Laura works in a department with six other colleagues. She is busy. Too busy actually, but deep in her heart she loves it.
She knows this. She has always been this way. One look from your side and she has already done it for you. No matter what it is. As if she has a sense for it and exactly knows what you need. Indeed, Laura is doing well.
Initially the other colleagues accept it. Sometimes Laura’s behavior is irritating but at the same time it can be useful. She takes a lot of work out of their hands. So nothing is being said about it.
Why do I feel I am not in the right place
After a while the situation becomes uneasy. Small conflicts arise. It seems as if Laura runs the department and this was not the idea. Deep down Laura knows it too, but do you remember? She cannot help it. She does not understand it either.
In the end, it is too much, she cannot handle it anymore. She does not enjoy her work as much as she used to and sometimes she even considers searching for another job. At night she is exhausted and on Sundays the following week comes across as an enormous challenge.
Why does she feel like she is not in the right place? Why does she always think that she has to do everything for everyone? Having to care for them? Having to take the tasks out of their hands? If she will switch to another job, she is afraid that she will experience the same thing so she chooses to find out more.
The systemic perspective
During a conversation it becomes clear that she comes from a broken family. Her parents divorced when she was about ten years old and as the oldest child she was considered to be responsible for her two younger brothers. Her mother shared many things with her, including the anger and concerns that went along with the divorce. Laura knew everything. Her mom needed to work hard to keep everything going but together with Laura’s help they were fine.
During a workshop a (systemic*) constellation underlines this image. A bell starts to ring in Laura’s mind. Because of the divorce and the absence of her father she ‘placed’ herself in his spot at the age of ten. With all the consequences that comes with this. She never got rid of the sense of responsibility that she felt at that time, leaving her to carry it around for 25 years.
Until now. Now she has been given the opportunity to leave the place of the parent, give it back to whom it belongs, and place herself in the spot of the child. Also, to let go of the weight she has been carrying on her shoulders for such a long time. She takes this opportunity!
She feels like she has been set free. She describes it like emptiness. Space! A space that is hers again. Relieve. The tension has disappeared and a realization of freedom arises. She has not experienced this freedom for a long time and she embraces it.
She learns to use this space for herself and to exclude everything that does not belong there. While at work, she also notices that she has improved in leaving things the way they are. She does not take responsibility for the tasks of others anymore. She enjoys it.
What happened next
Her colleagues also notice the change. They compliment her and feel like they can approach her freely, knowing that Laura does not ‘mother’ them nor the department anymore.
Laura chooses to stay and continues to enjoy working for a long time together with her colleagues.
NB: Name and (possible) situation are fictional.
– Karen van Hout
Systemic Coach/Counsellor and Trainer