Being Responsible for Your Reactions, Not for What Happens
When you are in a group of people and something happens, what do you do? Do you react? Do you just stand and watch what is taking place? Do you ask someone else to do something about it? Often, the reaction of most people is to do nothing, assuming that someone else will take action. When enough people take no action, tragedy can sometimes occur.
This is known as diffusion of responsibility. Basically, when a situation takes place within a group of people, there is a strong tendency for individuals to assume someone else will take responsibility for correcting anything that might be going wrong, and sometimes, no one does.
What if You Witness a Crime?
Think about this in respect to crime. What if you saw someone get mugged on the street, with many others watching as well? Are you the one to try to stop the mugger, even if it’s only sticking out a foot to trip him up? Do you call 9-1-1? Do you point out the crime to others, asking someone to call 9-1-1? Or do you just watch, assuming “someone else” will be brave enough to take on the mugger, or be responsible enough to call for help?
Is it your responsibility to do anything at all? Would you want a stranger to take action if you were the victim of a crime? What if you’d just been shot, or collapsed from a heart attack, both situations where your life is at stake if someone doesn’t step in and act quickly? You often see on true-life television crime shows that after an attack, or robbery, or murder, that neighbors come forward and say they heard shots, or a loud argument perhaps, but did nothing.
Are You Responsible?
Just what is your responsibility to react to a situation taking place within a group? Legally, you have none, but morally, or emotionally, what is it that leads to this tendency to remain quiet and wait for others to act, even if it is obvious that no one is?
In your head, maybe you think you should be taking action, but don’t feel that you would make the right decision and could make things worse. Afterwards, maybe you would feel guilty for not stepping into a situation where you could help out, but then reason that “everything happened too fast” for you to respond. Or maybe you had a “deer in the headlights” response, where you were stunned, or shocked by what was taking place, and you were frozen, unable to make a move.
Diffusion Tends to Be the Rule, Not the Exception
As mentioned above, in not taking action, you are not alone. It appears that diffusion of responsibility tends to be the rule, rather than the exception when a situation takes place where someone needs to step forth and take action. Taking responsibility for someone else’s immediate crisis somehow has a “not my problem” effect on people. The person who takes action is the exception to the rule, and exactly the person you want to have around when you are the one in a crisis. Being responsible for your reactions is also an important part of self-care.