I see overfunctioning (a.k.a Doing Too Much) like the glue that flows in and keeps all the moving pieces together. These pieces may in fact be broken tiles, not neat, square ones. Some have jagged edges, some are oversized, some are badly chipped and on the verge of crumbling. Yet glue is poured over these disparate pieces, filling in the cracks, keeping these tiles together. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing thing, but it’s there. It keeps everything together.
…Even when it’s not supposed to be that way.
Maybe some tiles are meant to be replaced. Maybe some reshuffling is needed. Maybe some tiles need to be re-shaped, filed down. But the glue comes in, fills in every crevice, traps every piece, and pulls them all together. On the outside, this may seem like a beautiful thing. People pass by and say, oh, this mosaic looks wonderful, it looks intact, things are being kept together.
But maybe the overall intention wasn’t supposed to be a mosaic. Maybe the end product was supposed to be the tiles on your bathroom floor. Maybe they were all meant to be neat and square, not jumbled up and messy. But the glue came in and provided a solution… even if the solution didn’t exactly meet the end goal.
I used to be this glue, reflexively. To some extent, I still have to be super conscious about not being the overfunctioning one. (I fail often.) I see problems and I want to fix them. I analyze issues and then I want to jump in and provide solutions.
This isn’t all bad. Change can happen as a result. This impulse is in fact a neutral one, and can even be a positive one when applied with discernment.
But sometimes there are reasons why things are a certain way. Some things cannot be fixed by an external party, especially when human beings with free will are involved.
Maybe some have chosen a reality for themselves and nothing you do or say will be able to shift this reality. Maybe some need to be able to learn by making their own mistakes.
Maybe all that is needed is for you to play your part – and that’s it. Maybe going above and beyond isn’t always necessary. Perceiving a problem doesn’t always mean that you are the one who’s meant to provide a solution to the problem…
Especially when burn out and resentment occur. Especially when you end up taking on the lion’s share of the work, all the time – in all areas of your life.
How does one take a step back?
Because of how quickly I act and how impulsive I can be, I often realize I’m overfunctioning when I start getting grouchy, angry and really tired. Like, exhausted. I usually realize that it’s because I have:
- Set some kind of expectation or standard for myself and others that I wasn’t consciously aware of, and I’m now singlehandedly trying to push everyone to meet that invisible standard I set in my mind…
- Instead of communicating it, I have decided that it’s easier to do it ALL BY MYSELF
- Some problem is causing me angst and frustration, and I have subconsciously decided that in order to quell the angst, I have to fix the issue (instead of simply sitting with the emotion for a bit) and taking my time to decide on the best response.
Then at some point, when I finally get exhausted, I may all of a sudden decide that I’m DONE, and get maybe just a tiny little bit passive aggressive about it. I feel like I’m the victim because POOR ME LOOK HOW MUCH I’M DOING.
Sometimes though, I find that I am merely responding to the subtle dynamics that have already been set up, i.e. the drama triangle. I have slipped into a role that has been energetically set up for whatever reason… waiting for the perfect person who chronically over-functions to take on the mantle.
PSA: Girls are often put in the role of the over-functioner, and are socialized to respond to unconscious needs. Sensitivity comes into play because sensitivity allows people to be more perceptive, and to more quickly gather the subtleties of any context they find themselves in, including any problems that need fixing. Family of origin stuff also come into play: if you grew up playing a certain role in your family, familiarity alone can keep you stuck in the loop of doing the same things over and over again… with the same end results. Honestly, I can analyze this from 50 other angles and I’m positive I will have the opportunity to write about this again after yet another cycle of overfunctioning, so stay tuned! I just fail better and better each time. 😉
Each time it happens I realize I simply have more work to do in holding back, refraining, sitting with emotions, and getting to know my impulsive side. There is no quick fix. No one-size-fits-all rule. None of the whole this is WRONG and this is the absolutely RIGHT way to do it.
It also means a shifting of my lens… Instead of looking for things to fix, I think, what brings me joy? This is also way more radical than it sounds, having an orientation towards joy.
Let me know if you are similarly afflicted by over-functioning tendencies too and what you do (or don’t do) when you fall into a pattern…