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Ginger flowerPeople worry and stress about stuff at times.  There are times when worry and stress can overwhelm us, boy don’t I know it.  Sometimes life can seem like a never ending series of obstacles, fires to put out, affronts, outrages, injustices, drudgery and general crap.  Throw in some depressing stuff from facebook and TV – politics, natural disasters, more injustice, and you can find yourself knee deep in shit. 

Enough to make you want to do whatever it is you do when it all gets too much.  That’s another topic to talk about – what coping strategies we can find which do no harm.  Lots, of course.

The thing is, sometimes we might be taking on the worry and sense of responsibility for a whole lot of stuff that is not ours to worry about.  It’s easily done, especially for the more conscientious among us, and those of us who are conditioned to feel guilt.

But how are you going to save the world as well as keeping up with the kids’ school notices and worrying about whether anyone might dislike or disagree with you?

You can’t, of course, and you need to let some of that shit go.  Just let it go.

But first, you need to be able to tell the difference.  What should you take responsibility for, and what can you feel totally free to release from your long list of concerns?

 

It’s reasonable to take responsibility for our own communication and the results it gets.  But only so far as we recognize any learning to be had.  Not everyone is going to agree with what we say, but if we have said what we wanted or needed to say as best we could, and somebody doesn’t like it, is that their problem or your problem?  The choice is always yours to make, and you can make that choice before you utter a word.  You might think of a way you could have conveyed information more clearly, or ask yourself what was the intention of the communication, what was its purpose.  Fair enough, and a good idea to check in with yourself sometimes.  But worrying about people disagreeing with us is a waste of energy!

Yes, we need to be open to hearing other’s people’s points of view, open to learning new things.  When we do this, we have a number of choices about what we do with this information.  We can employ empathy to see where the other person is coming from, look into the validity of their argument, and we may then take on board any new information we feel is valid and relevant, and we may either reconsider our viewpoint, or we may decide that we have seen this point of view before, have already taken it into account, that this is not new information to us, and that it does not alter our view.  We can thank someone for their input, maintain our position, and continue to be open to other viewpoints, continue to have empathy for where those viewpoints are coming from, but politely disagree or disengage, and ask ourselves how we can better communicate our own message, taking those opposing viewpoints on board to help us to construct our message.

It’s not even possible, no matter how articulately and clearly we express ourselves, to always be understood by everyone we communicate with.  There will always be those who’s filters are so narrow, their view of the world so obscured by bullshit, paranoia and denial, that there is little hope of them seeing your point.  For example, if you are communicating with an abuser of any kind, they are not seeing the same reality as you are, and there will usually be nothing you can say to make them understand your point of view.  This is not your problem.  Choosing to continue bashing your head against a brick wall, well that is your problem.

Perhaps you have friends or family or people you know who share their problems with you, because you are understanding, a good listener, sympathetic.  It’s good to be supportive of those you care about, but that doesn’t mean you are responsible for their problems or that you should lay awake at night worrying about them.  If you are able to help and you want to, that’s your choice, but not your obligation, and solving the problem for them is not your obligation.  In these situations, be mindful of adopting a role of ‘rescuer’, meaning that you are contributing to helplessness by not believing the other person is capable of handling things for themselves.  Even with our kids, sometimes it’s good to let them experience the consequences of their own actions, like forgetting to take their jacket to school (ok, if I knew it was going to be freezing I’d feel compelled to remind them, again, lol).

You might find yourself in the company of a chronic complainer at some time.  What fun.  Nip it in the bud, especially if you have enough stuff sucking your energy already.  When you stop offering solutions (which they repeatedly dismiss), and just say something like “gee, that sucks”, and leave it there, they will hopefully take the hint.  If not, do you really need to continue to expose yourself to them?  Chronic complaining need not be confused with times when someone trusts you enough to just want to vent and be heard.  Listening and allowing someone to do this can be positive – just watch for patterns.

A plentiful source of things to worry about these days is facebook.   Depending upon what pages you tend to follow and what sort of people you connect with there, it can potentially feed you a constant stream of things to worry about, be upset about, and feel bad about.

My attitude to facebook is to share mostly positive, funny, enjoyable or educational things, and very, very little negative stuff.  Ok, some of what I consider educational is negative. Before sharing, I ask myself if I think the information is likely to be accurate or reliable, if it’s useful or helpful, and if it offers the opportunity to do something (like sign a petition or contribute or share information).

And of course, in our own families, it’s worth having some boundaries for ourselves around our children and partners about how much responsibility we take for their tasks, problems, learning etc.  We naturally support those we love, but to be truly loving we need to let our loved ones make their own mistakes, take care of their own stuff, and deal with the consequences of their own choices.  If you have communicated in a healthy, positive, supporting way, and others choose to let themselves down, this is not your problem. 

As an extreme example, I recall a coaching situation from my training where a mother was concerned that her adult son would commit suicide if she did not give him the attention he wanted.  Obviously it was a manipulative situation, and the mother understood this, but needed to accept that she could not live her life taking responsibility for choices another person may make.

If people want our help, they can ask for it.  We can tell our friends we are there for them in a crisis or in times of need.  Whether they take us up on that is up to them.  On the other hand, sometimes it’s good to just turn up with a casserole or wash someone’s dishes or drive them to the doctor whether they like it or not, lol, but this need not be our habitual way of operating.  There is a difference between just being there for someone, without judgement, and offering our unconditional support, and taking on their problems as if they are our own.

So, my worrying, guilt ridden friends, have a think about what is going on right now, today, that you can let go of concerning yourself with, and place in the ‘not my problem’ basket.  This has the potential to free up your energy so that you are more productive with the things that are most important to you.  It requires disconnecting yourself from attachment to other people’s outcomes, a level of surrender and acceptance.  The resulting sense of peace is worth the effort.

Comments   

#2 Peggy 2015-10-21 05:53
WoW!!!! Thank you for this! So needed.
#1 joceleyne 2015-10-19 20:50
Oh I think you wrote this article for me. Thank you. I tend to take everyone's problems on my shoulders and you have made me see that it is ok to leave other people take their own responsibility. God bless.

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