Letting Go Of Blame By Karyn Hall, PhD

When something goes wrong, one of the first responses many people have is to blame someone. Being at fault may bring up many fears. If you can blame someone else, you can avoid the painful feelings of guilt and shame. You can avoid the fear of not being good enough and perhaps the resulting fear of abandonment. Maybe you panic when you may have done something wrong or taken action that didn’t work out because in the past others have rejected you or perhaps punished you for making a mistake. Blaming is the way you attempt to protect yourself.  Whatever the reason, blame usually leads to conflict and damaged relationships in addition to blocking problem solving. Time spent blaming only delays finding a solution to whatever happened.

Imagine that you and your spouse drive to work together.  One morning you are a few blocks away from your house and the car runs out of gas. You’re angry because your husband usually keeps the tank filled. He’s angry because you drove the car last and didn’t tell him it needed gas. You call each other names and yell about how flawed the other person is, using words like lazy, selfish, thoughtless, and stupid, plus a few that are unmentionable. No matter who didn’t fill the car with gas, arguing about whose fault it is doesn’t solve the problem. The more you argue the later to work you will be.

Letting go of blaming behavior can be difficult. Here are some ideas to consider.

1.  Ask yourself if it really matters who was at fault. Sometimes accepting responsibility is important for learning and change.  Accepting responsibility and assigning responsibility is different from blame.

2.  Focus on what you can do, not what someone else should have done or could do.  If the car is out of gas, what can you do to solve the problem?  How will you get the gas you need? Put your energy into getting past the difficult situation, not on who caused it.

3.  Stay in the present. Bringing up past examples of someone else’s behavior to justify your anger is not helpful in resolving the situation and only makes the situation more upsetting and volatile.

4.  Stick to the facts. Just describe the situation without judging. “The car is out of gas and I am going to be late for work.”  Remember to not blame yourself either.

5.   Express your feelings without directing them at someone else.  Say, “I’m feeling angry and hurt,” rather than “You hurt me,” or “I’m afraid I’ll lose my job,” not “Your stupidity will get me fired.”

6.  Use language of acceptance. Your basic view is that you and others are doing the best possible and that you are all human beings who make mistakes. Think how you would want someone to respond to your child if he made a mistake.

7.  Look for what others are doing right. Search for the positive actions that others take. Train yourself to notice the positive.

8.  Practice compassion. Replace your anger with understanding.  Search for a way to understand others’ behavior.

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