How much responsibility am I supposed to be taking?

littleoc

Sponsor
I need some help. I think I took helpful advice from these forums and corrupted them with an abuser's voice that's still in my head.

I was texting a friend and he told me that he's noticed that I take responsibility for everything to an extreme degree, and it's affecting my relationships. I want to just type down what he said to me, but let me paraphrase:

We were talking about my mom. My mom had frustrated me by rushing me to do my own plans so that I would do something for her (which, unfortunately, indirectly caused me to miss out on the one thing I even left home for). I then told him it seemed odd that when he rushed me, it felt supportive, but when my mom did, I got upset. I assumed this had something to do with me.

He told me it was because my mom has a history of being abusive to me. I disagreed. Cue a one-hour semi-argument where I insisted my mom isn't abusive and he started pouring out examples of abusive behavior done in front of him, that I told him about, etc., until I finally said, "She's just dysfunctional, rude, irresponsible, and very disrespectful. She's not abusive, though. Abusive behavior doesn't make a person abusive."

He responded by telling me that that's literally what makes a person abusive (basically: "what? if there's an abusive behavior, that's literally abuse"), and then sent me a screenshot of me saying these exact type of words about a "friend" who was being extremely abusive (trying to force me to date her, long story short) a couple of months ago. He asked me a couple times to explain my logic.

I stopped arguing and began to listen.

I eventually realized that I was triggered -- there's a thing I have where I assume people calling my mom abusive are people who are abusive themselves, don't understand that she's ill, or are trying to get her into trouble. From court cases when I was 13 and 14 years old.

But after that was out of the way, I really listened to what he had to say, which is the main point of this post.

He told me I have a problem with taking too much responsibility. I will try to make everything sound like there was something I could have done to make things better, that I am just not taking enough responsibility. I am avoiding being the victim as much as I physically can.

I'll say, about my mom, "Well, if I communicated with her, that wouldn't have happened. Her actions are totally understandable." My friend's response to that was, "If you weren't afraid to communicate with her, you wouldn't go mute, and if she respected what you said, this wouldn't be a problem right now."

He also told me (this is not verbatim): "Regardless, our mom has done much worse stuff that just not protect you from an abuser (which is in itself a crime).

"It's just that the only time I hear you talking like the other person isn't abusing you and it's just something you need to fix about yourself to be a better person, is seemingly when you're trying to convince yourself that a person 'isn't that bad' and you just 'don't get along' so you can ... ??? have uncomplicated feelings and not be the victim? indulge that abusive voice in your head that says everything is your fault?? you seem to think that your problems with your mom would just magically be resolved if you just talked with her honestly, while you completely ignore the fact that being unable to speak to her safely with honesty is one of the biggest red flags.

"Maybe she WOULD be totally understanding and become a perfect mom if you could tell her things, but you've been trying for literal years"

I told him in response that I can only control my own actions, and that that made me responsible. He told me that while that's technically true, I'm in control of who's in my life as well. In practice, what I seem to be doing is giving people chance after chance while telling myself, "but maybe if I'm more clear/patient/understanding/kind/etc then they'll start treating me well :)"; in other words, I believe everything is my responsibility and I need to step up my game and do better in every scenario. If ANYTHING goes wrong, it's always my fault. It's always something I need to be doing to fix the situation.

So, now I'm confused. I know it might seem obvious to some of you, so please tell me what you see. I see around these forums all the time that we need to stop playing victim and step up our game, to avoid trauma in our future and break the cycle, so that's what I've been doing. I'm taking responsibility for my part in my trauma, but now I'm being told I've gone too far. I'm now taking responsibility for other people's actions and behavior as something I can work with (that is, a response to my own not-perfect behavior), because it's probably my own behavior triggering these responses in other people. I just need to talk clearer, confront people better, be more confident, let things slide more instead of get upset about them. What's the middle ground? Is there one? Am I still playing victim?

Ugh. I feel utterly pathetic writing this. I feel like the words I'm using aren't explaining the situation properly.

All I can think of is that that basically sums up my relationship with my abusive ex-girlfriend. My job was to make her happy. Same with my father. Same with a pedophile.

Thanks for any input, it's greatly appreciated.

(Disclaimer: the quotes from my friend are heavily modified to protect his right to private correspondence with me. They are in quotes only to signify that I'm paraphrasing what someone else said.)
 
He told me I have a problem with taking too much responsibility. I will try to make everything sound like there was something I could have done to make things better
Yup, that sounds like you.
All I can think of is that that basically sums up my relationship with my abusive ex-girlfriend. My job was to make her happy. Same with my father. Same with a pedophile.
This is very common with children who have been forced into independence too soon. You basically had to raise yourself - which, by the way, is abuse by BOTH of your parents.

It is NOT your fault. But it IS good that you're realizing that this is something you do.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
You are responsible for *your* actions & part in everything...

Not their.
You are *not* responsible for your mother or others in your life.

You aren't *making* them act by acting / not acting / not acting enough. That's what *they* are doing, independently of you.

And it's natural to protect one's parent - especially if that parent was objectively a mess / in trouble with the law when you were young and you literally were tasked with 'protecting' them even then -

But that you even were in that position, to need to defend them, is some more of where *they* failed *you* as a parent, not vice-versa.

Make sense / doesn't? ;) I'll find different phrasing or examples if this don't do, no worries. :)
 

ladee

MyPTSD Pro
Your post made perfect sense. Those of us who were called on as children, to step up and be adults, rarely see things that people we care about are being abusive.

Your friend cares deeply about you and wants you to see you are being abused mentally. The mental abuse is so complicated and so many layers to it, it takes a long time to understand.

This one has taken me years to understand. Because that was my normal for so many years of my life. I, like you, could always make an excuse for what they said or how they treated me.

The thing is, how they treat us is not ok. But we have to find that out for ourselves. I've never seen or perceived you as being or acting like a victim. You have worked on yourself to an almost self-punishing depth, because, if YOU could just get it right, be the good daughter, friend, lover, ect, then things would work out. These people would be happy, content, blah blah blah.

Maybe if you could read some things about co-dependency that would help you to understand more what your friend was saying to you.

There is nothing wrong with trying to help people littleoc, where it becomes unhealthy is where we take on trying to fix them, make them happy, take away their pain. Sometimes we just have to look up and see their behaviour as just being ugly. And we get hurt, a lot, by these people. And that you do not have to endure or make excuses for them.

You are a very loving and understanding young woman. A huge heart. You don't want to see anyone hurting for any reason. And that, in and of itself is a good thing. But when we let others abuse us, is where the line is drawn.

We just don't see or feel it as ABUSE. I still have to work on this one. You aren't alone. I feel if you do some research on co-dependency it will help you to understand and possibly give you a starting point to understanding yourself better.

You have a very good friend there!! Let us know how you are doing with this. I hope my post made sense. Not all my brain cells line up the right way sometimes.

Gentle hugs to you littleoc.
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
I can tell you what this is for me. I am submissive and I try to act to control things and people around me and it doesn't work because I'm not dominant enough.

So I ask to be submitted so that's what they do. I try to get past it but it comes out of my subconscious and my abuse. The more dominant ones just respond to the stimulus.

When I first saw this in myself I told the therapist I had battered women's syndrome. She didn't disagree. I always find myself in abusive relationships. Not just romantic entanglements, almost all relationships. (Have the potential to be abusive if managed correctly.)

I don't know what to do about it I just try and live with it . People tend to believe somehow this cant happen to men lol.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
Ultimately you may have to reconcile:
Your mother was/maybe still is abusive and you love her and want to be in relationship. Both are true. Trying to separate those two will require serious cognitive dissonance.

What may hurt a child, like being ignored, neglect, lack of love, different temperament, different approaches to autonomy, space, safety etc are the same things that hurt us when we break up with a lover.

The same way we need to grieve a good relationship gone bad in adulthood, we need the same for a childhood relationship gone awry. No difference....when an adult breaks our heart we say I am heartbroken, but when a parent breaks our heart, it is more than just a broken heart, it can be trauma, abuse, or both.

You want to keep a messy relationship with your mother but you are still operating from the vantage point of a child. If you see your mother equally, you may see what your friend sees but it is hard.
One of the antidote to this sort of thing is seeing our parents outside of their good and their bad.... And I bet your mother has both but you do not want to see her bad. You want to see your mom on good only but why? What does that serve you in your internal psyche?
 

Freida

Sponsor
Yes.
You take on a lot of things that are not yours
Maybe that helps you gain a sense of control of your environment?

But yes...he is right.

You were raised in a cage with your mom's approval. Yes. If she didn't want you there she would have gotten you out
So you and your brothers not only had to raise yourselves,you had to parent your parents because they were the kind of crazy that thought kids in cages was a good idea

You are constantly taking responsibility for how your mom lives,even though she is a capable human being who can take care of herself. She doesn't want to -- but she can

Instead you make it your responsibility to clean her house, take her places, monitor her health.

Now you have an aunt living there. What other responsibility do you have for her?

you even took the responsibility for your abusers. It's your fault they did those things so you must look after them and make sure he is happy.

So ya. Go back and read that post. Read it a few times. Because your friend is right. You are responsible for one person. YOU.
 

The Albatross

MyPTSD Pro
You want to keep a messy relationship with your mother but you are still operating from the vantage point of a child. If you see your mother equally, you may see what your friend sees but it is hard.
One of the antidote to this sort of thing is seeing our parents outside of their good and their bad.... And I bet your mother has both but you do not want to see her bad. You want to see your mom on good only but why? What does that serve you in your internal psyche?

Concur 100%

Also you're friend has a good deal of insight.

Agree too with Ladee about codependence however - I have made choices regarding mothers (my own and previously my MIL). To determine what/when/if/how/whether to do just about anything regarding them I have to examine my motives and clarify a lot.... so I do a cost benefit analysis (CBA): Power point synopsis from SMART here: CBA - The Cost-Benefit Analysis | SMART Recovery
 

rumor18894

Learning
I disagree with framing it as "playing the victim". You are not playing anything. This is just a response that was developed by being abused. You have taken the responsibility of reaching out to an extreme such that you have come to believe that everything that fails is your fault. This is not true. It is also very common.

I have a similar experience in which I rationalized away an abusive situation by taking on all the responsibility (I shouldn't have done this, I should have acted sooner, I should have done something different). It's because there you have experienced so much that even being called a victim is repulsive to you and, as a result, you are making astronomical leaps to make sure that you aren't called a victim again. Unfortunately, it's an emotional band-aid because what's really happening is that you're deflecting away from the real problem. The issue is not that you are "playing victim" or that someone else has recognized that you are a victim. The issue is that your mother is displaying abusive tendencies. You shouldn't feel bad for being made to feel upset.

Your friend is a gem. Keep him around.
 

Friday

Moderator
I'm now taking responsibility for other people's actions and behavior as something I can work with (that is, a response to my own not-perfect behavior), because it's probably my own behavior triggering these responses in other people.
1. You can only INFLUENCE others. They choose how to act. Stop taking responsibility for their actions.

2. “Triggering these responses” is a phrase to help you with this. Who is responsible for YOUR triggers? You are, right? So are they responsible for how they act.

***

If it helps? Try writing down at LEAST 3 different responses to the same action. Do it a whooooooooole lot, maybe even several times a day, so you get used to seeing a spectrum of reactions. Don’t just use your own life, but anything you can think of, or see as you’re out and about.

A child is crying.
- Scream at them to shut the f*ck up and slap them until they do shut up.
- Give them a hug.
- Smile and try to cheer them up.

Someone drops a glass while you’re talking to them
- Tell them how careless and clumsy they are
- Laugh and tell them how you fumbled a glass last week
- Offer to help clean it up
- Fetch them a broom and dustpan, and continue your conversation
- Grab them by the hair and smash their face into the broken glass

Someone oversleeps
- wake them up, nicely
- wake them up by banging around and being as noisy as you can be
- wake them up by hitting and screaming at them about how useless and lazy they are
- assume they aren’t oversleeping / have chosen to sleep late today... you might be wrong, but it’s not like the power went out, or they asked you to wake them up if they overslept.

Someone stalks into the house, furiously, slamming the door
- Run and hide, because you know they’re mad at you, even though you don’t know why
- Go stand in front of them and wait to find out why they’re mad at you
- Attempt to placate them, even though you know it’s not your fault, you’re responsible for making them feel better.
- Ask -curiously/compassionately- them what’s wrong / what’s happened?
- Laugh and roll your eyes, and wait to find out what’s up
- ROAR at them; HOW DARE THEY blah blah blah

***

Same provocation = wildly different responses.

The person “provoking” a reaction? Is not the one who is in control of what that reaction will be. That’s up to the person responding.

Just because you know a person well enough to predict their response? Doesn’t mean you’re responsible for that response. Predicting how a person is likely to react is different from making them react that way. That’s their choice. Their responsibility. Not yours.
 
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littleoc

Sponsor
Thank you all for the help. I'm sorry I haven't replied more. I'm just a bit confused, but I'm not sure what my question is. I think that this encapsulates the closest to what my confusion is, though:

1. You can only INFLUENCE others. They choose how to act. Stop taking responsibility for their actions.

2. “Triggering these responses” is a phrase to help you with this. Who is responsible for YOUR triggers? You are, right? So are they responsible for how they act.

Am I responsible enough for my triggers that I should not be asking for outside assistance? Is that rude?

When my mother or aunt does something that is a trigger for me, and I ask them to stop. Is that on them, if they choose to keep doing it, or is that on me because I should not have asked?

I'm sorry if this seems obvious, I think I missed a childhood lesson or something somewhere.
 
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