Live your best life …
In this blog, I want explore the role of Responsibility in our lives and the natural consequences of being over involved in the business of others.
Recently, I came across an interesting book by Dan Millman entitled, The Life you were Born to Live; A Guide to Finding your Life Purpose, and I wanted to share some of Dan’s observations about Responsibility.
Many writers on personal growth would agree that our foremost responsibility is to ourselves; not in a self centred way but as a way of keeping an internal balance. Some might refer to it as being centred and calm. When we practice responsibility, we are accountable for our actions; answerable to our consciousness; able to take care of our obligations and we are reliable. We have set reasonable limits (boundaries) on our responsibility. This sounds like a really sound basis for a successful life.
So how do some people develop a balanced sense of responsibility which allows for the delivery of effective help or cooperation and others have a version of helpfulness that can also be called over responsibility which has the potential to destroy peace of mind and relationships?
We tend to learn responsibility as we grow up. We look after pets; keep our rooms tidy; do chores and have after school jobs. We learn about the benefits of cooperation and about the consequences of negligent behaviour. As a result, we learn about boundaries and over time, we recognise the feelings that alert us to the fact that our boundaries are being encroached.
Feeling out of our comfort zone is one such alert. Dan Millman comments on this in the following way, “While we’re all here to stretch our comfort zone, we’re not here to ignore it. This law (of Responsibility) reminds us to respect our internal values and to find our own point of balance.”
It is this point of balance that is often overlooked as we are encouraged (by societal, cultural or religious influences) to be mindful of others and consider their needs ahead of our own. When we are written out of this equation, albeit for apparently good reasons, the balance is skewed away from cooperation to over responsibility. We tend to accept that someone else’s business is our business.
Dan Millman suggests that before we can help others effectively, we have to put our internal house in order and reconcile all our conflicting beliefs, values and ideas. We have to sift through our childhood conditioning and decide which of the ‘old’ rules support or tear down the life we want to lead. Conflicting ideas do not lead to healthy boundary making. In fact, I would suggest that they lead to disasterously weak boundaries, ones that can be easily ignored.
Most of us know at least one person who seems to be called upon regularly to ‘help’ relatives or friends. This person often feels compelled to give help, sometimes at a risk to his/her own health and peace of mind. He/she has not established limits or boundaries on responsibility. This is the over responsible person.
Over responsible people feel very strongly about assisting those in need. Dan Millman reminds us that when more help is given than is actually required, there is an obsessive focus on the other person. There is a big difference between offering help in the spirit of cooperation (i.e, both parties contributing what they can) and being over responsible. Over responsible people often base their self worth and validation of their values on their ability to focus on the needs of others before focusing on any needs of their own.
In my opinion, being over responsible for another sends a subtle message. The message reads, ” You are so fragile that I need to protect you from facing the consequences of your own actions.” Accepting this type of help may be a relief in the first instance, but does nothing for the self esteem of the recipient, in fact, it probably only serves to reinforce the sense of helplessness. This type of protection is demeaning to both parties and in my observation never ends well.
Over responsibility is unsustainable. The situation where one person does all the giving and the other person does all the taking becomes too hard. Eventually, resentment develops or the over helpful person continues “doing things” for the other but withdraws emotionally. In either case, the relationship suffers. Putting the relationship back together will require a more balanced approach between what is given and what is received. It will need to be mutually supportive where there is a sharing of responsibility. That way, balance is restored and cooperation has a space to grow.
Dan Millman reminds us that the most powerful form of help and support may sometimes mean encouraging and empowering people to do things for themselves. The best assistance often includes making the appropriate demands. The message from this approach is one of confidence; helping the recipient to develop a belief in him/herself; thus restoring the balance.
I love this quote from Larry Eisenberg. It is a sobering reminder for those of us who have fallen into the role of being over responsible:
” For peace of mind, we need to resign as general managers of the universe.”
It is difficult to watch the people we care for go through difficult life lessons. In these circumstances, it is hard not to be tempted to ‘over help’. Consider the proposition that by over helping we may be interfering with that person’s learning and actually prolonging their plight.
Dan Millman says, “In applying the Law of Responsibility, we support others, but we also accept support; we find a balance between the two. We find the difference between what we think we ‘should’ do or be and what our heart really desires. We do what we can feel good about inside; if we don’t feel good inside, we state our feelings and reach a compromise: ” I’ll do this much but you’ll have to do the rest.” That’s the heart of responsibility and the soul of cooperation.”
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Dan Millman’s book deals with Numerology and the Laws of Spirit as he sees them applying to our birth dates. I have found it a very insightful read but then I am a Millman fan.