Illustration by Billy Alexander

Illustration by Billy Alexander

One of my client’s mothers told him that “he made her sick” and “gave her back pain.” So, I want to clear something up.

The word responsible comes from:

1590s, “answerable (to another, for something),” from Fr. responsible, from L. responsus, pp. of respondere “to respond” (see respond). Meaning “morally accountable for one’s actions” is attested from 1836. Retains the sense of “obligation” in the Latin root word.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper 

Generally speaking:

You are responsible for your own thoughts. A caveat: Sometimes, someone has a thought disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, which makes it extremely difficult to challenge and change disturbing thoughts. They might not be totally responsible for them.

You are responsible for your own feelings. A caveat: Sometimes, someone has a severe mood disorder, such as depression, that makes it extremely difficult to challenge and change disturbing feelings. They might not be totally responsible for them.

You are responsible for your own behavior.  A caveat: The insanity-defense is when someone is so mentally ill they are not in touch with reality and are not considered responsible for their own behavior. This is rare.

For most of us: You are responsible for how you treat others.

You are not responsible for other people’s bad moods or temper tantrums. (Unless of course you have provoked someone purposefully, and even then, you aren’t entirely responsible if they have the option of ignoring you or leaving and they don’t.)

You are not responsible for someone else’s physically or emotionally abusive behavior. No matter what. Ever.

You are also not responsible for the weather, including natural disasters.

 

 

 


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    Last reviewed: 20 Nov 2013

APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2013). Are You Responsible?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 31, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/therapy-soup/2013/11/are-you-responsible/

 

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