This article appeared in issue 109 of WellBeing Magazine. In the same way as my “Seven Deadly Myths about Depression” article, it is written conservatively in order to be publishable by a mainstream magazine. My personal (and professional) views are far more strident than what appears below in my belief regarding the unconscious dynamics that are set up when we BLAME our disease (present or not), or brain, our chemistry, our hormones, our bodies, our environment, our job, our employees.
IN THE THEATRE OF BLAME
How the Game of Finding Fault Does Us Ill.
(YOUR role in your happiness –)
“It’s not my fault. I’m not to blame!” Familiar words? They should be. In our present culture, the knee-jerk reaction to search for “whose fault it is” has become ubiquitous.
The whole issue of blame and blaming is one that can range across many facets of our present lives and can be the subject of a wide range of discussions. Is the current question about “no mention of the word failure in school assessments” going to be food for blame later in life as individuals realise that they can’t be successful at everything? Do we blame the schools? Why has there been a three-fold incidence of the word blame in television news presentations over the last ten years? Why, in our current climate, do we seek to blame anything we can rustle up to shift the responsibility for life’s conniptions from our own shoulders? Blame the police. Blame the government. Blame the neighbours. Blame the schools. Blame the kids. Blame the parents. Blame the brain. And on and on it can go.
But, rather than to denigrate the idea of any part of our lives that IS at fault for our present circumstances or health and wellbeing, my intention in this article is to highlight the undercurrents that are the cause of our individual quest to not be responsible for our own actions. Clearly, there are many issues, past and present that influence who we are, but I intend here to focus on the subconscious games that we all play with ourselves, and attempt to show how “logical” our illogical games can be.
I want to show why it is that we seek to blame without being aware of the mind mechanism, how it is that at a subconscious level, playing the Blame Game is natural, basic and intended to serve our best interests. But in our present climate, the combination of this propensity to blame (unconsciously and consciously) along with a socio-professional juggernaut of new and sinister labels for disease and their causes, allows for the growth of a society, the members of which are not responsible for anything at all!
This combination and its outcome is one thing on a social scale – and that’s bad enough – but it’s time we had a serious look at the fact that blaming a disease, blaming the label, whether true or not, mythical or not, exaggerated or not, creates a state in which not only are we individually able to settle into a comfortable blaming of something outside our inner lives, but by default we divest ourselves of any responsibility to bring about change. And with the loss of the responsibility comes the loss of ability and capacity to “make right” for ourselves. We become a slave to whatever it is we think can externally “fix us,” and in so doing, become imprisoned within our own blame game.
The best, and most neutral way to present the argument against personal blaming is to use the metaphor of a play in a theatre to which an audience of people who are open to consider alternative views is present.
SETTING THE SCENE (the prologue)
The setting of our play is the landscape of all of us that is responsible for our “unwellness dynamic” when we too readily drop into a habit of blaming everything around us instead of taking a closer look at our own role in our own blame game play. So, it’s important for you to accept two very clear points about the frame of reference in this play.
Firstly, it is my intention to highlight the pure unconscious processes that affect all of us whenever we attempt to shift responsibility onto another aspect of our lives, whether another person or persons, a past event, a disease, or any other external element. It is not my intention to suggest that any or all the above do not exist: of course people have experienced trauma in their lives, do have biological problems, and lives are influenced and affected by other people in a hierarchical society, but that has little to do with describing the “mechanics” – the processes that our subconscious drivers undergo when we blame “outside ourselves.”
Secondly, both our cast of players (including me) and our audience (including you, the reader) have an interest in health and wellbeing, rather than the broader social implications of what the “blame game” is doing to our culture. So, we are interested here in addressing specifically your (and my) health and sense of peace rather than looking at what blaming produces in the broader context.
So, on with the show.
THE LANGUAGE OF THE PLAY
The very famous Dr Patch Adams rightly talks of syntax being exceedingly important to the mind/body processes of both ill and well people alike. The words we use to describe our lives and what is happening in our lives can produce extremes of various unconscious (subconscious) dynamics. How we place those words and phrases in our language can – and almost always does – produce a neurobiological cascade of action that follows the use of the syntax. Patch Adams strives to have people examine their use of the word “because” when used in any language, either expressed (to others) or impressed (to self). “Because” has a similar, yet less internally damaging consequence to “blame and fault” when it’s applied to any other thought process than the one that might say “I’m in trouble because I have some responsibility in that trouble’s cause.”
So, thinking or saying that an external element is to blame sends a clear message to our subconscious self that because we are not responsible, then there’s nothing that can be done. This in turn locks us into a dynamic of servitude to that which we are blaming.
The remarks of our actors should not be taken to mean that we abjure blaming in any context, but in our play, we aim to use language and syntax that is intended to reverse the action of our automatic responses that keep us locked into a life position that disallows us to take any responsibility for our state of being.
In any play, there are members of its audience who may have had different expectations about the play’s script and thrust. But in our play about blame, it is assumed that, as part of the audience, you have attended because you are interested in a new view of the Blame Game, and interested in coming to a new realisation of the processes that we all go through when we intend to find fault outside ourselves. Yet, this audience may have its occasional heckler, and that’s unavoidable when presenting ideas that challenge our static view of responsibility. None of us are altogether comfortable to know that we are more “to blame” for ourselves than we think we are.
There is a power to “now.” Yet in general terms – but not always – the act of blaming holds us prisoner to the past or prisoner to those very elements or people at whom we are aiming fault, responsibility or blame. So, blaming is a past-oriented dynamic – we’re always looking to something “that has happened” or “has been” in our lives. The search for fault and the subconscious energy required to grasp and hold on to something that cannot be changed (because it’s past) is enormous, yet it is energy that is the very anchor for the establishment of what we would call a “static attributional blame style” – a way of being that ensures that we are locked into our blame game and ultimately become victims of our own philosophy. In my own therapeutic work, I call this “prisonership,” an automatic response pattern – a craft that we and our collective society have elevated to a high art.
And there is a power to “the philosophy of within.” It would be irresponsible of me to suggest that real diseases, mental or physical, do not exist and that’s not at issue here. Historically, the Japanese have contended that there is no disease that is not caused by the mind. Modern alternate health thinking vacillates between being sure that we are wholly the product of what we think and feel, and that those philosophical and psychological determinates simply influence our bodies and what happens to our biological states. But we cannot deny that placing blame on external issues in our lives creates “prisonership” to that over which we have little or no control.
In past issues of WellBeing magazine, I have written extensively about the neuro-affective processes our brain and neural system undergoes whenever we believe certain things about ourselves (issues # 95 to # 98, incl.) so it’s enough to say that there are proven neuro-chemical dynamics involved in the issue of blame. So our play in the “theatre of blame” is intended to be more than just philosophically noteworthy: its purpose is to show that we are doing ourselves harm by constantly searching for fault and absorbing ourselves in “prisonership.” To blame or to look for fault holds us back from the potential for a good life.
In act one, we see how constant blaming of a past trauma holds us powerless to that trauma. There’s nothing at all good about sexual or physical abuse, for instance, yet we are held prisoner by our blame when we think that our whole lives – forever – are shaped by that trauma. Moving into the now is almost impossible when our whole energy is taken up by our skill at the blame game.
Act two sees us blaming our parents for what we now perceive as being incomplete, incompetent or damaging parent/child training. This again holds us within that cycle of fault-placing that by its very nature disallows us to move forward in our lives. Parents have always done the best they can with what tools they have at the time. Blaming them for doing their best makes little sense if we are interested in changing the now.
In act three, our actors blame the government’s health system for not pouring enough money into research and care for those of us who might be searching for biological answers. Again, there’s no intention here to belittle authentic mental or biological disease, but to point up the absolute power that blaming those diseases has over our own ability to search for alternative and complementary answers for ourselves. We become stuck in the art of sitting back and figuratively saying, “it’s your fault: you fix it.”
Act four sees us blaming the health professionals to whom we turn for our answers. In terms of internal subconscious dynamics, therapists do not have answers for us. We do. In the field of mental and emotional wellbeing, practitioners and therapists of all kinds can merely show the way to wellness and a wholesome life. In the field of medicine and biological wellbeing, doctors and their kin cannot be held accountable for the health of a person whose mind-body system is well entrenched in their own blame game; a game that governs to some degree what the body does with itself.
In act five, there’s an illustration of what happens to our mind-body system when we blame our brain. Sit back and give a little thought to the huge increase – over the last decade or so – in the incidence of blaming the brain’s chemical imbalance for a wide range of disorders from depression to bipolar, ADHD to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and the list goes on. So, here is where the hecklers in the audience jump up and want to yell at the actors, but the script of this play intends only to show that BLAMING the brain sets us in line for prisonership. So the disease may or may not be at cause, and present, but philosophically we speak here of the choice to remain prisoner to the blame game, or move forward into a present and future that seeks to make change.
So these five acts are demonstrations of the subconscious dynamic that occurs when we apportion blame to anything or anyone outside our very selves. They in no way indicate that there are not other elements in our lives that are responsible for the path that we have taken, but that making a choice to understand and acknowledge what blaming does TO us, can be the first step in recovery of any kind.
THE FINALE (epilogue)
In this play, currently showing in the Theatre of Blame, we actors have sought to show how insidious the act of blaming is. The art of searching for and finding fault outside ourselves has become ubiquitous in our culture. Rather than sit back and think “Ah well; that’s just the way it is,” we hope to have demonstrated that apportioning blame is a moral judgment that has little to do with present actuality that prescribes that we need to drop blame before we can move forward in our lives.
When we play the “disease” card or the “someone or something else’s fault” card, all the reactions and unconscious dynamics to which I’ve referred here come into play. In my own practice, I go to great pains to help people understand that I’m not scoffing at the existence of other causal elements existing in their past or right now, but to explain that to dwell on those things and to use the language of blame creates a situation that has no worthwhile outcomes that help us move forward into a healthier life. When I describe the “myths” of disease or the myths of past memories, I’m certainly not saying that those things don’t exist, but that our current social habit of “blame” is creating the myth that there’s nothing we can do about our problems but to allow or insist that someone else “fix” those problems.
Well-known author, Caroline Myss (Anatomy of the Spirit), uses a term – victimology – to describe the state of remaining in blame: choosing to be passive about our lives rather than active in the self-responsible search for wellness.
THE ALTERNATIVE PLAY
Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.
- Erica Jong
The ancient Greek philosophers, most notably Socrates and Plato, all taught that “You have a role in your own happiness.” As commonsense as this may sound, it may be wise to look at the social landscape of our present-day culture and think about whether we live by this wisdom, or we have jettisoned it – at our personal peril.
What happens when we drop blame and fault-consciousness? Are we saying, “that didn’t happen to me, it was an illusion?” or “this bio-chemical problem is only my imagination?” No, we are not. But what I would hope is that we can place those things into context and look at the weight that they have in ensuring that we stay in the same place: unhealthy, unwell, un-whole – because I’m not to blame.
The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”
Albert Ellis (“father” of modern psychology)
As an Af-x practitioner and Emotion Coach, my clients begin their short journey with me somewhat astounded and sometimes irritated that we avoid discussion of the past and even present symptoms in preference to looking at potential and resources that they do have, rather than what they do not have. In my work, I’m interested in pointing up what’s RIGHT with my clients, rather than what’s WRONG with them. To blame the past – physical or sexual abuse, parental or school developmental conditioning, potty training, past lovers or partners – is to ensure that we don’t live in the present with all the potential for change that the present affords. In this regard, we are not ignoring the existence of the things that we’d otherwise be tempted to blame, but we are changing the subconscious dynamic from one of prisonership to one of a capability to step forward and find inner resources that will bring a change to our future wellbeing.
As the curtain falls in the Theatre of Blame, we realise that to blame is to lose personal power. To blame is to lose. To forgive, or at the very least, to reject the idea that something or someone other is at fault – to take that different position – is empowering on all levels within us.