Taking responsibility for others
Why we do this…
Last week I talked about the importance of taking responsibility for ourselves and how it is pivotal if we are to grow up and evolve individually and collectively. Today I would like to talk about a similar yet different topic of taking responsibility for others. There is a subset of the population that has learned to take responsibility for others even when it not their responsibility to do so.
I find that taking on this role of responsibility for others has many faces. We can most clearly see this in the parent-child relationship. When a child is young, we do have responsibility for their well-being, however as they become adults that responsibility is no longer ours. I often see however parents continuing that role past the time when it needs to be played, which effectively doesn’t allow the child to grow as an adult and take responsibility for themselves.
Another way this can be seen is in the opposite dynamic from above. What happens is that the parent is not taking responsibility for themselves (or the child) and so the child learns how to tend to the parent’s needs to ensure that they (the child) are taken care of. When this is learned early on in our life we have the tendency to continue this pattern as adults. There is an underlying feeling that if everyone else is happy then we will be safe and have our needs met. This often leaves us feeling much internal “pressure” as we are constantly attuning other people’s states of being to make sure they are ok, and often times we are not even aware of the pressure we feel as it has become so much a part of who we are.
If we have this pattern of taking responsibility for others then seeing others display intense emotions or upset is very uncomfortable for us. Our tendency is to shy away or try to make peace. In that “making of peace” we often take responsibility for how the other person feels, even when it has nothing to do with us, just so that we alleviate the discomfort and uncertainty that we are feeling.
Finding inner freedom
How to stop taking responsibility for others
The first step in learning how to stop taking responsibility for others is of course awareness of yourself. You must become aware that you are engaging in this pattern. Some ways to notice this are if you tend to shy away from direct confrontation, or if you find that you don’t speak up and share your thoughts and opinions easily (mostly because you don’t want to ruffle feathers), or if you are the one always “taking care of things” at a party or in a group rather than letting others tend to you.
Often those with this pattern have an easy time organizing things, making sure things are in order, multitasking and taking on more than it seems should be possible. They are often successful in relationships or business because of these skills so it can often be deceptive to unearth this pattern because it just seems like “we are doing a good job at life”. The down side to this is those with this pattern feel so much internal pressure that they are ready to explode and they don’t even really know it. There is often terror of others reactions to them and so they don’t share or express themselves authentically, but instead if ways that seem more acceptable or “kind”. They may use rationalization or logic to calm people down or explain themselves rather than sharing or feeling their feelings. Underneath it all they feel unseen and unheard because they are not allowing themselves to be seen or heard for fear it will upset others. Being safe and things being in order and control are more important than their self expression.
To not take responsibility for others, for how they feel or what they think, and even for how they feel about you, takes tremendous courage for these individuals. It can feel like a threat to their survival, like their needs won’t be met by the “universe” and like they won’t be accepted by others. If you have this pattern you must get to the point where the pain and pressure of trying to hold it all together gets to be too much and where you refuse to tolerate it any longer. You must realize that it is NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO MANAGE OR CONTROL WHAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE FEELING.
Try it today. Notice where you are holding your breath or holding back for fear of how someone else may respond to you. Take the risk to not try to make someone else “ok” when they are feeling something intense. Instead just be with them in the fire, in the intensity and don’t try to make it better. This is where your inner freedom starts and where you can simply focus on taking responsibility for your self, your feelings and your life.
Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado