There are some people who seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. In some shape or form, they are always there for others. And whether they truly want to be there for others is not always irrelevant; it often appears as though they have no choice in the matter.
For some people this will feel like a burden and for others it can feel like something to be proud of. One can feel a sense of maturity and that they are doing what any adult should do.
And what one feels responsible for, can vary and depend on many factors. This can relate to other peoples: happiness, wellbeing, thoughts, feelings, safety, health and finances, amongst other things.
Examples of healthy responsibility can be found in people’s personal lives and in the world at large. And in some cases these will be seen as morale acts and as something everyone should be doing.
A typical example is of someone who does volunteering in another country or in the country where they live. This can also relate to: nurses, therapists, doctors, teachers, fireman and the armed forces.
And on some level, these people feel that it is their duty to assist others. So by participating in volunteering or in having a career in one of the options above; it allows them to fulfil this inner need.
A Conscious choice
For these people, it is typically going to be a choice and not something that they feel obligated to do. And although what they may seem selfless, it is done for selfish reasons. Assisting others creates inner fulfilment and this means that the act per se is rewarding.
In the majority of cases, this is not something that they do for approval or acceptance. And as a result of this, there is a lower chance that these people will end up compromising themselves or feeling burdened by their responsibilities. If they do, it is likely to be momentary and not a constant occurrence.
When it comes to examples of responsibility that are both dysfunctional and unhealthy, one generally doesn’t have to look too far. And while they may not necessarily be seen as moral acts, they can often go on unnoticed and even be seen as normal.
Common examples can include people who try to: please, rescue, help, fix and save others. But these can also be people who are doctors, nurses or any of the other examples above.
These people will feel that it is not so much of a duty to assist others; it is more of an obligation and the only thing that they know.
An Unconscious Choice
One of the reasons for this is that it can feel like something they have no control or influence over. Through doing this, one doesn’t feel a sense of inner fulfilment or that the acts are rewarding themselves. There is unlikely to be any kind of intrinsic value.
It may also be done for selfish reasons, but other than fulfilling certain ego needs; it is unlikely to fulfil anything else. This is simply something that one does in order to be accepted and approved of by others. So this is inevitably going to lead to one regularly compromising themselves and feeling burdened by their responsibilities. And if they do get a break from these responsibilities, it is only likely to last for a short time.
In the first example, assisting others is a conscious choice and generally not based on one being accepted or not. And in the second example, it is often an unconscious choice and is based on one being approved of and accepted. So it could be said that the first person has boundaries and the second person doesn’t.
This means that the first person realises that they can assist another, but they can only do so much and go so far. The other person has their own part to play and this part cannot be played by another person.
However, the second person feels that it is up to them to not only assist another, but to also go further than this. Here, they are willing to do as much as the other person wants and to go as far as they ask.
That fact that the other person has their own part to play is generally overlooked; as one is prepared to do all the work for them. Saying yes is likely to be easy and familiar, but saying no may be a challenge and something that is unfamiliar.
The Ego Mind
So for people who have an unhealthy sense of responsibility for others, it comes down to the hidden benefit. And the benefit relates to approval and acceptance. Their identity is based on putting others first and putting themselves second.
This is what feels familiar and safe to their ego mind. It then becomes more or less impossible to have boundaries and to understand what another person’s responsibility is and what one’s own responsibility is. Here, one cannot see where they begin and end and where another person begins and ends.
To their ego mind, it is only possible to survive by pleasing others. This is often classed as enmeshment; where through not having boundaries, one feels that their survival is tied to another person or to other people
The cause of this is often found in ones childhood. And how emotionally developed ones caregivers were will make a big difference. If one had a caregiver that was emotionally developed and had boundaries, it is likely to result in a caregiver who was able to take care of their needs and wants as a child.
However, this may not be the case if one had a caregiver, who didn’t have boundaries and was emotionally undeveloped. One of the consequences of this can be that they were used to take care of the caregiver’s wants and needs.
This is described as a role reversal; where the child becomes the caregiver and the caregiver becomes the child. They then learn from an early age, out of the caregiver’s lack of emotional development, is that they are responsible for others. A natural conclusion to seeing this kind of behaviour is that other people are incapable and unable to look after themselves.
What I have described above is just a general guideline and an idea of at what can happen. It will be important for one to develop boundaries; here they will know what they are responsible for and what they are not responsible for.
This process can be aided by the assistance of a healer, therapist or a coach. Or through self study and application of what one learns. It will depend on how much of a challenge this is for someone.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.