Brené Brown tells us that we blame in order to avoid discomfort and pain. Truth be told, we also blame so that we don’t feel vulnerable, anxious, flawed and a lot of other uncomfortable emotions. In brief, we blame in the hope of protecting our sense of self and boosting our self-esteem. When we blame others, we buy into the illusion that they are responsible for our imperfections, and/or to bring focus to THEIR imperfections so that we can prove the world–and ourselves–that their flaws are worse than ours. When we do so, we buy into the myth that being imperfect–whatever that means–is not ok, and that imperfections must be avoided, often at all cost. While the blaming game is often culturally sanctioned, it only hides the shame and guilt we feel for being flawed humans. It doesn’t take it away.
At one extreme of the “blaming spectrum”, we have people who gaslight. Meaning, they call into question the other person’s mental and emotional sanity, insisting on their own version of reality, all the while projecting their flawed inner landscape onto their target. On the other extreme, we have people who are constantly taking-on blame for things they are absolutely not responsible. At its worse, this exhibits a mental attitude which is totally unrealistic and unfair to themselves, and their relatively small shoulders.
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While blaming others and ourselves allows us to discharge the discomfort we feel for being less than we expect of ourselves, or is expected of us, we only postpone facing reality. Being full-fledged adults requires that we accept the inherent nature of our humanity; sometimes we shine and many times, not so much. And when we don’t, it does not mean that we are flawed or defective. While it may feel like it, it is rarely the case. It may serve us well to remember this.
In our quest for being better people, we often end up requiring perfection of ourselves, and of others. When we worship at the alter of Perfection, we set ourselves up for failure. Being human is often messy. The sooner we come to terms with the fact that our humanity is made of a mixture of being exceptional and ordinary, the quicker we increase our ability to be real and authentic with ourselves and with others. The sooner we can experience true intimacy with the safe people in our lives. As we accept that we–like everyone else–are not perfect, we begin blasting the myth of Perfection. This allows us to relax the rules which require that we hide and protect our flaws and deficits behind masks of “better than” while we point to others who are–according to us–“less than”.
As Brené says: “People who blame a lot seldom have the tenacity and grit to hold people, and themselves, accountable.” So, if we truly want to be accountable for our deficits and “faux-pas”, and work on increasing our strengths and repairing our mistakes, we owe it to ourselves to stop blaming all together. I suggest that next time you find yourself ready to blame someone, pause for a second and ask yourself: “What is my vulnerability in this moment? What is happening inside of me which makes me want to point the focus on what I perceive as his or her fault? What am I trying to hide from myself and others?” If you resource yourself as you do this, and you don’t let shame or guilt take over, you’ll increase self compassion and compassion for the humanity of others. This is how we stop the blaming cycle. Blaming is, after all, a total waste of energy. So, let’s go green on blaming!
C. Nathan Bergeron, LMFT, L.Ac. ©