Road of Accepting Responsibility for Others

What gets us to accept blame that is inappropriate? For many, it’s not so much agreement with the blame as fear of “Abandonment”. This sign blazes out in neon at any intersection where they might veer off and disagree with the idea they are at fault. Those whose history has included traumatic abandonment are most vulnerable for this. People who have a disability or serious illness are also more susceptible to threats of someone leaving. And, when you’ve been in a controlling relationship for years, the wearing away of self-esteem leaves you more prone to being trapped in this cul de sac.

“Love” and “Desire to Please” are the metaphorical signage that often keeps people on this route.  Inappropriate acceptance of responsibility for others often grows out of poor parental boundaries and inappropriate expectations that children will love and care for the adults.  For instance, children who have alcoholic or chronically ill parents sometimes have adult tasks thrust on them; this leads to tremendous anxiety in children. Being expected to do things that are beyond their capability, where they are likely to fail,  creates a shame based identity. Children aren’t capable of critically thinking about what’s reasonable and what’s not. They often buy into the belief that if they just loved enough or did enough, they could fix everything and get the love they crave. 

Accepting inappropriate responsibility also occurs when children’s strengths get warped into a vulnerability. When children have to assume tasks early in life, they often learn responsibility and become exceptionally competent for their years. Unfortunately, they lose out on much of childhood playfulness in favor of over-responsibility. They often end up having extremely unrealistic expectations of themselves. As adults, this history creates a warped sense of duty for everything, even if it’s against their self-interests. It also leaves them prone to accepting others’ unreasonable expectations for them. This explains why people sometimes leap into apologies for things that are beyond their control.

I believe inappropriate acceptance of blame is one of the signs that controllers are attracted to because it lets them “off the hook” for their behavior. It fits right in with their refusal to be accountable.

Is this conscious? No, not usually. Submission is the complement to blame. That means blame “pulls for” acquiescence and acquiescence “pulls for” more blame and so on, which reinforces the roles of blamer and victim. Our path of development is shaped by what we receive. Recognizing this gives us a start on changing this internalized predator. We can learn to respond by expressing ourselves, when we have the safety to do so.

Another branch to this route involves internalizing the criticism we receive and becoming critical ourselves. Those who learned to be hard on themselves often are also that way with others. Awareness of this can help us prevent passing unreasonable expectations down to our children. It also improves our work and personal relationships when we can step back and examine what we might be projecting onto someone else that is unfair.



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