100% Responsibility: Reflections and Practices

The key phrase is “taking full responsibility” – as opposed to “placing blame.” “Placing” is moving something away from ourselves, and “taking” is moving something toward ourselves. Psychologists refer to this as the ‘locus of control.” When we place blame, we locate the cause and control of our lives outside ourselves. When we take responsibility, we locate the cause and control of our lives inside ourselves.

So the first step in taking responsibility is to shift from believing that the world should be a particular way to believing that the world is as we are. As long as we believe that there is a way the world should be (e.g. we should have more money) and a way the world shouldn’t be (e.g. people shouldn’t dirty communicate), life won’t work according to our beliefs. Simply put, life won’t always turn out the way we think it should. And when that happens, we typically react to what we perceive as a threat to our beliefs by becoming anxious, resentful, or controlling and try to force the world to fit our beliefs. One primary means of doing this is projecting guilt by placing blame on others, ourselves, or circumstances. We place the locus of control outside ourselves and say life isn’t turning out the way it should because “they” messed up.

Second, we shift from rigidity, close-mindedness, and self-righteousness to curiosity, learning, and wonder (which naturally occurs once our beliefs change). Now when situations arise (formerly known as problems, crisis, and issues), the standard response becomes “Hmm…this is interesting, what can we learn from this?” A second common response is “I want to take my 100% and see how I helped create this situation. . From an external perception, someone may blame you for something that you’ve done or did [You left the toilet seat up!] and you have the opportunity then to assume the blame [dammit I’m a bad person!] or to accept your responsibility in the situation and clarify the interaction [I’m hearing you’re quite upset about the toilet seat being up. I’m hearing a request to honor the agreement we have in keeping the seat down.]. In the first response, we take on the “placed” blame even as we attempt to reject it “yea!” “I left the toilet seat up… I’m a bad person…” and then place it back on them, “but you did this and that!” In the second response, we accept our role in the scenario “Yes, I did leave the seat of the toilet up,” without accepting the emotional state being projected onto in the form of the Victim or Villain [dejection, sadness, embarrassment, anger]. We look through these rope-throws to guess what the other person is needing. We can only do this by first, focusing on what our part in the scenario is (effect), and wondering genuinely how our actions have influenced that other person’s world (affect).

So, everything is just my perception? // So I should just ignore the shittiness of the world or that person, and find happiness through ignorance?

A tricky one; the short answer is yes. You are you; a profound and underutilized concept! You have your memories, your experiences, your brain, your hands, your heart… you are you. That means that in any scenario, you’re going to interact, react, and just plain act in a way that’s governed by your habits, your upbringing, your path so far… so, for example, when someone says to you “you’re such an ass. I HATE YOU” you’re going to have a reaction that’s based on your perception. Like the vinegar tasters, there’s no universal or default reaction to this statement.

Some people may say “well that person is a jerk for saying that!” Some people may say “wow, that person sounds angry…better avoid them from now on.” Some people may ball up their fists and start punching. Some people may start crying. Each of these reactions is based on how the person perceives the statement said to them. With the above practice we may see how entrained we may be to respond in a certain way… and we are not locked in to those responses. We can choose to respond in any way to any situation when we pay attention to what is present now.
Finally, there is a beautiful parallel between internal and external worlds; (un)surprisingly, those who live from peace, love and understanding tend to view the world as filled with peace, understanding and love… and they see challenging moments as opportunities to practice curiosity and forgiveness by allowing us to extend our joy to those who may have forgotten where it lies. When we are in Reactive Brain, anger, sadness and regret are projected onto the world and we perceive it as filled with bad people, horrible circumstances and rigged games… we see bad moments as permanent, pervasive and as deeply personal attacks against ourselves. Ouchie!

You’re not denying the perceived painfulness of the world: you’re recognizing that the world is the world… and the assessment of its goodness or badness stems from yourself. You’re able to look at any second, any day, any event and even the whole world and find a way of engaging it that reflects your own power (by me): that says only what you will do, and who you will be, in relation to those moments: not how those moments (and this world) affect you(to me).

Wait, what? So, I can’t say anything is bad/wrong?

Objectively, in the sense of right/wrong…you can surely say that you strongly disagree with something. You may find that, in practicing 100% responsibility, those ‘things’ that you strongly disagree with come up less frequently than they used to. Suddenly, “I can’t believe she went to the movies without me… that’s so wrong” becomes transformed into a moment of personal responsibility “I chose to not communicate my desire to go to the movies with her. I’m feeling pretty sad about that.”

Let’s say you have chosen to argue with someone who from the Villain persona ‘just doesn’t understand compassion.’ In this location, being upset is the norm; you’re probably looking for a little understanding yourself, and hoping that eventually the other person will learn that s/he lacks compassion. In choosing this Villainous point of view of the other person, we’re actually hindering the likelihood of the other person hearing us, decreasing the likelihood of experiencing understanding and increasing our own suffering and pain. In this case, as a way of locating yourself, it may be helpful for you to say out loud (in the drama triangle) “Yes, from my perspective, that person is inconsiderate… and will always act that way. By opening to what can be learned you have the opportunity to connect with the parts of that person that I enjoy now, and to soften my own reaction to their ‘lack of consideration (which is a judgment I’m holding).’” Acknowledge and own your experience: it is valid and it is your own. What 100% responsibility asks you to let go of is not your opinions/feelings, but the juice a position of superiority provides. (see also Forgiveness).

Everyone thinks of changing the world,  but no one thinks of changing himself.
-Leo Tolstoy