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Don't Over Function

30-Day Self-Care Challenge (Part III) Day 13

This morning when getting ready to leave the house for the day, I worried about whether to leave Toby (my new dog) in the house or outside.  diane's & comforter 004 Although I have two dog houses, he has no interest in either of them.  If I put a dog treat in there, he sneaks in, gets, it and then quickly gets outta there.  The over functioning side of me wonders if he has a dog-house phobia and will be cold and soaking wet when I return.  The weather forecast looks awful. 

Actually, the forecast isn’t awful–it just seems that way because I’m at a decision point.  In truth, it’s a typical fall day in Kansas and the rain will be good for the grass seed that I put down last week and the fall colors will be more brilliant.

In the uncomfortable space of not knowing what to do, I remembered the lesson of over functioning.  It goes like this – if in a relationship you take on all the worry about the family debt, the in-laws, interpersonal communications, and a thousand other things, you’re over functioning and the other person gets to under function because they know you’ve got it (the worry) covered.  If you back off and stop worrying, then the other person (teenager, spouse, friend, employee, colleague) has a chance to step forward and think “I better give this some thought because she isn’t!”

When someone over functions, their energy advances aggressively toward toward you and your natural reaction is to step back, and back, and back–depending on how much they’re over functioning. 

The same thing can happen in a conversation.  If one person does all the talking (over functions), the other person steps back and gets quiet (under functions).  This isn’t a judgement call, it’s just what happens.  We all under and over function at times.  However, chronic over functioning can be an indication that you think the other can’t handle it…..and you can. 

There is no “up side” to over functioning.  Instead, it messes up the communication/energy dynamic, wears you out, stresses you out, and makes you mad at the other for making you responsible for everything! 

I could have over functioned with Toby this morning and diane's & comforter 008 left him inside and been stressed about it all.  But my instinct said, leave him outside and see how he does.  When I came home he was a little wet but not soaked–so he obviously functioned well.  If I had over functioned and left him inside, I’d have to go through that worry each time it rained and got a little cold.  Now I know he’ll be OK.  We’re both much happier.  I’m proud of myself and of him – we functioned well – neither over or under, but just right.  The middle way (between the extremes) brings peace. 

Isn’t he a cutie :)  It’s easier to be a spouse or parent, to be in relationships, to have pets, and to be in the world…when you don’t over function very often.

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  1. Lena L. West says:

    Gosh, Cheryl!

    This is so poignant. I love the fact that all your lessons are gentle yet profound — and most are based on your own life experiences.

    You really put yourself out there to experiment and live fully.

    I also like the term “over functioning”, it’s not riddled with blame and negative energy.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention!


  2. Thank you for this kind comment, Lena. I’m glad it meant something to you.

    I’m a life-long learner and teacher – on some deep level I must share with others what I learn. Thanks for accepting this from me. Cheryl

  3. Lena L. West says:

    You’re welcome, Cheryl!

    Oh, and how could I forget???

    Tobias, Tobias!



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