For all of us operating in the disciplines of therapy, coaching or mentoring, facilitating change is at the core of what we do. However, every type of change requires an element of responsibility.
Responsibility is about having the choice of responding to what is happening to us. As Sartre eloquently put it: freedom is what you do with what is being done to you. Choice and responsibility are about us being in control of our lives rather than reactive to events.
People often confuse blame and responsibility. This is perhaps further confounded by the medical world regularly taking a stance against responsibility in their noble intentions to remove blame from the individual. Granted, it is completely unhelpful to accuse and blame the sufferer of anxiety or depression for being somehow responsible for their actions. It is perhaps in this context, that shifting the blame from the person to their genes or biology seems helpful.
However, encouraging someone to take responsibility for their actions is not the same as blaming them for their predicament. Gabor Maté puts it like this in his seminal book ‘When the Body Says No’: while all of us dread being blamed, we all wish to be more responsible- that is to have the ability to respond with awareness to the circumstances of our lives rather than just reacting. The key word here, is awareness. Once we become aware of our options, we are able to take an informed decision.
It is entirely possible to reclaim your sense of responsibility even if it appears that the depression or anxiety you are suffering from has biological causes. You might not always be in control of the illness you are suffering from, or of the events that life is throwing your way. However, you still have a sense of control about the way you respond to it. Pointing this out doesn’t mean that you are being blamed for it.
Likewise, while you are largely responsible for your success, this does not imply that you are to blame for your failure. When my business failed, the pandemic was largely responsible for it, which freed me from apportioning blame to myself. However, I did accept responsibility for the way I handled things -including my choice of a type of business which was not aligned to my values and identity, which may have accelerated the demise of the business.
Finding the right balance between taking responsibility for your life and business while avoiding blaming yourself for failure and setbacks, is a crucial life skill. Achieving this balance will give you a sense of wellbeing as a result of being in control of your destiny.