I think of responsibility as response–ability: the ability to respond to life, people and events. While you may not be responsible for most of what happens.
For some time, I’d worked with Noel, a 27-year-old young man who remained jobless.
He blamed it all on his father. It’s not his doing.
It’s his father’s doing that he remains unemployed or the bias of employers or the injustice in business or society’s miserable attitude, and many other things.
Despite my best efforts, Noel denied any personal contribution to his unhappy, unproductive life situation.
He completely externalized his long-standing problem.
A major first step in all therapeutic change is “responsibility assumption.”
Or, let me call it, “response-ability”
As psychotherapist Dr. Irvin Yalom put it,
“If one feels in no way responsible for one’s predicament, then how can one change it?”
That’s precisely the question for Noel, as well as for a host of countless others who find themselves stuck or in same repetitive painful cycle.
One of psychotherapy’s most valuable practical tools for mental states like this is the “process” focus.
In contrast to mere content, a focus on “process” is how the content is expressed.
I’ve seen how this tool can be helpful in those who are stuck or in endless misery of their own making.