Sunday, October 09, 2016

Responsibility and Counselors

Once while talking to a counselor, I told her about a situation where I gave someone advice and it worked out badly for her. I had lots of guilt on the subject. The counselor told me that it was her responsibility to take my advice.

This bothers me. This bothers me because here is someone who is making a living by giving advice. If she gives wrong advice, then according to her own logic the client will have to blame himself for taking it. This person was also talking a lot about responsibility. But, by her own logic, she was absolving herself of responsibility for doing the work that she did.

Now I often hear any number of people float such ideas as that everyone is responsible for their reality and nobody can help or injure or influence another; but what are they doing themselves? They are also trying to influence any number of others, including me. This influence can be helpful, injurious or work out in any number of possible ways. It is however very real. I am responsible for agreeing or not agreeing to the influence; but they are responsible for wielding it.

Who bears a greater share of responsibility: The Germans who chose to follow Hitler or Hitler who chose to lead them into a world war? Probably both have their share. However after the war, it was the Nazi leadership and not the people who got the axe. Since then, Germany has been quite a good country. If the people were responsible for following Hitler – and if, as many say, nobody ever changes and people who have done this that or the other can never be good – Germany would not have changed and would be as bad now as it had been during the Second World War.

Then we see people involved in social movements likewise absolving responsibility for the consequences of their actions under the banner of personal responsibility. When I told a very vicious Lesbian feminist that the horrendous behavior of Third Wave feminists resulted in a resurgence of misogyny, she claimed that that was the responsibility of the misogynists themselves. That is partly true, but what is her role? If you are imposing a social policy, you are responsible for the consequences. You teach women to be jerks, many people – both men and women – will not like it, and it will only be a matter of time before some opportunist comes along and says that misogynists had been right about women all along.

Now according to some attitudes in psychology, neurotics take responsibility for things that are not their responsibility and personality disorders do not take responsibility for things that are. The question at this point becomes, What is whose responsibility? Different countries and different systems have different views on this subject. Some think that responsibility is solely individual. Some think that responsibility is shared. Some believe in separation of roles. Most people speak in favor of responsibility; but they have different ideas as to what responsibility is.

I have found responsible people in all sorts of pursuits, from business to science and education. They were all responsible, but they had different ideas as to what responsibility is. I see room for all of their definitions.

A line that Alcoholics Anonymous has publicized is “God give me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Wisdom here is the crucial part. If you believe that the only thing that you can change is yourself, then that is not wisdom at all. People change all sorts of things, all the time, in all sorts of directions. That has always been the case; that always will be the case.

So when we see a counselor preaching responsibility while obviously not practicing it, we are seeing a lie. Whether it is a deliberate lie or a consequence of not having thought things through, neither is acceptable. If you are making a living by giving people advice, you are responsible for the consequences of the advice that you give; and blaming instead the person for taking it absolves you of the consequences of your actions. By the definition of personality disorders, such a counselor has a personality disorder. And by definition of responsibility, she is being irresponsible.

Whereas the people who think that everyone shapes their reality and that nobody can impact upon one another have obviously not studied history. Of course people can impact upon one another. Always did, always will; that's how the world works. They are themselves trying to influence me and any number of others. Which puts a lie to their claim that nobody can impact upon anyone else.

I've found useful things in just about everything I've studied, with possible exception of Islam. I however have no use for self-refuting attitudes. If you believe in responsibility, but then fail to take responsibility for the consequences of the advice that you give your clients, you are a liar. If you believe that nobody can influence another but are trying to influence me, what does that make you as well? Responsibility needs to be defined precisely and wielded rightfully. Only then can it become a real value again.


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