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Updated: Jan 17, 2021

Accountability can be a difficult thing to have. Not only is it difficult to put into action, it can be a difficult concept. We can find many areas of our lives where accountability is required and or lacking. What does it mean to be accountable? I think that everyone can agree on the basic concept and definition of accountability. It can be rare to think about accountability throughout our interactions, day to day and long term.

Accountability is being liable, responsible for fulfilling obligations, responsible for our actions, and to accept the outcome of our actions and potentially our thoughts. Being accountable for our thoughts may seem odd to comprehend. How can we be accountable for our own thoughts? Our thoughts can dictate our actions, intentionally or unintentionally. Being aware of our thoughts isn’t always easy. As a licensed therapist, I’ve had many conversations about how aware clients are of their thoughts. Our minds process things quickly, and we aren’t always aware of the internal processes. It can be surprising how our thoughts in the present moment can be missed or misinterpreted. Our thoughts can dictate our feelings, which leads to an action or behavior. To be accountable we can look at the three main defenses or deflections against accountability.

There are three main defenses or deflections against accountability: minimization, denial and blame.

  • Minimization is when you state that you had a part in something but state or express it in a manner that lessens your involvement to not be so bad. Think of a chain link fence, there is space in between, so some things can get through but there is still a barrier.

  • Denial is when you don’t acknowledge your part or flat out don’t think you are at fault. Think of this as a wall, there is a barrier between you and the situation.

  • Blame is when you deny your part and then place the blame on someone or something else. Think of this as a reinforced concrete wall with rebar throughout the wall making it very hard, or impossible to break through.

Accountability is blocked by minimization, denial, and blame. A lot of the time the block can be traced to an emotion. The most common emotion is vulnerability. Vulnerability can be difficult to deal with and accept. It's something we tend to protect. When we don’t want to be or in some cases can’t be vulnerable, our accountability is blocked. Each person can have different emotional experiences that make accountability hard to accomplish. This can come from past experiences that have conditioned us.

But if we can learn our deflections and accept our emotional responses, we can have a better chance at being accountable. Accountability is when we can acknowledge our part in situations, our thoughts, feelings and actions. Being accountable allows us to be assertive and not dismiss another person when we are communicating our needs and experiences. Minimization, denial, and blame can also make it more difficult to be accountable for our own thoughts and how we personally want to change. If we struggle with accountability, it can seem hard to make a change. Change is something that aids in our growth in many facets of our life. Change doesn’t always come easy, and frankly at times it shouldn’t be easy. This isn’t to say that if change or even accountability comes easy that you must make it more difficult. I believe the main points of being accountable is to increase our ability to be more mindful of our thoughts and actions, aids in being more assertive, and helps with having a positive outlook on life and relationships.


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