Want to save your relationship? Want to put an end to the blame game? Well there is a way out of the power struggle and it begins with you!Most of us know when we are being blamed. It's usually in the words we hear. Things like "It's all your fault!" or "You did that on purpose!" However, it is harder to know when we are the ones doing the blaming. Part of what makes it difficult to recognize is that protecting or defending ourselves against pain is instinctual. Our immediate reaction to pain is to try to make it go away. In fact, the stronger the pain, the harder we try to eliminate or minimize it.
Physical pain (if not severe) can be easier to deal with. If you have a headache, you take medicine and in 15 minutes or less the pain is gone! Emotional distress or pain is a very different story.
When we are in emotional pain we usually look around for the culprit and if we identify our partner as the one who caused it we immediately go into blaming mode. This only leads to increased pain and frustration.
You know you are blaming when you engage in any of the following behaviors:
- If only you wouldn’t do _ I wouldn't have done that!
- You always make me feel ___
- It’s all of your fault!
- You never listen!
Blaming keeps you stuck in some of the following ways:
- When you blame someone else it keeps you in the role of victim/matyr
- Blame leads to feelings of anger and resentment, which contributes to distance and pain in relationships.
- It blocks you from getting what you want and being able to take an active role in your own life!
It's much easier to blame someone else then it is to take responsibility for your own reactions, choices, behaviors, thoughts, or feelings.
So where does it all begin?
This picture demonstrates how early we start learning to protect and defend ourselves! There is a valid reason for this behavior. It is a coping skill that we learn in order to survive in our environment (at home, in society, with friends).
If we grew up in homes where making mistakes was not tolerated and the consequences doing so were painful then blaming others may have become a way of life. After all safety is the key to survival! On the other hand we may have learned to take the blame or to take responsibility for anything and everything that went wrong. Either one of these behaviors; is an extreme and leads to building up defenses to cover our vulnerability.
Reacting defensively doesn't help us get what we want in relationship. It hard to connect with a loved one when we are armored, protecting ourselves or engaging in defensive behaviors.
So what is the answer? How can we change this behavior?
The key is to learn how to take responsibility for your own feelings and experiences; learn from them and make a conscious effort to make healthier and healing choice. Putting this into practice can be extremely difficult and challenging. What's difficult about it? Well it requires that you be vulnerable, let go of defensiveness and really take a look at your part in the conflict.
The challenge is to look at your self and ask, "How are my thoughts, behaviors, choices or feelings contributing to what is going on in my relationship?" or ask yourself, "What am I doing to create distance and hurt?"
Try the following exercise to help you switch from blaming to taking responsibility:
Become aware of the story you tell yourself about what this means. (When my partner doesn't listen to me it means that he doesn't care about me!
Take responsibility for how you react or feel when this happens. Following the above example if I then get defensive and yell at him or shut down and refuse to talk to him, I contribute to the conflict."
Instead I can request a time to talk to him without distractions.
I can put myself in my partner’s shoes and realize that there may be deeper issue here and they may have difficulty talking about certain touchy subjects.
I can invite my partner to discuss this letting him/her know that I really want to understand.
The bottom line is that you can't change your life by blaming others. You can only change your life by taking responsibility for yourself and making healthier, empowered choices.
Cindy Ricardo is a Certified Imago Therapist and a LMHC. She has a private practice in Coral Springs, Florida where she provides individual and couples counseling. Cindy also runs workshops for Couples helping them learn how to create loving, intimate and supportive relationship. If you would like more information please contact her at 954-793-6442, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at http://www.acaringcounselor.net/