The futility of blame

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If you can get a perspective on your past, present and future, you won’t need to blame others.  Photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

Blaming others is natural.  You can see it in animal behaviour – when things go badly for an individal, they get quite angry, and pass on that anger to the animals around them.  The mechanism is a bit like a balloon bursting: the outside word pierces our protective skin, and we burst outwards, blowing a lot of unnecessary air, and making a lot of noise.

BLAMING OTHERS IS A SHORT CUT

When we blame others, we are looking for an easy way out of our problems.  When in difficulty, it is a lot simpler to place the fault with those around you, than it is to analyse yourself and your complex motivations.  But, ultimately, analysing yourself and your motivations is the only way in which you can learn.

A FEW QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF

Instead of blaming others, why not ask yourself a few key questions about your situation:

  1. How did you get into your difficulty?
  2. Why is the difficulty making you unhappy?
  3. What options do you have for future action?
These questions deal, in sequence, with past, present and future.

Good self-questions are like medicine.  The questions above are antidotes to the following poisons, which cause unhappiness:

3 WAYS TO POISON YOURSELF

  1. Refuse to analyse or examine how problems arise.
  2. Refuse to analyse or examine your own unhappiness response.
  3. Refuse to see yourself as having a choice.
The reason why these refusals poison you, is that they rob you of historical understanding, psychological self-honesty, and freedom to plan.

TYPICAL SELF-POISONING PHRASES

Here are ten phrases we often use to poison ourselves:

  1. ‘I don’t know how this happened.’
  2. ‘It’s just an awful situation.’
  3. ‘This always happens to me.’
  4. ‘People are always doing this to me.’
  5. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
  6. ‘People are so awful.’
  7. ‘I can’t go on.’
  8. ‘There’s no way out.’
  9. ‘I’m surrounded by fools.’
  10. ‘Things have gone pear-shaped.’
What do all these phrases have in common?  They are ways of preventing us from taking responsibility.  If the world just does things to us, if people are so awful, and if everything is so unbearable, then we have left no role for ourselves in the equation.  By blaming, we are making someone or something else responsible, and therefore, by definition, we are classing ourselves as a victim.

AN EXERCISE

If you want to begin to learn self-development, then, instead of the three poisons, try applying three medicines.

Choose to spend 10 minutes analysing a difficulty you face.  Ask yourself:

  1. Exactly how did the problem arise?  (Show your historical understanding.)
  2. Exactly how is the problem causing me pain?  (Show your psychological self-honesty.)
  3. Exactly what are my options?  (Show your freedom to plan.)
In each case, don’t be lazy.  Use the situation as a chance to develop your personal skills. Armed with a better understanding, with self-compassion, and with a belief in your personal freedom, you are likely to feel better.

A NOTE ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BLAMING AND HOLDING OTHERS ACCOUNTABLE

Sometimes others do awful things.  We can still hold them accountable.  But when we blame them, we are simply venting our anger.  On the other hand, if we go through the above process, then we can hold them accountable with understanding, honesty and freedom.  It is the difference between revenge, and wishing others well.

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SUMMARY

When things go wrong, it’s natural to blame others.  But this is a lazy response.  Instead:

  1. Understand why things happen.
  2. Understand how things upset you.
  3. Understand what your options are.
This gives you the best chance of personal growth.

Your problems are the issues for which these three questions are still unanswered.

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