Are you accountable for everything that happens in your life?
The Moment of Decision
Catastrophic events require major decisions for which we may be totally unprepared probably because we thought they would never happen to us. And our attitude about the event may well affect the eventual outcome.
Certainly there are times when we need to take ownership of something that happens to us and that we may have contributed heavily to an unfortunate incident. But often it may be simply a terrible life event where we were, in effect, an innocent bystander. Events may be sudden or slow motion and our response is important.
Determining A Fictional Character’s Reactions
When I write, I am creating an event or string of events that may be important or simply of interest. My orientation is to make a brief survey of the character’s role and then to see what action they take in behalf of themselves and their loved ones. It is the same process in our own lives. Time and energy can be wasted if we pick up on and concentrate on some ideology which may have nothing to do with what happened. The event, fictional or real, requires an understanding of relevancy, origins and our necessary response.
How We Take Ownership
Some people find it satisfying or enticing to believe they have ownership of all events. But it can become self accusatory and self damaging. I will never forget the day when a young woman who came for therapy was in my office exploring her life and the problems she was facing. Suddenly she started to talk about a rape she had endured many years before.
In our exchange she revealed her belief that she had “needed” to be raped and how it was her fault. In doing so she showed she was bringing the rapist forward to continue to control her life. In understanding her belief she triggered a release. She dismissed him and stopped accusing herself. The change was remarkable. At last she was free and had control of her life.
As a psychologist I often explored people’s lives with them and certainly there is a role for ownership but there comes a point in every therapy where there needs to be a dramatic shift and an assessment of ownership.
It comes down to, now you know what happened and you know what you did or did not contribute to it. Now, what are you going to do about the effects? It comes to that in almost all therapies.
I found amidst the fog of terrible pain after my accident that I had only one job and that was the construction of a restored life in behalf of myself and my family. There are viewpoints which suggest we should own all events as being of our creation. On that morning I dismissed that notion and focused on constructive solutions. To this day I believe I was an innocent victim in that car accident who then faced the reality of his life and essential dedication. To become focused on self blame would not have been useful but too often people recommend that viewpoint to us.
And often in the world of fiction I see a similar process. We don’t design a story so we can wallow endlessly with our readers in a never ending struggle. Something has to be learned or there is an occasion to which the character has to rise. After the darkest moment, often called “as bad as it gets”, there is a call to effective action. It typically doesn’t involve saying “I guess I brought that on myself” or “I guess I deserved that.”
Sometimes those things are said but then once explored we must move to action otherwise we are stuck floundering in a quagmire of self blame. Yes, action does speak louder than words although in fiction the action can be put into words.
What have been your major decision points?