In the last issue we discussed the way in which Ben Cousins provided an example of how addicts can get stuck in ‘victim mode’ and why this does nothing to help their recovery. Self-responsibility is really the beginning of recovery since the person has taken back power of their own health and healing. I proposed a few reasons why self-responsibility proves challenging:
Judgement – being scared to own up to our actions and behaviours for fear of punishment by ourselves and others
Lack of Awareness & Choice – being controlled by our subconscious mind and habits
The Way We View Illness & Disease – seeing illness as incurable, scary and out of our control
So how do we overcome these barriers to Self-Responsibility? While I don’t believe I have all the answers, I have a few suggestions:
1) See Responsibility As Power, Not a Reason to Beat Yourself Up
If we view responsibility as a mode of power not as a reason for punishment I am sure we would be much quicker to accept it. But just accepting responsibility and refraining from subsequent self-judgement would prove extremely challenging given that incessant self-criticism is the chief modus operandi for most of us. This means we need methods for getting around our self-judgement and criticism. Here’s just a few tips for giving yourself a break:
Don’t Generalise – take responsibility for the actions or behaviours and if they were “horrible” don’t assume that this means that you’re a totally horrible person because of it
Reality Check – following on from the above point, use others around you to confirm it. Those close to you might be angry or hurt by your actions, but they still love you and believe that you are a good person
Don’t Mind-Read – when the aforementioned family & friends confirm that you’re a good person and they love you, believe them. No ifs or buts, no rationalising (‘they have to say that’) and no assuming that they’re lying (‘they don’t really mean it’)
Forgive& Love Yourself Anyway – the ultimate solution but perhaps the most difficult, love and forgive yourself. All the time. If you’re avoiding taking responsibility for yourself it simply means that you are not yet willing to love yourself enough to confront those things you need to forgive yourself for.
2) Create Conscious Choice
While you may not consciously be aware of the reasons for your actions, you are still responsible for them. People with phobias or addictions may not be able to know or even understand why they have the problem they do, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t take ownership of it. While psycho-analysis delves into the subconscious to find the reasons for our ‘faulty wiring,’ the process still mostly operates within a victim paradigm which sees the patient tending to blame others (e.g. their parents) and believing that the faulty wiring is permanent.
Scientists have now proven the plasticity of the brain so we know that you can easily re-wire your brain, but you can’t do so without full responsibility. You wired your brain, no-one else did it for you. Sure other people might have behaved in ways which led you to wire your brain in certain ways, but it was ultimately your interpretation of these behaviours which created the wiring. Continuing to focus on the reasons for the wiring is getting stuck in problem mode – knowing how the wiring became faulty is only useful if you use it to launch into solution mode (re-wiring). The discovery of subconscious fears, habits and faulty thoughts are only helpful if they are translated to the realm of conscious mind, where you can exercise choice and control, the things needed to instigate behavioural change. To make this transition, you have to own the subconscious thoughts – not ignore or disown them.
3) Change Our Beliefs About Disease and Illness
Being fearful of your disease/illness/problem and believing that it is insurmountable are probably the major obstacles to healing. “Dis-ease” simply refers to a state of imbalance – the body is not at ease. Your body is always working in your best interests, it is attempting to adapt and survive. Illness is merely the manifestation of a blockage in the body’s energy systems and a symptom is merely the body’s way of communicating that there is a problem to be addressed. If the emotional, physical or mental root cause of the energy blockage is understood and dealt with the illness or disease can be easily reversed. If you have a resistance to this statement then you have a limiting belief – which is the very barrier we’re talking about. But quite simply, if we believe that our diseases can be easily reversed, then taking responsibility for creating them doesn’t seem like such a scary task.
We all have choice, yet for most of us it often doesn’t feel this way. It doesn’t feel like we have a choice because we have given away our power – to others, to our faulty thinking, to our fear of judgement, to our ‘disease’. Choice is the very thing that will bring us back to balance, Ben Cousins simply could not overcome an addiction without being capable of making better choices. But choice is only available to us when we take responsibility for ourselves.