To truly exist mindfully, one must own their choices. Accountability is about dismissing the desire to blame everyone else for your shortcomings, but yourself. You can find many reasons to blame others for your pain and misfortune because that seems easier than holding yourself accountable. People have endless potential to cause you emotional pain that brings about mental misery, but it’s the simple deed of acknowledging that you also play a role in this pain game, that sets you free. Riddle me this, would someone betray your trust if you had not willingly given it to them? Would anyone cause you emotional misery if you had not let them in somehow? Well, I think not. So, you have a degree of involvement in all the pain and misery you experience from interpersonal relationships.
Accountability in interpersonal relationships:
It is of utter importance to be conscious through all your endeavours; be aware, both internally and externally, that way, every choice you make, you’ll hold yourself accountable for. Allow me to give you a brief historical background on how I learnt to hold myself accountable in my interpersonal relationships. At 16, I fell stupid in love with a boy who I felt loved me just as much as I loved him. At 17, he broke my trust. I’d been mentally trying to detach from him a couple of months before that, and it still stung like a bee when I found out that he kissed another girl. I was angry, cried my heart out through night prep, and when the bell rang to signal students to go to sleep, that was an opportunity to continue crying privately in between the sheets. I blamed him for the pain; of course, I did! Who else was there to blame? I took all my anger and buried it somewhere within to fuel my decision to become cynical and emotionally detached from people.
At 19 and in campus, still cynical and detached, I allowed myself to fool around casually with a boy. The occasional flirting and kissing behind closed curtains without letting things go beyond made me feel in control. At 21, our relationship graduated from clandestine flirting and kissing to casually having sex. My illusioned control, detachment, and cynicism gave me a free pass to ignore all the pain and toxicity he brought into my life. At 22, there was a transformational shift in my life. I started to develop a deeper sense of self, allowing myself to take a deeper look into who I’d become. My beliefs, way of life, platonic friendships, and sexual involvement with this boy were all brought to light and put into question. Boy, was I having a real existential crisis! I realized how deep I’d sunk into a hole full of toxins. The detachment didn’t bring me meaningful relationships, and cynicism kept my guard up; however, being good to people came naturally and got me used and trampled over just like a doormat. There was this moment where I almost lost all my peace, throwing blame on people in my mind (which was well deserved, by the way), thinking of all the ways they crossed me, used me, and how they could’ve been better for me, but that only made me angrier. That is when I started to develop the virtue of accountability in my interpersonal relationships. It was that, or I was about to lose it; I could feel my heart racing, my mind going blank, and all the bottled-up feelings erupting from within. I love my peace because I understand that without it, I truly have nothing, and so I took a moment to breathe and calm myself back down. I allowed myself to see the role I’d played that had gotten me to that moment, which prepared me for what came next.
At 23, I finally allowed myself to be vulnerable, let love in, give love and experience real intimacy. As I was still learning how to open myself up to people, trust and allow myself to be seen, I didn’t let my guard down fully but rather really slowly. I wanted to know his mind first, pick up on his energy and, bit by bit, uncover the kind of man he was. He was a patient man who understood my fear of emotional attachment, and even though he didn’t know it, he gave me the space I needed to see myself in a new light. That, I, too, deserved someone who could listen to me, care for me, share in my worries and love me despite my flaws. Having had my guard up for so long, keeping so many feelings bottled up, I must have subconsciously thought myself undeserving of love and loyalty. But there he was, altering my mindset, a step at a time getting close to my mind, my heart, and my entire being, and so I let him. He knew how to bear with me as I was crossing this new territory. He communicated effectively with me, was gentle when needed, and apologized whenever he crossed a line. Before I knew it, I was in deep, prophesying my love for him, just as he had for me. We talked about our dreams and desires, we played silly little games that helped me get in touch with my inner child, and we made plans to grow together in every possible way. I was learning how to intentionally let my guard down and share my love with everything that came along with it to a stranger I’d grown fond of. I chose to trust, grow, and experience the beautifully stained feeling of love. Did every bit of me understand how much of a risky business this could turn out to be? Yes, and yet, I was at peace with my decision being fully conscious of all its possible outcomes.
Here is the thing, when two people come together, bound by love, whether platonic or romantic, it takes a certain effort from both parties to keep that bond alive and strong. Given the roller-coaster that is life, no relationship is meant to be easy, but putting in an effort directed towards maintaining a healthy relationship is quite simple. Now in my case, ‘my love’, soon as he bagged my love, he started to slack in the effort. Figuring life out while in your 20’s is not easy for anyone (at least no one I know personally), so I empathized and hoped that while he chased a better future, he’d learn how to remember to live in the graceful present. There I was, bound by hope, present in each moment, waiting for him to see me, like I once thought he did. Yes, we made plans, but none of that made sense to me if we couldn’t be in the present together, working to grow what we had. One issue after the other half solved, a little less hope. Even with my hope for us hanging by a thread, I still managed to hope a little more, not because I’m a fool, but because he had me believing that we could get through anything together! Sweet, sweet devil, with a long silver tongue, enough to keep a woman hopeful till rendered completely hopeless. One fateful day, he made a tiny mistake that served as a much-needed trigger; something in me clicked, and all the little red flags I’d managed to shove into the dark corners of my subconscious came to light. I then summoned up the courage I needed, to free myself from ‘my love’!
It’s been almost a year since, and the detachment process, or as I like to call it, the undoing, has been awfully long. Do you know those five stages of grief? Yes, all that; except, a relationship just died, and there’s a whole lot of anger and a suspect to point fingers at. Consciousness has held me together all through, from embracing the pain to holding myself accountable. Who chose to trust? Me, who chose to give love? Me, who chose to hope, time and time again, despite being let down? Yup! I have a hunch you guessed it right.
Holding yourself accountable for your misfortune doesn’t mean erasing the fact that someone else may have played an even bigger role in causing you pain. What accountability does is help you gain a little more perspective and clarity; instead of spending your days drowning in anger, you gain peace knowing that you too played a hand at whatever mishap struck in your relationship. You could go on and on pointing fingers at the other person, and that will bear no fruit, but the finger, pointing at you, causing you to look deeper within, that’s the one that brings about healing. Acknowledge the lessons learnt and move forward gracefully. A mindful existence calls for you to look within, just as much as you look to see what’s outside of you.