If you don’t know what you’re responsible for, then you won’t know what you want and/or need to feel whatever it is that you’re seeking – happiness or peace or fulfilment or freedom or meaning or love or whatever that is for you. This week, and every week, I’ve worked a lot with very responsible people. They are kind, caring, dedicated, do a good job, want others to be happy, want to be seen as responsible and important and the weight of their responsibilities is both a driver and a burden. And ultimately exhausting. The over-responsible are trying to manage things that aren’t theirs to manage and thus will not and cannot change and are also generally deeply disappointed in themselves for this.
When I first started doing any ‘work’ on myself I found the power of radical self-responsibility thrilling. It made so much sense that I was responsible for myself and how my life was turning out and I felt sure I could transform everything in no time at all because no-one else (usually the person I was in a relationship with) could keep messing shit up for me if I knew it was all happening because of me. Initially it worked because all the pressure came off them. Initially it worked because I was clear and motivated and certain and sure and focussed on the right things. I practiced forgiveness and focussing on what I wanted, not what I didn’t want, and stopped collecting evidence and wasting most of my time having arguments in my head with people who may or may not have been having arguments with me. It was liberating. Then every time there was an argument or a problem, I knew the problem was ‘me’ so could just keep working on myself. No responsibility to anyone else. But underneath that some things hadn’t changed. And it was just a redirection of all the judgement and negative energy onto myself. And the same (shitty) stuff kept showing up, and I was so mad at myself for not being ‘better’ at this thing called life and relationships and was simultaneously angry and guilty and everything looped right back around again to almost the same place I began. However, I also discovered once you start the ‘work’ you can’t ‘un-know’ it – you can pretend to forget that you know that you have all the power, and momentarily get back into blame and victimhood and ‘why me?’ but you know, deep in the place in you that knows everything, that the only person who can get you out of this is you.
Responsibility. Like all my favourite words has this opposing energy.
the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.
“a true leader takes responsibility for their team and helps them achieve goals”
Similar: authority, control, power, leadership, management, influence, duty
the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.
“the group has claimed responsibility for a string of murders”
Similar: blame, fault, guilt, culpability
(Definition taken from the internet Oxford dictionary)
Gah. Definition 2 when applied to oneself will choke you. Being accountable for yourself and your results is one thing, being to blame is a whole ‘nother. And also, if other people around you are doing things without responsibility, isn’t it your responsibility to point that out to them so they can sort that out for themselves? (Lol. No. The actual answer to this question is no for all of those who thought this a very legitimate question).
So given that much of my coaching this week has wheeled me (and them) in circles of confusion, I’m trying (very responsibly) to come up with something useful that you can apply to take the pressure off so you can have enough space to see/feel into/describe what you truly want with clarity. Because the question that they (mostly) all got stuck on was “What is it that you truly want?” and they mostly replied, “I have no idea”.
No wonder. Responsibility for others’ happiness, outcomes, transformation, meeting their potential and such great things will absolutely suffocate you in their impossibility for you to achieve or create. Every last piece of magic in you will be drained out. And you might wonder why you even started on this journey anyway, and how much simpler life was before you were ‘aware’ of all these things and you might even say you want everything to just be like it was before. But you cant ‘un-know it’ and one day everything will crystallise and you’ll know that your own happiness or freedom or peace and outcomes, transformation and living into your potential is the only thing you can be responsible for – as in, have power over, lead yourself to and influence.
What does this look like?
It looks like getting up and writing in the early morning overlooking the trees (if this is your thing)
It looks like saying no to some things and yes to some things you’ve been saying no to (those things you think mess with other peoples’ happiness and/or satisfaction with you)
It looks like knowing your core values and allowing them to be guiding force in decisions
It looks like saying “I love you and I’m never going to leave you, but we did a really shitty job of that conversation about money/the kids/sex/our next holiday and we need to get better at that”
It looks like speaking up about how you really feel “I feel scared/sad/hurt/angry right now and that is nothing to do with you, but I need some time to feel better so we can talk about this differently”
It looks like going to yoga/paddle-boarding/ a walk on the beach/extra dessert/your music on the stereo/burning incense/reading a book for no reason at all
It looks like quietly and gently exiting a room when there’s nothing constructive to add and going to a space where you can feel better so you can show up better
It looks like showing up (even and especially when you don’t know how)
It looks like reading all the books and listening to all the podcasts and talking to the people who have insight. Or praying for insight and letting the book or the podcast or the movie or the music or the card deck deliver the message
It’s expanding when you want to contract
It’s boundaries in practical application (sorry this is another whole blog)
It’s surrender, forgiveness and letting go (ditto)
Mostly it just looks like you being however you are and being OK with that, and then deciding if you’d like it to be different that you’re the one who can make that happen. So if you’re sad be OK with being sad. And if you’d like to be more joyful start to create that from a place of your acceptance of everything. Not to escape the sadness. Not that the sadness is wrong. But that the sadness has a message and you’re responsible for decoding and downloading it so you can do something with it. Something magic.
I can not, nor would I want to tell you what to do. That would be irresponsible. But I could show you how I do it and if that made sense to you, then you could find your own pathway through that. Responsibly. Like someone who knows.