When responsibility crosses the line

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If you're like me, you want to care for and protect others, and make sure they feel great when they're with you.

Which sounds really warm and loving, but I've found out in my life that it can be a recipe for confusion, and can even lead to others moving away from the intimacy I want to create. When I don't speak the truth, when I'm fearful of being real, when I hide my true feelings, it can feel smothering or duplicitous - all in the name of care, protection, and love.

When I am more concerned about how others are doing, and cross over the line into taking responsibility for their feelings or thoughts, it can get subtly (or not so subtly) controlling. Worrying about a family member's pain, anger, or sadness - even when it feels impossible not to - doesn't help them. It can create confusing dynamics and it can take me away from my own full and free expression. 

Learning to be in deep, intimate relationships with others paradoxically means taking LOTS of care of myself without taking responsibility for anyone else’s thoughts or feelings or behaviors.

So my job is two-fold:

Step 1: Learn to take full responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings and behaviors, with tons of compassion for myself. It means being able to say, "I don't like that." "I need this."  Easier said than done because it can require retraining of the body and mind to pay attention to my own wants and needs, even if I was taught not to.

Step 2: Practice the art and science of freedom - letting others be exactly the way they are, and seeing them truthfully without taking the slightest responsibility for them. A friend of mine gave me such a powerful motto, "I am not responsible for those adults."

It can take some significant brain retraining for those of us raised in a culture where we were taught to put others first. It can feel wrong at first to realize that it's actually incredibly healthy to speak honestly about my own experiences and take responsibility for myself only. 

But there's something so grounding and healthy about this new way of being. And that's how we are as coaches - we practice openness, honesty, kindness, respect, and freedom. We invite our clients to do the same. In doing so, we open a space for real intimacy. It feels like a warm, empowering hug.

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