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The Myth of Total Responsibility

By Steve Wells

This week I continue my rant against some of the ridiculous success philosophies that are bandied about by pop psych experts. This week I take on the concept of Total Responsibility.

The total responsibility theory holds that no matter where you are, no matter what your circumstances, that you caused it, you are totally 100% responsible. The extreme version of this philosophy holds that everyone everywhere is where they are because they choose (or chose) to be there, and this even includes victims of genocide and natural disasters…

This uncompassionate narcissistic tripe is causing a huge amount of unnecessary suffering to people all over the world. Everywhere I go I see people who, if they get cancer, now have to ask, “What did I do to cause this?” And if they don’t ask that, they can be sure that some uncompassionate stranger or false friend will ask a question like it…

In regard to the current world economic climate which has caused people all over the world to be careful with their money a friend recently wrote to me, “Am I manifesting backwards?” Answer: No, some greedy bankers stuffed it up for the rest of us, and now we all have to deal with it!

The reason why you are supposed to accept total responsibility is, so the theorising goes, because if you do so, THEN you can change it. If you assume that you caused it, then it is supposed to follow logically that you can uncause it, that you are now empowered to change it and make it the way you want to be… Taking total responsibility is thus supposed to be empowering. Well wouldn’t it be great if this were the case? In actuality, for most people, it isn’t.

Let’s challenge some of the assumptions of the total responsibility philosophy …

Firstly, why does it necessarily follow that if you do NOT assume total responsibility for having caused the situation you are in that you are somehow DIS-empowered by this and rendered unable to change it? If a cyclone causes my house to fall down does my seeing the cause of the situation as being natural forces prevent me from seeing that there are things I can do to change things? Does this automatically mean I cannot or will not rebuild my house? Of course not!

Nor does my seeing that external factors caused this situation mean that I will automatically be caught up in an unending blame game where I stay attached to my upset at (for example) the weather. It’s more likely an inability to accept what IS that would be the genesis of THAT problem…

Thirdly, does assuming that you are responsible for EVERYTHING that happens to you actually cause you to feel empowered? Obviously it can for some people, but it doesn’t for most of the people that I see. In fact, I see more people who are DIS-empowered rather than empowered by the doctrine of total responsibility.

Contrary to the empowerment theory, it’s been shown scientifically that assuming total responsibility for all the negative things that happen to you is a prescription for depression! According to Martin Seligman’s research in Learned Optimism people who are optimistic actually tend to transfer blame outside themselves for bad things that happen to them whereas those who are pessimistic tend to blame themselves for every bad thing that happens. When I first took Selgiman’s Optimism test 15 years ago, I came out a little bit pessimistic on this dimension! And it was then that I realised that the doctrine of total responsibility that I had swallowed hook line and sinker actually was a double edged sword, costing me a significant portion of my self-esteem…

As Seligman says: “People who blame themselves when they fail have low self-esteem as a consequence. They think they are worthless, talentless, and unlovable. People who blame external events do not lose self-esteem when bad events strike. On the whole, they like themselves better than people who blame themselves do.”

I am all for empowerment and being able to change things. But this total responsibility thing can be taken too far and most people tend to end up after swallowing it writhing uselessly in self-blame and self-recrimination rather than feeling empowered. As Seligman has shown, many of them are self-blaming themselves right into deep depression. If you are taking total responsibility the logical next step to self-blame you may end up suffering all the way to someone else’s bank…like your therapist, your life coach, or your new age thinking guru …

Who is responsible if someone gets attacked? Many might say that a person who chooses to walk down a dark alley at night is taking an unnecessary risk and therefore should take some responsibility for what happened… But is it also possible for bad things to happen to good people, even when they do all the “right” things? We all know this is true.

Are the people in China who have lost their homes due to the recent earthquake or the people in Texas whose homes have been wrecked due to the recent hurricane REALLY totally responsible for these things happening to them? And don’t please give me that BS that they all caused it to happen by their thinking. Do you really think that they were all thinking bad things and THAT is what caused this to happen to them? Do you really think that it was only their thinking that caused these catastrophic events? Unfortunately, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, I know some of you reading this will still say yes to these questions…

And this brings us to the ugly side of the total responsibility philosophy, the absence of compassion in many who subscribe to this extreme view.

I have frequently seen people who believe in total responsibility act without compassion towards sufferers, looking down on them, even actively blaming them for their situation (“You caused it”), or totally invalidating the person’s situation and needs whilst encouraging them to “Look for the lesson” rather than giving them practical assistance and support. The person is usually already blaming themselves enough; they don’t need you to fuel the flames of their own internal toxic blame bonfire.

The extreme version of total responsibility thinking makes you out to be God. Not just A God, THE God. And not a compassionate God either, a judging God. That’s why it tends to appeal to narcissists and those who like to lord it over other people, looking down with derision on those that don’t swallow their philosophy, poor plebs that they are having all those problems …

Until they have problems themselves…

And that’s when perhaps the biggest problem with total responsibility hits home. The fact that it leaves you on your own. Alone. With all that presumed power and responsibility. And it is easy to forget that there are other people in the world willing to help you…

The support of other people is often the thing we need to help us through the tough times and total responsibility can cause us to cut ourselves off from this support. Those who end up in difficult circumstances can be lent a compassionate hand by those of us who, sometimes through good fortune alone, are at this moment in a position of strength and able to offer our support…

So what DO I agree with in terms of responsibility?

I agree with acknowledging and accepting the place you are at regardless of source, and then choosing to move on from there. Accepting what is, and taking response-ability for what you will do next. That’s what the word is about anyway, isn’t it, response-ability, the ability to choose your response to whatever situation you are in?

Now obviously your goals and the responses you choose will depend upon your level of awareness and the situation you find yourself in. If you are up to your neck in quicksand your first goal is simply to find something solid to hold onto, in order to ultimately make your way back to solid ground. And for that you may need someone else’s help…

So the version of responsibility that empowers me is: Whatever or whoever caused the situation I am in, my first goal is to accept where I am (and what IS) as prerequisite to responding to it. Once I can accept what IS, then I have the capacity to respond to it. I believe I CAN choose what direction I will then head in, knowing that I DO have influence but that there are also other forces in the world. And it is OK to ask for help and admit that I don’t know everything. And that, I think, is the most empowering position to be in…

What do you think? We would love to read your comments…

38 thoughts on “The Myth of Total Responsibility”

  1. Hi Steve,

    Well said. I think that this even happens quite cruelly as with certain illnesses which seem to rate a deriding comment in some new-age circles.

    When we recover from a challenged history and own our vulnerability and that it is possible for us to be hurt we don’t seem to need to be as punitive with others as when we were perhaps well-watered so to speak. It often seems to be the well-watered ones who have a hard time accessing their disowned compassion. I guess equally the those from challenged histories have a hard time owning their strength and that THEY cared enough for themselves to survive, in other words they often ascribe their survival to good fortune or similar.

    Hobart, TAS

  2. Great article! It is good to see these counter points to traditional self help techniques. Like your other article on focusing on the negative things in your life you have again confirmed some thoughts I have felt for a while.

    In working with people I definitely see a general lack of responsibility for where they are in life. I feel they need to acknowledge this and as Steve points out accept this. This is because they must change something to get different results and hence need to see that they had some responsibility in creating it so they can change it.

    However, I totally agree that in going extreme with this view point it does get stupid. As mentioned in Steve’s other article, having a few people on a plane convinced it is going to crash does not bring it down and neither could any individuals create a hurricane etc.


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  3. Bravo Steve! Well said….about time to challenge this new age whank and tripe about ‘total responsibility’. People are being brainwashed into thinking that it’s all their fault…when something nasty happens to them. As if they have no choice and negative events are purely because of their unconsious thoughts and predispositions. About time to swim out of this cesspool!

  4. Hi Steve – thank you for these compassionate thoughts at the right time. For the past 14 months I have been struggling with intermittent ill health which sabotages things like holiday plans and fitness programs. I have done a lot of EFT for this using every aspect I can come up with, with the underlying feeling that I am truly “to blame” (adding guilt to doubt and uncertainty). I have had no significant progress . Seems like time to reach out.

  5. Thanks for another breath of fresh air about the downside of new age blame and guilt. I had come to similar conclusion with the question: “If someone gets hit by a car, who’s manifested the event? The driver or the passenger?” Simple answer is that neither did. It happened. Now deal with it from here. Keep up the great work Steve!

  6. I think there is a kernel of positivity in the theory. Perhaps on a more personal spiritual level than a psychological theory. I mean, just because something CAN be taken too far doesn’t mean it’s bad. You can drink so much water you die. And I think we can all agree that water’s a-ok.

    Being able to look at your life from the lens of “What did I do that got me these results I didn’t like?” is very powerful. It’s a further judgment of the fact that you brought things upon yourself that causes depression. In other words, if EVERYBODY causes EVERYTHING that happens to them, what’s the difference in overarching meaning of any given situation compared to if all people just cause SOME things for themselves?

    I’m able to look at my life, and either make excuses for myself or see where my actions led me to where I am. I mean, there are some situations people are born into, and some deep-seated psychological problems, so you can’t view the world that simplistically, but the theory is sound as a model to approach and understand your life more powerfully.

  7. I agree with your defination of response – ability ….. it is positive and proactive . The idea of ‘total responsiblity’ I would rather refer to being able to contribute to a solution rather than turn your back & say ‘ that’s not my problem ! ‘ .
    A thought to ponder ……..Total responsibility is about having a global consciousness and being able to respond individually … everyone doing their part really . As Quantum physics has proven we do impact and influence each other with our vibrations/ frequencies.
    my 2 sen worth : )

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This total responsibility trip is not only narcistic but also totally western world oriented. What about people who are really, and I mean really, in difficult situations they are born in?
    What about the victims of genocide? Some of them are going on right now. I alway suspected that people who want to be totally responsibly hate to feel powerlessly delivered to life that is unpredictable and can be unjust and cruel. This for me is real power, to be able to acknowledge that.

  9. Change your vibration and you will change your life, it’s that simple. – Steve Wells
    Steve, when did you stop to be one of those pop psych experts?

  10. Somewhere between ‘total self responsibility’ and ‘Gods will’ is the playground of humanity. Even if we are totally responsible for our lives, the toolset that each of us has as a human is inadequate to achieve total self control/responsibility. Your work with EFT/SET proves that people are constricted by emotional and learned responses that govern almost every action in our lives.

    Total responsibility is an unachievable aspiration in the human condition. It is akin to playing a round of 18 holes of golf with a score of 18 – all holes in one. While potentially possible it is not practically achievable.

    Like most concepts there is no total black or white. The concept of self responsibility has helped to move our consciousness from believing in victim hood and exterior forces running our lives to one where we do consider our thoughts and actions as major forces in shaping our lives.

    When people/groups ask us to consider and accept beliefs that are so pure as to be unachievable in human form, we become weakened by them. What is meant to make us powerful actually renders us more helpless as we recognize our complete inability to match the ideal presented. Many religions operate this way – presenting ideals so pure that we become humbled by them and feel a range of negative emotions when we cant live up to them.

    The self responsibility movement acts best when it serves to raise our standards, personally and collectively, by asking each one of us to consciously evaluate the situations and outcomes we face rather than avoiding, deferring or abstaining from the issues to be dealt with.

  11. I agree that there is at times an abuse of the expression, total responsibility.

    However, I believe that it is relevant to the human condition to conceive of one as contributing to (influencing) the environment, while also being influenced by the environment.

    As a believer in holism and living systems theory, I acknowledge that I, as a contributor, am the source of influences. At the same time, I believe that I do not control my environment. Rather, I interact with the influences from my environment.

    My thoughts, feelings, choices and actions are mine – in that sense, I am responsible, depending on how the word is defined. I have found 5 definitions for the term. Which shall we use?

    1. Answerable for an act performed or for its consequences; accountable; amenable, especially legally or politically.

    2. Capable of responding to any reasonable claim; able to answer reasonably for one’s conduct and obligations; capable of rational conduct.

    3. Involving responsibility; involving a degree of personal accountability on the part of the person concerned.

    4. Being a primary cause or agent of some event or action; being held liable for something.

    5. Able to be trusted; reliable; trustworthy.

    If someone were to comment that I am “totally responsible,” I might respond with a question, “Which of the five definitions apply to your comment?”

  12. Excellent Steve! I think you articulated very well two important concepts. First “accept” the situation as it is, you don’t have to like it, as this is reality. Also and more importantly is that we each have the response-ability to choose what happens next.

    Having recently gone through a life changing event I accept my responsibility in my portion of the event, as I was not the entire cause, and choosing how I react to this situation and what I do on a go forward basis.

    I think, that like anything, you need to look at the idea of “total responsibility” and choose the portions that make the most sense. As in the book/movie The Secret what they left out is being clear on what you want and taking response-ability for the actions that will bring it into your reality. Including getting the negative BS out of the way 🙂

    I also would just like to say “Thank You” to you and David for SET. I use it all the time and I loved Louise’s article today.

    Until we get a chance to meet again!

    Kevin K
    New Jersey, USA

  13. Thank you Steve! Here is my experience with that “total responsibility”: I sympathized for some years with a spiritual group who says “you are god also” and felt empowered by it until I came to the point to hear that I had to start back at the beginning with my spiritual lessons because I did not manage to solve my financial problems at the time of the proclaimed “Quantum leap” in summer 2007. It was like that punishment in a play, when you have to go back to the “start” without getting the benefits the other players get there. I could no longer feel any compassion in that group. Instead I felt separated and worthless to participate any longer. Felt as they left me behind and I went on alone, like all the years before. I struggle hard to overcome not only my financial problems but all other related problems and the unconscius issues behind them with EFT now, but every time I realise, I am not done with it yet, I feel guilt and inadequacy and despair, because I learnt that I am “totaly responsible” and everything is my choice. I feel depressed and helpless and seperated from god (that I-am-god or any other) in these moments and I can feel the blocking resistance in me. I am very grateful that I have found EFT to support me now and I think it is a goog idea to tap not only on my depressive feelings but also on that unsupportive believe. Thank you so much for your compassionate article…

  14. What a breath of fresh air. Thank you! Can you imagine how this myth makes me feel when faced with my son’s death to murder! How did I attract this? How did he attract it? And what about the murderer? Did he and my son allign themselves for some eternal purpose? Oy! Bad enough there is no satisfactory answer to the ‘why’ of it all. But now it’s our fault. Thank you Thank you Thank you!
    p.s. just my 2 cents about the greedy bankers…it’s greedy everybody. JMHO.

  15. What a timely article! I don’t buy into this ‘total responsibility’ thing – but just to prove how insidious and damaging it is I definitely caught a nasty dose of it last week!
    My website designer bailed on me a week ago and I’ve had a high old time trying to think what I might have done to cause this to happen. Was this a sophisticated form of procrastination? Did I choose a guy not up to the job because I was subconciously self-sabotaging? Maybe I didn’t really want an ecommerce website at all?
    Yes, yes – all tripe. I came to my senses (with the help of EFT) and realised the simple truth is that despite his assertions he just wasn’t up to the job. Not tragic as in the examples you describe, Steve; I’ve nothing else to do but choose a new designer (a little more carefully this time – and that I’m happy to take responsibility for!)
    The responsibility we do have though is to treat our fellow man with respect and kindness – isn’t that right? And to suspend judgement?
    Hang on – that could lead to never blaming anyone for anything – another can of worms!

  16. I am so glad you have written about this, it has been bothering for some time that I created a situation with my husband and his drinking-I would like to know why I should take responsibility for something he wants to do and has a result has created alot of misery for my son and I. I have talked to my husband when he is sober how it affects us, its always the same line-he is stressed he needs it, as to how he treats us, all says is he is sorry. I would like to know for all of those with serious illnesses, particularly a child how they asked for this. I have never bought in to it that children in a past life or whatever have come back to deal with this and I don’t believe someone who is murdered asked for that to happen.

  17. Tja, for some people for a long time it was God, whose will cuases their fate… And the only thing they could do was to pray and to hope not to come into hell. This stuff with responsibility is the same old pattern: if you do every thing right you will be happy! If not, bad luck!
    We should look at the mechanismen of our limbic system which leads us since thousands of years with three main pattern: balance & safety, dominance & success and the last one is stimulanz & adventure – when the main issues food, sex, breath are fulfilled.
    Out of that it is simple: health in every aspect has to do with the first limbic driver: safety and balance. If we can put a name on it, it feels as if we can handle it. If we say, it is our fault, it gives us for a short moment the impression and the feeling: I can deal successfully with it! This is one of the deeper issues behind this behavior and the missunderstanding of this thoughts of total responsibility.
    How happy we are to have such tools like EFT! To calm down a bit of the emotional limbic drive and to find out that there are a lot more possibilities to react than only one out of fear!

  18. So good to see someone publicly challenge this garbage Steve. I have seen it used to justify dragging kids through parents’ dysfunctional behaviour – “she chose to be born into our family” and by a bullying huband to his wife – ” You should consider what is wrong with you that attracts people who bully you”. It as become the ultimate cop-out.

  19. I would like to tone down the totalitarian nature of the title a bit.
    Life is not black and white,. there are 256 shades of gray in between.
    As Stephen Covey taught me so well over a decade ago, there is my circle of influence and my circle of concern.

    I can not assume responseiility for that which I have no control over. (Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Financial destabilization, etc,..) regardless of what Total Responsibility theorists say. This would lay in my circle of concern. Be clear about where one lives and what surrounds you. If you can, move away from obvious dangers. (Coastal areas with history of bad weather, Tectonic faults, etc,..) This does concern me but I have no real control over it.
    Yet! I can clearly assume response-ability for how I will allow the overwhelming external occurrence once it takes place to influence me.

    This leads me in to my realm of influence,. where yes,. I am totally responsible for everything that happens to me, because I choose and chose in the past to react according to the information I was given and had at hand. (Certain levels of awareness are needed for this part)

    It is with this notion and now clearly staked out difference, that I can begin to build myself up from the inside out.
    I choose clarity within my circle of influence, how I live my life, where I invest, what I eat, where I buy my food from, what health care method I favor over another,. etc,. I have to assume response-ability by gathering information and questioning everything to my satisfaction.

    I can choose not to quit smoking, keep spending, living beyond my means, Ignore all sorts of advice on unhealthy foods,. be bad tempered, build my house on a cliff known for erosion every 50 years,. but then should not attribute the consequences to an act outside of my circle of influence. I was in control!

    Steve,. I am 100% with you that this is a process, and it is always a crisis that wakes you up to become aware of where the lines are drawn between influence and concern. There is not a single person I know ,that has a heightened degree of awareness, that did not get there by personally rebuilding themselves from their own ashes. Deep crisis puts things in to perspective. Prioritizes what is really important in life.

  20. Hi Steve – I take the expression “total respons-ability” to mean being totally resonsible for the part that one has to play, one’s own part, in the overall scenario. It is impossible, and I agree with you, trying to be “God-like”, if one assumes responsibility for everyone else’s part of things, including natural disasters. That is a recipe for total disaster, and somewhat of an ego trip, in the end, anyway. We are, however, still responsible for our unconscious beliefs as they are part of ourselves, and they are active in helping create our realities.
    I’m very glad you have raised this topic. It is very easy to overplay one’s part, I have done it for years, with the resultant depression. Let’s look at the opposite – when we succeed, is the success created just by one person? It’s not possible!
    And bravo for raising the topic of compassion – happiness comes with the empowerment of seeing one’s role in a true light together with love for one’s self and others. The two together are meant to create compassion and lessen judgement. I think the pendulum has swung from a culture of endless blame, to one of “over” responsibility, and having faced some demons of both polar distortions, perhaps we can head back to a more joyful and inspiring reality.

  21. Thanks, Steve. Very interesting …
    Two things I want to comment on – first, your interpretation of “total responsibility equals blaming yourself for everything and lowering self-esteem possibly into depression”. After reading your article, I guess it’s possible. I’ve just never ever seen it that way. There is another part of the “total responsibility” philosophy – it says – don’t blame yourself. If anything bad happens to you – use it as a stepping stone, analyze it, learn from it and move on. Yes, choose your next step.

    Anyway, the second thing is much more interesting for me – “total responsibility leads to absence of compassion and that leaves you alone”. Boy, that’s a bomb for me! I’ve never thought about it this way – and it makes perfect sense. It also explains what is currently happening to me. I am loosing a dear friend. Few weeks ago, she started being really nasty to me. Pushing me, attacking me, telling me how “simple” everything is and I am making a big deal out of it. It started with a little “white lie” from her and I was upset. It wasn’t anything huge or life threatening but I did expect a “sorry” when I found out. I didn’t get anything like “sorry”. I got lectures about “you chose to be pissed off, it’s your problem”, “you chose not to like me right now, it’s your choice” – and much much more. I was surprised, I didn’t want to argue. I became more and more quiet and reserved and with that she became more and more pushy – pretty much telling me “YOU FEEL HURT? GET OVER IT!!!”
    I’ve been confused. I’ve closed down. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s happened? Your explanation makes perfect sense. And guess what? She offered me a perfect mirror – for last few years, I used to be the same. Often wondering why people don’t want to listen to me. Oh my God! Compassion! Thanks, Steve.

  22. Personally, Steve, I found it extremely empowering to believe that I caused cancer & disease in my body by my emotions (suppressing feelings) and actions.

    Taking full responsibility was very liberating for me and extremely rewarding. I didn’t beat myself up or go into blame which I think is where some people get lost.

    If I had just simply accepted my diagnosis, I might still have done something about it but I know I would not have had the same compelling belief that I would absolutely reverse my diagnosis & would do whatever it took.

    I shudder to think where I would be now would out that belief.

  23. I’ll second that Bravo! Finally a common sense approach to responsibility! Far more liberating and empowering. The weight of total responsibility reasoning is enormous. I find it freezes people into inaction and they stay stuck for way too long which just exacerbates the problem. This is a much more enabling approach.

  24. This concept that “everything that happens to us is caused by us or that we are responsible for everything that happens to us” is supported by several “well respected” writings. A Course In Miracles states that everything that seems to happen to us we ask for and that nothing comes to us that we don’t request.” The Seth Books by Jane Roberts, particularly the book: “The Nature of Personal Reality”. Seth states again and again that we create our own reality, even down to the weather that occurs. Seth state that every sickness or bodily condition is a result of our beliefs and attitudes. The Abraham-Hicks material channeled by Esther Hicks states time and again that we “create it all.” They even cite an example of being confronted with a mad man stating that our thoughts attract us into such an unfortunate place. These teachings and many others support that we are “responsible for everything.” I am thankful to Steve Wells for having the courage to stand up to this theory that we create the bad that happens to us. I have suffered extreme guilt and been blamed time and time again by others when I complained of a painful situation. One Woman “Carol Howe” told me that I should have been more aware of what I was creating before I entered this life. She was A Course In Miracles teacher and was trying to tell me that I caused all my suffering before being born by my pre-birth choices. Steve Wells is the first person that I know that is aware of the suffering this concept is causing people. I know of no other person who thinks differently. I have had people refuse to help me because they thought “I had a lesson to learn.”. Beware of A Course In Miracles and the Abraham-Hicks material. They are both a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Wayne Williams, Brunswick, GA USA

  25. Steve,
    I did two workshops with you and David in Albuquerque which I enjoyed very much. We tipped a few beers together after the training.
    As far a taking responsibility: I can only be responsible for my response to what happened. Two years ago I fell off some stairs and was hurt pretty bad. Eight of my ribs were broken and my collarbone in two places. As a result of this, my arthritis became very bad and had to have both knees replaced. I am still gaining strength from all of this. I do not feel I was responsible for any of this. My attitude has been good and I am now in the process of starting up my coaching practice again. I was interviewed on a Denver talk show today and have had response from potential clients who want to improve their learning skills.
    Keep up the good work,
    Paul M. Brown

  26. In replying to Paul, I will quote a mentor of mine Alan Weiss: “I am continually surprised how stupid I was two weeks ago!” Yes, vibration IS important, I am not denying that, however in recent times I’ve come to see (as I’ve written in my previous posts) that action is just as important.

    On this issue of responsibility, when I was younger I would have subscribed to a lot more of the total responsibility philosophy than I do now that I see the negative consequences of this for so many people. Same with The Secret, and affirmations and all that stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there are good things here for many people but I am looking at the overall consequences of the extremist thinking for the majority of people and I’m looking at the “fruits” of the philosophy rather than getting caught up in the sell. For many people, the fruit of this philosophy is spoiled…

    Steve Wells

  27. Dear Steve
    Well done on being able to write, in such a great way, your thoughts and feelings re responsibility and where it begins and just where it ends. Some 4 years ago, you and David supported me in such am amazing way when my Mother passed away whilst I was at your seminar in Sydney. It was Mums choice to let go and go home, but the most important part for me was that she knew that I was so deeply supported and it was her time. Mum knew, from every part of her being that she was leaving me in really safe hands and that I would heal all those parts that need to be healed in times of grief – with eternal love in my heart
    Looking forward to catching up in Sydney on 27th November
    Please know that from my perspective re your topic, you are spot on and well done on your courage and your strength and conviction
    May we all have the sernity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference —– and let go of judgement
    Looking forward to being together again

  28. I agree with many things said about total responsibility. When someone finds themselves in a bad situation, the last thing you want to hear is that you create your own reality.

    In my own journey I have learned that it is important to feel compassion and patience with those who have struggles and to keep for them a vision of the way you want them to be. In doing so, the unconditional love will elevate them to a new way for them to see their lives and will give them the energy to move into that direction.

    As for creating our own reality. Absolutely. No exception to that rule.

  29. When we are at our best, we embrace the divinity within us and believe that the divine acts for our ultimate good. But we do not manifest this divinity with total perfection. So we beat ourselves up over it. This is ego expressing itself, not the divine. Looking down our noses at someone else who doesn’t manifest perfectly is also an act of ego. And assuming we know exactly how the universe works is certainly an act of ego. Be willing to “not know”.

  30. Hi Steve,

    Thank you so much for this post. I am continually working with clients in that transformation process and recently wrote a similar article on the subject. This idea that they attracted or are responsible for the whole thing is a large hurdle to overcome, as it was in my own healing a few years ago. It SLOWS the healing process, which is not compassionate. Perhaps there are some semantics involved regarding what we are responsible for and what we are not. But I so agree with the “fruits” of the belief, for example, does it foster compassion or judgment? Many thank yous for publishing this truth. Shelley

  31. Hi Steve,

    It is difficult to add anything more to what has already been covered by others whom have responded to your very astutue and welcomed article on the topic of ‘Total Responsibility’. Suffice to say I do hope your message becomes as loud as those people who propell this myth! As a clinician I too have been exposed to many of my clients who are all too ready to absorb the ‘crazy’ making message of I ‘chose’ this… whatever so I must need to learn a lesson. Thank goodness there are approaches such as EFT, SET and PET to assist people to deal with these false beliefs. Surely we all now understand that extremist thinking can and does often lead to very catastrophic events histroy is filled with examples.

  32. The Buddha declared that suffering exists has many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, the impermanence of pleasure, the desire to have and to control things. To end suffering we have to achieve freedom of the mind non-attachment.
    Hinduism teaches the belief in Brahman, the underlying universal life force that combines all. These scriptures say that our ignorance of the true nature of self as one with Brahman traps us in the endless cycles of suffering.
    If we explore the possibility that we are part of the devine and therefore One, we eventually will come to the realization that we create our reality. We are souls in a human form (rather than humans with a soul).Once we accept that nothing in itself is either good or bad and that there is no such thing as good or bad people, then blame guilt become unnecessary. But we do create with our thoughts, words and deeds and if my responsibility is to end my suffering, wouldn’t I want to explore what caused my energy/vibration to shift, therefore creating imbalance? (eg. illness, calamities etc.) This is the cosmic dance and many people have proven that adversity can give birth to beauty. It also has been proven that collective consciousness exists and that can create massive shifts and distruction.
    Why would the understanding of this reality make me less compassionate to the suffering of others? I think the opposite is true. Evolution of consciousness has many levels and some might see a bigger picture than others and I believe that these souls (humans) have a responsibility to bring comprehension awareness but never guilt or blame. I am here to find demonstrate my highest purpose and my experiences serve me help me to serve others. I can choose and if the result is not desireable I can choose again and again and again. Above all I am here to live joy, love and forgiveness and I take total responsibility for that!

  33. I have been using the mantra associated with claiming total responsibility for some major personal crisis in the last two months. For me, it has not depressed me but empowered me. It was a relief to finally realize and accept my part in my creation. I have felt more centered and inspired. My situation has improved. I have used the concept of personal responsibility in sticky situations and have felt things “soften”. The only thing I need to do is work on myself. The clealer I can become with myself, the more I can release any resistance to changes that may occur around me. This was a huge shift in perspective for me and has changed my life.

  34. Just to add to my last comment. This has not caused me to look down on others , just the opposite. I see everyone and every living being with more compassionate eyes. I see my own soul reflected in them.

  35. Steve, have you read Michael Newton’s book ‘Journey of Souls’? It’s a most illuminating description of life ‘between lives’ achieved by regression hypnotherapy. A lot of answers are in that book. But it’s our choice to ignore them if we so wish.
    Looking back over my 6 decades I can openly say I have been responsible for everything that has happened to me. I have invited things into my life because of who I was at the time. When I realised that negative feelings were not the best to have I made the necessary changes and life got much better. We are co-creators on this earth but are mostly ignorant of that enormous potential. What is happening on the stock markets is but one example of what we can achieve through fear. Just imagine what we could do if we were to create with love and compassion in our hearts instead!
    If you wish to continue using words like ‘This uncompassionate narcissistic tripe’ that’s your affair. Are you really affecting change by trying to be devil’s advocate or just creating more of a divisive Us and Them situation? (with the implication that We are better than They are)

  36. Steve,
    this thing of total responsibility. I think each situation is different and there is no one answer for all situations. Clearly at times we need to be responsible for situations we find ourselves in such as divorce, money problems and some health conditions. If we choose to live in a known hurrican zone, we shouldn’t be suprised if our house gets blown away. However, there are definitely things that happen that I’d say are out of our control and we don’t need to beat ourselves up over.

    The things we could have avoided – so what , we goofed up, made a mistake- no problem, rather than beat ourselves up and be burdened with guilt and self blame, I think we need to forgive ourselves and do something differently for the future. Learn a lesson and move on again hopefully avoiding making the same mistake again, but who knows, sometimes we can be slow learners and that’s also OK.


  37. Steve

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! In a community of people who equate EFT with New Age I feel like a lone voice sometimes. I have come to this discussion slightly late having been referred to another article, but I am so glad I did. I do not believe EFT and New Age should be like salt and pepper. New Age is as much a religion, under the banner of ‘spirituality’ as Christianity and EFT is not a religion or a belief system.

    My father was mentally ill my whole life due to a genetic brain condition which left him with early onset dementia at 50, paralysed and mute for 5 years and died at 60. Suring this time my mother almost abused him and we found she also had early onset dementia and we had to put her in a nursing home at 57 and she died last year at 60. My sister in the middle of this hung herself aged 30 and my youngest sister has dads condition and another possibly has mums. I have had 5 miscarriages, lost three very close best friends, two grannies, my grandad, and my MIL is now terminally ill. In terms of LOA does that make me the Angel of Death?

    I cannot tell you the pain it has caused me to have therapists tell me I chose this, and they did! I have had to resort to warning EFT therapists not to throw this into my reframes as they all struggled to give meaning to my experiences. There is no meaning, Bad things happened to some very good people! To be fair to them the good ones have, and seemed to find it easy to say ‘Life can be crap sometimes.’

    One of the things I have noticed is that this belief systems carries as much guilt as any other we would traditionally associate with guilt, such as perhaps Catholocism. I work along with any belief system and my clients are beating themselves up for not coping with their chosen life, or manifesting serious problems such as childhood sexual abuse, or angry with their mothers for choosing that path etc.

    To be balanced yes there is alot we can be responsible for. Mostly I tell my clients that the we can’t change what happened but we can change our response to it. We can take responsibility for our feelings, our behaviour and our actions towards others. We can remove blocks to success and limiting beliefs, I can choose not to see myself as a victim and to use my experiences to help others. I choose to see life as a beautiful gift rather than feel cursed and doomed, but I am so glad I did not have to take responsibility for my life as I think that would have been to much to bear!

    Thanks again for this.

  38. Thanks Gill (above) and thanks Steve for this clarity. I think there is a little confusion in the Law of Allowance in that the impression is given over that you always get what you “asked” for, or manifested. This is a narrowing down, a cutting out an important segment, of my beliefs. I believe that in a deep way, whatever happens to a person is intended for them, and is sent to help them, although sometimes it may be terribly painful. Many reasons have been given for suffering, whether to help us grow, to atone for sin, to teach us responsibility, and many others. It is a little narrow minded to assume that only reason we are given suffering is to teach us responsibility.
    Thank you Steve for your clarity, your words were said at just the right time. Perhaps a person can sabotage his/her own opportunities for success. (Or perhaps even this he/she cannot do.) Regardless, the converse is not necessarily true by default – that any lack of success is caused by sabotage.
    You write that a terrible consequence of this is lack of compassion. I think another terrible consequence is living in fear. People are trying so hard to be responsible, to not let anyone say it’s because they weren’t careful enough, that they very greatly limit themselves, and do not acknowledge many of the options that lie before them, for fear, for over-responsibility. They can’t take any risks.

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