Blame as a Stressful Reaction
As we go through our day, things don’t always go smoothly. When something goes wrong, it’s easy to react reflexively by blaming others for the problem. We might have thoughts like “It’s your fault!” “Don’t look at me! I don’t have anything to do with it!” As we shall see, blame is a reaction that causes stress for everyone.
First, what is blame?
Blame is the assigning of the responsibility or accountability of an event to someone else. In our mind, the responsibility is all on someone else. Once we do that, it’s easy to think we had nothing to do with it. However, when we put the blame on others, we completely ignore our part. We essentially create a blind spot around ourselves. If this is a picture of the situation with everyone in it, we take ourselves out of the picture.
The Problem with Blame
The problem with blame is that it hurts everyone, other people and ourselves. When we blame others, it hurts them because we make them responsible for 100% of the mishap when it is obviously untrue; then we unleash our anger at them for causing us problems. “ It’s all your fault! You messed everything up!” This anger can easily hurt relationships as we say harsh words in a fit of anger and blame. We also hurt ourselves because we refuse to see the part we played in the whole picture. For example, if I’m late, it’s all Muni’s fault for running late, or the traffic’s fault for slowing me down, not my fault for cutting my time so close. If we never look at our part, we might think we’re protecting ourselves but in fact, we’re hurting ourselves. When we refuse to see our part in the picture, we will never see how we contributed to the situation so we can never improve. We also don’t see the pain we cause others by blaming them for something that may not be their fault at all.
A Scenario -- A Day at the Beach
Let’s take an example of a situation and see how the blame reaction causes stress for everyone. Then we’ll apply the steps of Silencing Our thoughts to help resolve the stress.
Suppose you and a friend plan a day at the beach. You’re supposed to bring lunch and your friend is supposed to bring the sunblock. When you arrive at the beach, you discover that your friend didn’t bring the sunblock. Your friend suggests that you both go back inside, away from the scorching sun but you insist on staying out on the beach to enjoy a little sun. Your friend leaves and you accidentally fall asleep in the sun for a few hours. You get badly sunburned and you blame the whole thing on your friend. In YOUR mind, it’s all HER fault because she forgot the sunblock.
Your sunburn is very painful. You scold your friend for forgetting the sunblock. “All your fault!” The argument that follows can easily end up causing a grudge and even an irreparable rift in your friendship.
Silence Our Thoughts
Now let’s see how the outcome of the situation can be very different when we Ding Sum, Silence Our Thoughts. Each step of Silencing Our Thoughts can help us change from reacting with blame to responding in a way that helps the situation.
1. STOP - Remember that we should Silence Our Thoughts during all incidents. But, when things go wrong, STOP those thoughts of blame “Not me! You did it! It’s your fault!”
2. ASSESS – Then, ASSESS the whole picture. Look at all the facts of what happened and what everyone did. When we assess other people, we must admit that we only know WHAT people did but we don’t know WHY they did or did not do it. It is important that we don’t try to guess because if we guess, the guess usually upsets us and we get even more angry at the situation. When we ASSESS ourselves, assess – what did I do? Remember – we do know WHY we did or didn’t do something so we should own up to it as well. And we also know our reactions to the situation. Be honest. If we reacted with anger and blame and wanted vengeance then we must admit it. In our scenario, the fact is that you reacted with anger and blame and wanted vengeance without regard for the consequences; so you decided yourself to stay outside without sunblock. No one forced you, and in fact, your friend had suggested you go back inside.
3&4. DECIDE & DO - DECIDE what to do based on the guideline of what benefits everyone. Use the guideline to create options and decide on the best one that benefits everyone and then DO it. For example, you can sincerely apologize to your friend for getting upset and take responsibility for your part in the situation. The apology can clear the air or even avoid the damage caused by the argument and hopefully preserve your friendship. If you Silence Your Thoughts earlier, you can avoid any pain and just go and get the sunblock before going outside. Or if you didn’t Silence Your Thoughts until you were already burned, you can get the appropriate ointment to help the sunburn heal faster.
5. RE-EVALUATE – Review the situation so we can have a real plan for how we can improve the next time. Ask yourself, first. What was the response to what I did? Then review what happened and especially - What was my contribution? If I had Silenced My Thoughts at the beginning what would my response have been? I need to remember to Silence My Thoughts BEFORE each incident next time to have a better response.
Things will go wrong and when they do—use Silencing Our Thoughts to STOP that reaction to get angry and blame others and instead reduce stress and help the situation. And always re-evaluate our part to learn how we can personally do better and help others.