Saturday, April 14, 2007

Law of Evolution #1: Accept Responsibility

Evolutionary Law #1: I will accept responsibility for my life and station, as everything in my life is caused by my interactions with the world and the people in it. I will not seek to blame people or external circumstances for my life and the events in it. Instead, I will be empowered by the responsibility I am willing to shoulder.

One of the first decisions I made about my post-divorce life was that I would no longer be a victim to the circumstances of my life. This meant taking responsibility and acknowledging that I am the source of everything around me. In order to begin my evolution, I had to strike an agreement with myself that I would no longer live as a victim, or place the blame on external forces for the state or condition of my life.

At the end of my marriage and early in our divorce, I found myself feeling angry, betrayed, injured, and abandoned. I felt like I was given up on; that my wife decided I wasn't good enough, or worthy of her company. And what did I do? I tried to win her back. When she rejected me again, I tried to the noble thing and sacrifice my future for her benefit. In the middle of all this, I had a moment of clarity where I realized that my internal feelings were being based on external events. My self worth and image were being defined not by what I felt or what was important to me, but rather by the events that while in my life and specifically the thoughts, actions, and opinions of my wife, were not in my control.

See, as people we cannot control the thoughts, emotions, or actions of other people. Of course we can influence; we do this every day. As much as I thought that being together was the right thing to do, I realized that my relationship was based less on my needs being met and more on my reacting to her happiness. In hindsight, I now realize how unhealthy this was for me, and how it slowly eroded my passion and will to grow during our time together.

Empowerment Through Responsibility

Now, there are two different ways to accept responsibility. One leads down a path of empowerment a growth; the other leads to guilt, anger, blame, and resentment. An exercise that I recommend is to write statements of responsibility that describe where you are in your life. Here are some things to remember:
  • The goal is to gain clarity about where your life is, and your role in creating what is around you. These statements should lack judgement, and focus only on gaining clarity.
  • To be responsible means to accept in a humble manner your role in the events of your life.
  • At this point, these statements should not try to solve problems. The idea behind this exercise is to be clear, not to necessarily define a direction or path (that comes later).
  • Empowerment rarely follows self-destructive behavior -- so stay away from statements that lay blame or guilt at your feet, or that eat away/negate a positive self image.
  • Try to limit the scope of your statements to your immediate surroundings and environment (wife, children, family, friends, career).
  • Lastly, focus on quality vs. quantity. It will serve you more to author a handful of honest, vulnerable, humble, and responsible observations that help center your life and perceptions than to create a large list items that are not accurate or relevant.

I have posted an example of this exercise specific to my own failed marriage that can serve as a guide of sorts. Everyone takes their own path on this journey. It is my hope that we can share our experiences, learn from them, and move our lives forward in a constructive and empowering may.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I am going through a breakup after 10 years with my fiance. The circumstances aren't that important .. as are the fact I do feel a lot of guilt; I also feel like I've been abandoned; and I don't understand why my partner doesn't want us anymore.

But accepting responsbility for this is important, because I am to a large part at fault for the failure.

In my mind, I still have hope that things will get better - and indeed we are going for marriage counselling shortly. However, I am so scared of my own feelings - resentment, hope, sadness, that I am fearful and paralyzed.

Anyway, thank you for writing this blog - it is support to know others understand these feelings.

Guy Getting Divorced said...

Thank you; it takes courage and commitment to write these raw, vulnerable feelings. I appreciate your kind words regarding this blog, and I hope you can use this as a support tool as you work with your partner on your relationship.

I completely understand your feelings of failure and fear. To be honest, I think they are quite natural and speak to the love you have for your partner; I felt the same way. But it is important that you do not let these feeling define you. These feelings do not describe who you are; rather, they describe your experience today. Now, you may feel like this quite a bit -- again, I think this is completely natural. Do not, however, make the mistake of letting these feelings define your self image or how you interact with other people; especially your partner if you want to work things out.

In future posts, I will be blogging about other laws of evolution that deal with interactions with our partners. For now, please make sure you have a support system in place (family, friends, etc.) that can be used to vent or shelter you should you need it.

I'll have good thoughts for you and your partner. Be strong, kind, and open to new possibilities, and replace your guilt with responsibility; its tough to evolve from a place of guilt.

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