A Response to “When Will It End?”
I am addressing this brief response to the anonymous writer of “When Will It End?”; but directing it to all of you who may be in similar situations where you are asking yourself the same question. I’m sure you can imagine the situations that people find themselves in where the question is asked repeatedly; from toxic relationshps to toxic workplaces, from friends and children to partners who constantly fail to meet your expectations. How often do you ask the question? If you have repeatedly done your best to negotiate for what you need, have not been successful, see no hope of success on the horizon, and continue to ask the question – it might be time to consider this.
How many times have you told your child or a friend something like, “you are responsible only for your own actions, feelings, and thoughts”? The moral injunction of responsibility is not a must; it is an indisputable and unavoidable fact. We truly are the responsible doers of whatever we do. It has been suggested that our actions are our only true possessions, we cannot escape their consequences, and they are the ground upon which we stand. The only available options are to accept it, or deny it. And by accepting it, no matter how painful, we are the better for it – awareness precedes change.
This view finds more support than challenge in the psychological world. However, it contradicts the lingering assumption that some divine authority (e.g. the employer, the government, the church) is responsible for our choices. It also flies in the face of the common perception that we are like helpless playthings blown about by accident and circumstance rather than the creators of our own destiny.
Freud thought that we remain childlike due to traumas experienced early in our development. The more contemporary view suggests that we are infantile because we are afraid to take responsibility for ourselves right here and now. To be an adult, to be mature, to be the “hero in our own life story” means giving up the concepts that we are dependent, that we are powerless, that we must be submissive, or defiant, or any of the other various childlike roles we play.
Full self-efficacy can only occur if you are willing to take full responsibility. (Look carefully at that word, “response – ability”). Are you willing to take responsibility for yourself, for your actions, feelings, thoughts? And don’t confuse responsibility with obligation. They are different. Of course you have certain obligations in your life, that you have chosen, and are responsible for; but you are “response – able” only to yourself. If you wish to make yourself miserable, that’s your business. If you wish to play victim, that’s your business. If you wish to make yourself sick fighting a losing battle, that’s your business. You are not in this world to live up to others’ expectations, and they are not here to live up to your’s. If you can all get it together, congratulations! If not, too bad.
I want to leave you with something to do. The concept of “response – ablility” has some interesting semantics. It is quite common for us to refer to our actions in the third person. We put distance between ourselves and the act in an effort to reduce responsibility. For example, “It broke”, rather than “I broke it”. Just by employing the simple and seemingly mechanical expedient of changing “it” language to “I” language we can learn to identify more closely with our behaviour, and take more responsibility for it, and ourselves. Give it a try.
So to answer the question posed above, by Anonymous, try this instead………”When will I end it?”
Dr. Mike Webster, R. Psych.