Before the principle of self-responsibility can be useful, it has to be unraveled from the whole paradigm of blame and shame. The more we bristle at the idea of self-responsibility, the more likely it is that we were taught at an early age to feel shame. Blame and shame go hand in hand, one giving rise to the other. They both have to do with finding fault, pointing a finger of judgment, and defining something or someone as “wrong.”
For those of us who’ve been taught to feel shame, it’s unbearable to let go of blame because then, all the energy that had been going into blaming external forces for what’s wrong has nowhere to go except toward ourselves. Then we swing from feeling victimized by external circumstances to shaming and victimizing ourselves. While the experience of being an out-of-control victim is certainly not pleasant, at least it allows us to feel innocent rather than shamed and to feel justified in being angry at our circumstances.
Self-Responsibility: A Crushing Burden?
Self-responsibility can be a crushing burden when carried this way. For example, many have applied the idea of self-responsibility to physical illness in a way that assumes an ill person has done something terribly wrong to create his or her disease. Others hold a perspective that they are somehow less spiritually evolved if the outer circumstances of their lives don’t reflect joy, abundance, and health all the time.
The catch in this way of thinking is that our conscious control only affects those aspects of self that are within the range of conscious awareness. Painful and unexpected challenges are often the catalysts that heighten our awareness of limiting beliefs and patterns that have been operating at an unconscious level.
Most of us have an assortment of conscious and unconscious, sometimes conflicting, agendas all operating to create our experience in life. An example of conflicting agendas would be a person who very much wants to heal from an illness yet receives so much benefit from the rest and caring attention resulting from the illness that an unconscious investment is made in maintaining whatever circumstances are needed (such as the illness) to keep these rewards coming. Another example would be a person who longs to be in a relationship yet unconsciously fears that an intimate partnership would mean the loss of personal freedom or would lead to painful abandonment.
Hidden Agendas = Lack of Progress
When these secondary, but powerful, agendas are present, even though we direct a lot of effort toward our conscious desire, we won’t make progress — until the less conscious agenda is somehow addressed or released. It’s often through the challenging experiences in life that we have an opportunity to recognize and change these hidden agendas so we can stop being at cross purposes with ourselves.
Blame and shame are disempowering, often immobilizing, emotions that keep us unconscious and don’t motivate us to be better people. They need to be tossed out altogether. Shifting from blame and shame to self-responsibility means looking at what you don’t like about your life, not as something you did wrong (shame), or as something done to you by circumstances beyond your control (blame), but with the question, “How does this situation show what I’ve learned to expect from life?”
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
Finding the Hidden Gains
Self-responsibility means asking yourself what value a painful situation might hold and how it serves you. If you look closely enough, there’s invariably a gain. For instance, sometimes we fill up our lives with energy-draining obstacles because on some level we’re not ready for what we think we’d rather be doing. If we never have time or opportunity to pursue our dreams, we never have an opportunity to fail. Or if we’re constantly a victim of circumstances beyond our control, we can ask for people’s support and empathy and have less expected of us than if we had not fallen upon “hard luck.” There are hidden gains in even the most unpleasant life experiences.
The power in self-responsibility is that once we start seeing our own contributions to our circumstances, we can change them. If the world is treating you badly, look to see how this could be a reflection of how you treat yourself. Are you self-critical? Do you put everyone else’s needs before your own? Do you get so caught up in doing what’s expected of you and what you think you should do that you have no time left to explore what you want to do? These are just a few ways we may manifest our lack of self-love and acceptance.
Question for Thought: What Have I Learned?
If all the circumstances of your life — the ones you love and the ones you don’t — reflect exactly what you’ve learned to expect from life (not necessarily what you want or consciously ask for, just what you’ve learned through experience to expect):
What would that tell you about your expectations?
Which expectations would you like to change?
Exercise: No Circumstances Beyond Our Control
Today, say over and over as many times as you can manage, “There are no circumstances beyond my control.” (* see note below)
Say this silently to yourself. Say it out loud. Write it down and post it where you’ll see it. Put yourself to sleep tonight saying this repeatedly.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it. Say it as though you believe it. Imagine how it would feel if you did believe it. After giving your full attention to this exercise for a day, continue it for as long as you like.
* Many people versed in affirmation practices balk at this affirmation that “breaks the rules” of affirmations with its negative phrasing, and they want to reword it. For best results, I suggest you leave it as it. It’s deliberately phrased to start you imagining all the circumstances that seem impossibly out of your control so that your mind can then confirm, “Yup, not even that!”
Making Miracles -- Creating New Realities for Your Life and Our World
(previously released as: Holding a Butterfly — An Experiment in Miracle-Making)
by Lynn Woodland.
About the Author
Lynn Woodland is an award-winning author, international teacher and human potential expert. Dr. Lynn Woodland has worked at the experimental edges of the Mind/Body/Spirit, Transpersonal Psychology and New Thought movements since 1972. Her particular expertise is in what gives rise to miracles and in teaching ordinary people to live extraordinary lives so that miracles become, not just possible, but natural. Learn more at www.LynnWoodland.com.