Someone I read posted about wanting to fix all the problems, and trying to figure out how to navigate her priorities (work, family, writing, various sorts of service to various communities) so she can do as much as possible.*
My first thought was, “You might want to work on that over-developed sense of responsibility in therapy.”
Then I had to wonder if other people would agree that that is something to work on. I know a lot of academics, for instance, who score highly in “neuroticism”; they are reliable, responsible colleagues, concerned and effective teachers, and valuable members of the community . . . and the ones I know are not exactly unhappy, but they’re none too relaxed, either.
I can be quite intense (i.e., not relaxed), but I aspire to be relaxed and calm, and to be able to distinguish between things I can do something about and things that are out of my control. As a result, I’m generally happy. At least, I think it’s a result, but who knows, maybe I’m happy for other reasons, like genetic predisposition, or having enough money. I have a strong sense of priorities (health, marriage, work in the sense of vocation, job, in that order; enjoyment fits in there somewhere, or maybe it’s an over-arching theme that precedes all the others). I think my reaction to this idea of Fixing All The Problems comes from my own particular family-of-origin constellation, which expected me to be The Fixer, from an early age, and in part by my very existence, of problems way too large for anyone, but especially a child, to be able to solve. So maybe if you come from a psychologically healthy family, responsibility is a good thing; maybe a person from such a background gets real satisfaction from identifying and solving more and more problems.
It’s huge, for me, that I have learned to say “not my circus, not my monkeys” about many things that I mentally paint pink and slap a “‘Somebody Else’s Problem’ field” on (thanks to Douglas Adams for that lovely turn of phrase). But maybe this means I’m the one who is or was broken, that it’s my idea of responsibility that is at fault, an unfortunate inheritance from my parents. Even if so, I like to think that I’m stronger at the broken places.**
*I’m not going to link, because I’m being critical, but it’s someone on my blog roll.
** “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” (Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms: call this my early Armistice Day post.)