Blame and Shame
“It is tempting to view human transactions in simple cause-and-effect terms. If we are angry, someone else caused it. Or, if we are the target of someone else's anger, we must be to blame; or, alternately—if we are convinced of our innocence—we may conclude that the other person has no right to feel angry. The more our relationships in our first family are fused (meaning the togetherness force is so powerful that there is a loss of separate 'I's' within the 'we'), the more we learn to take responsibility for other people's feelings and reactions and blame them for our own.”
Harriet G. Lerner, Ph.D. (The Dance of Anger)
We humans spend untold energy and angst on the horns of this dilemma—who's to blame for our hurt or anger. Who's to blame for the mess we find ourselves in at any given moment. We blame our significant others, we blame ourselves, we blame the conditions of our society—there's plenty of blame to go around. The problem with cause-and-effect thinking is that it gets us nowhere. Oh, we may leave; we may slam the door on one aspect of life, and head out into the world to find a better one, but until we get to the bottom of ourselves, we will recreate the scenario again and again. This is especially true when we grew up in a family that believed its members had no right to be individuals—we are family, and we stick together. We believe the same things, we don't disagree, we expect one another to sacrifice for the good of the family, and to tow the party line. When one member veers off the prescribed path, they become the scapegoat for everyone's anger and blame. And the cycle goes round and round.
These problems of anger, blame, and shame are spiritual in nature. They are intractable in that as children we learned to use them as our first line of defense. They feel normal and natural to us. Remember the playground taunt, “You started it! It's your fault!” It jumps into our minds at the first sign of trouble and we shift to auto-pilot—if I am hurt, if I am angry, there is someone to blame. If I spoke angry words that hurt someone else, I should feel shame. It's an endless loop that stops only when we wake up, and begin to work on changing ourselves.
Always, we have a primary role to play in our own feelings simply because they belong to us. No one else caused them and no one else can cure them—they are ours. They come from within us. We can spend our whole lives in the hamster wheel of anger, blame and shame, or we can take them on, and help ourselves change the pattern. Healing is an inside job.
In the words of Dr. Caroline Myss, “Call your spirit back!” Call it back from wandering in the wilderness of anger and hurt. The Taoist notion of: “This is simple, but very hard to do,” fits here. It isn't easy to change the patterns of a lifetime. It takes diligence and determination. What waits on the other side, however, is nothing short of spiritual freedom.
In the Spirit,