Responsibility …

Taking responsibility for your actions

Taking responsibility!

What does it mean to you?


I have been working with a young man and in one of our sessions we were discussing responsibility and how that concept fitted into his life.  We’d been exploring areas of his life where he thought he had control, influence or no control/influence.


In his next session he said he’d been thinking about responsibility and what it might mean for him. He’d looked up the word and read different definitions of ‘responsibility’ and decided there were two that made sense to him:


1 – Responsibility as it related to him.  His being accountable for his responses – his thoughts, feelings and actions.  This allowed him to recognise and accept how his beliefs, thoughts, emotions and actions affected him and those around him. It helped him consider the wider perspective and impact of his actions on others.  He said thinking about it this way gave him a greater sense of control.


2 – Responsibility as in a Duty of Care.  This he equated to those outside of himself including siblings, parents, friends, etc.  It meant that he would support, care for and protect those in this list.  This led to a discussion as to how far this duty of care went.  Where does duty of care for someone else hinder that person you care about learning about personal responsibility?

We want to prevent people we care about from experiencing discomfort and danger.  Whilst not suggesting you stand by and watch someone get seriously hurt, there may be times when it is necessary to let someone experience the consequences of their actions for them to fully understand the impact of those actions and learn from it.  As humans we learn by making mistakes, reflecting on what happened, changing something and then trying again.  This cycle continues throughout life.   Even if you prefer learning ‘theory’ at some point you put it into action.


Responsibility at the root of anxiety

Many people whom I work with want to feel more in control.  Often their issue is difficulty in coping with uncertainty. Sometimes it is the fear of being responsible for harm coming to someone else.  They are very caring people and because they care so much they fear the consequences of causing hurt to another person.  The responsibility that they think they would have to bear is, for them, intolerable.  This deep caring often leads to obsessive compulsive behaviours.  Rationally part of them knows that the behaviour doesn’t prevent harm but at another level they believe it does.  The number of times they may need to check something, the fear of physically hurting someone or avoiding contact with close family can severely stop someone leading a more normal life and having healthier relationships.


Their behaviours serve two purposes: one to make sure harm doesn’t come to others and secondly to alleviate the physical and psychological anxiety that the thought creates.   There are many different approaches to helping someone with these types of behaviours.  In all, the underlying aim is to help change the unhelpful beliefs, thoughts and behaviours so that the person can tolerate the uncertainty and be more ‘comfortable’ with the thought that if something happened they would be able to cope.

If you or someone you know has similar worries or fears do seek help.

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