Is taking responsibility a good thing?

by Fe Robinson

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Is taking responsibility a good thing?  Generally people would say yes.  In reality though, its not so simple.

Responsibility can come from two sources:

1.  The obligations we feel to others, and

2.  From a choice to take ownership of things

Responding to both of these sources of responsibility are needed for healthy functioning and navigation of life.  We do have obligations to other people, and it is good to discharge them when this is case.  However, it is also important to know that sometimes people will try to give us responsibilities that are not truly ours, but are instead things they would feel better if we did for them.

When this is the case, it is important to make a consious choice.  For example, it would be strange not to take care of our partner when they are feeling vulnerable and need our help to ger back in balance, but if this becomes a one-way, long -term leaning on us emotionally, then that may be less healthy for us both.  Then, we have a choice about what we take ownership for, and when we gently transition ownership back to where it belongs.  

Healthy relationships are about balance, about an evenness of responsibilities and the presence of choice.  If this is not how they feel then there is a need to reflect on ourselves, and what in us is being hooked to take responsibility for things beyond our remit.

Likewise, we may find that people sometimes care greatly for us, and want to take responsibility for things we need to be responsible for ourselves.  This can be a key challenge in times of life transition, for example as young adults mature and leave home, in recovery from illness, after childbirth, and as we age.  Over time, others taking our responsibilities can dimish our ability to take care of ourselves and to trust our own judgement and skills.

Navigating the boundaries in relationships can be challenging and complex.  They are continuously shifting, and we need to be alive to our responses, and to the responses of those we love.  A key question to ask is whether we feel inter-dependent; a blend of independence and dependence where we continue to stand on our own two feet, and can want rather than need?  Or do you feel on either end of a co-dependent relationship, where the needs and obligations are running the show and you can not find the space of independence when you want it?

Next time you hear yourself saying that something is your responsibility, perhaps pause and reflect, according to who?  Is this a responsibility I choose to take?  If not, perhaps deeper reflection is needed.  For support in exploring relationship challenges and relating differently, get in touch.

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