People who have gone through some form of therapy are probably the most annoying people in the world.
I imagine talking to them is like talking to someone who once watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. “Heart surgery? Oh, dude, I’ve totally seen that done. I can do this!” Except instead of trying to bypass your aortic valve, they are constantly trying to dissect everything you say in order to identify your real motivation.
“And how does that make you feel?” they say.
“And what’s the story you make up about yourself then?” they ask.
Seriously. Someone should probably punch those people in the face, or kindly remind them that seeking mental health help does not necessarily qualify them to give mental health help.
I’ve been through roughly one gazillion hours of therapy in the last year.
That pretty much qualifies me as the most annoying person on the planet right now.
And only someone who was exceptionally self aware would be able to say that with confidence. *snap*
My point is, it makes complete sense that I am sitting here mulling over the fact that all of you other unhealthy people find yourselves on one end or another of what I am going to start calling The Responsibility Pendulum*.
A brief aside here – I am also contemplating the use of the word Spectrum and/or Continuum in place of Pendulum. For now, my time on Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com has lead me to believe that Pendulum is, in fact, the most correct term here. Ahem.
The Responsibility Pendulum
It seems to me that many, if not most, of our problems in life – including emotional distress, relationship woes, and all around general fucked-uped-ness – come from taking on too much or too little responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions and/or the thoughts, feelings and actions of other people.
Allow me to explain.
The Too Much Responsibility Side
Some people are responsible for everyone and everything. Let’s say, for example, me. (Pre-therapy and awesome enlightenment, of course.) I am responsible for whether or not I am happy or sad. I am responsible for whether or not my work gets done.
So far, so good.
I am also responsible for whether or not my husband is happy, what kind of people my children grow up to be, whether my friends feel valued and appreciated, whether or not my mother knows that she’s a good mom, how successful my siblings are, and whether or not Pakistan and Israel ever get their shit together.
As my husband’s wife, of course I am responsible for what he is feeling at every minute of every day. If he’s feeling happy or proud or secure, it is because I am a good enough wife. If he’s feeling sad or angry or frustrated or insecure, it is a sign that I have failed and am, therefore, not good enough. His happiness is my responsibility.
Likewise, as a parent, it is my job to make sure that my children are always happy. If they are ever sad or scared or frustrated or, God forbid, fail, it is a reflection of my failure to do my job. I will do absolutely everything in my power to avoid failing at that job because to do so would mean, in a nutshell, that I suck.
I do not wish to suck.
Here’s the problem with these scenarios: sometimes, no matter what I do, I cannot control how other people feel. It’s almost like they have feelings of their own. And once in a while they even make their own decisions, and those decisions can have consequences. It is, come to find out, really, really difficult to be responsible for shit you have no control over. Like – really difficult. Like – damn near impossible difficult.
Now, on occasion, people in my life (i.e. my husband) have tried to tell me that I “shouldn’t care” or “shouldn’t let it bother me” when someone else is unhappy or unsuccessful. Some people (i.e. him) have suggested that I should “let it go” because “it’s not my responsibility”. On those occasions, I have thought to myself that “clearly it is a sign of my extreme awesomeness and noble character that I am willing to take on even more responsibility than necessary, ASSHOLE.”
After all, what could possibly be wrong with being too responsible?
Apparently, living with someone who is trying to control things that they cannot possibly control is not fun. It can also make that person seem really judgey and bitchy. It can also make that person really, really fucking crabby and resentful because WHY DO I HAVE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING AND YOU ARE NOT EVEN COOPERATING!?!
The Too Little Responsibility Side
On the other hand – as in way over on the hand that belongs to someone on another fucking continent – you have people who are not even responsible for their own feelings, thoughts or actions. It is not their responsibility or their fault if they are happy, sad, or mad. It is neither their responsibility nor their fault if their life sucks or their job sucks or their relationships suck. They are, in fact, happy or sad or mad or successful or unsuccessful because that person over there did this.
And, as we learned just a few short paragraphs ago, it is damn near impossible to control other people’s behaviors. So if other people’s behaviors made you (insert emotion or action here), then it is their responsibility. Not yours.
Ironically, the people on this side have problems for the same damn reason that the people on the other side do:
You can’t control other people’s feelings, thoughts or actions.
But if you give the responsibility for your feelings, thoughts or actions to someone else, you pretty much hand over control over your entire life to everyone else around you.
Do I sound sanctimonious here now? Yeah, probably. Because this is not my side, I tend to have a liiiitttttle bit of a problem being empathetic. I tend to say things like “grow the fuck up and take some responsibility for your own life”, for example. I also, maybe, perhaps, tend to get a liiiiiittttttle bit resentful of people on this side because SEE!? THIS IS WHY PEOPLE LIKE ME HAVE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING! YOU’RE DROPPING THE BALL, DAMMIT!
On occasion, I may get together with my fellow too much responsibility takers and commiserate about how really fucking noble we are.
The Just The Right Amount Of Responsibility Side
Because I am now brilliant and enlightened and exceptionally self aware, I have figured out that THE SECRET TO LIFE lies somewhere in the middle.
The key to happiness is accepting that we are responsible for our own feelings, thoughts and actions.
Ladies and Gentleman, at just 30 years old, I, Britt Reints, have GOT IT ALL FIGURED OUT.
I expect Oprah to be calling any moment.
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
Blah blah BLAH Reinhold Niebuhr Is A Show Off