There has been a trend in modern society to take less responsibility over our thoughts and behaviors. A month or two ago, a politician fell asleep during a presentation. When he was called on it, rather than admit his behavior and apologize for being tired, he counteracted by condemning the presenters of absurd accusations. In fact, the situation turned out to be so farfetched; he had to publically apologize for his comments. However, he never admitted to the initial behavior that started the whole embarrassing process; falling asleep during the presentation.
As a witness of this scenario, I contemplated the possible consequences for this politician as a result of this public fiasco. Many of his constituents might perceive him as cowardly, untrustworthy, defensive and/or unhonorable. These are labels that could possibly have a negative consequence to his political career. As a counsellor and observer of human behavior, I wondered why this man in a position of power responded initially as a victim, choosing to engage in a verbal attack in response to a stated fact – he fell asleep.
I will confess to placing myself in a similar situation as the politician mentioned above early in my career. I had scheduled clients all day and my last appointment was at 7pm at night. I was physically exhausted but hung in until the last five minutes of my finally counselling session in which I closed my eyes for what was approximately a few seconds and dozed off and did not hear what my client was discussing. I remember returning to a wakeful state, startled at my own actions. I could feel a dreadful burning sensation at the pit of my stomach that I associate with fear. My client then stood up and angrily accused me of being uncaring and stormed out the door.
The next five minutes seemed like an eternity as I contemplated the situation and my actions. Rather than be proactive and admit my personal limits in which I should have stopped the session early or rescheduled, I stubbornly persisted. As a result, I wanted to shrink in my seat, cover my head and pretend the whole thing never happened. Instead, I knew I was completely responsible for what happened.
I picked up the phone and left my client a voice message. I apologized for my behavior stating it was unacceptable and acknowledged she was completely right for feeling angry and asked her to call me back. She never called and it was one long week! She did, however, show up the next week at her usual time and apologized for “overreacting” and yelling at me. Again, I repeated my apology and accepted responsibility for my inappropriate behavior.
An amazing thing happened as a result: the therapeutic relationship deepened and the personal transformation my client went through in the next few months was amazing. She concluded her counselling sessions as a centered positive woman.
I cannot claim a hand in her change except that by taking personal responsibility in a very difficult and embarrassing situation, it deepened the trust and respect in the relationship, allowing her to delve and process issues that had previously blocked her happiness.
As a result of taking responsibility, I can now laugh at the situation and myself, admire the changes in my client rather than try to expend energy to hide this situation into my personal box of shame. Responsibility sets you free. Feelings of being victimized tend to hold us prisoners of the situation which many times unfold into unpleasant consequences.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA