From inanimate phenomena like
– “I cannot for once be on time because of this wretched traffic!”
– “Thanks to this exponential inflation I can never have enough of what I need!”
To society at large
– “People are so stupid these days! They make me mad!”
– “Facebook is a madhouse. I can’t have one day go without drama!”
To interpersonal relationships
– “My boss hates me because I won’t lick his a*&. I can never get a promotion!”
– “My mother is the Drama Queen! Constantly making my life so stressful!”
– “My partner is so insensitive. How can I not feel lonely and depressed?!”
To the Self
– “I am so obese and ugly. Don’t expect me to feel good about myself!”
“My parents abandoned me as a child because they knew I am a good for nothing!”
How often do we hear such statements! From ourselves. From others. We constantly feel our lives are not as it should have been because of what happened to us or is going around us. It’s our people, our environment, our fate. How can we not feel miserable, go dysfunctional or be the way we are? We have no choice!
Taking the Responsibility
The first time (and when several other times later) I was told by my mental health caregiver, “You always have a choice! Take responsibility for your situation.” I felt like clobbering the person. Why can’t anyone understand my situation?? What responsibility can I take when “they” did this to me?? And even if I could, why should I?? Shouldn’t they be taking responsibility for their wrong-doing?? Imagine telling that to a soul bereaved in a terror attack. Or broken by history of sexual abuse. Or one who lost much to a natural disaster. “Take responsibility.” You stand the risk of being lynched. “Those terrorists killed my only son. Are you asking me to take responsibility of my child’s murder?? ” .. “I have faced years of sexual abuse! My abuser is the one responsible for ruining me!” .. “God/Nature did that to me! How on earth am I responsible for being homeless today??”
The problem lies in the misconception around that word – responsibility. All the abovementioned replies sound legitimate only because these people, and even I at some point in life, thought “taking responsibility” is equivalent to “taking the blame”. But those two aren’t even anywhere near equivocal! While one may blame that terrorist gang or that abuser or even God for all the man-made and natural disasters in life, taking responsibility doesn’t mean immediately shifting the blame from their shoulders to one’s own. It simply means transcending all blame – flying outward or inward, both directions. Blame game ends where taking responsibility begins.
Responsibility – read that as response-ability. Nothing more. Nothing less. To every action. Of one’s own. Of every other’s that has anyway affected us. To every situation we face – as a direct result of our doing or though an as indirect involvement as it can be. (Personally speaking, I choose not to believe there is ever any indirect involvement. But we shall keep that topic for some other day, some other space.) Point is – whenever we are faced with something that threatens our mental and physical wellbeing, do we feel we have no choice but to feel victimised or do we feel empowered enough to acknowledge the situation and thereafter to be able to respond to it – without blame, negativity or nursing grudges that keep us feeling helpless and held hostages? Are we able to respond constructively to take charge of the situation and not react and remain stuck in there as helpless victims? Do we feel we have such an inner response-ability to whatever we face? If yes, then that’s called taking responsibility. And it is only then that breakthroughs begin to happen.
And the truth is – there is always a choice. In every situation. How comfortable we are to make that choice is of course a different story. No one said every choice will be initially pleasurable or amiable. Making responsible choices may even involve breaking out of decades of familiar zones. At times completely turning upside down what we perceive as our core identity we have lived with all our lives. And it is exactly here that taking responsibility even to set ourselves free from our pains at times feel unpleasant and unwanted.
The Hidden Reason Behind Reluctance in Taking the Responsibility
It took me decades to throw away my mental illness as my core identity to be able to say, “I have a choice to be functional.” When I look back I realise the subconscious safe zone of that identity I was holding onto. Like every forged identity sometimes even our victimhood or our ailments can become our comfort zones. Our definition of ‘I’. Without it we feel we have lost the sight of who we are. Hence in spite of our nightmarish suffering we stubbornly hold onto the belief that we are victims without any choice. Try telling someone they aren’t and you’ll face violent opposition – because you just threatened the person’s lifelong self-identity. So we continue on the record of “I am a broken-home messed up child.” Or “I am a borderline case with no cure.” Or “I am a jilted lover.” Or “I am a middle class loser trapped in the system.” Yes, these might be factual situations you ‘faced’ but never who you ‘are’. And in that difference lies the scope of taking responsibility and saying “Yes I face/d it. I look at the situation and acknowledge it. But now I will also look at how I can respond to it and rise above it.”
Another subtle deception against taking responsibility for our lives lie in the fact that suffering evokes in each of us a huge quest for justice. At any cost. Being at the receiving end of something wrong fires us up to hold on to the story of how we were wronged so that we can bring our wrong-doers to book first. Doesn’t matter if our mental and physical health be jeopardised in the bargain. Trust me, I closely know this trap of “I demand justice!” So long as we can make ourselves and the world believe we are victims of injustice, can we rightfully claim and cry for justice. But what we don’t realise is the price we continue paying to be in this victim mode is too dear compared to our sense of just and unjust. Question we need to ask ourselves is, “What is more important to me? Seeking justice against my guilty or my own health and happiness?” Tragically amusing bit is – in our quest to seek justice against what we faced we are so often willing to continue facing it rather than standing up and saying “I am responsible to set myself free of this pain.”
For true freedom, taking responsibility is a must. Sometimes situationally. Most often and more so mentally. Mental response-ability is the first basis of any situational change. We cannot change the past. At times we cannot even change our present situations. Yet, we can rise above them affecting us. I cannot undo my being sexually abused. Now let me see how I can rise above that scar. I cannot undo my child suffering because of my negligence. Now let me see how I can rise above my guilt and be functional. I acknowledge I may have inherited bipolar disorder/manic depression. But let me see how I can help myself recover. The examples are as countless as human situations. Yet in every situation the choice remains with us – to give into blame games and hold on to victim identity only because we derive a false sense of identity or justice through it Or to stare it in the eyes, without blame, denial or judgment and then respond with a constructive choice towards rising above it.
The choice is always ours. Taking responsibility of everything we are and we have done or faced is a tremendously empowering tool. It’s the biggest step towards personal freedom. Beyond pain. Beyond guilt. Beyond all kinds of traps we feel so powerfully entrapped in.
Take the responsibility.
Take care, dear Mind.
© & Author : Nivedita Dey, 2016
Images, Courtesy & © : Google stock photos/source websites