Monthly Archives: March 2014

Responsibility

When I talk about the professional philosophy I want to portray to my clients, one of the words that pops up is “responsibility”. I believe we each need to take personal responsibility for our lives, and I encourage that in all my clients.

Some people get it pretty early and get active in confronting their issues – acknowledging and accepting the reality of what is in their lives. They move on to feel better relatively quickly.

Others take a little longer, and I can usually tell if that is going to be the case during the first session. How? They are more comfortable with “blame” than with “responsibility”. They blame others for their problems, or they blame themselves and continually beat themselves up emotionally, staying caught up in the intellectual violence of their story and how they got to my office in the first place.

Blame is defined as “the action of assigning responsibility for a fault”. The use of the word “fault” implies the negativity of blaming, whether it be the blaming of someone else or of the Self.

Responsibility is “the state of being accountable for something; the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization”. Another definition given: “a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of . . .”

Responsibility starts with the willingness to experience your Self as the cause. Responsibility is not a burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. As implied in the above definition of blame, all of these include judgments and evaluations of good and bad, right and wrong or better and worse. They are not responsibility.

Responsibility starts with the ability to deal with a situation from and with the point of view, whether at the moment realized or not, that you are the source of what you are, what you do, and what you have. This point of view can even extend to include what is done to you – from the perspective that we put ourselves into situations or around people that will take advantage of us. (I understand that this can be viewed as a controversial topic, and won’t go too far into this aspect of it. Certainly I’m not saying that victims of abuse (for example) are responsible for their own abuse and the perpetrator has no responsibility. What I am saying is that we develop patterns from early childhood that draw us to specific situations and people that can eventually be unhealthy for us. In order to break these patterns, we must recognize this and work to understand what within us needs to change).

So again, responsibility is a context of seeing my Self as the source of my attitude, feelings, behavior and life. If I am the source, then I have at least some control over how these turn out. I can be responsible for myself. I cannot be responsible for others. That’s another whole blog! 🙂

RIP Fred Phelps

The announcement was made this morning that Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, has just died.  Most know his name and what he has stood for over the years.  Like most, I abhor the sentiments he exhibited and taught, but earlier this week, I posted a comment on my Facebook page when I saw that he was nearing death.  I’m repeating here what I posted, because I really think we need to think outside the box about how we affect each other and the Universe: RIP Fred.

“So much pain caused by this man, both to those he picketed and also to his family and to those who followed him. As much as I dislike (hate) what he and his followers have stood for, I send him peace as he takes his journey home. Whatever we think and feel about him, he helped propel the inequality of treatment towards LGBT and other groups to the public eye, and inadvertently did much more to enhance their causes by the reactions he incited in John Q Public, than the opposite influence he hoped to have.”

Your Tool Box

When I ran Intensive Outpatient Programs for substance abuse, I used to hold an Orientation Group for those just coming into the program. During this group, I would explain what would be expected of them and what they could expect of me and of the program.

One of the images I used to help them understand my hope for them was to ask each of them to imagine a tool box sitting beside their chair. That tool box may have a couple of tools in it, and some might continue to be useful, but some were probably old & worn out – no longer helpful. By the time they finished the program, I hoped they would have to drag that toolbox out the door with them, because it would be so full of new tools they would learn about – and begin to use.

This same concept works for those in therapy – or anyone who just wants to make positive changes in their lives. Yet, many of us having trouble accepting that we need tools to repair our damaged Selves. Who would try to nail boards together without a hammer or change a flat tire without a jack? To reject our need for tools to perform these tasks would be ridiculous.

Sheer force won’t lift a car so we can replace the tire, and it won’t lift a heavy heart. Reading a book, and understanding how to nail those boards won’t guarantee that they’ll look like a table the first time we try it. Insight and knowledge can possibly help us see why we behave the way we do, or how we’d like to change.  But it takes consistent use of support groups or learning appropriate ways to open up to (or set boundaries with) family members, gratitude lists, stress management or communication techniques, or in some cases, even medication  – to actually repair that battered ego. Usually just one tool won’t do the trick, but each of us has to find the combination that works for us.

If we can’t acknowledge the problem exists and then be willing to let it go or change it, we won’t make much progress.  It isn’t weak or shameful to admit that we may not be able to accomplish something alone – without the help of others or of tools. If we need to lay a new foundation, we need to dig a big hole. And if we need to dig a hole, we’d better be willing to use a shovel. That foundation is our willingness to do whatever it takes.

You Can’t be the Light and Hold Someone Else in Darkness

I wrote this blog a couple of years ago while many of us were focusing on gay marriage.  But unfortunately, it is still applicable today – maybe even more so, with the transgender bathroom issue and the “suggested” wall between the US and Mexico, and ban on Muslims, etc.  Regardless of which group is being targeted, the issue is the same:

Last week I woke up to this headline on a friend’s Facebook page:  Kansas Restaurant Kicks Gay Man Out, Tells Him “No Gay Eating Here”

I immediately got sick to my stomach.  This was from a news company in Topeka, KS.  The capitol of my home state.

I am an LGBT-affirmative therapist, a straight ally – an advocate of equality for everyone in every aspect of our lives.  I’ve been following the news on this issue, so I’ve been very aware of the legislation in the state where I grew up (& in a couple of other states) that has been so controversial in recent weeks.

I typically do not even respond to stories like this.  I try to focus on those that are shining the light on humanity and showing the positive strides we’re making.  But I couldn’t believe what I read – and I reacted immediately from the gut, apologizing to my friend for the ignorance of the bill (as if I carried some responsibility for it simply because I’m from Kansas).

Then as I began my morning ritual in the kitchen it hit me that I’d never heard of the town they talked about in this post – and believe me, there are very few small towns in Kansas that I haven’t been to, heard of, or even lived in!  So I realized it was probably a hoax.

Why would someone would go to the energy to write something like this?  Part of me thought it was cruel and insane.  But what I want to believe is that it was a cautionary tale. Someone was trying to get the rest of us to see the insanity of this bill as it might play out in reality.  It smacked of the same angry, fearful hatred that came out of the Jim Crow days.  That’s why it hit me in the gut.  Haven’t we moved past this mindset in our society?

Action that stems from fear only creates more fear. When we act out of fear, we aren’t living consciously.  We are reacting to what things appear to be, without delving deeper to try to understand where others are coming from.

People who do things to separate themselves from others who at first glance appear different, feel threatened by something they don’t understand and they don’t (won’t ?) take the time to learn about it.  I think it’s because there has been so much progress in gay rights recently that they are running scared. The world is changing and that means they are going to have to deal with it. It feels to me like a last ditch effort to stay in their comfort zone. Yes there are some religious teachings and beliefs that drive some of it, and I respect everyone’s right to believe as they desire. But beliefs are built on what we are told, what we experience, and the thoughts we feed.  Beliefs are not truths.

One of my beliefs is that we all came from – and will return to the same place – the place of ultimate Truth and Light.  If we could look into each other’s eyes and really see the soul there, we wouldn’t have any of these issues, because we would realize we are all one.  What I do to you, I do to myself.

The following comes from The Book of Love and Creation, as dictated through Paul Selig:

“. . . You have made love small.  You have made love an ideal that is stuck with candy and rests in a box.  You have made love a discerning issue.  “I will give my love to this guy because he’s got what I want” or . . . “I will love my job because if I don’t someone will take it from me”. . . None of that in truth is love.  They are all aspects of ego seeking to control . . .You can no longer create love from a cookie cutter that excludes the fabric around it.  You can no longer love John and not love Fred. . . You can no longer hold your culture in love, claiming that another culture cannot be love because you disapprove of their actions.”

This means ALL of us – those who espouse hatred of the gay community or some other group because their experience with a few have tainted their view, or because they are told they are not “normal” or are not sanctioned by a specific religious belief – but it also speaks to those of us who believe in and actively work for a more inclusive society.  We tend to judge them because they don’t understand love as we do.  There is no us or them.

We can’t be the Light that we are meant to be if we hold even one other person in contempt and darkness. We all have the responsibility to find ways to make this life on earth work – through kindness, education and love. Let’s commit to being more creative as we look for ways to do so in peace.