Personal accountability for what we are feeling unlocks a door to healing and wellbeing. This practice is important because it unveils our pent-up trauma and wounding. Until we do this, our suffering cannot be directly accessed, released and healed.
I like Paul Ferrini’s definition of personal boundaries:
“Everything I think, feel, say or do belongs to me. I am responsible for all of it.”
Now, with this understanding of personal boundaries, we can define projection this way:
“Projection” is making someone else responsible for what I’m feeling, thinking, saying, doing or experiencing.
Generally, when we don't accept personal accountability for our feelings we judge others for doing things that we felt shame for doing in our past.
We project our feelings of shame onto the other person and try to identify THEM as “bad” or “wrong” in a futile attempt to shield ourselves from our own shame and pain.
Another way we commonly project is to mistakenly believe that another person is the source of love and wellbeing for us, not taking personal accountability for our own connection with the Source of wellbeing.
This happens quite frequently in the “honeymoon” phase of a romantic relationship. We meet someone who “sees” us and they shine their attention on us and it feels great! We feel special and desirable.
This can produce a “high” like no other drug on earth. However, what goes up eventually comes down. Another person can’t keep that kind of attention going for us 24/7 and then we feel withdrawal from the drug when they withdraw it.
The only way we can receive ongoing, deep and true love is to take personal accountability for our own connection to Source, our root of happiness. And the only place we can connect with Source is within our own being. Once we do that we feel and see It reflected everywhere and in everyone, whether someone else is directing attention toward us or not.
If I don't accept personal accountability for my own feelings and project them onto you, I deny myself access to a precious opportunity for healing my own unconscious wounds that are covered up by the projection.
You may have TRIGGERED an emotional response from me, but I am responsible for owning and healing the place in me that was triggered by what you said or did.
So, personal accountability sounds pretty clear and straightforward, right? It is, until we are triggered. Then, when our hurts and wounds are running the show it is really easy to lose sight of this and blame another person for what we feel.
When we decline personal accountability and project, we not only miss an opportunity for our own healing, but we wreak all kinds of havoc with our relationships.
How Do We Project?
We give up personal accountability and play the blame game of projection in very creative ways, by:
Sound familiar? Don’t feel bad if it does! We all unconsciously give up personal accountability and practice various forms of projection at one time or another. The only way to stop doing it is to bring awareness and love to our inner wounds.
“Understanding how you project can be very helpful, if you have the courage to look at it. But all forms of projection can be boiled down to one simple message: ‘It’s not about me. It’s about you.’ That’s the content. I am refusing to look at my stuff and trying to hand it to you.”
If we decline to follow the ingrained blame game habit to fix, judge, blame or attack someone else and consciously take personal accountability for what we're experiencing, it brings our energy back to ourselves, where we most need it. This is very important to us for a number of reasons.
Not taking individual responsibility for our feelings and denying them by projecting them out onto others:
“You are always living a reflection of whatever you are outputting. And so, if you get into a little pocket where a lot of people are being rude, it's probably because you are being rude – or because you have been aware of people being rude. Nothing ever happens to you that is not part of your vibration! ”
When we are emotionally triggered and we take personal accountability and stay with the feelings rather than projecting them out, we immediately feel emotional heat, burning, and discomfort. The more intense the knee jerk reaction is to attack or change the other person, the more intense is the pain around the emotional wound we’ve learned to deny. Likewise, the more intense the burning feeling will be.
As you practice personal accountability for what you are experiencing, you may feel a tremendous force trying to pull you into the old conditioning. But when our desire to heal is strong, it motivates us to start experimenting with ways to heal the pain.
When we don’t project this pain outwardly, a window into the pain opens and we feel it in a way we haven’t felt since the original wounding. It is the undenied, unveiled energy itself. This is an awesome place we now stand in. From here, we now have the POWER to heal and release this energy.
If we call in love from Source / God (whatever name you know it by) – and stay with this part of ourselves in the same tender way that we would be with a small child who is hurting, the pain will unwind and release on its own. This is absolutely magical! More about this in the steps below.
Because of things that happened when we were children, many of us carry the unconscious (or semi-conscious) belief that we are victims of life, people and circumstances.
Along with this is the belief (again, usually unconscious or semi-conscious) that we deserved to be treated poorly and still do because we are bad, flawed and unlovable. We may have a subconscious belief that things will never get better because WE will never get better.
It is very helpful to remember this fact:
All of our thoughts of unworthiness come from the fact that we believed a story about ourselves that simply was not true. I encourage you to look at that belief and realize that it actually has nothing to do with who you actually are.
For example, like many of us, a child I experienced a steady stream of negative feedback and shaming from extremely wounded parents. They projected out their feelings of worthlessness. Like all small children, I wasn’t mature enough to see the truth – that their perceptions of me had nothing to do with the truth. I wasn’t stupid, ugly, clutzy or unimportant. They felt that way about themselves, so that was the lens they viewed me and my brothers through.
“Don’t try to love other people before you learn to love yourself. You won’t be able to do it. When someone comes into your life who pushes all your buttons, don’t try to love that person. Just don’t blame him or make him an enemy. Simply acknowledge that he pushes your buttons and ask for time to be with your feelings.”
In practicing personal accountability and feeling my feelings, I've realized that as a child I made a CHOICE to interpret the way that I was treated to mean that I was being punished because I was bad, ugly, stupid and unlovable. It was the best my infant mind could do with the facts at hand.
Had I been an adult when those things happened I would have had the maturity and discernment to see that my caregivers were speaking and acting out of their own wounds and their response to me had nothing to do with me. I made the best choice of interpretation I had at the time with the limited amount of maturity I had at the time.
This is true for all of us. As children we are like psychic sponges, soaking up everything around us as “reality.” We didn’t know anything different of the world other than what the people around us reflected to us, either directly or indirectly. We held beliefs about ourselves based on the ways our caregivers responded to us, no matter how dysfunctional they were.
The important thing is to see that CHOICE is the place of power. I chose to see it that way then. I can NOW choose to see the truth and unwind the story of being an unlovable victim. Now YOU have the power to see it differently also.
You can take back your power by taking personal accountability for any feelings that get triggered for you now. When we take responsibility for our choice of believing negative feedback we may have received as a child, this releases us from the trap of victimhood.
When you were a child you were perfectly lovable just as you were. And, you are totally lovable just as you are now. Your perception of yourself is based entirely on whatever self-concept you invest with the power of your belief. No self-concept is actually who you are. You are pure Spirit, imagining you are a self-concept.
As we accept personal accountability for our feelings, at some point we all come to a place where we love ourselves enough to see the truth of this. Once you “get” this and see you are not a victim, you still have to care about yourself enough to do the work it takes to keep reminding yourself of this truth and to keep affirming the reality of your equality with all other human beings.
I highly recommend getting support for practicing personal accountability for your healing, whether it is in a 12 Step Group, your church, with a supportive friend, a therapist, pastor, and etc. I also offer WellBeing Alignment Sessions for healing support.
It is important to have others around you who can reflect and affirm your own beauty back to you without judging you.
Remember the previous description of personal boundaries: I am responsible for my thoughts, feelings, words, and actions, and you are responsible for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.
When we’re triggered by an experience with another person, our healing and wellbeing don’t lie in processing with the other person about their behavior and our reaction to it. Whatever we’re feeling is our individual responsibility.
We must accept personal accountability for all of it. This is a powerful truth to let in and work with – one that stretches me and teaches me on a daily basis. This could quite possibly be a lifelong learning for us all.
When your emotional pain is triggered by someone else, what would be most valuable to you is to FIRST be with yourself, make space within for what you are feeling and start the emotional healing process for personal accountability outlined below.
In order to do that we must decline to play the blame game with the other person. Their personal work is their responsibility and our personal work is ours.
Once we’ve committed to personal accountability and gotten in touch with our fear and etc. (see below) that caused our trigger, THEN we can talk with the other person with a better chance of being in our power and taking care of ourselves, as well as not projecting and blaming them.
This keeps us from forming another energetic layer of hurt within our own psyche or within the combined energy field of the relationship.
As we practice personal accountability for our own feelings and healing, we discover that we love others exactly the way we love ourselves.
If I’m judging, blaming and attacking you, it is because I’m judging, blaming and attacking myself. If I’m struggling to love you, then I’m having a hard time loving the part of me that you reflect to me.
Furthermore, if I’m judging and blaming myself, I’m also doing that to God / Source. No matter who it looks like we’re “relating” with – an “other” person, ourselves, or Source – all of it is Us being reflected back to Us, mirroring to us how we feel about and treat ourselves.
The purpose of “relationships” is to show us where we need to heal and bring love to ourselves. Basically, we all live in a world of mirrors!
The following is a demonstration of projection in action. The more aware of it we are, the closer we are to personal accountability for our own emotional healing.
Let’s say that Barbara tends to be compulsively early for her appointments. She has a dinner date with Fred, who is compulsively late. I’m sure you can see where this is going already! :-)
The date was set for 7:30 pm. Barbara arrives at 7:15 and settles herself in at the restaurant. As the time creeps along to 7:30, then 7:45, then 8 pm (Where IS he?) she is agitated (and hungry!).
By the time Fred finally arrives at 8:20, Barbara has a tangle of judgments about him writhing inside her. When it was 7:45 she had planned to stuff her irritation/anger and put a smile on her face when he arrived. After all, she LIKES Fred and was looking forward to getting to know him more.
But by the time Fred arrives at 8:20, her core wound of not being important is too deeply triggered to suppress it anymore. She is no longer a 35-year-old adult. She is a 4-year-old girl who was ignored by her parents and never fully seen or appreciated.
As soon as Fred sits down and tries to explain why he is late, Barbara lashes out at him, telling him he is inconsiderate and disorganized. Her hurt has been quickly (and unconsciously) covered up with anger and self-defensiveness, because she sincerely feels that Fred “did” something to her.
At this point Barbara is too agitated to be able to listen to Fred’s explanation or accept personal accountability for her own feelings. She grabs her purse and storms out of the restaurant. Now, on top of the massive amount of “not good enough” hurt she was already carrying in her core wound, she is adding another layer of self-judgment that we naturally feel when we've not taken personal accountability for our own experience.
She is confused by the intensity of her own response. She vacillates between judging Fred and judging herself. Neither one feels good but she doesn’t know how to stop her thoughts spinning in negative directions. She doesn’t know what to do or where to turn. She feels powerless, vulnerable and small.
In this example, what is needed is for Barbara to bring awareness to the act of projection and to take individual responsibility for the shame and powerlessness she is feeling. Then the next step is to bring love to her inner hurt that was masked by projecting it onto Fred.
She also needs to bring love to herself, and to understand, accept and bring compassion to her wounded aspect that reacted in the situation with Fred. She needs to see and accept that with a hurt that big inside, it was bound to come out in whatever way it could.
As Barbara accepts personal accountability for her own feelings, unconditional love will unwind the wound. As she stays with the process described below, she will see that she was NOT a victim in this situation. That realization will bring her back into her personal power.
She will see that she had choices. For instance, she could have left the restaurant at any point along the way in order to honor and take care of herself. Once she goes through the personal accountability process below she’ll be able to call Fred, be honest with him and apologize to him for attacking him. She’ll be able to do this without making either herself or Fred “bad” or “wrong.”
The following information is based on my experience and realizations from studying Paul Ferrini’s personal accountability guidelines, particularly the books The Power of Love, chapters 2 and 3, and Love Without Conditions.
We’ll continue using the scenario with Barbara and Fred as an example.
“Be present as the watcher of your mind – of your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations. Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that causes you to react. Notice also how often your attention is in the past or future. Don't judge or analyze what you observe. Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction. Don't make a personal problem out of them. You will then feel something more powerful than any of those things that you observe: the still, observing presence itself behind the content of your mind, the silent watcher.”
Ask yourself …
As you begin this personal accountability process, don’t censor yourself by trying to be “nice.” Be honest with how you see this person, even if you know it is an exaggeration. Give permission for all of it to come out, without stifling yourself …
We ALL have judgments about each other, either positive or negative. I don’t know if it is humanly possible to make them go away entirely since all judgments about other people are judgments about ourselves in areas where we were shamed as children. In our humanness, we are all “works in progress.”
We need to practice forgiving ourselves as well as each other, which ends up being the same thing.
In learning personal accountability, our goal at this point is not to remove judgments. We won’t be able to until we do the healing work inside ourselves that they cover up. Our goal is just to bring awareness to our judgments and projections. That in itself begins the healing process.
When you see that you have a judgment, don’t make yourself wrong for having them. If you’re breathing, you have judgments. Bring love to this hurt part of you that is doing the judging.
If 5 other people went through the same exact experience as Barbara in the example above, they would have all had a different experience. One person might not have been annoyed at all and would have kept themselves occupied talking with the waiters and not even noticed the time.
Another would have judged him in a positive light as a busy man and would praise him for “going with the flow.” The other three would have their own unique perspective of their experience, depending on their own particular wounding and conscious or unconscious expectations. None of these would be the “truth.” They are simply viewpoints or perspectives.
We tend to see what we want to see, which is usually what we are ready to see, based on our own wounding and what we carry in our energy field that colors the lens we see things through.
You might be wondering …
Okay, here’s where it gets really interesting. Sincerely wanting to heal this hurt part of herself and take personal accountability for her feelings, Barbara asks inside:
Slowly and gently, Barbara asks these questions inside. An answer begins to come in images and feelings. She feels a tense, tight place in her chest.
She sees herself as a little girl in school, desperate to get all her schoolwork finished. No, not just finished. Finished to PERFECTION. And why? Because the only place she received positive, sincere feedback about herself in her young life was from a few teachers she had along the way.
Those gifts of love and attention they gave her created a willingness to do ANYTHING to earn more of that kind of loving attention. They were oases of love within an otherwise painful and scary life.
Barbara sees how she got into the habit of trying to do everything perfectly in the hopes that her family would somehow notice and that she could earn their love too.
As a child Barbara was also terrified of getting hit if she didn’t do things “right.” Sometimes when she was at home a hand would seem to come out of nowhere and she would get slapped.
Young Barbara kept trying harder in the hopes that she could one day be “perfect” enough to earn love, even though the abuse still continued when she was doing everything she could to do things “right.” She began to judge herself whenever something wasn’t done perfectly and then she’d scramble to “fix” it so that it was.
As adult Barbara takes personal accountability for her feelings and goes inside herself by asking questions, she finds a tense and terrified little girl who is desperate to do everything “perfectly” because she is starving for the love and positive affirmation she didn’t get as a child.
As she opens her awareness to this shamed and wounded aspect of herself, Barbara feels the tense place in her heart begin to ease up. She feels a warm flow of love for this little girl who has lived inside her with her pain for so long.
“If you find yourself condemning your brother, you can be sure it is not him you condemn. It is some shamed part of yourself you have not acknowledged. Perceiving inadequacy in your brother cannot make you feel better, for it merely aggravates your own sense of unworthiness.”
Barbara becomes aware that not only does she judge herself for not being perfect, she also judges other people whose actions don’t fit her picture of perfect behavior, like Fred.
Continuing to take personal accountability, she also realizes that whenever she feels “not considered” she feels disrespected and not important. As she keeps her awareness focused inward, she once again feels a tightness in her chest, this time on the right side of her heart.
A whole kaleidoscope of images and feelings arise – painful snapshots of experiences with her family where she felt unimportant, not heard or truly seen, disrespected, and unacceptable as she was.
Since Barbara carried this energy of feeling unimportant within her energy field, she attracted situations that reflected that dynamic, like the restaurant scene with Fred. By the Law of Attraction, it couldn’t be any other way.
Barbara also sees that sometimes she treats other people as unimportant unless they are making HER feel important in some way. Whew! Hard to look at, but there it is. Then, because Barbara judges this as “imperfect” behavior, she judges herself for treating others as unimportant.
See how this works? Barbara’s experience with Fred was extremely painful for her because it triggered several layers of her own pain that existed long before Fred ever came into the picture.
Like I said before, we are all actually living in a world of mirrors! It is a very powerful process to bring awareness to this and begin taking responsibility for healing our part in it. Sometimes this process can be really uncomfortable, to say the least!
However, it is nowhere near as painful as continuing the old habits and layering more hurt and shame within ourselves as well as attracting and perpetuating painful relationships. Finally facing the pain of the wound is the only way to heal the blame game.
To repeat, negative perceptions and beliefs about ourselves as young children were born from the energy of our primary caregivers’ unhealed wounds that were projected onto us. For a lot of us, much of the feedback we received about ourselves was negative, shaming and simply not true.
Even if you feel you had a great childhood and don’t remember any trauma, chances are you still took on some negative ideas about yourself from childhood.
And remember, at the time we were too young to discriminate between what was true and what wasn’t and so we BELIEVED this negative self-image was real! The truth was / is: We were never bad or wrong.
As we practice personal accountability we discover that projection is a mechanism of denial. It keeps us focusing outward in an unconscious attempt to avoid feeling the intensity of our own inner shame and wounding. To own our projections and heal the wounds beneath them, we have to be willing to acknowledge and be with our fear.
“All judgment reveals itself to be self-judgment in the end, and when this is understood a larger comprehension of the nature of life takes its place.”
Although we’re usually conditioned to think of fear as a “thing” that we must find a way to get rid of, actually it isn’t a “thing” at all. It is the ABSENCE of something. Fear is the absence of love. Fear is a flag being raised inside to tell us, “Hey! We need to bring some love over here, and right NOW!”
In order to bring love to our fear, we need to first uncover it and allow it to be here fully.
After doing the previous steps for personal accountability, we now know the specific ways we are judging the other person. Now we can turn that around and use it as a tool to help us get in touch with our core wound.
To find the fear beneath the projection, here are some questions you can ask inside:
As Barbara practices personal accountability and asks the questions above, once again she feels a tightness in her chest and a panic so intense that she feels she is about to die. When she asks “What am I afraid of?” She FEELS the terror of being hit and then left alone if she makes a mistake.
Then looking even deeper, she feels that if she doesn’t find a way to be perfect she will be unlovable because she’ll be “bad” at the core. This keeps her frantically trying to constantly do everything “right.”
She also fears she doesn’t really know how to truly love other people, which, she fears will also insure that no one will love her.
Okay, now we’re at the core of the wound. We are now at the place of the vulnerable, tender, unveiled truth. We are at the heart of the wounded being inside. This hurt and terrified little being is the one who is at the root of what has been going on, which means we are now at the place of empowerment and healing.
At this level we are no longer dealing with the symptoms or effects of the issue. Instead, we are present at the level of CAUSE. Now we are ready to bring love to this part of ourselves. See Step 7 below.
When we stop being afraid of our fear, when we turn into it and not away from it, we begin to get comfortable with it. As we get more comfortable with it, we accept and love ourselves more. Fear then loses its power over us. We begin to see that we can still function well in our lives, even with fear as an occasional companion.
In my own personal work and as I work with people doing Wellbeing Alignment Sessions, I often see this aspect as a young, overwhelmed, hurt, shocked, bewildered and terrorized child who feels alone, abandoned, unimportant, unloved and has given up hope of ever being truly seen and loved. I think we all have some version of this little being inside us. This is the core wound. Sometimes the fear around this wound is very intense.
Remember, fear is the absence of love. What do all children need to learn about themselves in order to be equipped for a healthy, happy life? They need to know that they are important, valuable, perfect and powerful. They need to know they are loved exactly as they are.
No matter how old you are, it’s not too late to take personal accountability and give this love to yourself now. The young you still lives inside you. This young being needs to hear from YOU that s/he is loved, and for many of us, s/he needs to hear it often, daily.
Because many of us didn’t receive loving feedback about ourselves as children, we have felt dis-empowered, hurt, and angry, usually without even knowing why. It’s time to bring love and forgiveness to this wounded child within you. It’s time to tell her/him the truth.
I see you as you are.
I love you as you are.
You are not bad. You’ve done nothing wrong.
I’m here with you.
You can be as you are. You are beautiful as you are. EXACTLY as you are.
It is safe to feel everything that you’re feeling.
I see you and I understand now. All of your feelings are here for a reason. You’re not wrong for having them.
You’ve been hurt. I see that now. I’m staying here with you, loving you.
Sometimes clients tell me they fear this will feed the ego and many of us have had spiritual programming that makes us wary of that. My experience of the “ego” is that it is just the part of us that feels unloved and separate.
By taking personal accountability and finally going to this abandoned part of yourself and bringing love to it, you create a unity/harmony in the psyche. It allows our spiritual and human aspects to work together in a beautiful, flowing dance.
This step produces a magical healing alchemy when the wound and love are brought together at the same time and the wound releases. All we must do is to look at this part of ourselves through the eyes of compassion. We begin to see this little one inside of us and respond the way we would naturally respond if we saw any child in pain – we’d bring love to him/her.
Not only must we bring our personal love to this wound, we must also align ourselves with and call in the healing Love in the Universe, God, Source, or whatever name you know it by. Even if you don’t feel a conscious connection with this Source of Love, it is still here. You can use the word “Love.”
This love is already here for us, but calling it in opens up our awareness of it. In this way we bring the truth (that we are not alone and that we are deeply loved in every cell of our being) to the untruth (that we are “bad,” separate from love and unlovable.)
It is only love that can heal our wounds. Calling it in and aligning ourselves with it brings about the change in perspective that is required for full and permanent healing.
Having accepted personal accountability for her feelings, now Barbara is aware of this hurt little being inside her. Now she can gently talk to her and tell her the truth:
“Tell everyone you know: ‘My happiness depends on me, so you’re off the hook.’ And then demonstrate it. Be happy, no matter what they’re doing. Practice feeling good, no matter what. And before you know it, you will not give anyone else responsibility for the way you feel – and then, you’ll love them all. Because the only reason you don’t love them, is because you’re using them as your excuse to not feel good. ”
To fully accept personal accountability for your healing, this step helps clean up the energy between you and the other person, so that neither of you are stuck in a polarity. It begins the forgiveness process. The best teaching I know for that is A Course In Miracles.
Remember that by practicing personal accountability for what you’re feeling and bowing out of the blame game, you’re undoing a lifetime of conditioning, maybe several lifetimes. You’ll make mistakes. We all do.
I see accepting personal accountability for our feelings and our healing as a lifelong learning. When you get pulled in by your triggers or your judgments, forgive yourself. Make amends to the other person as needed.
Call in the love and support from Source and align yourself with it. At first, just becoming AWARE of when you are blaming or projecting is a HUGE step. Eventually you’ll catch it sooner and be able to bring love and emotional healing to yourself right away. If not, forgive yourself again…
As we practice personal accountability and commit to ending the blame game, we begin to …
Although the practice of personal accountability can be extremely uncomfortable at times, it is far more comfortable than continuing to suppress our emotional wounds and enduring the havoc that creates in our lives. We simply cannot heal ourselves until we take individual responsibility.
More Support Available
The Neutral Observer Meditation can help you in allowing all negative feelings to arise, and observing them from the vantage point of yourSelf as Spirit. This allows all negative feelings to release.
These pages are helpful also:
You might also be interested in a WellBeing Alignment Session where you are guided and supported in discovering and resting in Awareness, and letting all suffering unwind on its own.