In Over Your Head and Want to Get Out?

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2019 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

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Over and over. It seems never to stop. Just when life slows down, we repeat what has never quite worked for us. We say yes to too much.

It can help to know why we keep spinning in this cycle. Like a child playing Hide and Seek, if we do not know what to find, we cannot play the game.

9 possible motives to consider

If one or more fit, you will know what to change to find life balance. 

1. ImpulsivityWhen in doubt, don’t. If you are like me and most opportunities seem to be the right one, then pause. Not much in this world is going to change dramatically if we take the time to pray, think, and discuss before committing time, emotional energy, or money. 

2. Past trauma Physical or sexual abuse can teach us we have no boundaries over our bodies. Emotional abuse gets too little press. Its damage teaches us we have no worth and therefore it is appropriate to ignore our needs. Covert sexual abuse (sexualizing a child), and verbal abuse train us to believe that a flawed human’s opinions are the measure of who we are or will become.

One of my favorite promises was shown to me almost fifty years ago at children’s camp. A sympathetic counselor read Psalm 27:10. “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.” God the perfect Father heals our pasts by healing our tender inner child.

3. Place-holding We humans are generally easily transfixed by power or the spotlight. Check with yourself; is your goal for saying yes that people see you?  Trying to become everything for everyone for fear of losing status will wear us out in no time. 

4. Personalization– Take responsibility for what is not yours to carry or is out of your control, and you have found the fast-track to false guilt and anxiety. Perhaps we want to involve ourselves in a situation to a degree, yet must draw the line at owning external problems. It helps to remember “It’s Liam’s family,” “It’s Sally’s job,” “Not mine.”

5. People-pleasing Fear of rejection brings many of us to say yes beyond what is helpful. What is the worst that could happen if we draw a boundary and say no? Someone will be mad? That is more their problem than ours. They will either find other help and respect our right to choose, or maybe we are better off without them.

6. Guilt –  Misinterpreting reasonable personal boundaries as unkindness is more false guilt. Maybe this idea is spilling over from some unresolved past. Is there an internal condemnation perhaps from a legalistic view of one’s spiritual duties?  Guilt can lead to over-compensation regardless of its source.  

7. Projection A woman on Shark Tank started a business selling comfortable dresses to busy moms. The soft dresses are good for playing with children without requiring a wardrobe change for work. During the show, she explained her reason for the dresses is that her mom did not play with her as a child.

Applying what we have learned through hardship to encourage others is a great motivation. That is what I try to do every day. 

It is not so healthy to assume others suffer and feel as we do, thus projecting personal disappointments into situations. We try to resolve our struggle through “fixing” the happiness of others. This can push us toward over-involvement.

8. Building a legacy – Experiencing internal validation and value through helping others is not wrong. It is a natural, God-given result of good works. Yet are we satisfied? Committing to too much will repeat itself if our desire for validation from people does not come fast or often enough. Be careful. If you are hoping for a statue in your honor, you may end up covered in pigeon dung.  

9. Mistaken responsibility – Someone says, “You owe me.” Maybe it is true and the better part of valor is to repay a kindness. However, if you cannot you cannot. For example, maybe your child needs an operation, and the other person is asking for money. You may have to say no and reserve your cash for your child. 

Have you ever thought or heard someone say, “no one else is doing it so I guess I have to?” Whew! This is a familiar road to too many yeses and resentment. God has the whole world in his hands and does not need us to fill every possible empty position in our workplace, the church, or anywhere else. Burn-out comes from doing it all by yourself.

Do any of these motives fit you? Congratulations on your discovery! If you need assistance changing deeply held tendencies, consider a CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) professional’s input. 

Today’s Helpful Word  

Luke 10 40-42

 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”



NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

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