The Delusion ‘I Am Not Responsible’

Head in the sand

Robert J. Burrowes

One of the many interesting details to be learned by understanding human psychology is how a person’s unconscious fear works in a myriad of ways to make them believe that they bear no responsibility for a particular problem.

This psychological dysfunctionality cripples a substantial portion of the human population in ways that work against the possibility of achieving worthwhile outcomes for themselves, other individuals, communities and the world as a whole. In an era when human extinction is now a likely near-term outcome of this dysfunctionality, it is obviously particularly problematic. So why does this happen and how does it manifest?

In essence, if a person is frightened by the circumstances of others or a particular set of events, their fear will often unconsciously delude them into believing and behaving as if they bear no responsibility for playing a part in addressing the problem. This fear works particularly easily when the person or people concerned live at considerable social and/or geographic distance or when the events occur in another place. But it can also work with someone who is socially or geographically close, or with an event that occurs nearby. Let me illustrate this common behaviour with several examples which might stimulate your awareness of having witnessed it too.

I first became seriously interested in this phenomenon after hearing someone, who had just returned from India, describe the many street beggars in India as ‘living a subsistence lifestyle’. As I listened to this individual, I could immediately perceive that they were very frightened by their experience but in a way that made them not want to help. Given that this individual has considerable wealth, it was immediately apparent to me that the individual was attempting to conceal from themselves their unconscious guilt (about their own wealth and how this was acquired) but I could perceive an element of anger in their response as well. This anger was obviously shaping the way in which street beggars were perceived so that there was no apparent need to do anything. So what was the unconscious anger about? Most probably about not getting help themselves when they needed it as a child.

A widespread version of this particular fear and the delusion that arises from it, is the belief that it is the direct outcome of the decisions of others that make them responsible for the circumstances in which they find themselves. Obviously, this belief is widespread among those who refuse to take structural violence, such as the exploitative way in which the global economy functions, into account. If the victim can be blamed for their circumstances then ‘I am not responsible’ in any way. Men who like to blame women who have been sexually assaulted for their ‘provocative dress’ are also exhibiting this fear and its attendant delusional behaviour.

But perhaps the most obvious manifestation of evading responsibility occurs when instead of doing what they can to assist someone in need, a person laments ‘not being able’ to do something more significant. And by doing this, their fear enables them to conceal that they might, in fact, have done something that would have helped. This often happens, for example, when someone is too scared to offer help because it might require the agreement of someone else (such as a spouse) who (unconsciously) frightens them. But there are other reasons why their fear might generate this behaviour as well.

Another common way of evading taking responsibility (while, in this case, deluding yourself that you are not) is to offer someone who needs help something that they do not need and then, when they refuse it, to interpret this as ‘confirmation’ that they do not need your help.

A variation of this behaviour is to dispose of something that you do not want and to delude yourself that you are, in fact, ‘helping’. I first became fully aware of this version of evading responsibility (and assuaging guilt) when I was working in a refugee camp in the Sudan at the height of the Ethiopian war and famine in 1985. Companies all over the world were ‘giving’ away unwanted stock of unsaleable goods (presumably for a tax benefit) to aid agencies who were then trying to find ways to use it. And not always successfully. I will never forget seeing the Wad Kowli Refugee Camp for the first time with its wonderfully useless lightweight and colourful overnight bushwalking tents instead of the large, heavy duty canvas tents normally used in such difficult circumstances. Better than nothing you might say. For a week, perhaps, but only barely in 55 degrees Celsius.

Another popular way of evading responsibility is to delude yourself about the precise circumstances in which someone finds themselves. For example, if your fear makes you focus your attention on an irrelevant detail, such as the pleasantness of your memory of a town as a tourist destination, rather than the fact that someone who lives there is homeless, then it is easy to delude yourself that their life must be okay and to behave in accordance with your delusion rather than the reality of the other person’s life.

One way that some people evade responsibility is to delude themselves that a person who needs help is ‘not contributing’ while also deluding themselves about the importance of their own efforts. This is just one of many delusions that wealthy people often have to self-justify their wealth while many people who work extremely hard are paid a pittance (or nothing) for their time, expertise and labour.

Variations of another delusion include ‘I can only give what I have got’ and ‘I can’t afford it’ (but you might know of others), which exposes the fear that makes a person believe that they have very little irrespective of their (sometimes considerable) material wealth. This fear/delusion combination arises because, in the emotional sense, the person probably does have ‘very little’. If a person is denied their emotional needs as a child, they will often learn to regard material possessions as the only measure of value in the quality of their life. And because material possessions can never replace an emotional need, no amount of material wealth can ever feel as if it is ‘enough’. For a fuller explanation of this point, see ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’.

If someone is too scared to accept any responsibility for helping despite the sometimes obvious distress of a person in need, they might even ask for reassurance, for example by asking ‘Are you okay?’ But the question is meaningless and asked in such a way that the person in need might even know that no help will be forthcoming. They might even offer the reassurance sought despite having to lie to do so.

A common way in which some people, particularly academics, evade responsibility is to offer an explanation and/or theory about a social problem but then take no action to change things themselves.

Another widespread way of evading responsibility, especially among what I call ‘the love and light brigade’, is to focus attention on ‘positives’ (the ‘good’ news) rather than truthfully presenting information about the state of our world and then inviting powerful responses to that truth. Deluding ourselves that we can avoid dealing with reality, much of which happens to be extremely unpleasant and ugly, is a frightened and powerless way of approaching the world. But it is very common.

Many people evade responsibility, of course, simply by believing and acting as if someone else, perhaps even ‘the government’, is ‘properly’ responsible.

Undoubtedly, however, the most widespread ways of evading responsibility are to deny any responsibility for military violence while paying the taxes to finance it, denying any responsibility for adverse environmental and climate impacts while making no effort to reduce consumption, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of other people while buying the cheap products produced by their exploited (and sometimes slave) labour, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of animals despite eating and/or otherwise consuming a range of animal products, and denying any part in inflicting violence, especially on children, without understanding the many forms this violence can take. See ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.

Ultimately, of course, we evade responsibility by ignoring the existence of a problem.

Despite everything presented above, it should not be interpreted to mean that we should all take responsibility for everything that is wrong with the world. There is, obviously, a great deal wrong and the most committed person cannot do something about all of it. However, we can make powerful choices, based on an assessment of the range of problems that interest us, to intervene in ways large or small to make a difference. This is vastly better than fearfully deluding ourselves and/or making token gestures.

Moreover, powerful choices are vital in this world. We face a vast array of violent challenges, some of which threaten near-term human extinction. In this context, it is unwise to leave responsibility for getting us out of this mess to others, and particularly those insane elites whose political agents (who many still naively believe that we ‘elect’) so demonstrably fail to meaningfully address any of our major social, political, economic and environmental problems.

If you are interested in gaining greater insight into violent and dysfunctional human behaviour, and what you can do about it, you might like to read ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’ mentioned above.

And if you are inclined to declare your own willingness to accept some responsibility for addressing these violent and dysfunctional behaviours, you might like to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ and to join those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’.

You might have had a good laugh at some of the examples above. The real challenge is to ask yourself this question: where do I evade responsibility? And to then ponder how you will take responsibility in future.

Biodata: Robert has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is and his website is here.

  • qbert

    So, this entire article is the author’s own personal opinion and supposition based on his own limited perspective with no actual evidence to prove its validity. I have an opinion too! My opinion is we are responsible for ourselves and are severely limited in our personal abilities to change our world’s ‘problems’ due to our limited resources of finance, physical ability, and knowledge. It would take a large scale group effort and the intervention of God himself to ‘fix’ our humanity’s woes. Humans are vicious at the core, and we learn to limit our innate hostilities to further our personal survival, as other humans pose a legitimate threat to our existence. We, as a species, are prone to individualism, not working together for the good of everyone. Observation of human behavior teaches that we help others so long as it benefits us personally in some fashion and does not deplete our own personal stability.
    There! Publish my opinion! :)

    • Dimitri Ledkovsky

      In other words “Love thy neighbor as thy self”.

  • SanityClaus

    Psychology is bullshit not science. Psychologists are whores that have a license to support the mafia calling itself the pentagon and national guard who have overthrown our civilian authority. Sigmund Freud was a drug addict not a scientist. Science requires evidence and experimental results that can be reproduced upon DEMAND.
    I am not responsible for the Pentagon pledging permanent military service to the British Crown/N.A.T.O.. I AM NOT A TRAITOR TO THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION OF 1776. I am not responsible for fake elections where the democrats and republicans pay for their private political party’s private primary elections using the state public treasury. I am not responsible for murdering millions of people in far off foreign lands who never attacked my country. I am not a member of the National Guard which now acts as an INTERNATIONAL vassal to the British Crown/N.A.T.O. . I am not responsible for what traitors and murderers do while waving an American flag and demanding gratitude for their lying, theft, rape murder and treason.
    Subconcious motivation is bullshit.

    • Dimitri Ledkovsky

      Is this in reference to your subconscious motivation?

  • RenegadeProphet

    A nations people are responsible for the actions of their government.

    The entire government are evil treasonous criminals. The day of the next false flag using the nuke they stole in 2007 and blamed on Iran, America will be destroyed by Russia, China and the SCO. This is the war of Armageddon and you can know it is now because of Planet X and the toxic chemtrails that hide it every day. Planet X will end the war when it rips the earth apart again but 90% of Americans will be dead already. All planned by your evil government.

  • y3shuA imMANu3l


    • TheAdmonisher


    • Vambo


    • miro

      #34 fair lady works the shuttle.

  • miro

    Psycho babble from a glow in the dark narcissist. That’s what happens when you boil your smug sense of self-satisfaction in 55 degree (131F) sunshine. Good thing he’s such a fearless warrior.

    For my part, being one of the fear-driven little people pushes me to deny responsibility. I am, for example, in absolutely no way responsible for street beggars in India. Nor am I, as a human, responsible for pulling them up and into the elite cafe society I’ve enjoyed with the silver spoon in my mouth. I have this deep denial of our interconnectedness that comes from all this fear. If only I could be a “scientist” with such deep insight and glorious selflessness as our ego-less author. Then I could conquer all this fear and denial.

    • JosephConrad


      • Jiggy

        It works both ways, the muslim and african nations are not innocent either. They are simply targeted because they are weak. Western governments are like predators and if one can’t defend themselves against a predator then they are slacking in evolution. Look in the nature. Only the strongest will survive and in humanity it is the strongest spirit.

      • miro

        Have I stood passively by all these years? Have we rubbed elbows on the protest lines? Have you attended any protests of this destruction? I mean real ones; not like Code Pink or BLM or Occupy….Those are Intel Ops …. have you protested even once while taking a break from bashing white?

      • dook dook

        THEIR oil? Most of those nations couldn’t develop their own resources to save their life, they were too busy spending all their time killing and murdering each other in endless petty squabbles before colonialism forced them into countries, forced them to partially develop, and then forced them to sell some of their stuff admittedly at unfair rates. Yet even if you remove the last factor you didn’t change the rest of it.

        The Saudis were funded by the British to take over land from other muslims way back so that it was more convenient for the Brits to deal with one group of thugs instead of many and mostly seem to use it to fund a lifestyle of endless pedophillia and financing terrorism. The people they stole it from weren’t really much better. So excuse me if my cast iron heart isn’t weeping much.

    • Dimitri Ledkovsky

      Delusion is not denial. I think you missed some of the central points of the article.

      • miro

        Central points such as?

        “…delusion is not denial…” Semantic games. At night all cats are grey.

  • Jiggy

    It is true that a nation is responsible for their government. A government is merely a mirror image of the majority of it’s people. If you don’t like who governs you then change yourself from within. Also, every nation is part of a group national soul, which is unique and not the same in any two nations. When a country falls apart it’s because there are not enough good people in it. The middle east is not merely in a mess because of western interference, but because of the ignorance and naivety of most people in the west and also because the countries being attacked are weak and the people there are not innocent either. America would not be able to cause harm to a country that didn’t have flaws and wasn’t weak to begin with. ISIL may have been manufactured by the west, but nethertheless it wouldn’t have happened if the people in that part of the world were not uncivilized. They simply chose a group of savage like people from a backward culture to use for their plans and it’s working. So many Muslims remain ignorant and silent, who just sit back, do nothing and watch the events unfold one after the other. If only people really understood the danger and effects of alien civilisations and cultures entering another. In the end, the aboriginal one dies out and any mixed races will be less spiritually capable, which is part of the plan of those evil brotherhoods to wipe out the more advanced white European race which will serve their agenda. It’s not racist, but a fact of evolution. Most white Europeans will remain, largely in Eastern Europe and Russia, whereas other parts of Europe will turn into America and worse, which ‘ll be the karma of Europeans. America will destroy the culture of Europe, it can not do otherwise. The more people that realise this danger coming from America, the better.

  • BitchSkank

    “Climate Impacts” have very little to do with “consumption” and very lot to do with CHEMTRAILS. So for anyone to take responsibility for “climate impacts” they must first get their reality checked and put blame where it belongs–with the criminals committing heinous acts against us and our climate by spraying and dumping loads of toxic crap on us every day for years. And yes, in this case the right word is BLAME because what the perpetrators have done is a CRIME against all life on earth. Tell me how us citizens can stop them when the same people committing criminal acts deny their crimes while their secret society blackmail-slaves control the courts and write the laws in their favor? So what do we “vote them out” hahaha! Yea right.

  • Dimitri Ledkovsky

    A lot in this article that needs to be said and repeated. Navel gazing has reached epidemic proportions as waistlines worldwide swell with the escape inherent in comfort food. While thus concentrated on our own navels how can we possibly have any effect on our environment?

  • dook dook

    First of all, I am not responsible for creating a world of endless stupidity and violence. When my advice on how to solve any human problem is categorically ignored, my resources stolen by either by or for lesser people to fund the dumbest possible things that could be done with it, and my “contribution” otherwise extorted with a pistol at my neck demanding that I work and struggle and toil for free and simply give away the product of my own mind and body (which the ‘general population’ had nothing to do with developing in any positive way – ie endless abuse is not something I should pay for) for them to use as they see fit, I have no pity left.

    Second, when the system that exists would just keep on murdering and stealing from everyone and everything whether i’m there, or not there, it is not my actions which have any meaningful effect on the problem. When we have governments that throw away votes they don’t like and pre-selected representatives that don’t represent anything, my only choices are shut up or become a terrorist. I was not the generation that created this socio-economic prison – that was decades before I was even born.

    Third, it’s not my job to take responsibility for other people’s bad decisions either singular or in collective. It’s my responsibility to take conditions for the position of my own life. If someone wants to wallow in a toilet of depravity and self destruction I had no part in it especially if I didn’t sell them drugs or whatever is destroying their life. The only “lack of responsibility” I see are the stupid mindless herds of cattle trampling everything bitching about what the rancher supposedly made them do, when they are the ones doing 100% of the trampling. My only responsibility faced with such idiocy is to remove myself from the herd.

    • dook dook

      What an insulting article… still foaming at the mouth.

      “Robert has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence.”

      Want to end human violence? Put down your gun. There. You have now done everything within your power to end human violence.

      It is up to other people to decide to put down their gun and generally what i’ve found is that people cling the most strongly to the very things creating their own problems so the fact is that they wont.

      The only responsibility the individual human ever has is to stop being a part of the dumb unthinking mass of morons in the world. Once they have done that there is nothing more to do except live your life. If and when enough humans make this decision there will be enough attrition of the readily directed herd that all the horrible things you complain about will finally stop.