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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Essay 5. Accepting Emotional Responsibility For Your Actions

Thus far, we have singled out flawed belief systems and our false sense of self or ego as the two greatest barriers to emotional freedom. We recognize them.

Think of faulty beliefs and the ego as ancient operating systems in a computer that have accumulated viruses over time and now are rendering the computer and memory capacity incapable of performing optimally like it once did. We can't see the problem but we know that one exists because of our poor emotional state. We have a virus, faulty beliefs and our ego, and we accept this. We want to eradicate those things from our hard drive and reduce the ill effects. Having determined the problem, it is time to get out the tools and go to work.

Failing to take responsibility for our actions is actually quite understandable. As children we were punished when we failed to do as we were asked or for bad behavior. We sought the rewards for good conduct and avoided punishment at all costs. We learned that we could minimize, lie, or blame others for our bad behavior and we were successful at that sometimes. We continued to evade responsibility for our behavior as we grew into adults and eventually we passed this belief system onto our children. Parents do this primarily through actions but also verbally. Responsibility avoidance thus becomes one of those flawed belief systems.

In many people it becomes so normal and acceptable that it is second nature. It becomes part of their ego.

While responsibility avoidance certainly allows people to avoid near term consequences when it is accepted or tolerated, it has much larger downstream consequences. It has a cumulative effect on the emotional health of the deceiving party. The deceiver becomes the deceived. The deceiver never gets better because the conduct goes unchecked. Deceptive conduct manifests itself as drinking, drugging, job loss, conflict, marital and family disputes, infidelity, broken friendships. As those things unwind the deceiver rationalizes and justifies his conduct further with the aid of a fear driven ego that does not want to accept the punishment for poor conduct. The ego continues to engage in whining, blaming, justifying, and bad mouthing perceived adversaries whoever they might be.

Failing to take responsibility at the behest of a fear driven ego is insane. Continuing to practice that behavior won't yield different results. There is only one solution.

We must take responsibility for everything that happens to us. If we walk into a crosswalk without looking and get hit by a bus, we take responsibility. If we feel cheated out of a promotion we accept that we could have done better and prepared better and we vow to improve. We don't blame the boss. If our wife cheats on us, we accept our role in helping to damage the relationship in such a way that it came to that. Our role is inescapable and we scrutinize and accept our actions. At every turn.

We refuse to deceive, rationalize, or justify our own failings or to behave like victims. We are going to try and accept the blame for all of our wrongs and we are going to refuse to engage in future behavior that tempts us to avoid responsibility.

We are going to quit deceiving ourselves. We will become role models for our kids and break this national pandemic of responsibility avoidance and enabling. By applying this to all of our dealings we will arm our children with the gift of accepting responsibility for their actions. We are going to feel better about ourselves and we are going to quit feeling guilty.

We are going to chip away at our bad beliefs and fragile egos that cling to the idea that this is acceptable conduct and we will not pass this bad belief system on. Accepting responsibility becomes a key ingredient in establishing emotional freedom.

Confessions of a Recovering Ego Maniac

Well, if you've made it this far without falling asleep on your keyboard or lapsing into complete and utter confusion, let me offer up a piece of satire I wrote a few months back. I hope you will enjoy it.

I am convinced that the planet is inhabited by ego maniacs. An absolutely insane number of people running around believing that they are smarter, prettier, faster, and tougher than anyone else. They are consumed with the idea they must "succeed", whatever that is. I know because I came from that world. I am a recovering ego maniac. There are benefits.

This is how it works. Once it dawns on you that every belief system you have ever acquired is based on an opinion and that quite possibly those beliefs are flawed or wrong, the awakening starts. Little by little, whatever potentially false sense of self that you cling to gets shattered. You may be left with the possibility that you aren't the smartest, prettiest, fastest, or toughest human being and that in fact you never will be. It is possible that you are just a dumbass. When you reach this level of acceptance and humility, it no longer becomes necessary to try and prove anything. You have stripped your ego down to bare wood. Now the hardest part about accepting that you are now a tree trunk and a former ego maniac is that you are still surrounded by millions of ego maniacs in varying degrees of insanity. These people are very easy to spot and still remain hostage, clinging to their bark and that false sense of self. I will give you some examples and tips on spotting some of those types of people which will allow you to avoid conflict and enjoy life.

People that require you to address them by "title." People who habitually sign documents with a B.A., Ph.D., or some other designation on everything from stationary, notepads, or bar napkins. These folks have an inferiority complex. They are trying to prove to themselves and to the world that they are smarter or more accomplished than anyone else, that they are deserving or entitled and that they have credibility. They may mention where they went to school, without prompting, if this lends credibility to their "brainiac" image, otherwise they might not mention it. In many cases their parents told them how smart they were. Unfortunately their parents did not learn to grade on a curve that includes the six billion other people on this planet, all of whom might have told their children how smart they were. This leads to a lot of conflict even if you happen to be a genius. Avoid this trap. Get your Ph.D. and shut up about it. Or not. Act a little stupid if you are capable of that. People will like you.

The prince and the princess types. These are generally people who have to wear the very best clothes and designer labels, drive expensive foreign sports cars, and if female-take four hours to put makeup on just to walk outside and grab the paper. They absolutely fear not fitting in. This class of ego maniacs include celebrities and movie star types. Men and women completely enamored with their looks. In all likelihood, this brand of narcissism was evident in their parents and passed down. Fathers who told their daughters how beautiful they were and of course those daughters believed it. The problem here is that a billion or so other women bought into the same rhetoric from their loving fathers. Instead of starting wars and killing each other, we have beauty pageants to try and prove which daughter is the most beautiful. All of this egomania leads to a lot of conflict. Mostly among women. Avoid it. Even if you are a goddess just think of yourself as dressed in a potato sack or some ugly duckling. Act a little ugly once in awhile. People will like you and appreciate your humble nature. So will a lot of men.

The "He-Man" type, athletes, body builders, cage fighters, men with big trucks. These are men clinging to the belief that that they are stronger or tougher than anyone else. Their false sense of security is bolstered by their appearance and their willingness to intimidate you. Often they are somewhat narcissistic particularly about their bodies. Sometimes they pick fights with strangers. They come from families where fathers, brothers, and uncles told them how tough they were and that this is family tradition. They bought into this belief and think strongly that it has some useful purpose. All of that conflict causes conflict. Some of these men grow old, infirm, and die. Or get shot by scared skinny men who are easily intimidated. Avoid the potential adverse impacts. Lift a lot of weights, stay healthy, and wear baggy clothes. Tell people you are a lover, not a fighter. Chicks will dig you. Everyone else will like you.

Pretentious people. These are the most populous group. Everything they possess has to be the biggest and best. They drive the most expensive cars, they have monstrously sized homes and parties so that they can show off their castles. They live in exclusive places, often secluded or on mountain tops, they have yachts and jets. Too much is never enough. They want you to envy them. They are completely self absorbed and forever wanting more. They are constantly keeping score and telling you how bright, savvy, and sophisticated they are in that subliminal message that they continuously convey. This leads to a lot of conflict. To avoid this trap, go ahead and earn a lot of dough and live in a small house in Omaha, Nebraska like Warren Buffett. Keep your mouth shut about how bright you are and how you have managed to exploit everyone else for your own greed and ego. Leave your money to charity. People will still think you have a humongous ego, but at least you will confuse them a little bit. Maybe they will say nice things at your wake.

So what's in all this for a recovering ego maniac? A man who is potentially stupid, ugly, easily intimidated, and weak? Freedom and happiness. It's no longer important for me to be hostage to all of that insanity and a set of false beliefs that cause conflict. It's ok to just be happy without keeping score and let other people indulge in that insanity if they want. You are not required to mention any of this by the way. It causes conflict. Keep quiet, people will like you.