Over-Responsibility: The hidden power thief
Updated: Jan 28, 2021
We have work to do, bills to pay, people and animals to care for… the list of responsibilities we carry is endless. And the people who are able to stay on top of it all are a wonder. They are respected, they are emulated. They are The Responsible Ones. As we reach the age of majority, and for some of us, far later into life, we strive to achieve this pinnacle of adulthood, to finally have things under control.
In many ways it is a worthy pursuit, but it is also a double edged sword. With a firm sense of responsibility, there often comes the threat of over-responsibility.
But what is over-responsibility and why is it dangerous?
Have you ever laid awake at night worrying about someone else’s choices? Have you ever watched someone you love doing something that was bad for them, like smoking, and thought it was your fault because you couldn’t make them stop? Have you ever tried dictating another, fully competent, adult’s decisions? Or felt guilty that you couldn’t control a situation that, in reality, had nothing to do with you?
You might be suffering from the horrible, energy sucking vampire of over-responsibility. There is a small point of balance between being caring and supportive, and becoming an ominous presence who drains other people’s energy, power and freedom, driving a wedge into relationships with loved ones. Over-responsibility also causes our own energy to become so scattered that we are left weakened and deflated. We cannot live up to our own potential if we’re putting all of our energy into taking on responsibilities that, in truth, belong to others.
We often fall into this habit, not out of a sense that we are better than anyone else, but out of fierce love.
We want what is best for our loved ones, we want to protect them, and to help them in anyway we can. And it’s good, it’s loving. But when we cross the line into thinking that in order for others to function optimally, we have to be in charge of them, we cause damage to ourselves as well as those we are trying so hard to help. We have to respect the fact that everyone is on their own path. We all came into this world with an energy of our own, with a purpose and a vision that is unique and beautiful. When we spend more time thinking about what our brothers and sisters are up to than focusing on our own truth, we become lost.
We often hear stories of families torn apart over disagreements about marriage choices, educational pursuits, or lifestyle preferences. And when it comes right down to it, most of those family members are actually trying to do what they think is right. There are logical reasons to back up what each person is saying, but there in lies the trap. Reason is subjective. Reason is filtered through perspective and perspective is coloured by multiple life experiences. And as we all know, life experiences are different for each of us. What we learn, how we grow, is completely individual. What makes sense for one of us could seem ludicrous to everyone else.
We end up going around and around in circles, arguing our point, trying to convince other people that we know what’s best for them.
With children this may work for a while, but they grow up, realize their own autonomy and either stay close to parents or get as far away as possible. The parent/child relationships that remain the strongest are those that encourage open communication, freedom, and respect for individual thought and action.
On the flipped side, many adults are now finding themselves in the role of caregiver for senior parents. We need to ask ourselves if these seniors deserve any less? Does age, and it’s related conditions, mean they shouldn’t be treated as whole human beings? Of course, most of us would say no. And yet, seniors are often treated as though they have no rights. Our over-responsibility decides that we know how things ought to be done.
When my Grandfather received a terminal cancer diagnosis, the doctors told him to go home and prepare for the end. We were furious. Who were these doctors to hand out a death sentence, leaving no room for hope? But not my Grandfather. He wasn’t furious, he was defeated. He believed them, so he went home, got into bed and waited to die. Our outrage turned to shock. How could he just give up like that? Why wasn’t he fighting for his life? Trying every alternative treatment he could get his hands on?
This situation had a whole lot of over-responsibility flying around, from both the medical professionals and my family. Both sides were pushing the “correct” thing to do onto my Grandfather, at probably one of his scariest moments. Neither side offered him the respect and support we all deserve as soulful human beings living a life experience on our own terms.
None us have the right to determine how another person’s journey is carried out, nor when it’s reached it’s end.
We do not have the right to dictate when, where, or how another person should live. We do not have the right to dictate when, where, or how another person should die. Many people would argue with this – what about the addicts, the mentally ill, the emotionally manipulated? Don’t they need someone to take care of them? Well, yes, people do need help from time to time, but there are many ways to take care of someone without taking over and exhausting ourselves trying to control two, or sometimes even more, lives. We also don’t know what everyone else has come here to learn, to accomplish. As hard as it is, sometimes we need to go through hardships to grow.
Other beings deserve no less respect. We ‘own’ animals, we hunt animals, we use and abuse them no differently than we use and abuse Earth. Many people act as though animals are property, but in reality, we can’t ‘own’ another soul. My first thought when my dog died was that he shouldn’t have been alone. But that is what he chose. He went to a place that he clearly felt was right for him. He didn’t come looking for us, to lay down beside us. He purposely went to a peaceful little area in the shade of a tree, and laid down there to take his last breath. By assuming that I knew what he should have done and what would have been better for him, I disempowered him. I disrespected his choice and acted as though my opinion was the ‘right’ one. When I was able to recognize that reaction in myself, I was able to let go of guilt, respect his choice, and move into a state of grief that did justice to the bond that we had shared for so many years.
As we move through our lives, we will continue to have responsibilities. We can live up to these, gladly and lovingly, without overstepping and spilling ourselves out all over everyone else. Most of us have experienced feelings of over-responsibility for others. Most of us have had others try to take over for us. It’s uncomfortable no matter which end of it you’re on, and in order to free ourselves of these habits, we have to find the balance point where we share and grow together, without pushing our own agendas.
But where to start? We can try the following:
Stay open to synchronistic events, they may offer solutions and guidance when dealing with loved ones and relationship struggles.
Without seeking dominance over each other, share intuitive insights in unobtrusive ways, “…always looking out for the ‘best interests’ of others, and at the same time, striving to perceive something they need in order to manifest their dreams. If we give them this information, it feels Synchronistic to them and elevates their lives.” ~The Third Insight
Overcome our own control dramas so they don’t impact those around us.
Mediate and perform other spiritual activities that elevate our own energy levels and reduce stress.
Develop stronger interpersonal ethics by uplifting and empowering those around us.
Keep in mind that while we are all connected, we are also individuals. Each of us have a personal spiritual path and life mission to carry out.
Each interaction is a chance to evaluate where we are and where we need to go. Not one of us is perfect, and we do get caught up in each other’s dramas and energies, but each time we work through things while staying in our own lanes, we move further into balanced harmony and into synchronistic flow. Soon enough, this respectful, responsible way of being will become the norm, and over-responsibility will fade into a distant memory.