Overfunctioners Anonymous

Dear Friends, Family, Neighbors, And Gentle Readers:

Are you taking on too much in your life? Are everyone else’s problems becoming your own? Is your health beginning to suffer because you take care of everyone else, but no one takes care of you? If so, then you’re an overfunctioner.

Practically everyone in my life is an overfunctioner, and I’m beginning to realize how hard it is to gear back from one’s overfunctioning ways. 

I think we can learn to wean ourselves from our overfunctioning habits by starting a group called Overfunctioners Anonymous!

  • We can hold our meetings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 9AM and 7PM, and Fridays. Oh, and one member can’t make any of those times because of prior commitments, so I’ll have a separate meeting just for her on Saturday at noon.
  • We can have snacks! Every meeting we’ll pass around a sign-up sheet. So far for the next meeting we have three batches of cookies, a pie, two lasagnas, three loaves of banana bread, and Francine ordered a pizza.
  • Lydia has no one to babysit for her so she can attend the meetings, so she’s going to bring them all with her, and Julie said it will be no trouble to take care of the kids in the back.
  • Are you having problems pitching in to care for your neighbor’s dying grandfather? Tell us about it, and five or six people are sure to sign up to help take over!
  • Maureen can’t drive, so ten people have offered to drive her to meetings at the same time that they pick up Jen, Jean, Jane and Jessica.

I think this is going to catch on. Now I just need to notify another hundred people, clean my house, arrange transportation, design a website, read three books on overfunctioning, and spend a couple of hours on the phone counseling some of our group members in between meetings.

No thanks, I don’t need any help. It’s no trouble, really!

About philangelus

Mom, freelance writer, novelist, angelphile, Catholic, know-it-all.
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13 Responses to Overfunctioners Anonymous

  1. knit_tgz says:

    Or: “one of the many faces of Pride”. Ask me how I know…

  2. philangelus says:

    True overfunctioning actually has its roots in shame. Someone who feels she’s innately defective tries to prevent everyone from seeing who she is by overfunctioning and keeping everyone seeing what she *does*. It’s a pseudoself we use to cover over our own neediness.

  3. illya says:

    I think there is a bit of guilt in it as well. If I am guilty for what God has given me because I know I really don’t deserve all these belssings, then I will over-extend myself trying as hard as I can to “spread the gifts around” by spending my time, money and enegry in “equalizing” the situation. After all, I know I don’t deserve it in the first place so might as well give it (whatever it is) away. And in the process, I can become so depressed that I can’t enjoy the blessings God has given me. See, I win! Even if God bestows blessings, I don’t have to enjoy them. Pope John Paul I (he reigned for 33 days) said “All these joys (the simple joys of life) are recommended to Christians so that they search for them, cultivate them, and protect them against the snares of sadness, depression and letting oneself go”. This is exactly when the over-functioner does not do.
    By the way, I can come clean your house, bring an urn for coffee, stop off to get any paper goods you need, bring extra milk…….

  4. philangelus says:

    Oh no, really, I’ll just stay up all night and get it all done myself. 😉

    Isn’t the guilt also a kind of shameful thing? Because we wouldn’t feel guilty if we didn’t feel that we aren’t worthy of these gifts but everyone else *is*.

    Jesus said he wanted us to have life to the fullest, and I can’t help but think that living for everyone else means that not only do WE not live life to the fullest, but the person we’re “living for” also doesn’t live life to the fullest.

    Satan’s biggest and trickiest temptations come from using our own better natures against us.

  5. whiskers says:

    Oh, yes. I’ll come. Do you think that two trays of cupcakes will be enough? Maybe some cookies too. And some veggie trays just in case someone is diabetic. Oh, and will there be drinks? Do you think I should bring some tea? What if someone wants coffee? But we can’t make people drink tap water, so how about some bottled…

  6. philangelus says:

    Last meeting, we had 45 overfunctioners in attendance and no one would drink any of the soda until I opened the bottle. “Oh, since it’s open, I’ll have some.” THen we went through five cases.

  7. knit_tgz says:

    In my experience (YMMV) all this comes from pride.

    – feeling innately defective and wanting to hide this from others’ eyes: pride.
    – guilt for receiving freely from God gifts that I do not deserve, hence trying absurdly to get to deserve them, up to the point of damaging my health: pride.
    – other times it’s the same guilt, but different result: I try absurdly not to receive His gifts: pride.
    – wanting to solve every problem: good, wonderful intention, but pride still: I am not a superwoman, I cannot save everybody, I am not God.

    Again, your mileage may vary. But in my case pride appears disguised in a lot of ways (many times by turning upside-down: “I am less deserving than others”)

    Jane: you’re right when you say Satan tries to distort all that’s good in our nature and those are the trickiest temptations.

    A priest I really like usually reminds me that humility (the opposite of pride) comes from humus, earth, soil. So, really being humble also includes being down-to-earth. Looking to myself and seeing the soil that I am. Should the soil refuse to give 20 fruits because it cannot bear 20000 like it thinks it should? (yet, I sometimes do this)

    This reminds me of a post I read somewhere else: http://www.conversiondiary.com/2008/01/admitting-that-i-cant-do-it-allor-even.html

  8. philangelus says:

    While I agree pride has a lot to do with most of those, feeling innately defective isn’t pride. It’s shame. The person may build up a pride response in order to hide the shame, but the shame is breeding the pride and not vice versa.

    The shame is what’s keeping the person hiding the real self. The real self is the thing that needs to be protected at all cost, and as long as outsiders are seeing the pride-self and the over-functioning self, they don’t even guess at the existence of the damaged, hurt, shameful self.

    Shame doesn’t want to be seen. Pride wants itself seen all over the place.

    This is a huge issue. It’s hard to know where to draw the line between “I’m not doing enough,” “I’m doing just enough,” and “I’m doing far too much.” But when we find outselves out-worrying the people who are in trouble, and taking their problems into ourselves to the point where others no longer try to solve their own problems, THAT is the point where overfunctioning is creating a lasting problem.

    And it becomes that kind of problem because it’s easier to fix the person who is hurting than to risk that the shameful inner self who is hurting might be seen by others.

  9. knit_tgz says:

    Hm. Interesting distinction. I’ve always thought shame was neutral, while pride was always wrong (pride-superbia, not simple “I’m proud of you, son” pride, which is positive, of course).

    Need to think about that. “they saw they were naked, and were ashamed”. So, were they not ashamed, they would have let God cure them?

    (Think I need a definition of shame. A mathematical, rigorous one. 😉 )

    Completely agree with the 2 last paragraphs of your last comment.

  10. Jenni says:

    Ever tried to pack with an overfunctioner? (that would be me) I take everything but the kitchen sink and if I could find a way to take it, I would – I never know when I might need it.

  11. philangelus says:

    Knit_tgz, guilt is when you’ve done something wrong and you know it. Guilt is a good and healthy response to sin and wrongdoing.

    Shame is the sense that YOU are inherently defective. Whereas guilt says one’s actions were wrong, shame says one’s existence is wrong. Guilt mobilizes a person to make it right whereas shame induces a person to hide.

    Jenni, you can come to our meetings too. I’d ask you to bring paper plates, napkins, paper cups, paper bowls, and plasticware in five different sizes, just in case, except that I already got them. 😉

  12. Cricket says:

    Count me in! (I assume there’s room for me to spread out my latest volunteering project.) Better yet, I’ll set up a video chat. I’ll squeeze researching that in between my hour of housework (an hour a day means I’m never more than 15 minutes from company-ready) and email.

    Can we bring our diaries? I need to check the last few years to make sure each group has had equal share of my time, and I’ve balanced things I enjoy doing with things that I learn from and things I don’t enjoy. And the kids’ life-plans — gotta set the helping habit early. Do you find primary or pastel colours works best for a visual aid?

    I’ll arrive a bit late, but bring the “walking moms” group that meets when they drop the kids off. Is there room for the wagon, so I can walk to the grocery store afterward and save the CO2. I need a covered space, so the clothes for Good Will don’t get wet. (The drop-off’s only a mile or so from the store.) I need to leave by 11 on Tuesdays for aerobics — because you know we need to keep in shape to do it all. Will there be protein snacks? Never mind, I’ll just bring an egg and boil it, unless someone’s allergic.

  13. Pingback: The work God gives you « Seven angels, four kids, one family

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