For the good guy, taking responsibility for other’s emotions, well being, finances, etc., is a way of breathing. This comes from a deep seated belief that he can only call himself a good guy if he is always being there, being present, being attendant to the needs, desires and happiness of others. Changing this belief is vital.
Beliefs change slowly over time due to experimentation with an alternate belief. Generally speaking, the belief that we are not, and indeed, cannot be responsible for others comes slowly due to the lifelong bargain with trying to take responsibility for others. Eventually the body and mind begin to scream their exhaustion and the person begins to listen. When that happens the person might be willing to begin to experiment by deliberately choosing to give responsibility for other’s lives back to them.
But if we implement a practice meant to lead to a process, perhaps we won’t have to wait to get to exhaustion before we can yield the floor of responsiblity for someone else’s life to them. Therefore, the practice goes something like this. Every time you find yourself worrying about someone else’s stuff, you say to yourself, “I’m giving that back to them for them to carry. It does not belong to me.” Every time you feel guilty for saying no, for thinking no, you say to yourself, “I’m giving that back to them to carry. It does not belong to me.” Every time you realize that you are carrying someone else’s stuff you say to yourself, “I’m giving that back to them to carry. It does not belong to me.” In this way you are training your mind to accept the belief that it is not possible for you to be responsible for someone else’s life. You may also come to understand and therefore believe that when you take over someone else’s responsibility, you are actually robbing them of one of life’s most precious jewels – for it is in taking responsibility for our lives that we give ourselves permission to become whole. As you practice this more and more over time, it begins to become a process in which you recognise immediately when you have taken on someone else’s stuff and you surrender it willingly to them as a precious gift of love.
The practice of ceating boundaries starts internally. First you recognise that you are doing something or engaging in something that is not authentic for you. Then you can decide where to put the boundaries so that you can stop betraying yourself by violating your own boundaries. So many times we think that we put up boundaries to keep others out. But actually, we put up boundaries to keep ourselves in – within our own bodies, our own authentic life structure, our own power to respond, and our own personal responsibility.
The practice of creating boundaries begins by checking our energy levels, desires, passions, and compassions against our patterns of behaviour. When the thought of doing something for someone makes us feel a deep sense of exhaustion or tiredness, that is a signal from the Self to say no to doing that thing. When being around a particular person trains our energy, that is a signal from the Self to stop being around that person. When we are asked to do something but our compassion is not in it, that is a signal to say no to doing that thing. When we are charged with a job that we have no passion or desire to do, that is time to delegate that task or to talk to our boss about reassigning it.
Making these kinds of decisions on a regular basis means that we develop a process of being led by the internal messaging system rather than by the shoulds, have-tos, ought-tos, obligations, and loyalties of the culture, family, or social agenda in which we hapen to lve. This procss is genuine and it offers the potential of manifesting an authentic life.
Andrea Mathews : Letting Go of Good : Dispel the Myth of Goodness to Find Your Genuine Self.
Its not easy for me to take on board the advice above. I read this out to my therapist today in session and she clapped her hands, she told me it is what she is hoping that we are working towards in therapy. It seems in my family I have always placed myself in the position of emotional caretaker. I did it with my older sister who died and then with my Mum and now at times it could also happen with my sister who is the only one remaining here in my home town following my mother’s death and is struggling with depression. I just know as much as I love her I cannot take on board her suffering as mine. I feel for her, I try to ring her every second day but more than that I cannot do and I have finally made the tough decision that I will no longer sacrifice my life in caring when that care goes down a drain of endless sadness.
Believe me I know how much suffering there can be in life. I see how much we live as a culture divorced from deeper values of self care and care for the feminine as well as the natural environment, but I also know that its up to each of us at some point to make a strong choice for solid values to invest our energy and time in. I cannot live for another person. I can feel for their problems but often I am powerless to do more than just care and over caring when it drains me leaves me in an empty place.
Today I was thinking of the line from a poem of T S Eliot “teach us to care and not to care”. I dont know if I can ever ‘not care’ but I can detach to a degree with love. I can make an active choice to say that I am human and this is my limit over which I cannot cross. It doesn’t mean I am abandoning you, I am here if you want help and will take the steps to help yourself but if not, there is no more I can do. I watched my Mum overcaring at times and struggling to keep her boundaries and failing at times. Often she was punished by my older sister for that care. I dont want to travel down the same road so my new years resolution is to care for me, and my dog this year. I know I am now an adult enough to do it. And its not anyone else’s job. If you care for me that is wonderful and I am so grateful but care is only a given and cannot in the end be demanded. I am going this year to work to take the advice of Andrea Mathews which I quoted above.
Taking responsiblity for other people’s feelings is often learned in a childhood in which the parent’s needs came first and/or took priority. We learned it wasnt okay to have needs and desires of our own. We end up not knowing what we want and need or feeling guilty if we do want or need what runs counter to other’s wants and needs. We then suffer anxiety if we dont think of others all the time. We then learn to chronically self abandon. It may be a long road to learn to know, value and champion our own needs but if we want to regain our emotional help we must learn this, or else we will suffer much anxiety and depression in our lives.