Commitment #4: Responsibility
Even when overwhelmed with obstacles or difficult emotions, I want to take full responsibility for my feelings, my actions, and my life. If I find myself giving my power away to other people, larger forces, or analytic categories such as my past or any labels I put on myself, I want to seek support to find the core source of choice within me to live as I want and ask for what I want.
This commitment invites you to transform the ways that you give away power and to take radical and complete responsibility for your feelings, your actions, and for having the life you want.
It is exceedingly challenging to integrate the insight that neither other people nor outside forces cause our feelings despite its conceptual simplicity. Instead, we tend to make someone else responsible for any upset we feel. The path to freedom invites you to learn that how you feel is a choice you make, however unconsciously based on the meaning you assign to the other person’s actions. It is not about the actions themselves. Eventually, you find that you can take ownership of that choice.
Our language often denies our responsibility for our actions and choices: “I couldn’t help it;” “That’s the norm;” “Everyone would do the same;” or “I had to do it.” Embracing responsibility for your actions invites you to examine the needs underlying all your actions, to focus your attention on your choice, and to accept potentially challenging consequences. At the same time, societal circumstances and inner neural wiring may sometimes constrain your felt ability to choose. As a result, especially with any history of trauma, you will also need gentleness towards yourself.
All too often we give our power away to our stories – about life, about circumstances, about ourselves – instead of actively shaping our lives. Here as elsewhere, taking responsibility is not about becoming a different person. Rather, it’s about finding a way to engage with the opportunities and challenges that come with being the person you are. You do this by focusing on what you want in a given situation and on what you can truly do, in the practical reality, to create it.
The bonus of taking responsibility is the freedom from waiting for anything or anyone to change before life starts and from nursing resentments hoping one day to be heard. Instead, you become the author of your life.
Write down thoughts and reactions you have about your feelings, your actions, and your life. Focus your heart and mind on your needs as expressed in those thoughts and reactions. What is most important to you? What do you truly want? Identify and make all the requests you need to make to attend to these needs so your life can be what you want it to be. Remember: even as you might find new ways of responding or different action to take, some of your requests will by necessity be of other people. We are not alone.
About the author:
Miki Kashtan is a co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication (BayNVC). She is inspired by the role of visionary leadership in shaping a livable future, and works toward that vision by sharing the principles and practices of Nonviolent Communication through mediation, meeting facilitation, consulting, and training for organizations and for committed individuals. Miki blogs at the Fearless Heart. Her articles have appeared in Tikkun magazine (e.g.Wanting Fully Without Attachment), Waging Nonviolence (e.g. Pushing the powerful into a moral corner at India’s Barefoot College), Shareable, and elsewhere.
New to this blog? Read Miki’s Introduction to this series ‘All -in: fully committing to a life of nonviolence’