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Qualities That Keep You in a Sick System

The attention the sick systems post is getting is, ah, rather overwhelming. I'm so, so happy that y'all have found it useful in what clarifying what happened to you. I'm sad and astonished that so many people had the same experiences. When I wrote it I was thinking of a few extreme situations I've found myself in or watched friends flounder through, so I considered sick systems rare and deeply pathological. What y'all are saying, both here and in conversations around the net, is that almost everyone has gotten stuck in a sick system at some point in their lives, and that they're an inground part of life in some slices of the world.

Something is wrong.

This is where I'm supposed to follow up with What to Do to Fix the World, but the answer is: nothing. You can't fix a sick system from within unless you have power, and you can't fix a sick system from outside, period. You can't compel people to leave. You can convince them to leave, but the moment that convinces them is individual, like enlightenment striking a monk because his master made a joke about a spade. And when a stuck person chooses to leave, it will be long, long, long after they should have gotten out.

So instead I offer you a list:

Qualities That Keep You in a Sick System

A strong work ethic
A need to be useful to others

You don't need to lose these qualities to get out. But if you're stuck and trying to figure out what's keeping you in, remember that people rarely get stuck because of their vices. They're usually caught by their virtues.


(Deleted comment)
Jun. 22nd, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
I think the feeling that you are needed is one of the most addicting feelings.

Terrifying thought. The need to be needed can turn you into a great teacher, a great therapist, an amazing activist, the kind of person who changes lives. Or it can turn you into an enabler, and you can spend your life destroying yourself, the person you're enabling, and everyone who doesn't have a choice but to depend on you. And like you said, every (inevitable) failure can train you to try harder the next time. Abusive patterns are amazingly, horrifyingly well designed to self-perpetuate.

What we need is training in healthy selfishness. But of course, the people ho need it most would be the last people to sign up.

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