Let’s start with the locus of conflict in stories. Because it’s exactly the same for real life. Usually it’s one of three areas:
- Our environment (our storyworld, the landscape, the weather, apocalypse)
- Interpersonal (between us and others)
- Within ourselves (the dark side)
Luke Skywalker is a whiny teenager in the beginning of SW Ep.4. Stuff ain’t right, and he’s having a good whinge about it.
You can see it’s not going anywhere unless he can get himself out of this finger-pointing.
How do we (practically speaking) take responsibility?
Taking responsibility is purely a shift in perspective. It’s a choice.
As Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor and psychiatrist wrote:
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
And, let’s face it, Luke can’t change Tatooine. He can’t make his Aunt and Uncle or anyone else think or behave differently. He can’t make his parents instantly come back. So what’s left?
His attitude. His perspective.
“But wait!” I hear you say. “If I take responsibility for the gnarly stuff that’s been going on, doesn’t that mean I’m to blame?”
Lifting blame—from our own shoulders especially—allows for freedom and agency. We are empowered to act NOW. Move FORWARDS.
Letting go of blame is not easy if we’ve been conditioned (as many of us have in some way: culturally, within our families, from others around us) to find a culprit.
And yet somehow, when we blame, it doesn’t feel so good. At least, not in a long-lasting way. It doesn’t resolve bad feelings in ourselves, it just allows us to get angry. And it often comes back to bite us. We go on a loop. Which creates more bad feeling …
If you’re getting stuck in the blame-game (and you’re sure it was Darth Vader’s fault and not yours) try on these stories and see how they feel: If you’re still not sure you can come at the idea that you can take responsibility for your own response to events (‘But I have a right to be angry …’), perhaps start by thinking about whether you’ve played a part in events—perhaps think of it like an accomplice.
Remember, you’re not responsible for others’ actions, you’re responsible for how you respond. And other people only ever act according to their own needs.
Finally, take a look at the language you’re using around blame. Instead of using ‘you’ did this and ‘you need to’ and so-on, try shifting it to ‘I’.
And we’ll untangle needs and wants and feelings in another post.