The 6th Key to a family’s long term success is Personal Responsibility and Accountability.
This week’s podcast is very personal.
I’ve personally struggled with taking personal responsibility for my life, creating healthy boundaries, and holding others accountable.
My mom couldn’t take responsibility for the damage she caused me by lying to me about my father’s identity. She felt the need to be over-controlling in order to make sure that her preferred view of reality won out.
If you don’t want to talk about taboos — sex, death, family secrets — then maybe you want to skip the following blog post and the podcast.
But I’d ask you … what else are you avoiding in your own life? How is that working out for you? (Everything is connected. You’ll learn more about this fact next week.)
The 6th Key is all about our space and distance to other people and to our experience of life in general.
Is Getting Mugged Your Personal Responsibility?
If someone mugs you or takes you hostage, there is a space and distance issue.
The other person is not respecting your personal space and your right to make your own choices about what you want to do. Once the ordeal is over, you can certainly hold that person accountable by filing a police report, for example.
But, the example above also involves personal responsibility.
What were you doing (or not doing) that allowed you to be in a position to be able to be mugged or taken hostage?
Were you distracted on your cell phone?
Were you listening to music and not paying attention to what was going on around you?
Were you not able to defend yourself or run away because you haven’t been staying physically in shape?
A 12-year old child who is “touched” inappropriately…is that their personal responsibility?
Here’s another example: sexual abuse of a minor child.
Because this may cause controversy, I’m going to talk from my own experience.
When I was 12 years old, I met Terence “Cuz” Teahan from Chicago. He was an older Irish musician in his 70s and he encouraged my parents to allow me to spend time with him so I could learn Irish music from him.
One time I spent the night with him while his wife slept in the other room. He proceeded to “touch” me in a way that a 70 old married Catholic man should not touch a 12-year-old child. It took me years to get the courage to speak openly about my story. In the process, I informed his wife of what he did. That was my way of holding him accountable.
How does personal responsibility fit into the sexual abuse story above?
I was only 12. The law states that I was not responsible due to my age. However, that’s somewhat disempowering.
I can at least look at what role my own decisions and behavior played into the mix. I can tell you that I was not really passionate about playing Irish music. But I did it (and spent time with Mr. Teahan) because I liked the attention that I got from him and from my parents.
What went wrong was a failure to set personal boundaries on my own part. And that was something that I had to learn myself later in life.
Learning about boundaries and actually setting them only happens when one takes personal responsibility for doing that. No one was going to do that for me. I needed to take personal responsibility for my actions moving forward.
In the family context, a successful family has every member taking personal responsibility for themselves and for the family.
When the children are given everything they ask for with no requirement that they do something in exchange (such as taking out the trash, picking up their rooms, helping make meals), they will turn into selfish, greedy adults that will be focused primarily on how they can benefit from their family’s money.
That is not a recipe for long-term success of the family.
Let me explain something about the 6th Key. I describe it as knowing how to take personal responsibility for your situation in life, and holding others accountable. That’s about 70% true. It’s accurate, but not precise. The 6th Key is really bigger than that…
It’s about how you experience life. It’s about what you avoid (such as taking personal responsibility or working through emotional trauma from the past).
Addictions are related to the 6th Key. I’ve heard that addictions are rooted in unresolved trauma.
When a trauma isn’t resolved, it leaves behind a slew of painful, unprocessed feelings in the unconscious. These feelings are never content to remain silent and instead clamor for release.
When they express themselves openly and without disguise this activates the healing process.
The healing process, however, is so painful and potentially confusing that very few people dare undertake it, unless they have a great deal of mature external support and internal self-understanding.
But a person’s inability to heal doesn’t stop his or her unresolved feelings from needing to express themselves.
Lacking healing as an option, these feelings instead express themselves as symptoms, of which addiction is just one subset.
The purpose of addiction is to divert and alleviate painful, upwelling feelings into a seemingly comfortable alternative without allowing them to become conscious.
In the short-run this feels much more placid than healing, but in the long-run it only prolongs underground psychic misery and adds new consequences to an already troubled life.
Every day, there are things in our past and present that we avoid.
The challenge is to step up, see the thing we’re avoiding as is, and then make a decision:
Am I going to keep avoiding it?
Or will I decide, today, that I am going to own it?
That whatever has happened in my life and anything else that may happen in the future – it’s my personal responsibility.
You always have 2 paths to choose from – the one that disempowers you or the one that gives you power – which path will you walk?
Let me know in the comments below.