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Taking Responsibility

When we face uncomfortable situations we may find ourselves exclaiming, “She made me feel …,” or “He did it to me again!” We may even believe that if the person only changed then everything would be okay. In these cases, we are not taking responsibility for our part in the situation.

According to Jung, being responsible “is the fated and divinely allotted tasks of humans.”

Jungian analyst Liz Greene refers to the “locus on control” as the placement of one’s sense of responsibility or power. During healthy childhood development the locus of control gradually shifts from the parents to the adolescent, resulting in an adult taking personal responsibility for making choices.

However, most of us experienced parenting which resulted in us leaving our childhood homes still heavily focused on external loci of authorities. However, despite our personal histories, the key to successful living is accepting that, as adults, we are ultimately responsible for our current lives.

Jung advised, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

Looking externally for the source of our discomforts, making others responsible or blaming others for our situation is sometimes referred to as the “blame game.” However, blaming others only keeps us stuck in our familiar patterns of thinking and behaving and evades a chance for self-reflection and growth.

Likewise, searching for the “magical other” who will transform our reality and bring us happiness is another external locus trap. Jungian James Hollis explains, no one but ourselves “will lift from us the terrible weight of our freedom and responsibility.”

Conformity is one way in which we avoid responsibility. An example is through blind allegiance to various organizations and institutions including political parties and religious institutions. The problem with blind allegiance comes when we give up our responsibility to critically think through the beliefs, perspectives and values of the organization. We may become very rigid to this external belief system.

Avoiding responsibility can also occur through the belief that we are powerless. Often we feel like a helpless victim. In this case, we need to ask, “What part of me is ‘making’ me, actually bullying or pressuring me, into doing something I really do not wish to do?”

The process of change cannot begin until a person accepts responsibility. This is one of the most difficult challenges of growth.

James Hollis explained, “The capacity for growth depends on one’s ability to internalize and to take personal responsibility. If we forever see our life as a problem caused by others, a problem to be “solved,” then no change will occur.”

Instead of blaming, we need to see how we may be co-dependently contributing, buying into or enabling another person’s behavior. Setting boundaries, assertively stating our ideas and feelings, and being aware of our projections all lead to increased responsibility.

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.