A Parable on Responsibility: “The Hole”
- The Secret of Maturity, Third Edition for 99¢ will teach you how to own the power of emotional responsibility.
You are stuck in a deep dark hole.
Above you, you can see different kinds of people walking by. You shout up to them and they wave and walk by. You get angry and start to blame and damn them for your being stuck in the hole. They still just wave and walk by.
- Determined, you start to yell at them and to damn them even more virulently. Some now stop to listen.
- One agrees with you and says that he will go and write a law against people being in holes and leaves.
- Another lowers down some water and commiserates with you but does nothing to get you out.
- Still, another starts yelling along with you at others as others pass by.
- Of all the reactions you get, none helps you to get out of the hole.
You start to think that there must be something wrong with you. You now start to damn yourself for being in the hole. However, this form of damning doesn’t help you get out either. But you are at least persistent and now continue to damn those above and yourself as well. Yet, despite all your best efforts, you remain in the hole.
A wise man stops to talk.
One day an old man with a long white beard stops by your hole. Waiting for a break in your whining, he finally asks, “Can you stand to know the truth?” You reply that since you can stand being in the hole, you can stand anything. The old man replies, “Then I will tell you the only way out of your hole.”
“First, you are right to hold others as responsible for your being in the hole, though certainly not all who pass by. Others not only dug your hole for you, they also threw you in it. And far worse, they taught you to damn whoever is responsible.”
“Why shouldn’t I damn them? Why shouldn’t I complain? You even agree that they put me here to begin with!”
“Because that is the hole. It does not matter if you are damning them or yourself–that is the hole. Yes, they are responsible for digging the hole in the first place. Yes, they are responsible for throwing you in the hole in the first place. But only you are or can be responsible for your staying in the hole right now.”
“How can that be? Why don’t you just lift me out?”
“Because you would fall back in as soon as you started to damn those who threw you in the first time.”
“But if they are responsible then why shouldn’t I damn them.”
“This is the key to your getting out and staying out of the hole: responsibility does not equal or excuse damning. It doesn’t matter if you damn them or yourself–either one will recreate the hole around you!”
“It sounds like you want me to be responsible for my own problems when you admit that they did do me wrong. How can that work?”
“They are responsible for putting you there in the first place, because they raised, educated, and trained you for the hole. But only you are responsible as an adult for staying there.”
“How can I be responsible and they be responsible and no one gets any blame?”
“Responsibility and accountability are not the same as damning. Once you can see them as responsible without damning them, and yourself as responsible without damning yourself, then and only then will you live outside the hole.”
“What you say just doesn’t feel right.”
“The hole is a wonderful trap that becomes a habit, and whatever you practice a lot feels right. You are in the hole if you damn them and you are in the hole if you damn yourself. So you feel like you are trapped. But the trap is only in your mind. Separate responsibility from damning. Practice total acceptance of self and others with mistakes and wrongs.”
“I just don’t get it.”
“Let me try once more. not only did they dig your hole and throw you in your hole, they made it certain that you would never get out of your hole. They made you your own prisoner by teaching you that if you do bad you are bad, and if you are responsible for bad then you are bad. Now, you won’t face your own responsibility for staying in the hole, because that supposedly makes you bad according to your inherited logic. As a result, you now keep yourself in the hole not them—they don’t have to.”
“That just sounds like you want to blame me!”
“You just proved my point. Quite an ingenious trap isn’t it? Let your mind work on what I said. I have to go now. Good luck sorting it out.”
Moral of the Story
The moral of the story is that responsibility without damning self or others is freedom, and responsibility with self-damning or other-damning is the prison, the hole.
Problems of the Hole
- The problem is that others are responsible for leading you astray. So you feel self-righteous and damn them. And so dig the hole for yourself. The problem is also that you think you are responsible because you must be stupid, defective, or somehow inferior
- Again, you dig the hole by damning. The problem is also that since responsibility equals damning for you, you cannot face your responsibility to dig yourself out of the hole, because it is too painful, it is only more of the hole for you.
- The problem is that no matter which way you turn the issue of responsibility, it will only lead to the hole of damning for you. The problem is that you would rather damn them than damn yourself because for you it is either-or: someone must be damned so it might as well be them.
- The problem is damning will never be peace, love, understanding, forgiveness, happiness, freedom, play, creativity, joy, discovery, flow, or fun. The problem is you must be responsible for your responses, and you cannot be because you are damned if you are and damned if you aren’t.
Trap of Traps
The worst trap of this trap is that you now want to dig holes for others as your way of getting out of your hole! You have become them! They trained you well.
“No one can rescue you but you.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice
Quotations from Various Sources
“A baby expects to be soothed, but a mature adult soothes themselves.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice
“A man’s as miserable as he thinks he is.” —Marcus Seneca
“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” —Francis Bacon
“Adults are expert at self-disturbance and inept at self-soothing.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice
“Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?” —Anonymous
“But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” —Galatians 6:4
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” —Mark Twain
“Either do not attempt at all, or go through with it.” —Ovid
“God has entrusted me with myself.” —Epictetus
“Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.” —Samuel Johnson
“If pleasure first, then pain second.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice
“If we have not peace within ourselves, it is in vain to seek it from outward sources.” —Francois de La Rochefoucauld
“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” —Agnes Repplier
“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” —Anonymous
“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” —Jean-Paul Sartre, 1905-1980
“No one has ever gotten to anyone.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice
“Nothing stops the man who desires to achieve. Every obstacle is simply a course to develop his achievement muscle. It’s a strengthening of his powers of accomplishment.” —Eric Butterworth
“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” —Michael Jordan
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” —Anonymous
“Teaching the principle of emotional responsibility can be one of the hardest tasks in REBT as clients may have habitually blamed others for their problems and now the therapist is pointing to the true source of their emotional problems–themselves.” —Michael Neenan and Windy Dryden, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: Advances in Theory and Practice, p. 43
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” —Scott Hamilton
“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” —Joan Didion
“There is no man so low that the cure for his condition does not lie strictly within himself.” —Thomas L. Masson
“Whatever may be, I am still largely the creator and ruler of my emotional destiny.” —Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper, A Guide to Rational Living, Third Edition, p. 252
“While they were saying among themselves it cannot be done, it was done.” —Helen Keller
“Why is it that people are willing to take responsibility for their happiness or mild sadness but not their severe disturbance or great unhappiness?–why ego of course!” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice