Donna shares a story about one morning – years ago as a full-time working mom and wife with 3 children – when she woke up and realized she wasn’t responsible for the sun rising that morning.

While she can laugh about it now, it was a very serious moment in her early adult years. Intellectually, she knew of course that she wasn’t responsible for the sunrise, yet she had emotionally taken on an exaggerated sense of responsibility that felt like the weight of the universe on her shoulders.

In an odd way, Donna was victimized by her strong sense of responsibility. With the sunrise epiphany, she was able to see that it was her thinking that created the extreme sense of responsibility—not the situation. Her self-persecuting internal dialogue resulted in her feeling responsible for everyone’s happiness and kept her locked into her own private Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) ™.

Exaggerated-Responsibility

Donna took this picture on July 20 near their home on Bainbridge Island, WA

Because of her realization, she had conversations with her family out of which they volunteered that they could do a lot more to take care of themselves – and, to her surprise, they wanted to. They were happier and Donna discovered more personal freedom as well. It was such a relief to let go and let more ease and freedom flow through the family.

Being overly responsible certainly happens at work as well and can have equally frustrating results.

For example, David reflects on a time when he was managing a major department in a large corporation. Working late at night (because of his own exaggerated sense of responsibility and not wanting to let anyone down), he was copied on an email that went to one of his direct reports. The person to whom the email was directed had left for the evening. Instead of letting the direct report respond in the morning, David went ahead and answered the email – only to find out the next morning that he gave the wrong information, which caused a flurry of additional messages.

To not let go of the burden of exaggerated responsibility puts us on the path of burnout and misery – and feeling persecuted by our own thinking. We can release ourselves form the burden of false responsibilities when we wake up to the fact that we are ultimately only responsible for our own attitudes and behavior. We really are not in charge of the sunrise….and a heck of a lot of other happenings and events in our life.

Donna now realizes that she did not trust life to unfold as it will and admits to a certain amount of unconscious arrogance that was running in the background of her life. She failed to see that her exaggerated sense of responsibility was really about controlling circumstances and situations. Now with each sunrise and sunset she reminds herself to let go, enjoy the beauty and do only what is hers to do.