What causes Blame?
Blame is very similar to guilt. You believe that you or someone else ‘should’ be behaving differently to the way they are, or you believe that they ‘should’ have behaved differently in the past.
This idea that we ‘should’ be doing something different is in conflict with the reality of what has actually happened in our past or what is happening now. Here are some examples of some common statements of blame.
It’s all my fault: I believe that I have done something wrong or I should be doing something different:
- I should be coping
- I should be able to keep a clean house
- I should be strong not weak
- I should be attractive for my partner
- I should know what my child needs
- I should be organised
- I should be able to breastfeed
- I should be happy
- I should be able to stay calm
- I shouldn’t be angry at my child
- I should be capable
- I shouldn’t have depression
It’s all my partner’s fault: I believe my partner has done something wrong or should be doing something different:
- He/she shouldn’t be working so long
- He/she should be more supportive of me
- He/she should understand how I feel
- He/she should do more housework
- He/she shouldn’t be going out with their friends
- He/she should let me have more time out
- He/she should appreciate what I do more
- He/she should respect me
- He/she should spend more time with the kids
- He/she should be more responsible
- He/she shouldn’t be cranky when he/she’s just got home from work. I’m the one who’s been dealing with this all day.
It’s all someone else’s fault: I believe that someone else is doing/has done something wrong and should be doing something different:
- The doctor should have known better
- The nurses should have helped me more
- My mum should support me
- My mother-in-law or father-in-law shouldn’t be so judgemental
- My friends shouldn’t judge
- The government should help parents out more
- My parents should have raised me better
- My child should behave
- My child should know better
- My child doesn’t love me
My circumstances or past experiences are to blame: I believe that I should be living life differently. What happened in the past shouldn’t have happened. Life should be or could have been different:
- My husband shouldn’t have lost his job
- We should have more money
- We shouldn’t have had another baby
- I shouldn’t have been abused
- I shouldn’t have had the parents I did
- I should have had a girl, not a boy.
- We shouldn’t have moved here
- If I hadn’t done x, then I would be doing y
All of these shoulds and coulds all lead to one thing – stress or depression. It is none of these events that cause blame and subsequently resentment, it is what we believe about these events.
We believe that because this event happened, life is now going wrong. Now that it’s gone wrong, I am missing out on what my life needs and if only it was different, my life would be better (worth more).
Thinking this way is in complete conflict with the reality of what is actually happening right now. The past is the past and we cannot change that. We can only change the way we look at these situations.
Thinking this way is also in conflict with the reality of life. Sometimes things just happen that aren’t what we expect. Our kids sometimes break the rules, babies wake up before they’re ‘supposed’ to, labour ends in caesareans sometimes.
The more we try to blame ourselves, other people or our circumstances for our current situation, the worse we will feel and the further away from happiness we get.
The process of how thinking can result in blame
- I hold certain beliefs about how life should be unfolding or hold an expectation of how life will be (eg I will enjoy being a parent, I will have a natural birth, I will be calm and rational regardless of my child’s behaviour)
- Then I come across an event that doesn’t match those beliefs.
- I access my beliefs about life and realise that they don’t match. After I realise that it’s ‘wrong’ and it now means that I’m missing out on something because of it, I start to reason how it happened.
- I look for someone to blame because that will explain why it has happened.
The reality is it doesn’t matter whose fault it is or why it happened. The fact of the matter is that it happened – period. Only when we can begin to accept that reality (step two of the mind TRACK to Happiness process) can we begin to look at what we are going to do about that situation (step three – aim).
When your child misbehaves, they have misbehaved. What now? When your partner doesn’t support you or respect you in the way you think they should, how are you going to handle that situation to reach a new alignment with each other? If someone is mistreating you, what are you going to do? If your child is not sleeping well, what is the solution?
These are the questions you need to start asking yourself instead of looking around for who’s to blame. The blame game does not get you anywhere, but further entrenched in your stress. You will continue to see more and more things that are going wrong in your life and who is to blame and all the while you will remain in conflict with reality and feel stressed.
The relationship between Blame and Self-worth
How can blame be associated with self-worth? Well, it depends on whether you are blaming yourself or blaming your external environment.
When you are blaming yourself, it is because you have been conditioned to see what is wrong with you. You have been conditioned to believe that only when you can achieve certain things in life, or meet certain expectations (like getting life right), can you be 100% worthy.
If you have grown up with criticism, you may adopt the habit of either continually seeing your own shortcomings, or you may adopt the habit of searching for the shortcomings in others.
When we search for the shortcomings in others, by blaming them, we negate ourselves from responsibility. This makes us feel better because it was not our fault. If we were not to blame then there is no reason for me to feel worse than I already do. If it were my fault I would feel even worse about the situation, because what does it mean about me if the problem is my fault? It means that I am worth-less, not 100% worthy. It must mean there is something wrong with me.
Does it make you feel any better to blame? No it doesn’t. Because the reality is that the event still happened. What needs to happen is that you need to accept that this event has occurred.. No one is right or wrong. It is just a series of events that occurred with a multiple of links in the chain that ended in this situation occurring. That’s it and that’s life! Every event forms part of the bigger picture of the journey of your life. Some events are enjoyable and some are not. All events you learn and grow from though, and then they lead to you having more experiences in your life.
If you can learn to look at situations in this way, you will cease rating them as good or bad. They just are. It is this alignment with reality that is going to stop you feeling so bad about your life.
Resentment is a feeling that occurs when we feel that we are hard done by (which is essentially – missing out). We perceived an event that has occurred as being wrong and that it caused me to miss out on something I believe I need for my life to be successful (worthy). Here are some common examples of resentment in parenthood:
- I resent that my partner gets to go to work and I have to stay at home with the kids.
- I resent having a child
- I resent my child for behaving this way
- I resent all the work I have to do
- I resent it when my partner goes out and leaves me with the kids
- I resent that I’m not living the life I used to before children.
- I resent my friends because they find parenting easy and I don’t.
When you feel resentment for what you are experiencing, it is because you are in conflict with the reality of what you are experiencing. You are wishing for it to be another way, and it’s not. You are holding onto the past or the ideal of something you believe is better than what you have now.
It is easy to see how this thinking is in conflict with reality and how holding onto these thoughts only causes you pain. You might argue, “yes but, I want life to be different”. Great! Aim for it to be different, but don’t allow your thoughts to go down that road of destructive thinking about how you wish it was and how others have it better. This will not lead you closer to the life you want to live. It will only cause you stress.
Accept the reality and move into the Aim stage of this process. What do I want?
In tomorrow’s reading we are going to look a little bit closer at the thinking that underlies psychological stress and anxiety.