Taking responsibility in life is a topic I have been pondering for a while now. What is that about really? What does it mean to take responsibility in life?
For me it means taking responsibility for oneself including one’s feelings and actions in life. It’s about not behaving like a victim of circumstances/other people and justifying certain behaviour because of that. Lately I have been thinking that there is something about the way we people tend to talk to each other, I mean the words we use, that is not really helping us.
Does this sound familiar:
You make me feel bad/angry/sad
Is that really what we mean? Does another person have the capability to make me feel a certain way? I don’t believe that anymore. This is my truth: I can feel bad/angry/sad. It can be because another person said or did something. But it’s up to me if I let this affect me or not. It is my feeling, I own it. If it is bad/angry/sad, it is my feeling. And therefore not something that I can put upon the other person.
Or what about:
Without you I’m not complete
How many love songs exist on this exact theme? Thousands! What we say, I believe, when we use this type of language is that we need something from another person in order to feel whole. I don’t believe that either anymore. Check out my previous blog post About romantic love if you’re curious to read my truth about someone completing me.
To me it seems that people get into all kinds of trouble with this stuff. Because if we go around believing that other people have the power to make us feel bad/angry/sad, it is also easy for us to use this to justify our own behaviour. Like: because this person makes me feel bad, I can behave in pretty much any (shitty) way I want as well. And if we go around believing that we are not whole before we have someone else giving us something, it is easy to start to demand certain things or behaviour from other people and feel that this is totally within our rights to do so.
And round, round we go, often making ourselves and others really miserable.
For me, responsibility in life has a lot to do with becoming aware of what is going on inside of me and then having the courage to work on that instead of expecting other people to somehow fix or complete me. It is about encountering situations and people’s behaviour in an open and curious way and keeping focus on how it is affecting me and what those feelings are about. Being curious about why a certain person or situation makes me feel so angry for example. Why does this particular thing affect me so much? And when I think I have an answer, then I ask myself the million dollar question:
Is this really true?
The spiritual teacher Byron Katie has created a whole business around this question, called The Work. It is basically a method for us to contemplate our thoughts. And by asking a few simple questions you can reflect upon the effect that believing these thoughts has on your life. I find The Work quite cool because it is such a down-to-earth and easy way to explore one’s inner world.
Byron Katie says about taking responsibility:
Placing the blame or judgement on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgements gives you the power to change them.
It amazes me how many adult people do not seem to have fully grasped the above. And the suffering all of this blaming and judging causes! It’s crazy, really.
I don’t want to end this blog post without having mentioned one thing that feels important in this context. I am aware that I write this blog from my own perspective and that I have my own particular filter through which I observe life. The above writing somehow doesn’t sit right with me when I think about people who have suffered serious trauma/abuse in life. Because in a way it sounds so simple when I write about taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions, right? I am fully aware that this is extremely difficult for a person who is living with serious trauma. So who I mean when I write the above are people with what you could call: healthy neuroses (love that term!). I can only hope that people who suffer from deep trauma in life can somehow find the courage and financial means to seek counsel from a really good therapist. Unfortunately this is not a gift available to everyone. When I think about this it really pains me because I realize that I can’t fix this. So once again I find myself circling back to focusing on the ways in which I can live in a grounded and responsible way. However small and turtle-steppy that sometimes is, at least it is something and for that I’m grateful.
Thank you for reading!
If you are interested to learn more about The Work, you can check out Byron Katie’s website or read her book Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life
Photo: Genevieve Dallaire – unsplash.com