If I don’t know about it, then I don’t have to take responsibility

It is an interesting thing that happens in my work with people. Several people will all have a similar issue come up at about the same time. And, this week the thing that I heard in a few different ways, but all meaning the same, was “if I don’t know about something, then I can avoid personal responsibility.” This really brought home to me how ‘we peoples’ sometime try to avoid that which we don’t want to have to look at. I think this behavior shows up in addictive behavior, it certainly shows up in relationships, and even in our work. It is a way to prolong dealing with our personal rough spots. The illusion, maybe hope, is that just maybe the issue will just disappear if we don’t think about it.

I was shown the Iceburg Theory not to long ago. iceburg-theory What this theory says is that if you don’t like the results that you are getting, in any area, you have to follow it backwards, or down in this case, to the lowest hidden area, which is most often your thinking. Now this is in conflict when people don’t like a outcome, but they also don’t want to look at what is really happening, their reactions, their choices, etc. You can ostrich through life, but it isn’t going to help you be effective. In fact, sticking your head in the sand means your big fluffy ass is sticking up and the Lion can still see you!

One thing we need to understand, is that our beliefs and expectations are all tied up in how we think. Anything that you say to yourself or anyone else, is in fact, a thought. It can be negative or positive, but there are no times where you aren’t thinking. The key here is that many of us don’t actually pay close attention to the thoughts we are having, we just ‘go with it’ and the price of that lack of consciousness is that we are surprised by how we feel about things or how we may be acting or reacting to an event. I taught Anger Management for 7 years for the Air Force, I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I don’t know, one second I was fine, the pow! I blew up.” I am glad it doesn’t actually work like that.

From my perspective, emotions are totally connected to thinking. period. You cannot have an emotion without a thought attached to it, or a thought without an emotion getting triggered, thoughts and emotions are tied together firmly. So, an example would be for me to ask you, if you are feeling happy, what kinds of thoughts are you thinking? I feel good, this is fun, what a wonderful day, etc. On the other hand, if you are feeling depressed, what are the thoughts you are thinking? This is terrible, awful, I can’t take anymore, this is hopeless, etc. Then you have to look to see what sort of actions and behaviors are going to come out of these thoughts and emotions. I like positive emotions, don’t we all, so let’s say I am thinking I am doing a good job at work, I feel good and empowered, I like my job. I will most likely bring to my job a good attitude, I am probably on time to work, have an animated voice, laugh often, and enjoy talking about what I am doing at work. Now this is no guarantee, but I am guessing that this person who is liking there job, and feeling and thinking that they are doing good at the job, will also have the outcome of making good connections with the people they work with, will probably also be getting work done, and may have positive interactions with their supervisors or bosses.

Now for an example from the dark side… The result is that you are concerned that you may be in trouble at work. No one has said anything obvious, but you don’t feel like you are doing your best and you are concerned that your bosses are unhappy with your performance. If you adopt the attitude of “If I don’t know, then I don’t have to deal with it,” you will stop here. For those of you who do, best wishes, but this won’t change time moving forward and the issue growing.

So, to break the If I don’t know, then I don’t have to deal with it,” pattern, you are going to have to follow the iceburg model down. The observable is that maybe you have been coming in late, or there are pressures in the economy, or that there has been something that happened that has led to the outcome you have that you don’t like. What are the emotions below the surface? Fear? Anger? Resentment? The emotions could be anything, but below them are the thoughts that you are thinking… “I shouldn’t have to do… or “I have to do everything…” or “I don’t have the energy for this job,” or whatever it is. This is where you have to start addressing your thinking. Maybe you are being over-reactive and you need to calm your thoughts down, maybe you need to look at the thinking that keeps you in a job you don’t like, maybe you need to rethink what the goal you have is. But, it is in this ‘thinking level’ that you can shift a negative result into a positive one.

But, I am sure I will be having this conversation again soon.

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One thought on “If I don’t know about it, then I don’t have to take responsibility

  1. Interesting post. The Iceberg Theory is not what I thought you were going to write. It seems the Iceberg that I envisioned was the one where people only look at the top piece without looking any deeper. You are right – that won’t garner different results if you don’t follow the thoughts down to the source.

    Like

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