“I will be responsible and accountable for my feelings, thoughts, actions and attitudes.”

Accountability
Photo Credit: Fritz Reitz

When a friend showed me a picture of this rock, I thought of a one of the self care contracts* that I use in my personal life and with my psychotherapy clients.  That contract is “I am responsible and accountable for my thoughts, feelings, actions and attitudes.”

It is not uncommon to hear people in our society make comments such as, “You hurt my feelings.” and “You made me do that.”  You…..you….you….you.  When we get into the “you’s” we are more than likely not being responsible and accountable for our own feelings, thoughts, actions and attitudes.  Using that way of speaking increases the chances we will immerse ourselves in victim thinking and as a result experience a sense of powerlessness.

I’m not saying that people who are nasty and viscous in their words and actions should not be responsible for what they say and do.  And I am not saying that we shouldn’t feel anger, sadness or fear when people act that way towards us.  What I am referring to is that in many, if not most, of the situations where we become triggered, the person who upset us is acting in a way that a parent, peer, teacher, boss, etc. treated us in the past.  When that happens, we tend to react with more energy than the situation calls for.  That excess energy is a sign that we are probably attaching emotions from something that happened in our past to the present day situation.

We may also feel emotions that are bigger than what the situation calls for if we have been building resentments towards someone.  When the pile of resentments get high enough then a small action on the other person’s part may result in an explosion from us.

To me, “I am responsible and accountable for my feelings, thoughts, actions and attitudes” means that I do what I need to do to heal my wounds from the past and that I stay current with the people in my life.  If we choose, we can use the pain we experience when we get triggered as a motivation to do the work necessary to heal from past traumas.

The words on the rock also reminded me of a story Jean Illsley Clarke, a mentor of mine, related at a workshop many years ago.  The story was about a 7 year-old-girl who had lived in many foster homes, and had been kicked out of several schools.  Jean was asked to see the girl on a day she had been sent home from school because of her problematic behavior.  When Jean arrived at the house, the girl was playing in the yard.  Jean approached her and said, “How did you make your day go today?”  The child was startled by Jean’s choice of words but thought for a moment and then responded, “Exactly like I intended for it to go.”

I believe it is important for us to recognize that we bear a great deal of responsibility for how our day “goes.”  If we set out to create chaos that is likely what will happen.  If, instead, we have the intent to fill our day with meaningful experiences, we probably have them.

I believe if we use the statement on the rock, filling in the blank daily, we are likely get valuable insight into how we  create, or don’t create our own happiness.

~

* The therapists and clients in my therapy community all use a series of six self-care contracts as guiding principles in their lives.  The contracts are not about being perfect.  When we break a contract we are accountable by identifying the contract we broke, how we broke it, the mistaken belief we were operating under when we broke it, what we will do to prevent ourselves from breaking it again, and the therapeutic work we will do to heal the mistaken belief.

  • I will not hurt myself or others nor provoke/allow others to harm me. I will stay safe and honor the safety of others
  • I will not run away. I will stay and work through my problems.
  • I will not be sneaky or lie. I will be honest with myself and others.
  • I will not make myself sick or go crazy. I will stay sane and healthy.
  • I will not be passive. I will be proactive.
  • I am responsible for my feelings, thoughts, actions and attitudes.

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19 thoughts on ““I will be responsible and accountable for my feelings, thoughts, actions and attitudes.”

  1. Nice post thank you. It reminded me of a therapist I worked with who always reminded us to ‘say I’. She intervened if someone referred to themselves as ‘you’, for example saying ‘you just get so angry’, or ‘it makes you feel so hopeless’. She would actually ask that person to repeat it and own what they were saying. That always seemed powerful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I also often ask clients to restate in situations like that. Another common one is changing statements such as “The presentation went well” to “I did a good job of presenting.” Using “I” statements can make such a difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent Karuna! There seems to be a tendency to absolve ourselves of responsibility for the emotionally negative, whilst attributing the purer states of mind to our own volitions and inherent qualities. Equanimity is a blessing – nothing is owned, nothing is inflicted. It is all in the subject’s imagination, including any awareness of the subject as themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I understand where you’re coming from, and I agree with a lot of it. But outside influences do hurt and people around us do have the power to hurt us. It’s a power we give them, assuredly. I used to tell my kids when they said, “I’m mad at you.” “That’s okay. You’re allowed to be mad.” Because they were. People have emotions and they’re allowed to be angry, upset, offended by anything that I say or do. What they’re not allowed to do is demand from me reparation for their feelings. because those feelings are their own.
    I guess what I’m saying is that if someone says something hurtful or offensive to me, I’m gonna let them know that they said something hurtful or offensive because they need to know that they’re being hurtful or offensive and that’s damaging to the conversation/relationship. But I’m not going to demand that they assuage my feelings because my feelings are my own. If that makes sense…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hit send too soon. I think what I’m saying is that it’s a two way street. Yes my feelings are my own, but people need to know when they’re treading on thin ice too, before they cause irreparable harm.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree that is important to work on communication problems so that unhealthy behaviors don’t destroy relationships. Words can be very damaging.

      What I’m suggesting is that we look first to see if we are overreacting because of our own wounds.

      I don’t think it is appropriate to ask people to walk on eggshells around us because we have unfinished business in the past. But I definitely am for working out things that cause distancing in relationships.

      Like

      1. No, I agree, I would never ask anyone to walk on eggshells around me because that’s really not their job. I am the master of my own feelings and if I cannot contain myself, then I need to be the one to remove myself from the situation. However, having said that, people can be intentionally hurtful and if I say to someone, “That’s not nice, I wish you wouldn’t do that.” then they should make some effort to alleviate the situation as well. Again, it’s a two way street.

        I mean, if a guest comes to my house and I don’t know the first time that they don’t like coffee because they never told me, it’s not being intentionally rude to offer them coffee. Should they chose to get offended by that offer, that’s completely their problem, and I won’t apologize for something I had no knowledge of. However, if I offer them only coffee every time even after they’ve told me, that’s on me, and it’s rude, and they have a right to be annoyed or offended. I should make an effort to have something else on hand whenever they come to visit. But I won’t go out of my way to have their favorite drink on hand just in case they stop by, nor will I never serve coffee again in their presence just because they don’t like it.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. People do not think about the power for self-determination they give away when they refuse to take responsibility for their own feelings and reactions and actions towards others. It still takes a conscious effort sometimes to not allow myself to give that power away.

    Liked by 1 person

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