Are You An Over-Functioner?
By: Kathy
June 3, 2012

Are you tired?  Overworked?  Overwhelmed? Feel like you can’t stop doing everything that you do or things will just fall apart?  You are probably  overfunctioning  – BIG TIME!

Overfunctioning is when we think, do, or feel something for another person that is really their responsibility.  We do it for all sorts of reasons:  that’s how we show love, a need to be liked, fear of confrontation, that’s what we were taught, a need to control our environment, or fear of the pain that will come if we are only responsible for ourselves, to name a few!  How do we overfunction for our “charges” . . .

Mentally . . .”Honey, don’t forget your dentist appointment is tomorrow at 2:00.”  “Friday is Grandma’s birthday, here’s a card you can all sign and I’ll mail it.”  “Lisa, you might want to do your laundry so you’ll have your favorite jeans to wear for the party.” “Son, don’t forget your rain gear” (while packing for a fishing trip).  “Have you worked on your English paper yet? You’d better get started!”  All creates an environment where the underfunctioner doesn’t even have to think!

Physically . . . Ever hear yourself saying . . . “It’s just easier to do it myself!”?  So we catch ourselves doing, well . . . everything!   Household chores, meal planning, banking, shopping, cleaning, organizing, making appointments, waking them up in the morning, you name it!  A severe overfunctioner, while exhausted,  would probably even floss the teeth of their loved ones, if they could!

Emotionally . . . An overfunctioner can be so in touch with their “charge’s” feelings, that they are acting and reacting to regulate their emotions for them!  “Let’s not tell Dad, it will just upset him.”  “Mom’s had a bad day, let’s all be on our best behavior.”  “I don’t want Jo to be stressed, so I’ll just take her check to the bank for her.”   Everything is done in an effort to keep someone else from feeling negative emotions.

An overfunctioner sees no boundary between themselves and the people around them.  While well-intentioned, they think too much, do too much, and feel too much for everyone else!    They’re just trying to be helpful, what does it hurt?  It actually hurts both parties!  When the overfunctioning stops, the system that has been created comes to a screeching halt and EVERYBODY feels it!

Imagine you’ve been carrying around a big ball labeled RESPONSIBILITY.  You hand that ball to the other party and expect them to take it.  They drop it, break it, lose it, forget about it and bad things happen.  It is painful for the underfunctioner because they are struggling at learning how to do something new and they are suffering the consequences of not doing it well!  They want you to take the ball back!

Watching them struggle to do something that you could easily do is painful!  It’s too easy to just take the ball back!  The harder, but healthier, road is to let go.  While mighty uncomfortable, letting the underfunctioner struggle until they can function on their own is the best thing we can do for them!  By letting go, we are in effect giving them a package of wonderful gifts called a sense of accomplishment, competence, self-sufficiency, self-confidence, etc.!

By letting go, we are actually giving ourselves wonderful gifts as well . . . a sense of control over our lives, time to take care of ourselves, and ultimately, peace!

How do you know if you are an overfunctioner?  STOP doing some of the things you do and see what happens.  If you need help, let me know.  I have a TON of experience to share with you!