Hand’s up if you are a responsible person.
My hand’s up. I am. I have always been reliable. I get it done/arrive on time/do what I’m told/don’t complain.
If you’re the same, that’s great. It means you are a trusted employee, a good friend, a respectful relation and all those good things.
But what about being responsible for your own happiness?
If you’d have asked me this question a couple of weeks ago, I would have stuck my hand up quite confidently.
But just recently, I’ve been re-reading ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers.
And that’s reminded me that negative emotions, such as anger, impatience, annoyance and fear often stem from not taking total responsibility for what is happening in your life. And that if you accept that as a truth, look at where you are and ask yourself – what is it I’m not dealing with? you’ll often reveal a stark but simple truth.
My experiences recently have been around anger – so I want to break that down for you here.
It’s really easy for us to get angry with our partner, our boss, our job, our Mum or even ourselves. But anger, along with never really solving anything, is rarely the root cause of our ruffled feathers.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
So, there I was last week, finding myself getting angry.
The first time it was with my partner. We’d been looking online for some information on car sharing here in Italy and hadn’t had much success navigating the few Italian language documents we found. I got angry and blamed him for not being able to understand Italian better. A moment’s pause gave a window of opportunity for something different, and that’s when I thought – OK, what’s this really about? And this is what came: I’m not really angry with him, I’m sad that my own Italian’s not better. I’ve been concentrating on other priorities this year and have really let my language-learning slip. I’m expecting him to do it for me. I’m not taking full responsibility for my current level of Italian. At that moment I took responsibility for my own language skills.
It’s amazing how empowering the process of seeing, admitting and taking responsibility can be. It was like a breath of fresh air came through me and swept all the anger and panic away.
Next one – and you’re going to laugh at this one – was me getting angry at the wind. Last weekend was beautifully sunny here in Tuscany, but with a strong wind. I was on the way to Florence and the gusts were particularly nasty, blowing grit into my eye. Instead of accepting it and perhaps putting my sunglasses on, I got angry with the wind!
Now I come to write about it, it seems so silly, but getting angry at inanimate objects (that stone you stub your foot on, the unpredictable weather, the unresponsive computer) is something we all do.
So back to my windy day; once safely ensconced in the shelter of the train carriage, dabbing at my watering eye with a tissue, I saw the ridiculousness of my anger. And again I thought, What am I not taking responsibility for? In seconds, it was clear to me that, actually, I was feeling fear around something that I had to do later that day. Once I acknowledged that fear and took responsibility for feeling it, I realised that the weather was just the weather and I was OK.
Next time you are angry – stop for a moment and ask yourself,
What is it I am not taking responsibility for?
It’s amazing – you’ll find it’s a smoke screen. You aren’t really angry with your partner, annoyed at your boss or frustrated with yourself, but that your emotions are about something else entirely: There’s something you are not taking responsibility for. Take that responsibility, it takes just a second, and watch your anger melt away.