In our previous conversation, Kari, I touched upon the concept of blame and the manner in which it affects our language and our Way of Being, in which language plays a pivotal role. During this discussion, then, I’d like to delve into blame somewhat deeper, to highlight just how cancerous it is, and perhaps share a few tools to assist in managing it effectively.
Let’s first take a look at blame in its broader perspective. Blame is responsible for most of the world’s troubles, and since time immemorial it has facilitated conflict between individuals, communities, tribes, nations and cultures. According to Wikipedia, “Blame is the act of censuring, holding responsible, making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible…”
In other words, it’s about people placing themselves in a position of judgment over others; establishing the so-called ‘moral high ground’, which then gives them the perceived right to take some kind of action against them, or at least make them responsible where differences in beliefs exist.
Case in point is the current conflict in Gaza, where the ramifications of blame have spread out across the world!
No matter how enlightened we may consider ourselves to be, we judge one another, and this provides the platform from which to apportion blame, be it consciously or unconsciously… To say, “I’m right and you’re wrong”, allows a sense of superiority over others, inflating one’s self-esteem. Again, this righteousness is as applicable to governments and leaders as it is to the individual human being, hence its potentially destructive attributes.
So how does blame come about? Well, to answer that, we need to have a look at the individual, and there are essentially two roles at play here: those who are self-righteous and those who adopt a victim mentality. Both, as it happens, are rooted in scarcity (fear), so no surprises there!
Ask yourself the question: When did I last blame somebody for something? What was I feeling at the time? In all likelihood it was anger, frustration or unhappiness, for these are perhaps the most common emotions arising from and attributing to blame. It is irrelevant what the reason was for apportioning blame—what’s important here is that one cannot be happy and blaming at the same time, because happiness is to abundance and enlightenment what blame is to scarcity and fear!
In addition, blame is not always attributed only to other humans, but inanimate objects as well; even conditions and circumstances. How often do we blame our PC or laptop when it’s not doing what we expect of it, or a slow Internet connection? I know I’m guilty of this! When we’re late for work (again) we blame the car for not starting, or the traffic we had to endure… We blame the weather for raining just when our clothing has finally dried on the wash-line… We stub our toe on the coffee table and yell in agony, “You stupid, stupid thing!” kicking it again with the other foot, just so it knows who’s to blame…
We have experiences like this every single day, if we took the time to consider—and in all of those instances we’re either angry or frustrated or unhappy. Scarcity, dear readers!
For many years of my life I was not happy with my life, and I proportioned blame to everything outside of me; people, conditions, circumstances. I blamed the person I was in a relationship for not loving me enough. If I wasn’t in a relationship I blamed ‘all women’ for not wanting to be with me. I was unhappy in my job, so I blamed the boss and the clients. I couldn’t find a more suitable job, so I blamed the interviewers for turning me down.
And whilst I was consciously apportioning blame without, I was unconsciously blaming my self, and this is where it all begins, doesn’t it? How could I possibly stop casting blame hither and thither, when I didn’t even realise that, deep within, I was telling myself that I was to blame?
I saw all of these people and circumstances in a negative light, and blamed them for my failures, because I saw myself as being inherently unworthy! So my outward mood was one of self-righteousness and my inner mood was playing the victim, or what I refer to as ‘poor-me syndrome’.
We become so possessed with blame that we are incapable of progress, and opportunities that are otherwise apparent when living in abundance, simply pass us by, day after day. And we feel alone in this thinking…
Kari, in our previous conversation you spoke of a need to “help each other”, and whilst I wholeheartedly concur with that belief, I think that this is an area which is fundamentally lacking in just one area: those we are able to confide in. This is what I believe is ‘to blame’ for a great deal of the unspoken self-blame that exists in the 21 Century. A story I read today of research conducted in the UK claims that one person in every ten does not have a single close friend! They also went on to state that just under a quarter of the more-than five thousand people interviewed admitted to having an affair, and the same number said they were dissatisfied with their sex life.
Professor Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist from the University of Oxford identified “around five per cent of people who had only one person they felt they could go to for advice, and often that was a family member rather than a friend.” What does this tell you about the diversity of advise people have to call upon when faced with insurmountable obstacles in life?
Since the Second World War, people have begun moving around the world more prevalently, a rate that has increased dramatically in latter years, due to inexpensive travel and more opportunities overseas. Living, therefore, without the intimacy of friends we grew up with, and in whom we could confide, may have been fuelled by this. So we end up with a social network that would previously have consisted of people round about us, but now it’s been dispersed.
Today’s communications technology averts the necessity for personal contact, even when we don’t live far away from our friends. Yet as we’ve said before, Kari, whilst the capacity of connecting with more people, and striking up new friendships anywhere in the world is much increased (you and I bear testimony to this), it is still a very poor substitute for physical presence.
In many instances, this lack of sharing with confidants at the level of one’s Way of Being leads to self-doubt. Then we need to find something or someone to blame… I have encountered so many people who have fallen into this trap! They move away to ‘greener pastures’ only to find that they lack fulfillment and rapidly become despondent with life.
I’m sure that you too have encountered this phenomenon called Blame in your experiences with clients, Kari, so do share your viewpoint on the matter with us.
I have been pondering over this topic, Guy. Yes, we like to place the blame on those who we think deserve it, for whatever action they have taken, but the thing is, we don’t have the other person’s reality! And we sure don’t have the whole picture!
For every angle from which I observed the topic of blame, it started out as a big, ugly monster but as I became more aware of it, somehow it faded away into the big illusion that it is. As humans we have the attribute of being able to feel blame, as well as guilt and shame and it has been a necessary attribute for us in order to survive as a group. We all have histories to tell about people not having that ability and the horror perpetrated as a result, but it isn’t the reality for most of us, is it? Most of us are torn with the fear of being blamed all the time, we should/shouldn’t have… We would/wouldn’t have… If only… And the interesting thing is that it is an echo from other people’s judgment of our actions, so basically we seldom take ownership of it.
Blame separates—“them” and “us”. If someone is to blame, then there is someone else who benefits, who doesn’t have to be responsible for his or her actions and reactions. “It isn’t my fault, I have done it all correctly; you are the one to blame here!”
We have talked so much about how every single one of us has our own reality according to our brain’s interpretations. What may seem very odd for one person makes perfect sense to another person; that is one of the ironies in the world, which causes so much drama! When a person acts differently to what we expect, it is very easy to turn to anger, bitterness or sorrow; to being a victim. Maybe we turn to other people to tell them what has happened and then we receive support. If we don’t get support, we try to convince them or we just leave them be, as they are to blame too.
There has been an accident recently, here in Norway, where a man shot a dog at a beach where dogs are allowed to be unleashed. It has created a lot of rage and comments; links to news about it have been shared every day in social media. There was a memorial ceremony that more than a thousand people with dogs attended, where they could all support each other in their love for animals and for animal rights.
What is it that happens, when groups join together in rage and disgust? It does create a great deal of negative energy. And negative energy attracts more negativity, as it is fed by human fear. Is it the same thing to unleash your beloved dog on this beach today as it was before this tragedy happened?
I guess there is a chance that when people walk their dogs at the same beach now, they will still talk about what that man did, blaming him for taking away the safety they used to feel, supporting each other as victims of the circumstances. Who are most affected by this accident? We don’t know that, of course, just as we don’t really know why this man shot the dog. The only thing we know as animal lovers is that we become more aware of those “crazy” people out there, who may potentially harm the animals we love. And fear is fed even more!
You mentioned your relationships, Guy. How many times do people fall in love with a person, only to start wanting to change him or her? We want our partner or lover to lose weight; change their style; act differently, care more; read the right books; to join us in whatever we find amusing. After a while the energy in our relationship changes and the blaming starts, as the person we fell in love with shows up to be another person than whom we anticipated. Then what? Do we start to blame destiny? Do we start to count all those years we have wasted on this person we once believed so much in?
And what follows? Do we decide that we are never going to be fooled like that again? That men, or women, are never to be trusted again? I know a woman who once told me that she was done with lazy men just taking advantage of her. From that day forward, she had decided to just use men for what they were worth. Need I say that she has turned into a very lonely, elderly woman?
There are so many stories, like how some people are so occupied with blaming other people in their life, that it completely disrupts their focus. I know a man spending seventeen years blaming a person for ruining his life. Through all these years, this person totally occupied his focus; he told everybody about it, all the time. He lost friends, even his own family had enough at one point, and he ended up very lonely and depressed. I also know a woman living in a relationship where she is totally dependent on her husband’s actions; if he acts in a way that doesn’t make her feel safe, she blames him for making her life miserable. Another man, who is still blaming his first wife, who he divorced almost forty years ago! They meet each other quite often by coincidence, as they live in the same area. To this day, he has never spoken to her. She actually became ill with cancer, and his response was: “Finally she got what she deserved!” Why? Because she once made some bad decisions, which ended up hurting him!
I could go on and on, Guy, but we all have examples like this. My point is that we have no idea what reasons the other person has for acting the way he or she does. None of us are able to ascertain the full consequences of our actions, as we are not able to see the full picture, so even if a person is seemingly to blame for those actions committed, it may be that at the time they were committed, it felt like the right thing to do…
Now, wait a minute!! What about people doing terrible things to other people, like torturing; murdering; being abusive to children; committing gang rape, as we hear in the news from India? Is that acceptable because it felt like the right thing to do?
It is absolutely not! That is not at all what I am saying—there is absolutely no excuse for harming other people!
I come back to choices again. It is really worth going deeper here, for every one of us, as every choice we make leads us further in life! They increase or they decrease the potential for something to happen and we do not have the clue as to what it is. We may believe we know, but I don’t think we can be reminded of this often enough: We use what we already know in order to judge our future! So the only thing we have is our own history and we have all the reasons in the world to choose as we do. The fact that those persons we blame are perhaps dealing with the same challenges we are passes us by as being completely irrelevant.
One of my clients has a situation where the father of her son, now in his twenties, suddenly makes contact and wants to get to know his son and his newborn grandson. There has never been any previous contact at all, as this man disappeared when she told him she was pregnant more than twenty years ago, and she is very angry with him. “Who does he think he is?” she says, “He can’t just show up now and believe he can have a family back!” She is so bitter and angry because he should understand how hard it was for her, being a single mum for his son, without any support from him.
“How can he know that?” I ask, “Does he have any experiences at all of being a single mum?”
“Of course he has not,” she answers me, “he has never had a problem in his life. He is independent and free, with a very good income. His job takes him all over the world and he doesn’t have any children other than our son.”
The result is, for now, that he is prevented from getting to know his family, as his son and grandson are from getting to know him too. His son does have a choice; he can change his mind, but then he has to answer to his mother! So the easiest way out is to refuse to meet his father, as he is to blame for the whole situation!
In all these examples: what is the timeline here? How much time does it take to stop blaming a situation or a person? There are examples of families hating each other for generations upon generations, without actually knowing why… And when searching for a reason, it may be about two stubborn brothers, generations ago, arguing about something completely irrelevant to those living today.
Who is the right person to stop it? Who benefits from it? There is a Danish expression I love using: ‘In what way is it useful to you? How can these kinds of things give you a happy, abundant life?’
You mentioned something very important, Guy—how we today seem to be more and more separated and how we often meet new people online.
How can we benefit the most of this new situation? What is it that we need to be aware of, in order to comprehend our integrity and authenticity—as we are even more susceptible to blame and criticism, not only by our friends and colleagues, but without any limitations at all as we expose ourselves online?
You’re right, Kari, it is all an illusion, exacerbated by the fact that so much of our lives are lived in cyberspace these days!
I in particular experience that sense, as I work from home, and the majority of my time is spent with my laptop in front of me. For days at a time, aside for the odd trip to buy groceries, my only interface with the outside world is via the Internet!
Even for those who interact with others on a daily basis in their work environment, technology has crept into our lives without us realising the extent to which it affects us. Don’t get me wrong, because I believe that the Internet and other forms of connectivity resulting from it, is perhaps the greatest invention in modern history!
Consider this, if you will: I remember a time, before social media and instant-chat, when you picked up the telephone if you wanted to chat to someone, and you went to visit your friends in person, rather than spend a few hours messaging one another. Whilst we do still call our friends on the phone and visit them occasionally, it’s just that much more convenient to ‘chat’… This way, we can accomplish more with our time. Wow, how superficial does this sound? And we wonder why blame is so prevalent in the world today…
Because interfacing online precludes physical interaction, misinterpretations and misunderstandings arise from the naturally more abbreviated and wholly impersonal form of communication (i.e. text-messaging versus face-to-face conversation), which can lead and has led to blame being apportioned, and worse, in many instances that I’ve experienced. Don’t you find that it’s so easy to jump to conclusions so much easier when we’re communicating this way? “WTH u mean LOL whn im being serious u fool >:(”… Oh dear! Let’s face it, dear readers—‘emoticons’ are in no way a true reflection of one’s moods and emotions! While this may seem humorous, we have certainly degenerated towards this superficial form of self-expression, and I find it deeply troubling!
I have two friends, brothers, whom I’ve known for nearly forty years now. We never communicate via social media, and the only time we speak on the telephone is to arrange to get together for a barbecue, or what we South Africans refer to as a ‘braai’ or ‘braaivleis’. This socialising takes place once every couple of months and we spend an entire evening relaxing and catching up, with good food and great company. I always feel enriched from these get-togethers, because we have engaged at the level of our Way of Being. In all the years we’ve known each other, I cannot recall one instance where we have had a disagreement or misunderstanding—and if ever we have, it has not been sorted out via some illusionary interface!
I must concede, though, that there are those one-in-a-million online encounters, where you meet a person you’ve known for lifetimes, and Kari, I’m grateful to say that I believe you and I had one of those encounters! For those of you that don’t know, Kari and I have not (as yet) met in person, yet have established a bond together that transcends the need for physical presence.
One of the major factors leading to blame and judgment, is the fact that because the pace and nature of life has become so frenetic, most of us have forgotten the value and importance of listening; of taking the time to pay attention; to observe. Incidentally, this is how you and I met, isn’t it, Kari? Our first meeting was to practice Listening on Skype, which led eventually to these conversations.
Clinical psychologist and author, Tara Brach, had this to say: “The trance of unworthiness, sustained by the movement of blaming, striving and self-numbing, begins to lift when we stop the action. The Buddha engaged in his mythic process of awakening after coming to rest under the bodhi tree. We start to cut through the trance in the moment that we, like the Buddha, discontinue our activity and pay attention. Our willingness to stop and look—what I call the sacred art of pausing—is at the center of all spiritual practice. Because we get so lost in our fear-driven busyness, we need to pause frequently.”
The Art of Listening plays an integral role in The PowaForce Forum, and paves the way towards bringing to the fore all of that negative language bouncing around in your unconscious mind, so that you might begin working generatively towards creating a new language; a language of possibility!
Due to this change in dynamics of the manner in which we communicate and conduct our relationships in the 21 Century, we really need to find new ways to re-engage with our capacity for effective listening. Although The Art of Listening is conducted as a dyad, either face-to-face or online, each taking turns to ask and answer a preset list of simple questions, the power it enables helps the person sharing, more than the one who’s listening. This is because the mere presence of having someone there to listen, without prejudice or opinion, allows you to answer for yourself, many of the questions others simply cannot answer for you, as well as deal with many challenging obstacles.
As a listener in the dyad, you are not able to offer any opinion as to what your dyad partner is sharing whatsoever. When you first begin The Art of Listening, it is very difficult to resist the urge to offer your opinion, as this is a habit we have all formed over many, many years. We tend to listen only superficially, as we are already formulating what we want to say, thus completely sidetracking our listening capacity. Eventually this temptation recedes, as you realise that your only option is but to listen, and so you begin to become an ever more proficient observer as a result; of others, and more importantly, yourself!
The Art of Listening also alters the way you think, as you have now created space to observe your language, and indeed change your language to one that enriches your life. Now you begin to shift away from living in a world of constant blame, judgment and criticism (Scarcity), into one of new possibilities, enlightenment and heightened consciousness (Abundance).
This is the sweet spot we all should be able to attain—and there’s no reason why you can’t! Living with blame takes a great deal of energy, as does any form of negativity; it’s a burden that weighs you down. Conversely, adopting an uplifting, positive mien for life is far more liberating, without any stress whatsoever. Isn’t it about time you let go of blame, and all its affiliated dramas?
I’m sure, dear Kari, that you have much to share as regards reducing the effects of blame in one’s life—what is your perspective as a Kinesiologist?
I love what you say about listening, Guy. That is an amazing tool towards self-understanding and an awareness of what it is that holds us back from creating the best life possible for ourselves.
When it comes to reducing the effects of blame it is absolutely necessary to disclose blame as the illusion that it is. Yet that is difficult, as it is so real and so painful for us.
To blame other people is an act of survival, of scarcity, as you say, Guy. But what about blaming ourselves? That is one of the most common ways to give away responsibility in life. If we don’t take ownership of our actions, life will act anyway, as it is design to, and we have no influence over it.
How often do you tell yourself: “Oh, I am so stupid! Why did I do that? I should have known better; that is so typical me! I always make a mess out of everything!”
You refer to laptops and other devices where we are connected online, Guy. I want to ask you, dear readers: I assume you’re familiar with the manner in which you can access any information you like online, via your computer, as long as you input the correct search information?
Well, here is something that may be news for you:
Your brain works like a very complex computer! Science, by the way, is trying to create a computer as complex as the human brain, but they have not succeeded as yet. In the same way we go online to access information, your brain is programmed with all the information about everything you have ever experienced in your life. You have programmed it yourself and it is there for you to use—all you have to do is give the right commands.
Your brain is completely neutral; it simply constitutes electrical signals between synapses, working in patterns as it is accustomed. Yet there is something there—an awareness of something more... An opening to the fact that there is a body attached, which consists of trillions upon trillions of cells and every single cell operates in synchronicity according to your blueprint; the recipe of you, so to speak. This tremendous well of information, waiting to be activated at your command, is also in every cell of your brain. And there is such a big part of it, doing nothing, absolutely nothing at all, until you do are willing and ready to take charge of your life and your destiny…
The more you tell yourself you are to blame, and the more you blame others, the more regular those patterns, that give you anger, shame, grief, guilt, making you feel stupid, abandoned and misunderstood, become. And the complexity of your brain supports it by adding information about every time you made poor decisions; every time you failed; every time other people treated you badly, as a direction to give you what you command: “I am so stupid!” Or, “Nobody understands me… Nobody sees how difficult they make my life…”
And not only that—as the brain is very thorough, it will make you aware of every time you fail, every time other people criticize you, actually, even if they didn’t intend to, you will read that in their language and behaviour. You get what you create, and your brain does it’s very best to please you!
I know a man, now past sixty, who all his life believed he was stupid. He is so convinced of the fact, that every time he doesn’t do things perfectly, he tells himself very clearly how stupid he is; how little he is worth; how little he deserves the good things in life, as he is so hopeless…
Every time he talks like this, I can hear the echo from his childhood. How often do we tell a child that he or she is a bad boy or girl? How often do we let children’s actions define who they are? There is a huge difference between bad actions and being defined as a bad person, yet we do it all the time. And that little child will at some point adopt it and start blaming him-or herself as they are thought to be. As living in blame is a very hurtful situation, the next step is to start blaming others; it is easier to bear what we see as failure if we can say that it is caused by somebody else’s actions.
Is it possible to change this at all? Here in Norway there is a strange unwritten “law” which is called “janteloven”. This is a word I don’t know any translation of, but it means that you must never believe you are anything at all! You must never believe you are better than anybody else and never believe you are special. Be quiet, as it is very arrogant to believe you have something to say that may be more important than what others haves to say. In order to be a good person, you have to live by these unwritten and unspoken rules, and if you don’t understand where you have come from, then you are not a respected member of society!
Thank god this is starting to fade away as new generations emerge, but it was indeed something I experienced when I was a child. Do your best with the limitations you have, try to be an average person, don’t say or do anything that may bring shame upon your family.
I remember it being very difficult and felt very lonely to fail in this. Suddenly it was acceptable for everybody to talk behind each other’s back; everybody “knew” everything about this poor person, no longer being a part of the herd.
It takes generations for this to dissipate, like everything else, as we constitute our children the same way we are brought up. Slowly, step-by-step, it will change. But in the meantime, there is so much blame involved! And it doesn’t solve anything!
But yes, it is possible to change it. The only way out of this is to start loving yourself and take responsibility for your actions. We have spoken about this so many times, Guy, and yet I don’t think it is possible to mention it often enough! It is when you are able to be amazed at how the system works, when you are able to see that it is impossible for you to be average—or that no-one is! We are all unique; nobody has experienced the same as you, or in the same way as you have. No-one else has the same blueprint you have, and nobody interprets the world in the same way you do!
As we blame others for problems in our life, isn’t it actually a reflection of our own self-blame?
“If I can’t create the life I want and desire, I want you to do it for me. I want you to make it entirely as I want to have it. I may tell you the headlines of what I want; the rest is for you to figure out, without having the emotions connected to it, the upbringing I had, or how I have put information together for the reality only I experience. All you have to do is make it happen. If you love me, you will know what I need! If you are not able to that, then you don’t love me…”
Can you see how this is doomed to fail? Does that make you stupid or unworthy, or does it simply tell you that you are the only one who can give you the life you want?
Most of my clients deal with issues of blame. Because they often have struggled for years before they decide to go deeper down into their unconscious patterns, their blame of other family members increases. “They should know how it is to be me! They must see how I hurt! Why don’t they care?”
It is often a lifelong pattern of behaviour that needs to be changed, but the reward when it is done is unbelievable. Like a dear friend of mine told me a few days ago, she has really experienced betrayal, abusive behaviours and fears. She has been abandoned by her own family, and there is almost no end to what this person has experienced! And now, hands on her heart, she is grateful. She lives her life in complete balance and has no problem seeing that if it wasn’t for all these challenges, she would never have become this conscious of her own ability to create the life of her dreams. She sees a more complete picture and she has reached the point where she can truly say she loves herself.
I have seen people reach this state again and again and it is my highest wish for everyone to reach this point, as I know it is for you, Guy. This is why we do what we do, every week. It is our way to help people increase their consciousness, as we all play our unique role in the wonderful picture of life.
Speaking of consciousness, are you truly aware of it? Do you make conscious choices and live your life in a conscious way? Let us talk about that next week, Guy, as all we actually work for, is to live our life in a conscious way, to the benefit of everyone, including ourselves.
(Illustration by unknown artist)