The Right and Happy-Accountability
Sunday, February 14, 2016
In twelve step programs, one principle (as differentiated from an official step) for living a wholesome life, “Do the next right thing,” holds a lot of power. Merely by asking oneself to define the next right thing, an engagement of the whole person must occur in which emotions, thoughts, values, and finally actions get expressed. The power of wondering about, and coming to some conclusion about the next right thing, constitutes a sturdy platform to support sound judgment, good decision-making, and a reduction in compulsive as well as impulsive behaviors. When we bring to bear on any situation the entirety of our personhood, the conversation of our inner parts have to result in some consensus. And usually that integration of parts, that agreement among our inner selves, produces actions that are consistent with our highest values. Accountability implies an inner process of orienting ourselves and making decisions that house our responsibilities as we define them.
As a therapist, I often experience inner tugs about the extent to which accountability to my clients supersedes accountability to myself in terms of self-care. It is important to be “off duty” sometimes. The therapy hour functions as a heightened period of time in which rapport with my client(s), working through the issues important to them, and co-catalyzing the energy they bring out into the world to continue this work takes place. When I get phone calls to referee a couple’s argument or to coach someone out of a downward spiral, I have to be careful not to give the message that I have 100% availability. As an outpatient therapist I do not perform emergency service functions. There certainly exist “extra” responsibilities to clients, outside of the therapy hour, but these responsibilities require some bounds. The delicacy of navigating these boundaries in my own mind, and communicating them to others, keeps me on my toes, and frequently aware of accountability. I feel good, as do most people, when I take accountability for my role in things. Sometimes I must face my smallness in the scheme of things—I have no ability to take hardship away from someone, or to give suggestions that are always brilliant and enlightening, or even to comfort the most acute grief. Sometimes all I can do is to be on the other end of the phone, listening, understanding, providing some warmth and perhaps an endorsement of the person’s resilience. Sometimes I cannot be there at all. Sometimes I prioritize accounting to a family member, getting some sleep, or stocking my refrigerator.
As accountable people we feel aware that our words and deeds affect others. When we think through our responsibilities and account for our words and deeds, we can then stand behind what we do. We feel happier in that sturdiness than we would by blaming others for our mistakes, letting our jealousies inflict damage on others, or use others to our advantage in a way that diminishes or disadvantages them.
Trust that when you account for yourself this is pretty great! You are pretty terrific.
Guest saddle: For what did you not take responsibility? (A fight, a missed appointment, a fumbled positive opportunity). If you did take responsibility now, account for your part, and what would you do or say differently to function more effectively and more helpfully?