Self-Awareness and Personal Responsibility

The holiday last Monday made it difficult to get to my blog. As each new item that I needed to handle came up, I found myself thinking about what I had hoped to write. Thinking about it was all I managed. No matter how much I thought, I did not discipline myself to leave all the other items aside and write.

Self-discipline is not one of the things I have been short on in my life. I was raised and educated in a setting that strongly taught the need for and benefits of taking responsibility for my own thoughts and actions and shaping them to the way I wanted and needed them to be. The last ten years have included many times when it was harder than ever before to focus myself and move forward, but because I have long known the methods that are most effective for me to achieve self-discipline, I have been able to do so. Taking personal responsibility is second nature for me (except, of course, in the areas where I have complete blind spots!).

For me, this self-discipline has resulted in a strong tendency to take action. . . in pretty much any situation in which I deem action to be necessary. If I have allowed a few extra pounds to creep on, I act to reduce my caloric intake and increase my activity. If I am driving or walking somewhere and have become lost (and don’t happen to have a GPS with me), I ask for directions. If a cause in which I believe is being threatened, I make contributions and write emails. I have always seen it as my responsibility to take action when I could and when it was necessary.

I am currently reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go There You Are. . . one small section at a time. This week, the following paragraph struck me:

What is required to participate more fully in our own health and well-being is simply to listen more carefully and to trust what we hear, to trust the messages from our own life, from our own body and mind and feelings. This sense of participation and trust is all too frequently a missing ingredient in medicine. We call it “mobilizing the inner resources of the patient” for healing, or for just coping better, for seeing a little more clearly, for being a little more assertive, for asking more questions, for getting by more skillfully. It’s not a replacement for expert medical care, but it is a necessary complement to it if you hope to live a truly healthy life—especially in the face of disease, disability, health challenges, and a frequently alienating, intimidating, insensitive, and sometimes iatrogenic healthcare system.

Developing such an attitude means authoring one’s own life and, therefore, assuming some measure of authority oneself. It requires believing in oneself. (My italics)

Most individuals who work in behavioral healthcare are expert at helping others to mobilize their inner resources. This is a large part of what psychotherapy is about. For the seriously mentally ill, helping them see that they have inner resources is significant. . . and a major contributor to the process of recovery.

I have a great deal of difficulty with the large number of people who see the things in their lives going wrong and who feel they can do nothing or who choose to take a passive rather than an active posture. . . but gladly complain about all that is wrong. Listen to talk radio, stand around the metaphorical office ‘water cooler’, shake their heads saying ‘what is this world coming to?’. . . and then go on with their own little lives as if nothing else matters.

I am currently watching this budget debacle unfold in state legislatures (I live in Florida) and Congress. As we all know, the recession and unemployment have resulted in significantly lower tax revenues at every level of government. We have allowed those who represent us to pass laws virtually exempting the wealthy and large corporations from taxation while they rake in the profits. The rest of us continue to pay our sales and property and income taxes, but the working and middle classes just do not earn enough or pay enough in taxes to support the level of government spending that we have all demanded.

The decisions that are being made will most likely result in the deconstruction of the ‘safety net’ that has for the past twenty years provided some minimal care for the chronically mentally ill. As usual, those least able to speak up for themselves will pay the price. . . for the mortgage crisis, unfunded wars, and irresponsible tax cuts.

What is the responsibility of each one of us for the upcoming deconstruction of Medicaid, and possibly Social Security and Medicare? How do you feel about sitting around and complaining vs taking action? Who’s job is it, anyway? Please share your comments below.

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