The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Not getting things done

When using our energy, there are two ways with which people seek to achieve something they set out to do.

One method is to show up and use one’s energy to achieve the task oneself. Another is to use one’s energy to make someone else uncomfortable enough in the hope to have them solve the problem.

The first is being on task, the second is passivity.

Imagine a family sitting at the dinner table. Bob, the eldest son wants to have the salt, but can’t reach it. His mother would need to pass it to him.

Bob might be trying to be funny and ask “does someone need the salt?” Or, he could be explicit and say “mother, could you please give me the salt?”

In both cases, he has a good chance to receive the salt.

However, in the first case, he has used a passive method to get what he wanted. Whereas in the first he had been asking directly, thus remaining on task.

This might sound like a small detail, however, when looking closely at it, we can notice that Bob has been discounting himself. One can assume that being funny was serving him in creating a tension that would lead for him to receive the salt. He might for example have been betting on a discomfort his mother would experience if someone doesn’t have everything they need.

Discounting oneself is believing that one can’t change the situation one is in, that one can’t act on one’s behalf, that one can’t act to solve the problem, or that one doesn’t have the ability to solve the problem.

Depending on the way people discount themselves they will prefer one or the other passive behavior. There are four of them: doing nothing, over-adaptation, agitation, and violence or incapacitation. Even if, for example, violence seems to be quite active, it only is a way people spend energy. Any method we use to spend energy that discounts one’s abilities is one where the energy is not aimed at dealing directly with the task. Which makes it a passive behavior.

Being on task means having the willingness to act directly towards achieving the task. This includes asking others for help with a clear and direct demand.

For most, this is much more difficult than it seems. There are many social pressures as well as internal conflicts making this a difficult task.

Helping others to develop their autonomy in such a situation means helping them see or develop what their request is. Doing instead of them may be faster, but it is also a path towards incapacitation.


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