We all blame. We blame people for the crappy things that have happened to us, we blame them for us being stuck or unwell and we blame them for us not getting unstuck. We blame our problems, our health, other people, the weather, pets, you name it! There is nothing we can’t blame and we all have our favourites.
We also use NOT wanting to blame as a reason not to be honest with ourselves.
Quite often people will come to see me and say they don’t want to blame their parents or spouses for their situation. Unfortunately for most of the these people, part of “not blaming” means they are also not willing to honestly acknowledge how things others have done has impacted them.
This doesn’t seem like a big deal except that when we are needing to avoid our own experience of something (our FEELINGS about something), we have to put a lot of energy towards hiding it from ourselves and guarding against it coming up. We hide and guard against it through distraction with work, sex, being busy, worrying about things that did or could happen, we avoid using food, drugs, alcohol, or by beating ourselves up, ruminating, creating drama in our lives, we go helpless or we have a pity party to name a few.
Watch this funny 3 min video by Brene Brown on Blame to see what I mean…
The difference between blame and honestly acknowledging how others have impacted us is this:
- BLAME: saying something is someone else’s fault and staying stuck, not assuming responsibility for getting unstuck or using blame as an excuse to not move forward. It is a way of discharging negative emotions.
- HONESTLY ACKNOWLEDGING HOW OTHERS’ ACTIONS IMPACTED US: connecting with our own experience about how someone’s actions made us feel and the messages we internalized as a result of them, AND then taking responsibility for dealing with those things so we can move forward. It is a way of processing emotions to be free to move forward.
In short, we use blame as an EXCUSE, to discharge hurt feelings and avoid accountability. But overall, blame has a bad wrap. When we say the word blame, most of us think of it as a negative thing.
So lets turn that on it’s head! If we are going to “blame” others for all the bad things, it is only fair that we also “blame” them for the good things too!
Let’s see how this works…meet Calliope
Calliope didn’t grow up in an emotionally or physically safe home. She was not attended to emotionally and she was not protected when bad things happened. As a result, she learned that…
- her safety comes from pleasing others or meeting their expectations,
- conflict is dangerous,
- it is ok to mistreat the people closest to you when upset,
- close relationships are dangerous and
- she can only count on herself and no one else
This all contributed to Calliope struggling to find and keep healthy relationships, because she is always focused on people pleasing so her relationships are never genuine (because she doesn’t pay attention to her own needs). Not surprisingly, resentment builds over time and both she and her partners end up acting out passive-aggressively. All of this is compounded by the fact that she avoids conflict at all costs, so she feels bullied in her relationships by even the smallest things because she doesn’t feel she can stand up for herself when she feels taken for granted or doesn’t like something. She also struggles at work because she wants to please, especially authority figures, and believes she can only count on herself, so she doesn’t say no to anything and is frequently overwhelmed and comes across as under-performing as a result. This causes conflict with her employer and co-workers which further escalates her distress and increases her acting out and people pleasing.
Basically, Calliope blames her early life experiences for not being able to function in intimate relationships, friendships, or work – and is generally miserable as a result.
She also blames her early life experiences for being a very caring person who is usually quite attuned to the needs of others. Calliope learned to be open to diversity, to do her best, and learned a good work ethic, whether it was from what was modelled for her, or her choice to act differently than what was modelled for her. She also learned to be organized, tidy, how to decorate well and to persevere in the face of adversity as she had to her whole life! She learned to connect with the other under-dogs in the world and have empathy for them despite their often unpleasant exteriors. In response to her own experiences, she became a care-giver herself who tries to protect those who need protecting but cannot do so themselves.
So you see, most of her gifts also came from her “problems”, they all contributed to the parts of herself she likes and the parts she is struggling with. It is only fair she blame her problems for BOTH!
I generally don’t recommend blaming, but if you are going to, make it balanced and acknowledge all the GOOD and the BAD about your problems! Take a moment to consider all the gifts you are getting from them! When you are done doing some balanced blaming, you just may find you are ready to take responsibility again for what comes next!