How to Keep Blame from Ruining Your World
Relinquishing blame and replacing it with forgiveness enhances personal responsibility.
Reactive people… are often affected by their physical environment. They find external sources to blame for their behavior.-Stephen Covey
Blame is the enemy of curiosity, and curiosity is a major factor in what allows us to have the mental flexibility required to learn from adversity.
Blame ultimately divests us of responsibility for our actions, and prevents us from holding others accountable, replacing forgiveness, acceptance, gratitude, compassion, love, respect and so on, with hostility, aggression, and disappointment.
Replacing self-blame with personal responsibility is a game-changer. Freeing oneself from fear of being blamed is a game-changer. Replacing frustration with curiosity… is a game-changer.
Forgiveness does not mean remaining a willing victim, but it does free one from the constraints inherent in a blame-based attack/defense view of the world and other people.
Getting to Curiosity
Getting to curiosity is challenging when mired in emotional states which constrain the ability to imagine useful possibilities. The brain constrains reality the way a political system contains a nation.
When the brain gets “wired” to see the world in one way, and not others, reality follows suit as consequences all along the causal pathway shape the emergence of the world.
These constraints start with the brain’s resting state in default mode network activity. The brain is idling with negative thoughts, often of a self-blaming backward-looking nature, taking the place of better mental options.
Which Brain Are You In?
The basic “operating system” has issues that limit what ideas and expectations can even “run” in our personalities. These basic expectations, whatever they are, become familiar and we think that is just who we are, if our assumption is of rigidity and changelessness.
Likewise, the way we perceive is skewed by salience network activity. Ordinarily, we are biased to look for threats in the environment. Evolutionarily, this isn’t a bad idea. Survival is historically uncertain, and very few human beings would make it to adulthood.
The mammalian basic bias to see danger makes it easy for threat amplification to take place especially if developmental adversity and adult disappointments confirm the expectation that things won’t go well. When actual safety is higher, we may be inclined to replace actual with imagined dangers.
As with default mode and salience networks, executive control networks are geared for a state of chronic struggle, because the world seems inhospitable. Seeing possibilities outside of what experience and expectations have proven to be true and inviolable isn’t easy.
When we have unwittingly surrounded ourselves with people aligned with a negative view of reality, self-sustaining negative relationship cycles take the place of healthy change and growth, whether sudden or gradual.
There are many factors which lock the brain into a stuck worldview, and many practices which can undo blame, setting us free. An overarching tendency a lot of people hold fast to is the tendency to look for blame, to seek explanations for why things are bad by emphasizing fault-based attributions. The cause of problems is someone or something’s fault, or one’s own fault. But looking for fault, regardless of the causal factors, places a slant on reality which is never constructive if the goal is long-term satisfaction and success.
Blame-based explanations are appealing because they are simple. They relieve distress and uncertainty by providing a scapegoat for why things aren’t going right. They fail, however, to take the real complexity of the world into account, and so they fail as a model for how to live.
Blame can be directed inward in the form of self-criticism and self-sabotage, can be directed predominantly outward toward others, toward abstractions like “the system” or “human nature”, or some blend of inner and outer.
Regardless, the overall tendency to use blame prevents curiosity, which locks experiencing into a narrow range of possibilities that always curve back upon themselves to prove what we already believe in a crummy loop.
Needless to say, blaming everything on blame is also overly simplistic. There are other factors, including the fact that there are bad actors out there, including the fact that life has tragedy we cannot avoid, including material circumstances, including the fact that we inevitably make mistakes.
Hyper focusing on blame, a compulsion to employ blame indiscriminately which almost becomes an addiction, causes stagnation and ultimately leads to despair.
Forgiveness, and its close relatives, hacks blame and frees up the brain to see things in terms of responsibility and mature appraisal and ultimately, better decisions, new possible worlds. There are often halting and tiny differences, demanding practice, persistence, and frustration tolerance … but the effects grow over time leading to bigger shifts.
Originally published at https://www.psychologytoday.com.