There are two types of inflated responsibility.
The first is thought-action fusion.
The second is taking responsibility over something you can’t control.
Thought-action fusion occurs when having a thought feels like an action. Thoughts and actions feel fused together. This is common in Harm OCD. You might have the thought, “What if I hurt someone?” which gives you the feeling of guilt and makes it feel like you actually did it. Having the feeling of guilt doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong.
Here are some examples of thoughts that could give you the feeling of guilt and make you feel like you’ve done something wrong.
“What if I hit someone with my car?”
“What if I left my stove on?”
“What if I said something inappropriate that offended someone?”
“What if I forgot to say something kind?”
“What if I wanted to harm that person?”
“What if I wanted to harm myself?”
“What if I wanted to do that sexually inappropriate act, like molesting a child, that I don’t really want to do?”
“What if I could have helped and I didn’t?”
“How do I know that my motives, intentions, and actions are good, kind, and pure?”
These are all thoughts that give people with inflated responsibility the feeling of guilt and make them feel like their thoughts are important.
The function of the feeling of guilt is to cue you to make amends. Real guilt tells you that you should apologize or do something to repair whatever mistake you made. If there’s nothing to apologize for or nothing to fix — because it was just a thought — then you’re experiencing excessive guilt as the consequence of inflated responsibility.
Label the guilt.
Accept it as a feeling.
Refrain from fueling the thought.
Rather, redirect your attention away from it.
You might feel guilty when you let go of the thought. Good! You’re doing your exposure practice correctly.
You might also have inflated responsibility if you attempt to take responsibility over something you can’t control.
You can’t control what other people think, say, feel, and do.
You can’t control outcomes within systems that are bigger than you.
You can’t control the sensations, feelings, and thoughts that show up in your body and brain.
You can control your response to both your internal and external environment.
Figure out what you can control. Figure out what you value. Focus your energy on acting on your values.