Good Boundaries, Healthy Relationships, and Terrorists
One of the greatest signs of an unhealthy relationship is when one person takes on the responsibility for the bad conduct and strong emotions of the other.
This is common in unhealthy relationships, by the way. An abused wife often finds herself in a constant frenzy in an effort to fix the relationship. If only she would have made dinner in time, he wouldn’t have beaten her; if only she had not looked at that man in the check out counter too long, her husband wouldn’t have screamed at her; if only she had met him at the door in time, he wouldn’t have needed to cheat on her.
The child of parents getting a divorce will take on the pain and resentments and the responsibility of the parent’s errors. Family members with personality disorders often inspire a “walk on eggshells” feel for everyone around them. The parents of an out-of-control teen will start trying to figure out the perfect thing to say or do to solve all the family’s problems.
Of course, healthy people analyze their own part in a relationship to figure out what needs to change… Certainly in any relationship, there are aspects of it that are not perfect and within that, there are always things that one person or the other can work on.
However, it is an axiom that one can only be responsible for what one is responsible for! The behaviors and emotions of others cannot be fundamentally my responsibility. There is a phrase used to describe when someone (aside from guardianss of young children) tries to feel responsible for what others feel or do:
Codependent crazy-making and dysfunctionally unhealthy… it is a quick path to an identity dis-integrated into reactionary meaninglessness that accomplishes nothing across time.
This concept is true on the small scale – like a romantic relationship, parent of adult children, etc.
I believe it is also true at the large scale.
If America does something wrong – it is wrong.
It doesn’t suddenly become wrong when we are attacked… and being attacked doesn’t make us somehow wrong. Even others believing we are wrong also doesn’t make us wrong, necessarily.
As a therapist, I was disconcerted to watch us scramble to try to figure out what we did wrong that drew the attack on our embassy in Libya.
We certainly might have done wrong things – we do all the time – but it is unhealthy at every level to accept any blame for the abusive behavior of others.
I don’t want to see us take on the role of the abused wife in the world in relationship to terrorism.
Of course, like any healthy entity, we must constantly be evaluating ourselves and improving who we are. However, we also must work hard to avoid taking responsibility for the wrong of others.
I want my leaders to understand this concept.