Friday, September 3, 2010

Personal Responsibility, Accountability & The Empath

Let's talk about personal responsibility, particularly as an Empath. To do this, first we must understand what responsibility is, so lets define it.


1. The state, quality, or fact of being responsible.
2. Something for which one is responsible; a duty, obligation, or burden.

So according to these definitions, responsibility is about accountability. And in the case of personal responsibility, it is about accountability to yourself. What this means is that one takes responsibility for one's life, one's words, one's actions and one's behaviors.

I read a definition of responsibility once, that plays on the concept of accountability, that went something like this: Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. And this definition is important because many people, including Empaths, have an extremely hard time dealing with accountability and personal responsibility.

This is particularly true for Empaths, because there is such a constant bombardment of 'other' emotion flowing into them most of the time, that it can be confusing to differentiate who's emotions are whose. And when in an heightened emotional state, actions and behaviors can be rendered sometimes that might seem foreign to the Empath's personality. In simpler terms, if an Empath is overwrought through emotional contact with other people, it is easy for them to become caught up in those emotions and act on them without forethought.

And while this might be true, this situation makes it so easy to shift the blame for those actions and emotions to others, rather than admitting their part in it or owning up to them as their own, despite where they originated from. It is just as easy to deny completely the idea that those emotions and behaviors carry the possibility that they originated from the Empath all together.


Do you remember as a child getting caught, by an adult, for doing something naughty and making an excuse to get out of it? Did it work? For some it probably did, while for others....mmm...not so much.

As we grow older, what one will find is that we begin to do this to ourselves, as much as to others. We do this because rationalizing thoughts, words and behaviors which can be seen in a harsh light, misunderstood, and give offense, even violence, takes the edge off of the action inside the human memory. It makes it easier to emotionally cope with and set aside.

But for Empaths, as much as anyone else, there is an underlying layer of emotion that is not seen by the outer world. It is repressed and avoided at all costs. That layer is coated in guilt, shame, misery, and self hate. One could characterize it as regret.

No one really wants to see that in themselves. And it's so easy to find distractions for it in everyday life. Even in those quiet moments, when we sit alone in contemplation, it is easy to rationalize those things, than to look into the mirror for to long.

The Mirror

I want you to try something. Go in front of a mirror and stand there, looking at yourself, for at least 30 seconds without looking away. Look into your eyes. Look at yourself.

You see all of what we are talking about, accountability and rationalization, translate into that one simple exercise. Feeling discomfort and looking away from the mirror often denotes guilt and shame, enough so that you can not stand before your own image for any relatively long period of time, even 30 seconds. It can feel like a an endless eternity that moves as slow as a snail.

But truly, it's not the mirror itself that is scary. It's only a reflection, after all. It's what is reflected back, in our own mind's eye, that gives us pause and reason to turn away. It is the fear of what will be seen there; the idea that if we see the truth and it's negative, others might see it, as well. It is fear of being ostracized and shunned for bearing those qualities that society finds unpleasing, distasteful, or abhorrent. It is the fear to be.....alone.

At first glance, it seems like you are attempting to transverse a gigantic ocean filled with guilt and shame. It seems hopeless because when you look down, all you can see are the dark depths of the unknown churning around you. And in that moment you forget how to swim, you panic, and the fear of drowning crystallizes inside you, holding you captive. But this is an illusion brought on by the fear.

The first step, Acceptance, is the hardest. And what seemed like an endless ocean when you stood before it, looks like a lake when you are in it and a pond once you are past it. Yes, you will have to swim. Yes, you will probably struggle. But it is no longer insurmountable.

When I look in the mirror, and see myself through my mind's eye, I don't like everything I see. But I still see it and acknowledge it. I've done things in my life I probably should be ashamed of and regretful about. I've done some bad things, you see, from the way I let myself be treated by others to the way I've treated others myself.

The moment the mirror stood before me, and I could no longer escape it, I felt like I wanted to die. I could only see darkness....all the bad things I'd done that had made me feel even more worthless than before. But after withering on the floor for a time, I had to start making some hard choices for myself and my family. And it has taken years to make peace with myself through acceptance of all of who I am, good and bad. And by bringing those things out into the light, I gave them a chance to heal instead of festering inside me, constantly eroding my confidence and dogging me in my dreams.

By allowing that to happen, we can find something important for ourselves:
  • The more I accept responsibility for the way my thoughts, words, and actions affect ME the more peace and power I experience in myself.
  • The more I accept responsibility for the way my thoughts, words, and actions affect OTHERS the more peace, connection, and power I experience in myself and with others.
  • The more I accept responsibility for the way my thoughts, words, and actions affect the WORLD the more peace, oneness, and power I experience in myself and in the world I live in.

The Bitter Mirror

Gaze no more into the bitter glass,
for eternity beckons as the time does pass,
where long ago visions echo and haunt,
and voices engraved upon the shattered heart,
belittle and taunt.

Dwell no more on realities past,
for the celestine future is infinite and vast,
where you walk into choices unbound,
and your footsteps tread upon memory's ground.

Learn from today and yesteryear gone,
and raise your voice high in futures resounding song,
for the future, today, and things that echo in recognition stark,
are the lessons you bear to light the way through the dark.

So dwell not upon the mirror that frames so complete
the totality of you where past and present meet,
and look to the stars in heavenly expanse,
for the future is limitless in one single glance.

Where you are complete, single, and whole,
and memories are naught but virtues to extol,
the journey you walked and the path that you tread,
of a life lived well, happy instead.

1 comment:

  1. This is great. Love the poem too. You touch on many of the same themes as in my post : "Personal Responsibility", but from the perspective of an empath - very useful to keep in mind. What you're talking about is having good psychic boundaries. I'm better at that after much practice. Thanks for the reminder.