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Is there such a thing as caring too much? All the world needs is a little more love, a little more caring about each other, right?
While this rings true to most of us, you’ve probably wondered, is it possible I care too much?
In this world, balance exists in all things, gentle and sweet/ violent and chaotic. You might expect there’s a situation where someone might care too much. To quote philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, “Almost all of our sorrows spring out of our relations with other people.”
Caring for others gives us the greatest cause for gladness and distress.
Emotional stress is a sign that we may be in this state of too much caring. Our best judgment comes when we have just the right measure of caring and detachment. Too emotionally attached, we lose objectivity. This causes us to make irrational decisions.
What are the signs that we care too much?
We feel emotionally upset by what is going on. Feelings are going to happen, but we don’t have to act on every feeling we have. I’ve been married almost 25 years. I have been very upset at my husband MANY times. As a counselor, this scenario plays out for me in my office several times a week. One of a couple, for their own reasons, does something their partner feels is detrimental. They may feel very strongly about it and express it. Once voices are raised, rationality has left the building!!
Strong feelings give us an opportunity for self examination. What underlies these feelings? Are you afraid for your partner’s safety? Is your attachment bond being jangled? Are you feeling neglected by your spouse? Teasing out these feelings and exposing them to the bright light of day often reduces their impact.
If you’re forcing a thing, this might also be a sign that you’re caring too much. At times, we see what we think is the most direct or best route to an end, and we try to force the “how” of achieving it. The more you push, the less “flow” can occur. Who can argue that the universe has a serendipitous way of easily making things happen? Often in spite of our so called assistance!
Examine yourself. If you have areas in your life where you feel you are caring too much, give yourself space to take a step back. What are the thoughts and fears pushing you? Look around. Aren’t there an infinite number of other possibilities?
Now, I don't really want you to care less. I do want you to cling less to what your fear tells you to do. Taking responsibility for your behavior in the face of your fears is the anecdote to that powerless feeling we get from caring too much.
Don’t let your fear have a seat at the table. It makes you grab on just when you should be letting go. If you want to go deeper, sign up for my self coaching course here. It’s a great step to creating a relationship you love!
Caring just the right amount,
here are several criteria to successful behavior changes. First, there has to be a desire to change. Second, there has to be a substitute for the problem activity. Third, a system of accountability ensures lasting change. While it is fairly easy to find an accountability system, it’s even easier to find a substitute activity. The really difficult part of this equation is to develop the desire to change.
How can you develop the desire for change to occur? There are two types of motivation. One is a “towards” motivation. Examples of a toward goal is regaining health or reconnecting in lost relationships. The second type of motivation is “away from” motivation. Examples of away from goals are losing employment or losing my residence. The best type of goal builds in both towards and away from motivators.
Another method of building motivation is to increase the discomfort with the present situation. This is often what occurs when an Intervention occurs. Loved ones raise the awareness of the negative aspects of the situation and outline clearly what the boundaries are for the future. Often this involves a withdrawal of support or a suspension of relationship which creates a new level of discomfort and urgency for change to occur.
While I am speaking to work with addictions, these techniques can be very useful for any type of behavioral change. If you have struggled with a particular behavior, identify the towards and away from motivations. You can create a motivator to “turn up the volume” in one direction or another. You can do this with yourself, but embedding a system of accountability into it is helpful. For instance, a friend and I are training to run a 5k race. We agreed that every day we are supposed to train and we don’t, we will pay the other person $1. I don’t want to pay her $1, but I really don’t want to have to tell her I didn’t follow through.
You can see that even if we aren’t very good at our routine, we won’t likely go broke! You can be sure though, that we eagerly report to each other when we do our workout (and even when we don’t). There is a towards motivation: being prepared to run a 5k. There is an away from motivation: paying the $1. There is a system of accountability: we report our success to each other. The replacement activity in this case is the running which takes the place of other activities in our lives such as watching TV or sleeping in.
What ideas can you come up with for establishing your own behavior change?
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