I have a vivid memory of blame…
I was in early high school, an awkward time made worse by attempts to form new friendships with a particularly bad / cool group that I knew would cause my parents to die if they found out what they did. And for this same reason I was desperate to win their approval. I would flank them at lunch, trying to join in the conversation where I could, laughing where I felt I should and trying to master the easy flip-of-the-hair move that the other girls seemed never to struggle with.
I clung like a barnacle to a ship, never really part of the group but doing my best to blend in and escape being scraped from the side.
I remember going home upset, frustrated and dare I say… angry… that I wasn’t more popular. That I wasn’t funnier, more attractive, more carefree, more anything other than the person I was. I’d search my developing brain for someone to blame, and settled finally on my parents. If only my parents were more popular, wealthier, had funnier friends, or more interesting careers then I would fit in.
I of course didn’t realise it then, but this had become my first blame hypothesis. The first place I could shift blame away from myself and onto another.
The blame hypotheses was coined by Frederic Luskin who specialises in forgiveness. He deliberately calls it a hypothesis as its a guess really. Often when we’re upset at something going on in our life, something inexplicable, we search for an answer for our emotions. Of course we may never really know why we feel like crap, so we settle on the best approximation we can make. We hypothesise why we behave a certain way, why we cant break a certain habit, or why we can’t attract something into our life.
In matters of the heart, its hard to find precise answers but its what we as humans crave.
And the most dangerous thing about the blame hypothesis it that it can feel so damn good. Its comforting to be relieved of responsibility. Its simpler to not accept the power to change. The long term consequence however is that we’re left feeling frustrated, disempowered and often angry at others and with a strong dislike of ourselves.
Now I feel like a reformed smoker! I can pick a blame hypothesis in people a mile away and I find the barb in a person’s blame stinging. I’ve learnt to catch myself mid-blame, learnt to question the wording I’m using either aloud or in my mind. I’ve learnt to reframe my messages to sound something like:
“Irrespective of XYZ, I am going to…”
“Although this has/hasnt happened, my plan is to”
“I can see this occurring, and rather than wait for that I’m going to head it off by…”
I’m still not the funniest person I know, but I can bring a smile to my loved one’s lips and I’ve learnt that that’s more than enough. I never learnt to flick my hair, which is fine because now I’ve cut it off I dont need to bother. I’ve learnt to accept who I am without the pretence and importantly without the blame.
Luskin’s book Forgive for Good is a great read and is available on Amazon here.