Friday, February 5, 2010

Self Responsibility

There is a world of difference between knowing things and really knowing things — embodying them so you integrate them as a full body knowing. For example, I have “known” for years that children can personalize events, take responsibility for things, especially bad things that are outside their influence. I have explored how I did the same and worked hard at devolving that responsibility. But now that knowledge has a deeper resonance.

As anyone who has been following my blog knows, I was hit by a car in early January. What I haven’t admitted is that I never claimed insurance on it. I had lots of reasons ranging from compassion and empathy for the driver: “I could have been that driver”, to protection of her: “I don’t want her insurance rates to go up”. In retrospect, it was all about the driver’s sensitivities and experiences. I focused my attention on her except, that is, for one major point: I was taking all of the responsibility.

In the days following, I questioned if I was daydreaming when the car hit me or if I was wearing bright enough clothing. As time wore on and my aches and pains remained, I questioned whether I was exercising too soon and not resting properly—it was my fault that I was not healing fast enough. Then fantasy came in and I wondered if it was payback time for some judgmental thoughts I was having. I was declining down a hill that ended in a confused but deadly mire of “not only was it my fault but I deserved to be hurt”.

I didn’t realize this until recently when I was assisting at an ARC class. We were talking about the state of grace with which forgiveness falls— that we cant plan forgiveness or make our self forgive another. We explored how it comes with self awareness, self responsibility and a deep seated love of self and how, once it arrives, can still leave room for anger or boundaries around the affronting behaviour. Moreover, it is about forgiving ourselves first through unveiling and healing our own shame that often happens in traumatic events, the shame that believes it was somehow our fault.

I was sitting there, listening to the lecture, when I realized I had taken on too much responsibility for the car hitting me. It was a replay of times past when in my shame, I took the responsibility for my abuse. Somehow, it was all about me, that I was deficient in some way; that I caused both the abuse and the accident to happen—I was responsible.

With codependence we can take on too much responsibility for things. Charles Whitfield suggests that it is a boundary issue: one does not see the other as separate from themselves or does not see themselves as separate from the other. It can play out in many ways but a typical one is the classic victim/abuser relationship. The “victim” does not see them selves as separate from the abuser: If only I had done better (cleaned the house; got better grades; earned the promotion), the “abuser” would not have to hit me/ drink/ have extra-marital affairs. The “abuser”, on the other hand, cannot see the other as separate from themselves: it is because they did this (didn’t clean the house, etc), it reflects badly on me and I have to punish them. In either case, each person is confusing boundaries and not respecting what belongs to them or what belongs to the other.

Interestingly, the driver of the car was more than willing to make amends and talk to the insurance company once I made my decision to claim. She wisely did not take on my deep seated issues of guilt but took care of herself while respecting my boundaries. She didn’t need my protection nor ask for it, and perhaps my protection would have done more harm than good. We don’t know these things.

What I do know is that the better I take care of myself, the better it is for those around me.


  1. Just had to say how proud I was to read this posting. I especially loved the 4th paragraph! So glad to be part of your life.

  2. This is an amazing read, Jo-Ann. And I'm so glad you are taking care of yourself around the insurance. Beautifully done, all around.

  3. I loved the last sentence Jo-Ann, it seems to just wrap the whole experience up. Glad you are safe! Lots of Love from The horses and I :)

  4. Thank you Bonnie, Kristen and Carla (and the horses!). It was an amazing experience all around... not one I would recommend to repeat but the gifts have been plentiful.