One of the most practical lessons I’ve learned on my journey to happiness is the role of blame. When I stop blaming and take responsibility, the road to inner peace becomes much more smooth.
I had an “aha” moment the first time I watched this Brené Brown short video on Blame. I recognized the feeling of immediately looking for someone to blame when something doesn’t go my way. And like Brené’s example in the video, the blame for those little things, like spilling coffee or forgetting to take out the garbage, often falls on my husband. The more research and practice I’ve done with mindfulness, I realize that there are many ways blame manifests in daily life. We might find ourselves blaming colleagues or leaders about something that happens at work. Perhaps we blame society or fate for an external crisis or dilemma we find ourselves in. The fact is blaming doesn’t work. It keeps us in a negative cycle and prevents us from taking action.
Blame prevents happiness
As Brené Brown illuminates, “Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain.” Blame has no useful purpose and prevents us from taking helpful action and accountability. It’s our ego’s way of protecting ourselves. Unfortunately, after I fall into this ego trap and find myself blaming someone else for a situation, it doesn’t actually make me feel better. It’s because I give away my control in the situation.
To pull myself out of this unfortunate blame game, checking in on reality is important. As I talk about in Good Morning, Life!, the truth is that many things will happen in my life that I can’t control and there will be lots of things that won’t be comfortable for me and even things that will make me unhappy. There are big things, like losing a loved one or a job. Being treated unfairly by others has been a trigger for me in the past. And then there are events like my car getting hit in a parking lot, or when my 10-year-old son put a hockey puck through the window in our garage door.
The moment that I accept that these challenges and events are all part of life , my perspective has changed. I expect that things will happen that I don’t plan for. When these things happen, I’m much more likely to accept them as part of life and not immediately try to find someone to blame. It’s not necessary to find someone to fault.
I’ve stopped expecting that everyone will treat me fairly. We are all on our own journeys and sometimes others’ experiences makes them behave in a way different from what I would like. But that is part of life. This acceptance of reality has been instrumental so I can move past blame and on to accountability.
Once I accept the myriad of things that I can’t control, I more quickly move to thinking about the things I can control. So when my son put the hockey puck through the garage door, I rolled my eyes and thought about what needed to be done. Who can I call to fix the garage? Do I need to change the rules about shooting hockey pucks at our garage door? Maybe I can get a bigger net for the boys to use?
This is a simple example, but I recognize in the past my response may have been different. I may have yelled at him, and likely gotten mad at my husband for letting him shoot his pucks at the garage. And yes, that would have been unfair of me. But we know that’s how the blame game works!
By blaming others we are in essence giving away our power.
Giving away power – You made me feel this way!
I recently saw a social media post that included a statement that said “You made me feel sad.” Beside it there was an alternate statement, “I felt sad when you said that.” It made me pause and consider the difference. The first puts responsibility for one’s feelings onto someone else. It also suggests an intent to make the other person feel guilty, which would just lead to a cycle of negativity in both people. No one else should be given responsibility for how we feel. We should keep that power so we can choose how to react or respond. It is empowering to take responsibility for ourselves, our feelings and ultimately our actions.
Gary Zukav speaks to accountability in his highly acclaimed book, The Seat of the Soul when he says, “When you hold someone responsible for what you experience, you lose power.” This is because you have no way of controlling their actions or how they choose to respond or react.
Moving from blaming to regaining power and happiness
Now, with awareness of my human tendencies to blame, I’m much less likely to fall prey to the instinct when something doesn’t go my way. Being mindful of habits and tendencies is such an important step to awareness, changing my behaviour, and ultimately to my happiness.
Whenever difficult feelings or unhappy thoughts arise for me, I now know that I have much more to do with it than anyone else. I can change my thoughts, actions and sometimes my circumstances. It’s amazing to feel this power and control over my own happiness. It feels ironic given how I started this blog talking about the reality that there is so much in life that we can’t control. However, the key is accepting the things that I can’t control and spending my time diving into the things that I can!
Each day I choose happiness and to not give away my power! My happiness starts with me.
Presence. Let Go.