Blaming others seems to be one of the most blatant cultural addictions going, the principal national cop-out. It’s also one of the sneakiest ways to avoid taking responsibility for ourselves, since we can usually justify our self-righteousness with”reasons.”
But what does it really buy us but more heartache and almost ensuring that we will stay stuck where we are? If you are ready to stop playing this game (or at least ready to think about stopping it), here are some ways to get free.
- Stop the action. Get present in the now. For starters, before you launch into a campaign of blaming anyone (including yourself), take a deep breath and count to ten. Give yourself the space to engage your mind, and disconnect from the emotions that seem to be driving you. Then think about this list and see if you can change some of your patterns of reacting. People (including you) generally do the best they can in any given moment. Acknowledge this and give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Take responsibility. Even when others may actually be at fault (because despite our best intentions each of us occasionally makes mistakes), we are still responsible for our own feelings. Realize that what is inside that feels so urgent, that is”making us” want to take immediate action, is only a feeling (usually anger.) And further, realize that people and things do not cause our anger: we do, through our beliefs and experiences in life. Own your own feelings and become response-able, not reactive. Recognize that you are having feelings, that your feelings are your own (even though they may have arisen in response to something outside yourself), and decide what you would in your highest and best moment do about those feelings. What will you really really like yourself for in this situation? When you look back on this moment, what will you wish you had done or said? Do that!
- Drop the “hot potatoes.” No one enjoys discomfort. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that we will feel better if we can affix blame, find fault, identify “the reason” for our pain or anger. Having a reason doesn’t transform the feeling — “explaining” doesn’t make the feeling better or make it go away. Never did and never will. If it feels “hot”, drop it. Let go.
- Look for your own triggers. You cannot change what others are thinking, saying, or doing; you can only change your own thoughts, behavior and attitudes. Work with those instead of holding onto resentments about “what they did.” It will pay off in greater understanding and peace of mind, and will short-circuit the impulse to look outside yourself for relief from patterns that you yourself set in motion.
- Look for the lesson in the experience. Nothing in life happens in a vacuum; we are all interrelated. What can you learn from this? How could you have participated differently, perhaps for a different outcome next time?
- Notice that your reaction is about you. What’s going on inside you is yours. (Ever notice that when there’s trouble, you’re always around? Ever wonder why that is?)
- Practice open hands. When you close your hand to point at someone, there’s one finger pointed at someone else and three at you. When you close your hand to make a fist, nothing can come in. Open your hands to receive grace and peace of mind and heart.
- “Get” that blaming doesn’t work. It’s a racket, one we probably learned from someone else. Its main role in our lives is to avoid seeing what our part of the interaction is. Give it up!
- Look at the risk you are taking. What if you are wrong? Are you willing to risk ruining someone else’s day (or life) with false accusations or the results of an escalation of tempers? And even if you are”right” what good will it do to keep the fires burning? Decide to err on the side of compassion rather than give in to your emotionally-driven temper; you may be very glad you did, once you calm down.
- Give thanks; it’s powerful. A person can’t hold thoughts of anger while being grateful. Force yourself (if you must) to start a list of everything in your life for which you are truly thankful, and keep writing until the feelings of anger and judgment begin to subside. Keep writing until you have replaced the hurtful emotions with feelings of joy and gratitude for the abundance of everything in your life that is good and wholesome; there is always plenty when we are honest and look. You are the only one who can change your state of mind and heart; do it wisely and well.
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