Response Ability

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When I think about the word responsibility, I now break it down in my head as the two words, "response" and "ability." In other words, responsibility to me, is the ability to respond rather than react.

We often think of responsibility as something associated with adulthood, but I don't think that this is necessarily the case. Often times, we have un-learned our intuitive and often healthy childhood responses during the course of our lives and the environments and influences we've been exposed to, and have replaced them with maladaptive variations of fight, flight, or freeze (all three of which I intend to discuss in future posts!).

In that sense, response-ability is certainly the result of maturity, or rather personal evolution and self-awareness. Response-ability is the ability to be mindful of our Selves and the thoughts and feelings that we experience as a result of internal and external stimuli. It involves groundedness/ centeredness and mindfulness, and the ability to consciously and deliberately choose our responses with intention and care.

Early on, this constant state of mindfulness can be exhausting and require concerted effort and attention. It is certainly something with a high up-front investment in service of long terms future rewards that exponentially pay off. Yet, the beginning will inevitably we peppered with distracted attention and reaction - behaviors that stem from our reptilian brains - our amygdalas - rather than our evolved, higher-reasoning brains - our prefrontal cortexes. But with time, I know of people who have mastered response-ability (I'm certainly not one of those people, yet), who are able to modulate their responses to the extent that even the thoughts and feelings preceding their behavioral impulses have shifted.

The best way to master the skill (because it is a skill that I believe anybody is capable of learning) is the way most things are learned and mastered: practice and time. It will be tedious. We will mess up and not succeed. But with time I believe that we can make a shift. A shift that will allow us to exercise control over our behaviors and our lives rather than allowing our knee-jerk reactions, urges, and impulses drag us along for the ride.

As I did yesterday, here are some of my favorite quotes on response-ability (I didn't find any really applicable poems):


Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility. - Sigmund Freud

Take responsibility of your own happiness, never put it in other people’s hands. - Roy T. Bennett

Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences.

- Eckhart Tolle

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

- Eleanor Roosevelt

One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes... and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

- Charles R. Swindoll

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.

- Wayne Dyer


To end, I would invite each of you to take some time to journal about and consider what types of reactions in your life are not in line with the person you want to be.

What stimuli or triggers (I dislike the word trigger for so many reasons, but that is a discussion for another day!) bring about these reactions?

Then, reflect and journal about what types of responses you would like to invite into your life. You can even visualize yourself practicing these responses.

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