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The Attraction of Blame

The attraction of blame is that you imagine it will provide some sort of relief in a difficult situation.

In anything you do, you  long to be harmony with life - meet your needs and those of others.  You know blame will not really bring relief or create harmony.  Yet habit and conditioning have you in blame before you know it.

A lot of habit comes from the broader culture we grow up in. Part of mainstream culture-think is that pain and pleasure depend on your ability to manipulate external events, including people around you. And so, mainstream culture encourages an external focus - TV, radio, computers, mile long to do lists, 60 hour work weeks, elaborate houses with manicured lawns, movies, etc.

Small wonder that when you are feeling hurt, disappointed, frustrated, etc., you look outside for the cause.

You find yourself saying, "Aha, Jonathan, you are the cause. You are to blame!"

Now that you have named a cause it's only a matter of manipulating Jonathan to bring you ultimate happiness.

Following the number one delusion about how to get people to change you tell Jonathan how wrong he was to do what he did and how would he feel if someone did that to him?!

Of course, you don't think all this through. Habit energy takes care of it for you in a millisecond.

I haven't always been able to catch the judgment talk in my own head that precedes blame, but I do notice the feeling of it. I notice my body contract and go into fight mode as energy builds to move aggressively outward.

When I notice this I do an immediate downshift. I take a deep breath and I internally name how hurt and frustrated I feel. (I give myself some empathy). Then I ask myself, "What just happened? What did I make it mean?" Once I catch a jackal voice (judgments and assumptions) I can start to identify what needs are up for me.

For example, "When I realize that my partner didn't make the reservations for our camping trip as he promised to do, my jackals might start saying he is an untrustworthy person, he will never be there for me, and I can't be in a relationship with him."

Wow, those jackal thoughts along with what happened, just stimulated some important needs: trust, support, and intimacy.

When I bring my awareness back to what happened rather than the meaning I made of it, I can identify the feelings and needs present in the situation.  I can make a request to meet those needs rather than making him wrong.

Mindfulness practice and meditation can help you gain the awareness to recognize habits when they arise. At the same time you might need some intermediate strategies for those moments when blame slips through the gates of your awareness.

Working with couples, I have seen them come up with a number of creative ways for breaking patterns. One of my favorites is a couple who agreed to sing "The Blame Song" each time it came up. They sang it to the tune of the 80's song, "Fame". It goes like this:

"Blame! I want to be right forever never taking responsibility Blame!"

This week notice when you are tempted by blame.  What does it feel like in your body when it arises? What feelings are alive? What assumptions and judgments did you generate? What needs are up?

If you have a blame game going with someone close to you, come up with a creative way to interrupt the pattern and bring awareness to it.

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1 Response

  1. Jan 27, 2011

    I had a partner years ago who referred to "blame therapy," thinking you are doing something about a difficult situation by figuring out who to blame.

    These days friends and I make fun of it sometimes by "blaming" someone for something when it's clear they aren't at fault. All of us can then laugh at this common human propensity.

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