Back to interpersonal effectiveness and learning how we have resources that are limited.
I was a big fan of the resource management games when I was growing up. In Civilizations, if you build too much and expanded too quickly your people would grow unhappy with you. If you attacked everyone, then you might spread yourself out too thinly or make everyone hate you. If you choose not to attack, people would assume you were weak and try to take your cities. If you planned poorly, you have too much of one thing and not enough of another. Same with movies like THX 1138 where there is an allotted budget to catch the ‘criminal’ once they hit the budget they stop pursuing the criminal, you just need to make sure you don’t make yourself more attractive thus increasing the budget to catch you. The further I get into DBT the more I’ve noticed this seems to be the case for life in general. You need to keep balance and you need to set limits on what you are going to use.
You have a limited amount of resources and each are valuable:
- Your time
- Your money
- Your Compassion
- Your intellect
Time is valuable. Your time is very valuable. I often attach a monetary value to my time, and that can deter me from giving it away on things that don’t matter to me. Do I want to sleep in? Is sleeping in worth X amount to me? Often the answer is yes.
Money is self explanatory, for most people this is a limited resource. Often asking ‘will it make me go into debt? Or is this in my budget’ usually helps me figure out where I am. Also, setting up a budget is a good way to feel at least somewhat in control of your income.
Compassion is harder to quantify, but it’s also limited. This is easier for me to notice when I teach. I’ll often be more helpful in the start of the year, but as it progress and I get more emotionally needy students I find my patience starts to go down and as a result I end up setting up harder boundaries or I set up better boundaries for the next year. E.g I tend to immediately suggest counselling services, when 6 years ago I would have patiently listened. Other examples are when students come up to complain to me about how hard school is and how they have no spare time, I tend to say “you are barking up the wrong tree, I work 7 days a week. But you can drop to part time or talk to someone in counselling services. “
Intellect is similar to compassion but different things drain it. I can’t seem to think of a good example. When I was student, I’d often abandon essays that couldn’t be saved. It was faster for me to work on a new idea (salvage research from the previous paper) than it was to try to patch holes in a poorly argued 5 page paper.
I’m one of those people who get stuck. I spend way too many resources on fights that are never going to work out in my favour. I use to think that if I had a well-reasoned argument I could change anyone’s mind or at least make them see a different side, of course this isn’t the case. Whether it’s an internet troll you’ve spent too much time on or a family member who has had the same argument with you for years, no amount of resources will ever change their mind. I could use all my time, intellect and sometimes compassion arguing with them, but it’s basically a fight that can’t be won. I can set up a boundary and leave it.
I made up an internet rule, that I’d budget a time for an argument and once I didn’t think it was going well I’d say “I’m THX 1138-ing this. It’s over my time budget and this conversation is going nowhere. I’m out.” I hated doing this at first, because usually the troll would be like “Oh so you agree with me?” or something else and I often wrote them off as illiterate or as someone who just enjoyed conflict for conflict’s sake or told myself my time was better spent doing something else. That made it easier to walk away.
Other things are harder to do. Walking away from bad friendships or relationships. You feel like you need to save it. Every movie has told you to save it. Or you’ve put in so many resources that you are hoping that you’ll be compensated for your effort. They’ll change and it will all be worth it. At the same time you are using everything you have, and all of it has a diminishing return. I can’t think of a single time that bringing my resources down to nothing for another person has worked out for me. I was mad because of how much of myself I had wasted, but I caught in a situation where I thought winning was possible when it isn’t. It was better to leave that game with zero resources (once it was safe to go) and rebuild them. That’s the other thing, you can rebuild your resources.
Does this mean walk away from everything? No, it means be aware of what it will cost you personally and once you start using your resources for no return, question why you are doing it.
Quantifying what I have and what it’s worth to me helps me figure out that my stuff is valuable. That it’s okay to walk away because saving myself and my resources is worth it.