Written by Arin Pitcher
For a long time, I made myself the victim of my circumstances.
I say that I made myself the victim, because it is one of the universal truths of being human.
That in every moment of every day we are making choices.
What to have for breakfast, what to wear, how fast to drive…
Coffee or tea, lipstick or lip gloss, heels or flats…
In fact, we choose everything about our experience.
How can that be true?
When there is so much suffering in the world, so many unfortunate things that happen…does that mean that people chose those things to happen to them? Are people choosing to suffer?
Well, no and yes.
We can’t always choose our circumstances and yet we do choose how we meet those circumstances.
I don’t wake up in the morning and choose for the sun to rise, or the amount of traffic I encounter…
However, I do make the choice of how to respond what happens.
In every second I am choosing how to react, respond or otherwise.
I call this truth Radical Responsibility.
Which at it’s core, means choosing to be responsible for absolutely every-single-thing that I experience in my life.
Which is both utterly liberating and highly confrontational.
Confrontational in the sense that it means I am responsible for everything and I don’t get to play the ‘blame game’ anymore. A game which a part of me likes to play when I’m feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and upset, when I feel I’ve been treated cruelly or unfairly or left out altogether. It’s a game that acts like an ibuprofen when i’m hurt, it manages to take away the pain and make things more comfortable, but doesn’t actually promote health or healing…and if anything, may even make it MORE likely for the same thing to happen again.
Radical responsibility can be confrontational because it rests on the truth that I create my own reality, no one else, just me.
But that is also what make radical responsibility so liberating.
If I create it all, then I get to create whatever I want.
I can be who I want, when I want and where I want to. And in fact, this is what I have been doing my entire life. We all have, whether we realize it or not.
Enter again the confrontation…that means that every action or inaction I have ever taken has been my sole responsibility.
So when I was wreaking havoc on my body for all those years, I can no longer blame my parents, peers or societal pressures? Ouch
So when my relationships ran into the ground and friendships fell apart, I can’t blame the other person? Double ouch.
So when I was blaming all those other people and situations for the pain or discomfort in my life…I was really just trying to make myself feel better and actually creating more of my own pain? Woah…
And what’s more is that I was doomed to repeat the same cycles in relationships, in work and in life over and over again, because according to my view…others were to blame, I was the victim, I couldn’t do anything about other people, I was powerless…
Until I learned what it meant to be responsible to myself, and my own experiences.
And that is where the liberation component of radical responsibility really comes in…
When you take responsibility, and I mean FULL responsibility, it opens the door to choices.
For instance if someone calls me a bitch, I can get angry and upset and write that person off for not really knowing me or being rude. And in doing so I make myself the victim…thinking that my anger and upset are someone else’s fault. As the victim I get to feel ‘wronged’ by another and I never have to look at my own actions…why was I called a bitch in the first place? What’s more is that this person now lives in my mind as someone who caused me pain…so every time I think of, see or talk to him or her again…I feel pain. I get to feel miserable at the mere thought of someone else, and I continue acting in whatever way resulted in being called a bitch. So the pain cycle continues, because I am powerless to change how someone else treats me, and powerless to change something that I wont acknowledge.
Alternatively, I have the option of radical responsibility. When I choose this, I am making a choice that gives me options. When I take responsibility for my own feelings (‘I feel hurt’), versus blaming someone else (‘he/she hurt me’) I now have the power to do something about it. If I am responsible for my own feelings, then I can choose how to feel. Maybe I don’t want to feel angry, maybe I want to feel compassionate. But radical responsibility doesn’t stop at feelings, so I choose to take responsibility for what actually happened. Suddenly rather than blaming someone else for being rude, I can see that perhaps there was a reason for the rudeness, perhaps my own actions are not as innocent as the Victim would have me believe. And from there, I have the power to change my actions as well.
When I choose responsibility, I am essentially choosing to acknowledge and engage my reality, rather than pretending like it doesn’t exist.
When I choose responsibility, I choose freedom, rather than powerlessness.
You cannot control what people will say to you or about you, you can’t control how you will be treated or respected and you certainly can’t always control what happens to you.
But what you can control is how you choose to respond.
When you live a radically responsible life you are choosing to be the creator, you are signaling to the universe that you are here to drive the bus, and not just watch the scenes of life pass you by.
This wont always make everything right, okay or comfortable. Unfortunate things will continue to happen just as fortunate things do.
But when you live life responsibly, you take your power back. The power to choose your own happiness, to choose forgiveness and to choose aliveness.
While I was in the process of healing from my eating disorder, I blamed my upbringing (my parents, peers and circumstances) for how much pain I was in, and as a result constantly felt justified in my suffering and felt like it was someone else’s (my parents or friends) responsibility to heal me.
Well let me tell you…feeling justified in your own suffering, just creates more suffering…and is not at all conducive to actually healing.
So my journey was slow and nothing seemed to stick, until one day (after lots of coaching, development work and support) I finally took responsibility for myself, my own suffering and my own healing.
When I realized that I chose my eating disorder, chose my food and chose how I felt about it…it freed me to see my parents in a completely new way. I got to see they they did the absolute best job they could (an incredible job in general), that they were gone a lot because they were working their asses off to give me a great life…not because they didn’t love me. It let me heal in my relationship with them, and allowed us to grow even closer which became tremendously supportive to real healing.
By choosing responsibility I re-framed my life from one of loss and regret to one of immense prosperity and opportunity.
Radical responsibility is about perspective.
About choosing the perspective that grants you the most freedom, opportunity and fulfillment moment to moment.
It’s choosing aliveness and LIVING, rather allowing life to just happen.
You deserve to feel as happy, free and alive as you desire to feel.
So what are you choosing?
Here’s a little poem I wrote about my experience with my eating disorder, by sharing this I accept full responsibility for it and my life.
I choose freedom.