Local Leaders | Mental Health: Taking responsibility for your actions

We all know that person who seldom takes responsibility for bad events in their lives, blaming anyone but themselves. Maybe it’s your friend who, when they borrow your car, expect you to pay for any mechanical issues that come up, but if you borrow their car, well it’s “your fault” the car broke down so they want you to pay.

whose fault is it anyway?: Some people find it hard to take responsibility for their own actions, always shifting the blame to others.

whose fault is it anyway?: Some people find it hard to take responsibility for their own actions, always shifting the blame to others.

Why do people lay the responsibility for their problems or actions on others? It’s a way of protecting their ego, so they can still feel good about themselves. Their mind does this thing of explaining away their behaviour: bad people hit women>I hit a woman>I don’t want to be bad>it’s not my fault I hit her. And they try to get you to agree with their messed-up logic.

What can you do when this someone is your loved one, your best friend? First up, I know some of you will be thinking this person is “narcissitic” or maybe they have “borderline personality disorder”, but it’s not actually the case that everyone who has problem behaviour has a mental health issue (and if they do have a mental health diagnosis, you will need different advice, give me a call if you need to). Some people are just not that good at recognising their responsibility in things that happen to them.

Secondly, if you are not close to this person, if you don’t have a strong relationship, then you are best off to let it go. Challenging them won’t be taken kindly, and it is unlikely to make a difference.

Going back to the car, it’s important to have the facts behind you, work out with a mechanic whether it’s wear and tear or something caused by the driver. If you feel that you’re not responsible for it, you will need to outline the reasons, and let them know you expect them to pay. But you may also want to contribute to it, even if you think it’s not your fault, as a little generosity goes a long way in friendships and with family.

If they’re complaining about a work situation, or a relationship, you can outline where you think they could have taken responsibility. If it comes from a close friend, it may be difficult for them to take, but it can help them to see the other side and rethink their response.

Most importantly, don’t buy into it, don’t sort out their problems for them, because often what people like this want is for you to be the rescuer, or even to take on the role of aggressor, or the one who did wrong. Stepping out of that role prevents them from pulling you into the story. 

  • Linda is an art therapist and social worker in private practice in the Southern Highlands, NSW and may be contacted for any mental health concerns at linda@highlandsholistic.com.au or on 0438 400 446.

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