Dec2019: Blame Holds You Back

by Brad on November 30, 2019

“My happiness depends on me, so you’re off the hook.” – Esther Hicks

Stress, anxiety, guilt. Have these become your everyday companions? If so, what do you see as the cause? as the change that’s needed? The answer I most often hear runs like this: “It’s his/her/their fault; he/she/they make my life difficult; if only they would change, my life would be fine.” If this sounds all too familiar, there’s a reason for it … and a path beyond the struggle, a path that’s 100% up to you; no need for “them” to go along.

My experience suggests that seeing life’s inevitable challenges and struggles through a lens of fault/blame is an unconscious, conditioned response … arising from our unwillingness to accept life/things/others as they are. That’s because early in life, our lessons focus on how life should be, not how it really is instead, so we learn to see what’s “wrong” rather than what’s true. This state of judgment has the unfortunate side effect of leaving us unwilling to see/accept life or others as they are; we see them only as we think they should be. So when others (or life) [invariably] fail to conform to our idea of should, we see our judgment as “evidence” to justify the blame. Curiously, however, stress, anxiety and guilt come not from a person or situation (as we claim) but from having to manage the judgment, the one we created in our minds by trying to force the other person to be different.

This process is largely an unconscious one; old lessons became embedded as truth long ago, today leaving us so convinced we’re right that we’ve become blind to even the existence of another path. While we’re busy making others wrong, we miss the fact that judgment doesn’t solve problems. We miss the fact that blame is an artifact of our own minds and has nothing to do with whoever is wrong. We miss the fact that stress and anxiety come from our blame game, not from other people’s behavior. We miss the fact that accepting “what is” isn’t the same as agreeing with “what is.” We miss the fact that no one can ruin our day unless we allow it. Therefore we miss altogether the fact that peace is something we create within ourselves, not something bestowed upon us by “better behavior” from others. We miss all this, I claim, because we don’t notice all this. How could we? We’re too busy blaming others. Curiously, once again, it’s not even “them” at all, but our own lack of conscious awareness.

So, here is where you might say, “well, that’s nonsense; they’re wrong, and there’s no way I’m letting them off the hook for it.” And here is where I might say, “well, ok, but how’s it going for you knowing that you are right?” It’s “natural” to claim that your opinions and judgments (and therefore the blame you may levy on others) are 100% valid. Of course they are! They come directly from the [invisible-to-you] thought framework of everything you’ve learned in life (the life story of your thinking). We believe anything we think for this same reason. But that framework is personal, unconscious, and made up by others. Even a brief flash of light on what you see as “evidence” would quickly relegate it to the realm of “opinion” instead. And that shift robs blame of its energy.

You’ll never have a life of your own if you continue to blame others for the life you’ve got … or if you’re crushing under the weight of your own stress … or if you refuse to accept that things are what they are. Stop misidentifying the enemy. Life will be different when you’re different. The only behavior you can change is your own. So, given that, why would you choose behavior that continues to leave you stressed, anxious, upset and drained? Blame holds you back. Life’s challenges don’t ask for your judgment; they invite your creative genius instead.

Maybe it’s time to trade the blame game for the personal responsibility game. Right vs. wrong is not a useful conversation, this, even if they really are wrong. But finding your own peace in the midst of right vs. wrong is a useful conversation (one you have with yourself) – and the beginning of the personal responsibility game.

To make the personal responsibility game easier, you need start with only one of however many blame things you have in progress. Because once you learn to find your own peace in the middle of one [bad] situation, you’ve begun developing a renewable and sustainable energy source you can use to become resilient in the midst of any [bad] situation. As old judgmental thinking inside you yields to awareness and acceptance instead, you’ll notice that you can now connect far more constructively with all those idiots who desperately need to change.

Exercise: You might start your new personal responsibility game by imagining what it would be like without stress, anxiety, guilt, and without the judgment that creates them. Just imagine. Here’s a path to get there. When you get to know the now-unconscious thoughts that have hijacked your intention for peace, you find that peace. When you notice how unconscious judgment leads to conscious blame, you have a new choice – to stop doing it. The practice: Stop what you’re doing for a few minutes, 3 or 4 times each day. (Those are the minutes you think you don’t have.) Check in with your feelings – stress, anxiety, guilt. Just notice the feeling, as an observer rather than in your more common role as a participant. Feelings are teachers, carrying messages that invite us to learn about ourselves. So if you don’t stop to hear this message objectively, you miss the value of the lesson. Ask: What’s the message your feelings are offering you? No judgment of the feelings, no need to try to change them. Just grow your awareness. After some experience noticing, see if you can find the thought that’s fueling the feeling. For example, if you notice stress, and you see it’s from a judgment you’ve made of someone else’s behavior, you may find a thought underneath it – that they “shouldn’t behave like this.” (That thought, by the way, is the residual product of an old lesson about how life “should be.”) There’s a shift in consciousness that just “shows up” one day (a result of this practice) when you “get it” that your stress is something you created, (courtesy of your unconscious judgment), not a result of their behavior at all. Then, with little apparent effort, you’ll find that judgments start to fall away, and you feel less stressed. Gradually, this spills into all parts of your life, growing your sense of self-trust, leaving you resilient in the midst of the persistent yammering of the external world. So the game is simple: stop trying to change other people or get rid of your feelings; instead, learn from them … so you can change the thinking that created the problem.

Personal note: this entire article, including the exercise above, describes my own journey spanning 30 years of adult life. I was taught, with heavy rigor and unyielding persistence, that life – people, events, circumstances – should be a certain way. I lived as if those lessons were true. My life “mission” was to make them all turn out … as they “should be.” Neither life, nor others, were so cooperative here, however (which then I simply couldn’t understand), so I spent years – both personally and professionally – trying to beat life into compliance with my mental model (the lessons). It was stressful, draining, dissatisfying and sad. Yet it was all so deeply ingrained in my unconscious that I didn’t even know I’d created the whole mess in the first place. In my late 40s, the universe intervened, with some “new lessons,” lessons that shook me from my myopic certainty. (See my book for the stories.) I’m grateful for those lessons, for my willingness to step out of my comfort zone so as to see life anew, and for the past 20 years of peace I’ve enjoyed. I’m also grateful for those who helped me along the way; it’s a journey we don’t take very well all alone.

Life lessons from nature: Rivers aren’t offended when rocks get in their way. Rivers aren’t upset when the Corps of Engineers decides to put dams or levees in their path (rather futile attempts on their part, anyway, to tell a river what it should do.) Rivers “flow” to the sea. They don’t blame or fight the “offenders.” In this natural process of flow, rivers change the shape of everything they touch … while competing with nothing. How curious.

My book: Living Authentically … in a World That Would Rather You Didn’t, is ready for you to experience and enjoy. Its premise is simple: in the midst of a world that has lost its way, you need never lose your own. As you get to know, then honor, your unique truth, you find the self-trust that emerges from that inquiry will light your way forever. Its pages offer ideas, insights, perspectives and my personal reflections … accompanied by exercises to help you make your life your own, not someone else’s. I’ll help keep the torch lit on your path, so you can find your way to your deepest longing. You’ll find all you need to know here – an intro to the book, samples pages, and a link to purchase a copy (for yourself or as a holiday gift!).

Coaching programs: Comments from readers of Living Authentically … in a World That Would Rather You Didn’t already offer confirmation that its message is much needed. Thank you, all. I also appreciate the interest many of you have expressed in a personal coaching program to explore living authentically with greater depth and meaning. If you’d like support for the journey and are committed to your own authentic path, give me a call or send me an email, and together we’ll create a personal coaching program just for you. Imagine a peaceful life.

Book of the month: A Religion of One’s Own, by Thomas Moore. A book of uncommon wisdom and depth, about finding and living a personal experience of the sacred in all aspects of everyday life, rather than in dogma. It’s about deep, personal inquiry and self-reflection, which lead to self-knowing, self-trust and deep meaning. Personal belief is created, not followed; it leads to wholeness and oneness rather than divisiveness. From its pages: “‘The Lord is my shepherd’ is a beautiful psalm, but people are tired of being sheep.” And if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons; 508-539-6985.


Download December 2019 pdf


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cheryl Rezendes December 7, 2019 at 5:28 am

Hello Brad,
I was expecting an article on holiday stress and how to “be” in the present moment. Ha! (Which certainly would be a great reminder at this time of year.) However, I got just what I needed to read (hear) instead.
I especially enjoyed the lesson from nature. The river analogy was poignant and made me chuckle- rather futile to tell a river what it should do-indeed!
Thank you for the reminder to dig in, let go of judgments, step into awareness of those thoughts, and go with the flow. “Rivers change the shape of everything they touch.” Brilliant.


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