Over the past couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand the concept of responsibility and what it really means. I examined it through the perspective of the tarot, and came up with this:
‘The root of responsibility is the ability to respond to any given situation as it arises. When we are in a state of abundance, acceptance and openness, we feel that innate capacity as the truth. Whatever presents itself to us can be met creatively, with joy.
On the other hand, if we approach situations with an air of heaviness or duty, they become less dynamic and more likely to feel burdensome. In the belief that we can control the outcome of our actions and choices, we move further from that ability to respond creatively.
We have been entrained to believe that responsibility encompasses so many external factors – others’ happiness, others’ welfare, others’ safety, and others’ rules – and the effects our actions have on them. The truth is, we are all only responsible for our own joy and vibrancy. As we align with that, the ripples we create may have beautiful effects on those around us, but we cannot control or guarantee that.
If we stay attuned to our inner abundance, passion and power, we are able to respond creatively to whatever arises. In doing so, we are being integrally responsible, to both the present moment and what is best for all involved. As we all return to this state of alignment, we begin to find ways to create responses that work for the greater good in ways that don’t feel burdensome and heavy.’ (from an archived post – ‘Exploring Responsibility through the Tarot’)
Okay, cool, but how do I get there from here?
I examined responsibility as an aspect of power, while writing portions of my first book. This is what I came up with:
‘True power lies within – it is not in the external trappings of wealth, status or dominance. It is an integral understanding of the capacity to create and take responsibility for your experience in every moment.
So the power of integrity lies in being responsibly creative and creatively responsible. I’m meaning responsibility here as being able to respond, which makes far more sense when combined with the power of creativity. If you are denying yourself this capacity, which is inherent in all of us, you become a victim of what life presents, instead of an engaged participant and co-creator.
This creativity isn’t linked to any one form of expression, but the ability to use your mind as a tool in conjunction with your higher knowledge. It’s the difference between conscious creation and impulsive responses based on patterns and beliefs in your cellular memory. It’s the difference between making decisions based on mind or ego desires that feel good temporarily, and integral choices that benefit you and the collective. It’s the unconscious choices that often lead to feeling victimized, because in relinquishing the responsibility to be integral, you have allowed yourself to bypass the creative process.’ (From ‘Domestication of the Spirit’ (pending publication)).
Again, how do I get there from here?
The Importance of Self
It wasn’t until recently that a key piece of understanding fell into place. The word self, placed right ahead of responsibility is the root to finding your power as an empath. Especially one who has been in abusive relationships and felt a pull towards codependence or self-sacrifice. When that piece clicks into place, it’s like coming home to the truth.
Your purpose is YOU. There is no one and no thing outside of yourself that deserves your undivided love and attention more than you do. If you’ve spent time throughout your life feeling misunderstood, unheard, taken for granted, betrayed or passed over, it’s pointing you towards something in you.
The key ingredient is self-responsibility.
This is where it gets tricky for empaths in particular. Because we feel so keenly the energy and emotions of everything around us, we tend to prioritise those. Sometimes we mistakenly believe they are ours.
You may even have been taught to manage abusive situations by attempting to maintain others’ states of mind or moods. It’s okay. It’s never too late to take self-responsibility.
To be an empowered, healthy, conscious empath, you must learn to address your needs first. You must prioritise your state of being and emotional balance before becoming involved in situations or relationships, so that you always have that to return to.
I learned the long, hard way by giving myself away repeatedly, that if I’m not looking to my own needs, it’s no one else’s job. There are many people out there who will happily take all you have to give and then quickly leave when your energy runs out. It’s not about them, it’s about YOU.
Self-responsibility: why is it key?
For me, it has meant several years of almost total isolation, several new reminders of how codependence feels, and a whole lot of feeling, remembering, realigning, and discovering who I am. It’s deeper than self-love; it’s a commitment to respect, honour and unconditionally accept the core Self that has been seeking safety from a (potentially) unsafe or painful world. Self-responsibility is a return to inherent, embodied power that comes of understanding your energy is yours and yours alone. Without it, life is missing a thread in its beautiful tapestry.
The reason the word self is so key in this equation is that it can be an empath’s downfall. Often the deep desire to heal and give to others becomes your reason for being. You may have long-held ideas that your Self is defined by this innate capacity to be there in service to others. That is not your Self. The desires, the joy, the inspirations, the passion, the curiosity, the things that light you up from deep within, that’s your Self attempting to express itself through you.
How many projects and dreams have I put aside in favour of other peoples’ needs, wants or desires? SO many. And they didn’t ask me to, I did it willingly, believing that to be how love looked. It’s okay, because it taught me. It brought me to this moment of understanding and expansion.
Without putting your Self in the equation, life continues to reflect experiences that feel like codependence and survival.
Healing Begins Within
There is huge healing here. I’ve been engaged in the dynamic of narcissistic relationships for most of my life, and this one key piece shifted something huge in my energy field. It’s about choosing YOU and your energetic integrity over all else so you can show up in the world as the most empowered, alive and vibrant light you can be.
The challenge is, sometimes your self-responsibility appears to others on the surface to be hugely irresponsible. That may be because you’re not following the collectively-defined ideas of what the word means, and you’re not showing up in ways that make others comfortable. It may be they’re so used to you taking responsibility energetically for their shit that they feel the loss as an affront. Give yourself permission to take 100% self-responsibility, including not worrying how others respond.
Don’t be too tied to external definitions, because empaths are here for a different purpose. We are here to help realign ideas of emotional engagement and heart-centred ways of being. You are walking the path less travelled and your purpose is to find YOU, first and foremost. From there, bring forth whatever comes through you in whatever ways bring you the most joy.
Look around your life to see if there are any tendrils of co-dependence; where you may be putting the needs of others ahead of your own. It doesn’t have to be a person – it can be a pet, a situation, a business, a client, a job… Are you doing what you do because of a desire to affect others or because it’s the natural expression of your heart’s truth and it feels so damn joyful?
Self-responsibility and Self-love
The addiction to caring for others’ energy can run so deep it feels natural even when it’s not healthy. I find myself at a different rock bottom and realize what I didn’t do last time was accept total self-responsibility. And the Universe has gently guided me here. This time I didn’t crash down, I floated ever so slowly like a feather on the wind. All the while, learning, observing and examining. And it has been a magical ride. Now I know and can feel the roots of my power. This time I know how to take hold and not let go.
I can commit to myself that whatever I do from this moment forward will be for my joy, expansion and desire to express my light in the world. I will bring the truth of my heart out in the open, not for the sake of others or because I owe it to the world for my existence, but because I love my Self so completely. And because it feels so unbelievably joyful!
I’ve heard it said that lack of self-love is the root of co-dependence; for me that was only partially helpful. This was the missing piece. Without self-responsibility, I couldn’t access true self-love. The missing piece lay somewhere deep in the disconnection from Self. When that is plugged back in, all the old stories fall away.
The mistakes you’ve made don’t define you. You are not the sum total of the stories you’ve been told about you. They were built on distractions designed to focus your attention and responsibility away from your shiny core; to place the story of your duty to others in your willing heart.
Take Stock of YOU
What beauty have you created in the world? Where does magic flow through you on a daily basis? When have you allowed the truth of your heart to shine its brightest? How many times have you felt successful in different areas of your life? All of these things are yours, aspects of your Self expressing through you. They are your responsibility and your joy. Do not allow contrary story lines to deny you the power in your truth.
Give yourself the gift of freedom by embracing Self-responsibility. The permission to soar is yours alone to give.
* For more on the empath-narcissist dynamic, please see An Empath’s Guide to Narcissists *