In general, how much do we owe people? How much of our lives do we owe to other people? And by other people I mean other adults that we have options of being around and with on a regular basis. As a counselor and a friend, I often hear folks complain about this person or that person who is wasting their time or a drain on their joy. I inevitably come back to the question of how much of our numbered days do we owe other people. I don’t believe in human debt so I would say that we don’t owe other people our days at all. But rather are completely in charge of how we choose to cash them in.

What types of people like to push the notion that we owe them our time and attention? Almost about 100% of the time it is people who embody the take, take, take mentality. They take just as much as people around them are willing to give and then demand some more. Demands can be aggressive in their presentation but most often they are agonizingly passive-aggressive. These individuals utilize what Dr. Susan Forward refers to as the FOG – fear, obligation and/or guilt to hold other people emotionally captive. If you have not read Dr. Forward’s book “Emotional Blackmail” I highly recommend it. It is a great read to spot and correct the situation when someone in your life truly believes he or she is entitled to your days and you are in human debt to them. Just to note as well, that emotional blackmail happens to the strongest of men and women. Often their sense of responsibility, loyalty and service is abused (and yes that is the correct word) by a manipulator to get life to be exactly as they want it. So don’t get too bogged down in the idea that in order to have been emotionally manipulated by someone close to you that you must be a weak push over. That’s simply not the case. The manipulator knows you well so they know exactly which button to push to get the results that are desired.

Now back to this concept of human debt. This idea that our days are our own to manage and spend as we see fit is not a license for irrational living. We have commitments to people that should and must be met when we can do so in a way that doesn’t leave us a “supporting actor in someone else’s life” (Dr. Forward again. I really like her books so check them out if you haven’t done so yet). There’s a depressing thought though; taking on a supporting role to someone who has no real deep interest in the quality of our life and well-being. If that’s how little they truly care for us, why in the world would we owe them anything, let alone our life.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have been paying the high price of human debt to a taker type person or persons, don’t lose heart. Start carving out your own space in life to do the things you enjoy and that feed your soul. The more you do this, the quicker balance is likely to come to your lopsided relationship(s).

This is a good time to sit back and pause for a moment. Are there people or one person that you have consciously or subconsciously been believing that you owe your life to and are therefore in debtors prison to their aggressive or passive-aggressive demands?