Have you ever been driving down a curvy highway, wind in your hair, senses exhilarated and then simply say to your backseat passenger, “Take the wheel for a while. I don't want responsibility for what happens next.” You take your hands off the wheel, close your eyes and just allow whatever happens to happen. That probably sounds crazy or foolish and it is. We would never do that if we valued living. It would certainly end poorly. This is the recklessness at the heart of abdicating our personal control to someone else. It is a denial of the reality at stake; I am ultimately in control of what I do, say, think and feel. I have witnessed children (who are at early stages of boundary development, so it can be forgiven) hit another child and then look at you, with wide, seemingly-honest eyes, and state that it was not their fault. Wow.
When I do not take control of what is mine, I am at risk for chaos. I give power to someone else that I should keep for myself. I allow them to feel responsible for me in a way that was never intended. I begin to reel as I feel out of control of my own life as I push my own initiative on another. The predominant feeling that engulfs me is one of anger and/or resentment. I have given away the farm and now someone else has the power to be responsible for me. It is terrifying and infuriating. But it is my fault.
The only remedy to this situation is to recognize that I alone am responsible for myself. I can begin to own my actions and words, to embrace my thoughts and emotions and to integrate all of them into who I am.
The flip side of this equation is equally dangerous, but ends in a different emotional response. Remember in a previous post how I mentioned I like to think I can control a lot of things? When I believe that I actually have control over what someone else does, says, thinks or feels I am in very dangerous waters indeed. I begin to imagine that I can cause action, create motion, induce feelings or thoughts and this leads me to a sense of power I do not really own. And when the other does not actually do what I want them to, or feel what I assume they should, I begin to feel anxious. Very anxious.
This sort of thing is more common than any of us would like to admit. We find all kinds of ways to try to manipulate others to get them to do what we want. We hint, we suggest, we recommend. And then when things don't happen, we get upset. And the reason we get upset is that we have been very indirect in our attempts at influence. We have failed to simply ask directly and allow for a yes or no in response. When we are indirect and passive in meeting our needs, our needs often go unmet and we don't feel well at all. We will get into direct and indirect communication another time, but for now let it suffice to say that direct communication results in healthier boundaries. Indirect communication is a way of either taking over control of someone else or allowing others to control us.
Let's focus on keeping our hands on the wheel for a while. And remembering that we are in the driver's seat of only one car; our own. Life is simpler, more complete and less chaotic when we pay attention to the road ahead, instead of careening down the road out of control. Safe driving.