A friend of mine sits at my table and says "oh, no napkins", I remember that I considered taking extras and I say "sorry, I didn't take any for you". I go through these kinds of moments where I claim responsibility that wasn't in fact mine and I feel sorry for not following through with it. I never stopped to consider what pattern was at play here until I became responsible for other people at work and the "forgotten napkins" turned into goals in turnover.
I opened up this situation with my friend to shed light on the pattern at work:
- Because of my past, I hold on to this notion that anythings can be a trigger for someone – anything can be "the last drop".
- I react to the minor set back with a slight fear that someone will react.
- I realized that the reason behind the reaction is also the value I put in my friend which in turn created a fear of loosing the relationship if a conflict would ensue.
- I created the fear of loosing relationships when I was very young and my parents split up.
- Back then I started this pattern of being on the look out for things that I could do to prevent "damage" from happening to my relationships (I thought that preemptive action was my responsibility or otherwise relationships had the tendency to fall). This is because the divorce came (from my perspective) very suddenly and the reason that was give for it was along the lines of "sometimes people just don't like each other, we weren't enough".
- I then quickly check for ways that the situation can end badly.
- I then "scan" the situation for things that I could have done differently, and for each point that I find I react as if these points would make whatever is going to happen my fault.
- I then react with guilt.
- This experience of guilt leads to me either: 1) trying to correct the situation; 2) trying to write the responsibility off on someone else through judgment, assessment of the situation and blame; or 3) I do nothing and go to self-judgment.
If I fail my attempt to "make the situation right"
I might go through this pattern again.
This pattern is connected to the beliefs I have about situations and people. For instance if a huge biker guy would react to the lack of napkins, I'd probably find it a little funny. Whereas if I'd be babysitting a young kid who got really upset for not having a napkin, I'd probably react with a little guilt, go get the napkins and apologize. No matter how "natural" these reactions seem to be, they highlight a pattern: I assume or write off responsibility (through the way I react and act on that reaction) in accordance to how "strong" or "weak" I see people around me to be. A young child (weak) "has the right" to react for "not knowing any better" and while the reaction is as unjustified as the biker's reaction would be, I fear that making the kid react would be judged as wrong while making a biker react would hold no judgment against me whatsoever. Here each situation, through the people within it, obligate me to act in different ways.
The essence of the weak-strong -based way of viewing responsibility is also at play at my job, but there it gets tangled with more of my perceptions and beliefs. For example I've want to benefit the society around me, and the job that I have now has the potential to fund that within 5 years time. I know that I'll use the money to help people, and thus if I fail at my job I end up feeling like I am letting a lot of people down – damn napkins. This is a great example of how my beliefs and plans get tangled with how I perceive responsibility.
I mean, the problem isn't being responsible itself, but the way I react when I see that something needs to be done. I don't self-express, I move to avoid failure, judgment, conflict or people from getting hurt. This actually brings up an outflow of this point: I carry responsibility out of obligation (because I think that I have to and FOR OTHERS), I thus often (in my frustration / tiredness) blame my self-obligation on others. "If that guy would have, I wouldn't need to!" – this type of blame seems to be so justified when I "tried until I was tired" "for other people", this also gives everything a dramatic flare. But the truth is that I can ALWAYS find things to complain and blame about, but all that they'll do is divert my attention away from how I myself am allowing myself to react and create definitions that isolate me from others.
The way I see it, this point breaks down to the following elements: my perception of responsibility, my perception of how the judgments and reactions of others enforce this idea of responsibility, what I fear others to do if I wouldn't carry my responsibility, how I perceive "weakness" and "strength" to influence responsibility, how I see the world (what needs to be done), how I see others, how I see myself, who I've defined myself to be in the future, how I carry responsibility "for others", how this makes me ignore how I in fact direct myself and how I allow this point to go into blame when I get exhausted. All of these points come together to create quite the stressful way of life. Thus in my next post I'll start untangle this and to assist and support myself to let myself be more relaxed even though there is stuff to do.
What a pattern...