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How To Get Over The Fear Of Responsibility

The fear of responsibility is actually common enough that it has even been given a name: Hypengyophobia.  And like most fears, it exists as a kind of sliding scale.  Some people who struggle with this fear experience a strong aversion to responsibility.  Others have full blown anxiety attacks at even the thought of taking responsibility and as such, refuse to take responsibility of any kind.  While this fear and aversion may seem irrational, there are definite reasons for developing this fear.  It is important to know that the fear of taking responsibility isn’t usually about responsibility in and of itself.  It is the fear that by taking responsibility in a specific situation, you will come into contact with or experience something that you fear.  For example, by taking responsibility, I will experience intense pressure.  Or by taking responsibility, I am the one to blame and will therefore be blamed and feel shame and low self-esteem as a result.      

  1. The top reason for the fear of responsibility is lack of confidence.  To understand this fear, think about it like this: Have you ever been in a situation where someone was doing a job poorly and you were tempted to just take over the job to do it right?  In this scenario, you were about to take responsibility for the task.  The reason that you had this impulse is that you have a high degree of confidence relative to that task and relative to your ability to do it better than that person could.  Now think about the opposite scenario.  Think about a time in your life where you didn’t feel a high degree of confidence in your ability to do something well and certainly not relative to your ability to do it better than other people.  Do you remember your hesitancy about taking responsibility for that task?  You didn’t really feel that CAN relative to the situation.  Many people who fear responsibility are stuck in the second scenario with almost everything in their life.  If you struggle with responsibility, this keeps you in the comfort zone of not taking responsibility.  But it implies that you have a serious lack of confidence in general and serious low self-esteem.
  2. You now know the main contributor to the fear of responsibility is the lack of confidence.  So, the next few points are going to outline some of the most common reasons for that lack of confidence as it applies to the fear of responsibility.  The first one is the fear of making mistakes.  If you fear responsibility, usually this means you are terrified of making mistakes because of what you make mistakes mean, especially based off of previous experiences.  For example, you may feel a mistake will lead to conflict you can’t handle or a consequence that can’t be undone or that mistakes mean that you are incompetent and therefore will decrease your self-esteem even further.
  3. The next reason people may fear responsibility is the fear of failure.  Again, this is because of what failure means to you.  The fear of failure is most common amongst people who were routinely humiliated and undermined in childhood by the very people who they looked to as a barometer of their worth and success.  Instead of being supportive, their parents were critical.
  4. You may also fear competition, especially the potential elements of loss of closeness and failure that can come with the experience of competition.  For many people with the fear of responsibility, the fear of being at odds or against someone and the fear of doing worse than other people can, could, would or will do is enough to make them avoid taking responsibility for something altogether.  If you struggle with this fear, consider your relationship to the idea of losing.  Trauma relative to competition can involve the loss of self-esteem by being judged as worse than someone else.  It can also involve the loss of closeness with people who devalue you for losing as well as the loss of closeness with whomever you are now ‘pitted against’.
  5. If you fear taking responsibility, you have to look at your relationship to conflict.  So many people with the fear of responsibility have a huge issue with the fear of conflict.  This ironically can take two basic forms.
    1. For some people who have an aversion to taking responsibility it is all about how other people react in the situation in which they are taking responsibility.  When they took responsibility and the result led to someone’s displeasure, that displeasure became a conflict between themselves and the other person and they desperately needed closeness and alignment with that person to feel ok, but they couldn’t create that repair.  So many people who struggle with the fear of responsibility have a huge issue with feeling like they let people down.
    2. Some people who have an aversion to taking responsibility actually experienced success when they took responsibility for something.  But that success threatened someone (like mom or dad) and made them feel bad.  This also led to conflict and so, their association with taking responsibility is that it leads to conflict.  Either way, consider that responsibility may be linked with conflict in your being, and conflict is not something that you feel empowered relative to.
  6. Another reason that contributes to the fear of taking responsibility is the fear of negative emotions.  More specifically, the fear of not feeling equipped to handle or regulate your negative emotions when they come up, which they would if you took responsibility for something and it didn’t go well.  To understand more about this, watch my video titled:  The Emotional Wake Up Call.
  7. Aversion to pressure is another main contributor to the aversion of responsibility.  Consider what your relationship to being under pressure is, especially emotional pressure.  The fear of pressure is a perpetual anxiety that usually involves the constant feeling that you have to produce something, but that you doubt whether you can.  It is an “I have to produce X or else” scenario and this pressure produces distress instead of the pressure producing eustress.  This causes an aversion to any situation in which you experience pressure.  And responsibility often feels like pressure because it implies that you are the one with the power to produce in your hands.
  8. The next reason that you might have an aversion to taking responsibility is that the experience of taking responsibility in the past did not lead to anything that you wanted or that improved your life.  It simply led to the betterment of someone else’s life.  People who are hyper responsible experience responsibility as a way of gaining control and taking their power in any given situation to bring about what is in their own best interests.  They have had responsibility = reward experiences and so that positive link is formed in their being.  If you have a serious aversion to responsibility, so far you may not have that responsibility - reward experience.  Instead, you have either a responsibility = punishment/pain or responsibility = nothing happens for me experience.
    It is very common, but not usually recognized that people who have an aversion to responsibility felt forced into co-dependent relationships in their childhoods.   They were pushed to take responsibility for things, but those things they took responsibility for didn’t lead to any improvement for themselves, only improvement for whomever demanded that they take responsibility for those things.
    I’ll use two examples to illustrate this point.  One boy may be interested in tennis.  So he takes responsibility for reading about tennis, getting a summer job so he can pay for a coach, riding his bike to practice and he sees that because of this responsibility he took, he gets better and better at tennis and eventually even wins a tournament.  This boy learns that responsibility personally benefits him.
    Another boy may feel forced by his mother to take care of the other younger siblings in the house.  Doing so did not get him any closer to what he wanted.  It improved his mother’s life.  But if anything, taking that responsibility took him further away from personal benefit.  Consider if you have a fear of responsibility that you may have been conditioned to see responsibility as something that involves no personal benefit and therefore it may make you immediately blind to the personal benefit involved in taking responsibility in any given situation.  Consider also that responsibility might just immediately trigger you into feeling manipulated, controlled, obligated and self-sacrificing.
  9. The last point I am going to mention is the fear of repeating the past.  People who fear responsibility have had trauma relative to the experience of taking responsibility.  Trauma naturally puts you in the place of avoiding the same bad experience happening again.  This can take a more direct form such as someone having been in charge in a situation (like being responsible for younger brother and younger brother got hurt and had to go to the hospital).  Or it can be not wanting any other trauma associated with taking responsibility to repeat again such as feeling like someone is controlling you to do something for their benefit, failing, making a mistake, letting other people down, developing an even worse sense of confidence and self-esteem than you already have or getting into conflicts etc.

Knowing all of that, what should you do if you have a fear and therefore an aversion to responsibility?

  1. Allow yourself to consider that it is actually your choice to not take responsibility ever again for anything.  If you struggle with responsibility, you will notice that you often feel like you are bulldozing yourself to take responsibility; as if it is something that you HAVE to do.  But this just reinforces the original drudgery and dislike with which you approach responsibility.  So close your eyes and play out the decision to not take any responsibility at all.  Play it out for a day, week, month, year, several years, the rest of your life.  You will notice certain consequences will happen and you will watch your adaptation to those consequences.  But those consequences are not being done to you.  They aren’t personal.  They are simply happening because we live in a universe of cause and effect where anything someone does or doesn’t do has an effect.  You still get to choose whether to say yes or no to that effect and then change the causation.  Essentially, you have to see that responsibility is actually a choice.  And if you are going to choose to take responsibility, it should be because you have decided that you want to own the causation.  You want to ensure that certain consequences don’t happen for your sake.
    See if you can see how powerless it makes you to hope and expect consequences not to occur.  See how powerless it feels and makes you to hope and expect for people to one day not give you any consequences.  Consider what would put you back in a position of power relative to responsibility.  The first step is to realize that taking responsibility is a choice that you can consciously say no or say yes to!  To be conscious, you simply have to make that decision in a super informed way.  You have to see the potential personal consequences and benefits of either choice.
  2. Did you notice how much of the aversion to responsibility has to do with trauma that has happened relative to taking responsibility?  You can use the trigger of responsibility or of the feeling of pressure that you have to produce ‘or else’ or of the sinking feeling of lack of confidence to go back to whatever traumatic experiences are linked to this aversion in order to create resolve with them.  I have created one such process to do exactly this.  You can find out how to do this process by reading my book ‘The Completion Process’ and/or by finding a practitioner to work with on  Doing this un-does the past.  It resolves the root cause of your aversion to responsibility.
  3. Work directly with the part(s) of you that fears and/or hates responsibility.  And find and resource the part(s) within you that can have a positive relationship to responsibility using parts work.  To find out how to do this, watch my video titled:  Parts Work (What is Parts Work and How to Do It).  Nothing will give you deeper insight into what your specific aversion to responsibility is than doing this.  I do have some Completion Process Certified Practitioners who are adept at facilitating parts work if you feel like you need some assistance with this.
  4. Start to change your relationship with and perspective about responsibility.  Essentially, what responsibility is, is owning your own life. Responsibility is the opposite of the state of victimhood.  If you don’t own your life, chances are much higher that someone else will.  Also, you forgo the power to create what the life you want, the way you want it.  In order to change some of your perspectives about responsibility, watch my video titled: Responsibility (Why, When and How To Take it).  As well as Take your Power Back.
  5. In any situation in which you fear taking responsibility, become aware of that fear, look into the why you feel that way in that specific situation and voice that fear to any people involved.  Face your fear of mistakes and failure (as well as the potential humiliation you fear resulting from it) instead of subconsciously running from them your whole life.       Put your apprehension on the table in the exact situation in which it comes up.  This takes you out of avoidance mode as well as potential self-bulldozing mode.  It also puts you and the people involved in the position of choice about what to do about it and how to resolve it.  Dealing with that fear and trying to create solutions to it in the situation itself will increase your empowerment around responsibility as well as decrease the likelihood that any mishap with the responsibility you took would lead to failure or conflict with others.
    For example, imagine that you were given an assignment at work and you actually realized you were afraid of taking responsibility for it.  Imagine that you voiced that fact to the other people.  This allows both you and them to begin to brainstorm ways to resolve the situation.  At the work place, a person lacking confidence in a task that they are in charge of, is a problem for everyone involved in that business.  So, a boss or colleague might give you access to resources which will make the job easier for you to do or change who is in charge of the task itself.  You can only resolve what you are aware of and admit to and look into the why of in the moment.
  6. Recognize the lack of confidence inherent in your fear of taking responsibility and instead of simply accepting that lack of confidence (because you are so acclimatized to low self-esteem), actively come up with things you could do to increase your confidence in the situation at hand.  For example, in one situation this could be working to un-root and replace self-defeating core beliefs.  In another situation, say you were given a task at work and you didn’t want to take that responsibility because you didn’t trust yourself to know how to do it well, your confidence might be increased by learning something or finding a more skilled person to show you something that would enhance your trust that you could do the task well.  In the situation at hand, relative to what you have responsibility for, what would increase your confidence?
  7. Resource when taking responsibility goes well.  If your trauma around responsibility is extreme enough, you never notice when you take responsibility and it leads to good results.  You only notice when it goes badly.  So begin to take notice and really feel the empowerment and confidence when you take responsibility for things and it yields a positive result.  This has to be done like an active awareness practice.  Without realizing it, you are actually taking responsibility all day long!  For example, when you fix yourself something to eat, that is a form of taking responsibility.  To consciously experience the satisfaction of eating whatever you made for yourself is to resource that responsibility having yielded positive results.  Can you think of any times in the past where you took responsibility for something and it went well no matter how small or large?  Make a list.  You are essentially re-wiring your brain and forming different associations with responsibility by doing this.
    This exercise of noticing situations in which you take responsibility and you didn’t even think of it as taking responsibility as well as when you take responsibility and it goes well will help you to recognize the exact conditions in which taking responsibility becomes an issue for you.  It will help you see what those variables to what you see as ‘responsibility to be avoided’ are.
  8. Become more empowered around conflict in general.  Relationships involve the inevitability of rupture.  The degree of security and joy felt within a relationship is really about your capacity to create repair.  Right now, you probably don’t trust your capacity to create that, so every conflict is seen as a serious threat rather than a calling to embody greater depths of intimacy and harmony.  Or a calling to become as aware as possible of ourselves and others relative to a subject.  Because the fear of responsibility is so closely linked to the fear of conflict, it would benefit you to watch my videos titled: How to Overcome The Fear Of Conflict and How to Resolve Conflict.
  9. Because as we discussed earlier, the perception for many who struggle with responsibility is that them taking responsibility is always something that benefits others instead of themselves, self-sacrifice is a problem.  Because of this, you would benefit by watching my video titled: Self Sacrifice, The Most Self-Centered Thing in The World.

If you experience an aversion to responsibility, the reality is that you are currently not empowered.  You may feel like you don’t have control over what happens to you in your life.   But here is the thing, you may not be able to prevent yourself from being fired, but you can improve your tool kit of skills and search for another job.  You may not be able to prevent yourself from being rejected by another person.  But you can find out why and either choose to make changes to yourself or use that information to look for someone who would be more compatible.  You may not be able to choose what’s happening to you but you can choose the way you are going to deal with it.  You can try different ways of doing things again and again until you finally achieve whatever it is that you are wanting.  Responsibility is about finding the CAN and WILL in any situation.  Consider WHY you automatically feel as if you can’t.  When and how and why did that begin?  If you refuse to face your fear of taking responsibility and so you continue to subconsciously refuse to take responsibility, a part of you will always make you feel bad about yourself.  Avoiding responsibility is a self-fulfilling cycle when it comes to confidence and self-esteem.

While it is hard for someone who feels disempowered to feel the CAN and WILL in any given experience, that CAN and WILL is something that you deserve to experience.  That empowerment can be yours as soon as you recognize in yourself the courage to carry the emotional burden that comes with taking responsibility.


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