Redefining Responsibility

Somewhere along the way “responsibility” got a bad rap.  Responsibility has become synonymous with burden, constraint, encumbrance, and obligation.  Under these terms, it’s no wonder so many of us shy away from it, and feel victim to its existence.  But if we look further into its definition, we find it means “being answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control or management.”  

In other words, it’s RESPONSE - ABILITY, the ability to respond. Suddenly, this word feels powerful; we are no longer a victim of our circumstance.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor provides a tremendous example of this in her book A Stroke of Insight.  She talks about certain emotional programs (i.e. anger) that can be automatically triggered in the body that has an actual physiological response.  The thing is though, this physiological response is over in less than 90 seconds.  In her words: “My anger response, for example, is a programmed response that can be set off automatically.  Once triggered, the chemical released in my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience.  Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over.  If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”


Let that soak in for a moment.  After 90 seconds, the body’s response to a trigger is over and done.  Yet, we hold onto emotions like anger, resentment, and jealousy - apparently unnecessarily.  We CHOOSE to hold on to it or not.  Suffering really IS optional.  We suffer needlessly because we don’t acknowledge our own power and unconsciously fall into these patterns. But once we become aware of a dysfunctional pattern, we have the power to break it.  The beautiful thing about this is that she’s not telling you to avoid the emotion altogether.  Acknowledge your emotional response with full presence - for that 90 seconds.  And then let it pass.  Emotions are, after all, energy in motion.  

I challenge you to look at how you can redefine responsibility in your own life.  

You are not a victim of your life, you are the creator of your life. How will your life change when you acknowledge your responsibility?