A healer friend of mine has developed a universal set of mantras for us to use on our journey to wellness and the very first one on her list is I am responsible for myself. You might think, as I did, “Well, this is pretty self evident.” But is it?
There is a psychological model called the Drama Triangle developed by psychiatrist Stephen Karpman that helps explain how many (most) of us navigate our relationships in life starting with our families. Lynne Forrest who has done a lot of work in demystifying the Drama Triangle explains, “Whether we know it, or not, most of us react to life as victims. Whenever we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves, we are unconsciously choosing to react as a victim. This inevitably creates feelings of anger, fear, guilt or inadequacy and leaves us feeling betrayed, or taken advantage of by others.”
I have been thinking a lot about responsibility lately because I am the sole family member living in proximity to my 95 year old mother and taking care of her needs has been a big part of my life for the last number of years. I fluctuate between feeling resentful, exhausted and overwhelmed to feeling a great appreciation and love for this time we get to spend together. This split got me thinking about what was creating these two very different realities – one where I feel at peace and the other where I feel obligated and guilty.
Lynne Forrest feels that the difference is in being responsible to as opposed to being responsible for another person. Ultimately we are only responsible for ourselves. And others are responsible for themselves. Where these lines get blurry are in the very young and the very old. The vulnerable obviously need someone there overseeing the situation and keeping them safe.
I have come to realize that the key for me is taking responsibility for myself first and that means checking in to see what I need every day before making myself available to others. (The airline protocol of putting on our own oxygen mask before helping others illustrates this concept beautifully.) This respect I show for myself helps me to show the same respect to others, so I am less likely to try and fix and more likely to listen. I am still a work in progress: I have spent many years in the rescuer role. But it sure is nice to know there is another way that brings greater love and acceptance into my life.
*If you feel like exploring the Drama Triangle in more depth you can go here.