There’s a fine line between being supportive and being overly helpful. Once you slip into over-helpful mode, you don’t have a choice to act. Your desire to be helpful becomes a craving, maybe even a compulsion.
In this fast-paced world many of us “over-do” and become vigilant about what might go wrong. As soon as we sense a problem, the “action urge” takes over and we feel compelled do something about it—and react.
When this happens, your focus on the problem of the moment triggers anxious feelings so you naturally want to manage it and stay in charge. This dynamic will seed the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT), and its roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.
In over-functioning mode, you come up with a plan to solve the problem, not realizing that what you are reacting to are your uncomfortable feelings about the situation, and not really the problem itself. Feeling like a Victim to your uncomfortable feelings distorts your perspective so you naturally try to control the situation (while others may see you as a Persecutor). Or you may try pleasing everyone, wanting to avoid a conflict (others may hope you will Rescue them). Your focus continues to tighten, and you become fixed upon your judgements and opinions.
Your capacity to choose your response to life’s challenges narrows, while reducing your ability to respond as a Creator, the central role in TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)®.
An unintended consequence of being overly helpful is that you teach people to rely on you while they escape their responsibility for what is there’s to do. Eventually you feel like a Victim to their inaction. What a dilemma! Your desire to help disables others and you’re exhausted!
Pay attention to your “action urge.” It can be so strong that you go on automatic, doing things the same way over and over, sleepwalking through life. Notice the next time this happens and pause for a moment. Remain still and breath slowly, and most likely you will feel the sensation of the compulsion to say or do something—anything. You may notice that your jaw is clenched, shoulders scrunched, your breathing is shallow, and/or there’s a knot in your stomach. If you pay attention, your body will give you signals that you are in the over-functioning gear, and on the edge of burnout.
Being overly helpful may occur in one part of your life and not in others. For example, you may over-function as a parent, doing things for some family members that are really theirs to do. At work, though, you may have appropriate boundaries and respect other’s roles and responsibilities. Notice what parts of your life where you over function and ponder your beliefs that may drive being overly helpful in one area, but not another.
Here are a few suggestions for loosening the obsessive grip of over-functioning:
- See it and own it! Admit to yourself when you get caught in the over-doing urge.
- In the moment, say to yourself: “I have a choice to not respond to this action urge I am feeling right now. I can be still and not react.”
- Choose to do something else (for instance, take a walk) or simply wait.
- Focus on what you care about and what you are grateful for. Gratitude is one of the best ways to feel content with what is happening in the moment, interrupting your need to “do something.”
The key to shifting out of being overly helpful is learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sometimes the best thing you can do as a Creator is to “stand still” and say or do nothing in the moment!