Life is a journey… | the ramblings and writings of a guy who prefers to write on paper, but can't live without the internet…

Sometimes it IS “all your fault”

If you are like most people, you’ve probably blamed[1] yourself for something in the past 24 hours. This could be something as simple as being in the wrong lane of traffic for your turn, “Good move moron.”  Or maybe somebody goes looking for you put in storage too soon, “Oops, my fault, I’ll get it.”  Maybe you say something mean that you regret later, “Why did I do that? I’m such a jerk!”  Sometimes it comes at the end of a relationship, “It’s all my fault, if I’d only…”  A lot of the internal dialogue is just the mindless self-blame that accompanies the apology.  In situations where we should take time and evaluate what happened or how we feel we put that off until later, usually never.  And even when we do take time to think things through, this mindless blame-chatter very subtly over time removes another layer of self-esteem.

We tear ourselves up over our emotional responses and tend to skip rational evaluation.  “I can’t believe this happened to me.”, “God, I’m such a fuck-up!”, “I’m so frustrated!”, “I’m ashamed (sad/hurt).”  Allowing those emotions to control how we view the situation can keep us from seeing the important things about what happened.  Since we already blamed someone, there is already someone who is in trouble, we don’t have to look anywhere else, we have a person to point our finger (back) at.  We build ourselves this loop of negative self talk and we create negative space around us.  We also build a habit of emotionally negative responses to situations that hurt our feelings or upset us.  At some point we feel bad about that and it becomes just one more thing to blame ourselves for.  The cycle begins again.

There is a lojong proverb that says, “drive all blames into one”.

Among other things, I believe this means that we should own the blame.  Owning the blame isn’t just admitting that we did something wrong, it is stopping to take a second good look at ourselves before we place blame on anyone.  In taking that second look, we have to remember that we can only control what we can control.  That list of things is very short.  Simply put, the only things you have control over are your actions and your reactions.  Owning the blame means owning the process of selecting the wrongs that were done and who was wrong.  It is the process where you step back and look at the situation from the perspective of an outsider.  It is acknowledging that the only things you can control are your actions and reactions.

When you see the situation, the wrong, through the lens of what you can control, it begins to make sense that your frustration is all your fault.  You are to blame for the blame!  Your emotional reaction clouds your ability to be rational which makes it easier to see your own part in the situation.   Your rational brain accepts that you will be wrong but doesn’t care, because things in this space are either right or wrong, they are unemotional.  It only cares about doing things right and following processes and math and numbers, which means it can change course as soon as the new set of directions are made clear.  The linear thought process takes those new directions, once they are received, and adds them into the routine[2].  It is taking a step back to see that the one thing you can change is your reaction to what is happening.

In every situation, regardless of everything else, you can only change your reactions and actions.

If we interject this thought process into our self-blame cycle, we can start to break out of the negative space created by our emotional responses.  It doesn’t really matter where in the cycle you manage to fit this idea.  If you don’t catch yourself until the end, that’s ok. You are still stopping to observe your reactions and actions which allows you to see how your negative emotional response impacted the situation.  Caught in the middle of the loop, this concept can help cut short the time you spend relentlessly beating yourself up over feeling bad about beating yourself up!  When you notice what’s happening from the start, you have the opportunity to change course.  You may eventually be able to stop your response before it happens.

Stopping that negative feedback loop at any point to check yourself is a good thing.  Simply stopping your thought process to breath can often clear up a world of frustration, and sometimes gives you the space to begin to understand owning the blame.

The next time you’re beating yourself up over something, think to yourself that “Maybe it is all my fault after all!”


[1] This word sometimes sounds harsh but is simply about giving ownership of something that isn’t right.

[2] I’m talking autonomic stuff, not the attempts to remember to staple your TPS Reports together and that “higher process” stuff.

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