Blame is a way we discharge pain.
We blame others, hurling insults and digging our heels into the cushy comfort of self-righteous indignation.
Or we blame ourselves. We beat ourselves up. We call ourselves names like “loser” and “failure.” And then we wonder why we feel small, alone and sick to our stomachs.
Next time you notice you are blaming someone or blaming yourself, no matter why, try getting curious instead of launching an attack.
- What am I feeling that makes me want to judge my friend right now?
- What I am I feeling that makes me judge myself right now?
- What am I feeling that makes me criticize or belittle myself or someone else right now?
- What am I feeling that makes me want to overeat, over-drink, obsess or ruminate right now?
- What is happening right now that I just popped out of my skin and became self-conscious? What is going on here?
No doubt there is emotion involved.
Being curious is good for your brain. The mere act of inquiry is positive in so many ways. Being curious:
- Stops the hurtful impulses dead in their tracks.
- Creates space in your mind.
- Provides an opportunity to learn something new about yourself.
- Lets you practice going deeper beyond just what you think you know.
- Creates a flexible mind over time.
- Solves problems before they escalate.
To illustrate what I mean, here’s something that I recently experienced:
I had a miscommunication with someone and it was really frustrating and upsetting for me. I found myself oscillating between my anger at her for misunderstanding my intention and “making” me feel bad and judging myself for not getting it right and causing this tension between us. In other words, I was blaming her and then I was blaming myself. Neither position felt good. And neither position felt right and led to any relief or solution.
And then I remembered to be curious about this whole mess I found myself in.
I pulled back and tuned in to what I was really feeling inside on an emotional and visceral level. I felt my pain. I felt my discomfort and the desire to move away from it and back to the blame game. But I didn’t this time.
I stayed with my sadness. I felt my anger. I felt my shame and anxiety. I sat with myself for as long as I could to see what might happen if I didn’t attack myself or my acquaintance.
I found myself needing to take deep breaths to manage what I was feeling inside. It was hard at first and then something shifted. The pain lost some intensity. I no longer felt the same pull to act or have to figure out who was bad. Instead, I was left with a manageable sadness over the whole ordeal. Miscommunications and bad feelings aren’t fun.
It was a relief to just be sad for my friend and me. We were both hurting. My pain turned to compassion for us both. And that also felt better. We both had suffered. Maybe that was enough to hold in mind for now.
Pema Chodron writes, “Getting curious about outer circumstances and how they are impacting you, noticing what words come out and what your internal discussion is, this is the key. If there is a lot of ‘I am bad, I am terrible,’ somehow just notice that and maybe soften up a bit. Instead say, ‘What am I feeling here? Maybe what is happening here is not that I am a failure — I am just hurting. I am just hurting.’”
I was just hurting.
Judgmental woman image available from Shutterstock.