Friday, September 10, 2010

You Are 100% Responsible For Dealing With Your Life

You are 100% responsible for dealing with your life
Over the years, my belief that we are all 100% responsible for our behaviors has produced predictable arguments from the adults I work with. On the surface, people are comfortable with this rule, as long as they read 100% as 93% or 97%. So let me make this clear, you are 100% responsible for how you deal with your life. 

Mr. Griffith was a thirty-two year old father of three. He was arrested on December 24, for fighting in a hotel bar. When I talked with him in the jail’s interview room he looked as if he lost the fight. He held ice to his swollen face and complained of loose teeth. 
Mr. Griffith: It’s not fair! I’m told that I have to stay in this $#%&^ place until after Christmas. 
Dr. Phil: Sounds unpleasant, but how come you asked to see a therapist?
Mr. Griffith: I want you to tell them that they are #$%$^ing with my kids. It’s not fair to my kids that they can’t be with their dad on Christmas. 
The point that Mr. Griffith didn’t enjoy hearing was that he was blaming “them” for ruining his children’s Christmas. The reality was that he was 100% responsible for getting arrested, and his behaviors lead to him not being available to spend Christmas with his children.

Taking 100% responsibility for dealing with your life is hard. It is multifaceted. Often it is a pain in the neck. It would be much easier if you just got to blame others.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines responsibility as:
Involving personal accountability or ability to act without guidance or superior authority. Able to make moral or rational decisions on one’s own, and therefore answerable for one’s behavior.
So, if you don’t get the promotion you desire, you are 100% responsible for how you deal with it. If your spouse walks out on you, you are 100% responsible for how you deal with it. If your children are hard to live with, you are 100% responsible for how you deal with it. If your car gets stolen, you are 100% responsible for how you deal with it. 

At this point some smart individual likes to throw me a zinger. “You mean if a girl gets raped, or my mother gets shot by a gang banger, they’re responsible?”
I say yes! You are always 100% responsible for how you deal with it. Read on...
Responsibility does not mean blame
Responsibility is a person’s accountability. My friend, Sally, who I have known since high school, called all in a dither. “Phil you have to help me … I have to lose 28 pounds by next Saturday!” 
“What?” I questioned.
“I have to lose 28 pounds by next Saturday!” She whined. “I have to. My college reunion is next Saturday.”
“Sally you can’t lose that much by next Saturday.” I said.
“I know, I know. But it’s not fair. I’ve got to lose this baby weight.”
“Baby weight, are you…?”
“Of course not, it’s all Michael’s fault.”
“What? Michael, your Michael?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s all his fault, I put on this weight with him.” She snarled.
“That makes no sense, Michael’s 28, how can you blame him?” I asked.
“It’s all his fault… that was a hard pregnancy.”
Sally did not want to take any responsibility for her problem. 

Let’s look at this in a more serious situation. Stephanie was molested when she was six years old. She didn’t tell anyone because her uncle was the molester. She was very confused and blamed herself for many years. She came to my office when she was twenty-four years of age. She had recently told the man she loved that she could not marry him. But, she could not tell him the reason why. Stephanie was afraid to have sex. This was not a huge problem while she was dating. Both of them were saving themselves for marriage. But she knew that she could not go on a honeymoon. You can’t save yourself for marriage after you say “I do.” At that point you have to “do.” It took a lot of courage for Stephanie to reach out for help. 

Over the course of a year, Stephanie worked very hard in therapy to combat her fears. During our last session, I asked her to sum up her therapy experience.
I learned that my uncle was to blame for betraying my trust in him, and that I was not responsible for being a victim at the age of six. But, I am responsible now if I feel like a six year old victim at the age of twenty-five. 
After a long pause she continued. 
I also know that if I let my life get ruined because of my past that would be my fault. I am 100% responsible for how I deal with my life! I want a family. I deserve a family. And, I’m looking forward to getting pregnant.
We both cried with joy because we both knew that she was a powerful woman who understood personal responsibility.
You are 100% responsible for dealing with how others treat you
Most people assume that they have little, if any, control over how others treat them. I believe the opposite to be true. I believe that you are 100% responsible for dealing with how others treat you. That doesn’t mean that you have 100% control of how others act. It simply means that you are responsible for how you deal with how they act towards you.

Recently, a friend and I went out for our normal late Tuesday night dinner. Usually, the restaurant is almost empty. This particular night, the place was a mad house. It was packed with fire fighters just off the fire lines thirty miles away. The two waitresses were running all over, frantically trying to get the loud, hungry mass fed. 

The bus boy noticed us and said he would clean a table for us in a few minutes. My friend and I sat reading the menu. He said, “We’re never getting served today!”
“It’ll be OK,” I said.

When the waitress made her way to our table she looked like she had been put through a blender. Her hair was a mess, her little purple decorative apron was stained, and she seemed all jittery.
“Wow, you seem to be really overworked tonight. Are you OK?” I inquired.
“Hungry ... rude ... fire fighters,” She gasped. “They all want steak at the same time.” She wiped her brow with her forearm. 

She told us that since four o’clock the place had been packed with hungry fire fighters. The kitchen was not set up for cooking this many steaks at one time, and two waitresses were not enough.

“It sounds unfair how you’re being treated. When you have a minute for me let me know.” I said.
“No, it’s OK. What do you want? I’ll get it for you. I don’t care if they starve!” She said with a smile.

We were taken care of very well. The reason was because I treated the waitress with respect and empathy. I let her feel like a nice person, and she subsequently acted towards me like a nice person. I’m sure that she was choosing to treat my table nicely, because she surely had no trouble growling at the loud table in the far corner. 

As you go through your world you need to take responsibility for getting your needs met. If I were grumpy with the overworked waitress she would have seen me as one of the loud mass of humanity that filled her restaurant. But, recognizing that she was being put upon by her situation let her see me as a nice guy she wanted to feed. We both won. She felt appreciated and I got fed.

Excerpted from my book: Change: How to bring real change to your life

Go to Dr Copitch's web site

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