From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns
This distortion is the mother of guilt! You assume responsibility for a negative even when there is no basis for doing so. You arbitrarily conclude that what happened was your fault or relfects your inadequacy, even when you were not responsible for it. For example, when a patient didn't do a self-help assignment I had suggested, I felt guilty because of my though, "I must be a lousy therapist. It's my fault that she isn't working harder to help herself. It's my responsibility to make sure she gets well." When a mother saw her child's report card, there was a note from the teacher indicating the child was not working well. She immediately decided, "I must be a bad mother. This shows how I've failed."
Personalization causes you to feel crippling guilt. You suffer from a paralyzing and burdensome sense of responsibility that forces you to carry the whole world on your shoulders. You have confused influence with control over others. In your role as a teacher, counselor, parent, physician, salesman, executive, you will certainly influence the people you interact with, but no one could reasonably expect you to control them. What the other person does is ultimately his or her responsibility, not yours. Methods to help you overcome your tendency to personalize and trim your sense of responsibility down to manageable, realistic proportions will be discussed later in this book.