For now, I’m going to class blaming as the art of laying our own problems at someone else’s door. There are two main versions of blaming.
- There is blaming with consequence, where we label someone else as to blame for our problems, and expect them to produce restitution in the form of compensation. Some people use the word ‘justice’ for this.
- There is blaming without consequence, where we label someone else as to blame for our problem, but without necessarily expecting any material restitution. Some people use the word ‘projection’ for this, as it ‘projects’ cause away from us, and onto an ‘othered’ third party. Another word is ‘scapegoating’.
In addition, these blaming behaviours each split into two types.
- There is the external, social act of blaming, which can be performed through law courts, by appeal to societal regulations, or by the implementation of personal boundaries.
- There is the internal act of blaming, purely psychological and spiritual, whereby we categorise (in our minds) a particular problem as attributable to a third party. This distracts our mental attention from ourselves.
We end up with a grid, something like this:
|BLAMING OPTIONS||With consequence to other||Without consequence to other|
|External behaviour||Appeals for correction, claims for restitution||Imposition of passive personal boundaries (retreating)|
|Internal reflection||Mental delegation to supra-personal justice (law, hell, karma etc.)||Contemplation of the other’s behaviour (analysis, understanding)|
This grid suggests that there are four types of possible action arising from blame.
- Act – With our actions, we ask them to adjust their behaviour, or appeal to a third controlling party to arbitrate or control.
- Back off – Not wanting to act, we remain silent and retreat.
- ‘Give it to the gods’ – In our minds, we contemplate how the universe may provide justice.
- Understand – In our minds, we contemplate the nature of the behaviour.
INTROVERT AND EXTROVERT RESPONSES TO PROBLEMS
If we are introverted, we may tend towards the right hand side of the table. When we hit problems, we may back off and ruminate on others’ behaviour. If extroverted, we may tend towards the left hand side of the table, pushing back socially, and then trusting to those social processes.
SOURCES OF ANXIETY AND ANGER
Anxiety and anger tend to arise where we are unclear as to which of the four options we are pursuing. In particular, we vacillate between left and right in the above table. Let’s imagine someone offends us.
- In terms of action, one minute we want to challenge them; the next we don’t want the hassle of an argument, so we want to run away.
- In terms of inner contemplation, one minute we want to drop the subject and not think about it; the next moment we want to understand what on earth that person was thinking, and fall into rumination about their behaviour.
We find ourselves oscillating between active and passive, and between forgetting and obsessing. Counselling clients in this position will one minute swear they want to act against someone, and the next will swear they just want peace. Equally, one minute they will insist they want to forget the whole thing, and the next they want to analyse the situation for the thousandth time.
It’s the oscillations that tire our brains out. We are trapped vacillating between ‘active-or-passive’, and between ‘forget-or-analyse’. This oscillating energy, or conflict, expresses as anxiety and anger.
REDUCING ANXIETY AND ANGER
The trick for personal peace is (eventually… it’s hard!) to stop vacillating, and be more consistent on each dimension. For example, if someone offends me:
- Externally, I can decide to act in a particular way, diarise that action, and then move on.
- Internally, I can decide what I want to analyse, set a time to contemplate it, and give the rest to the universe.
In other words, I can find a quick, time-bound settlement between the left and right sides of the table.
Reducing anxiety and anger thus becomes an act of simplification and decision-making. Someone offends me, so externally I diarise my response, and then forget about it; internally, I contemplate what I want to learn spiritually from the situation, set a time for that meditation, and give the rest to the universe.
It’s not that easy – if it was, none of us would turn into anxious, indecisive, conflicted wrecks. But our minds are trainable. We can learn to respond confidently and peacefully. It is only when we are confused that we fall apart. Getting back on track is always possible.
A FINAL NOTE
Of course life gets in the way, and disturbance is quite hard to deal with – we can be chaotic beings. But the above suggests how, with a bit of diligence and hard work, we can begin to disentangle the web of ‘blame-y’ confusion which makes anxiety and anger. Perhaps, after all, anxiety and anger are only confusion and delusion, only misunderstanding. Being organised in our response can help to remove disturbance, and bring peace.