for you; more energy, more patience and tolerance, more creativity.
Examples include: When you step away from intervening when loved ones are quarreling, you create the opportunity for them to resolve the conflict on their own – to figure out how to communicate to each other – or not – and if not, then to sit with the responsibility of making that decision rather then blaming the person (you the “messenger”) who tried to intervene. When you repeatedly remind your children to do homework, they focus on how much you are annoying them with your “nagging” rather then taking responsibility of doing the work. Pretty soon, they learn to wait to be nagged and leave the burden on you. Better to create an atmosphere where they are naturally left sitting with the results of their behaviors, i.e. with the homework (or chores) in their laps for them to worry about instead of yours . When you don’t share with others because you don’t want to burden them, you’ve eliminated the possibility of allowing them to be there for you, to feel connected and effective in your life. Rather, change your perspective; realize that opening up to others is a way to give to them. Like it or not, your loved ones want to do for you as you want to do for them.