Responsibility comes from the Latin reponso (responsum), which means to answer for (respond for). We are responsible when we answer for our actions, feelings or for something that was entrusted to us. A victim is anyone who suffers harm or loss – to whom the act of being harmed is attributed to third party responsibility. We are victims when we suffer and attribute our grief to someone else.
When we do not answer for our feelings and actions, we put the responsibility on someone else. This leads to a feeling of being a victim. Then we say to the world: “See what he’s done to me!”
Usually, blaming denotes a lack of responsibility with your own life. We blame others because we feel a certain way. This perception of the world occurs when we believe that it is the outside world, and other people, that guide our lives. I would say that this world perception is responsible for us believing that it is other people who make us feel happy or sad—not ourselves.
Changing our focus changes our lives
When we change the focus from the outside to the inside, we recognize that we have the power to choose how to react, to choose which feelings to express in relation to the event. When we take notice that we are the ‘builders’ of our lives, we take the power in our hands; our states of spirit are not anymore dependent on other people.
Responsibility is the opposite of victim-hood. When we take responsibility, we are powerful, we have the power in our hands; when we project and blame we are victims, puppets in someone else’s hands. Not taking responsibility for our self eventually results in blaming someone else.
When we blame other people we do not answer for ourselves, since we believe other people are causing our grief. In this perception, someone else is responsible for what we feel or for the experience we are going through. ‘The other is the responsible’, i.e., guilty.
American psychotherapist and writer Jake Eagle helps us understand this relation. He claims: “The degree to which we don’t take responsibility is the degree to which we may victimize ourselves. When we experience ourselves as victims we make excuses and blame other people. Whenever we blame other people, we aren’t taking responsibility for our own experiences or our own feelings. Other people become a distraction so that we don’t have to examine our contribution to creating the mess we’re in.” (ReRight your Life: an introduction to Reology, p. 121)
Why do we hide
It is not uncommon that we hide something we do not like about ourselves. Then, we project on someone else the way we feel or even think. The projection is a way to deny qualities we do not admit to be ours. It is a way to hide.
We usually project failures and faults on other people. When we lay blame on someone else, we are running from ourselves. We do not accept our emotions as being ours.
We project the origin, the source of our feelings onto someone else. We do this without realizing it. In so doing, we get away from our own being; we alienate ourselves and also lose the ability to connect with others. The projection creates separation and prevents us from connecting with each other, because when we project a negative quality, we turn away from people who we consider to be wrong. But we are the ones we make them wrong.
Therefore, the projection happens when we do not accept our own selves, our qualities and shortcomings. It is irresponsibility for our actions and feelings. We do not accept them, we deny them, we cast them out. We do not respond to our emotions. Hence, we are not being responsible.
Not taking responsibility for our feelings seems like an easier path because it is difficult to accept dark or negative feelings as our own. We feel anger and justify it by asserting that it was someone else who made us angry. We say: “I’m angry because of so-and-so or because so-and-so happened to me.” Blaming someone else is a way to justify our anger. But we are not owning our feelings.
Healthy relationships require self-knowledge. If we are not deeply knowledgeable of our feelings and needs—and owning them—then we will project our feelings onto others, generating conflict and pushing others away. We need to be alert to our inner emotions in order to maintain a healthy relationship.
This leads to the question of honesty
We need to be honest with ourselves and determine our real values, desires, feelings and needs. When we are connected with ourselves, we can more easily connect with others. When we do not acknowledge our feelings as our own and when we do not recognize our needs, we project these feelings and blame others for our suffering.
Jake Eagle claims that “the longer I stay disconnected from myself, the more I will suffer” (id. p. 118).
It’s common that we think honesty consists of telling other people who they are. But that is impossible. Everything we know about other people is based solely on our interpretations, our perceptions.
There was a very interesting event during the Live Conscious workshop I attended: One person told another “You speak too low.” Jake Eagle intervened: “Say what you need instead of telling the other person what’s wrong with them.” Then, the first person rephrased: “I need you to speak louder.”
That passage was very clarifying. One way that we stay disconnected from our needs and feelings is to focus on other people—project onto them. This almost always results in judgment, generally manifested by blaming.
Getting rid of judgment allows us to connect with our own selves. Jake Eagle says that if we avoid the good/bad tags, it will be easier to be honest because we will be free of the fear of judgment (ours and other people’s), and that will facilitate greater honesty.
Honesty helps me become aware of my feelings and needs. And getting away from judgments helps me be honest. Also, getting away from labeling. A quite straightforward example: instead of saying that the other person is “aggressive,” I can say specifically what behavior of the other person’s does not meet my expectations, or that I am hurt by some gesture or word the other person spoke. The same gesture or word might not have any negative effect on someone else.
When I take responsibility for my life, I stop blaming other people for my faults or for the events I consider unpleasant. That encourages peace and fosters connection with people. Besides, I change from the role of victim to feeling like an empowered person. I have the power to choose how to feel when facing external circumstances. To take responsibility for myself means to have a greater knowledge of myself, of my inner states, which is easier to do as I get rid of labels such as “good” or “bad.” And, in this process, I liberate myself.