There’s Always Someone to Blame: Wisdom from Brene Brown

Picture this:

You have a big business meeting in the morning and you ask your partner to get home at a decent hour so you can both get to bed early. Your partner sneaks in a bit later and disrupts your sleep. You wake up in the morning a bit more tired than you wish you would be, make your coffee and while bringing it to the table your fingers fumble the cup. When it falls to the ground it breaks into a million pieces and the coffee shoots up ruining your outfit. The first words that come out of your mouth are, “Dammit Jim! Why did you have to get home so late?”

This is a story adapted from Brene Brown’s new audio program The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage. This was her story, but in her version she was wearing white pants making it that much worse.

The fact is there’s always someone to blame. In Brene’s research on shame and vulnerability she says that blame is “A way to discharge pain and discomfort.” I loved hearing that because it is rang so true.

In The Now Effect I share this personal and comical story of blame:

When I was a kid, my family went on a ski trip to Mammoth Mountain, California. I felt like I was pretty good and told my dad that I was ready to go on a harder run. So up we went. My body was becoming increasingly filled with nervous and excited energy as I saw the lift passing the usual stops and approaching the end of our ride. I performed a flawless exit from the lift, and as you can imagine, I was extremely proud of myself. I took off down the hill ahead of my dad and soon noticed that there were a number of moguls (small bumps in the snow). I started going faster. I then hit the moment that anyone who has skied or snowboarded experiences where you feel out of control; fear surged through me as my legs became wobbly, and I smashed into the snow face-first. When my dad came up to where I was lying in the snow, the first words out of my mouth were “Dad, it’s your fault!”

The fact is I was embarrassed and so my brain discharged the embarrassment by blaming my Dad. There’s really no other value for blame other than that discharge. When you start to be on the lookout for it you’ll notice that it’s just one way your brain automatically releases negative energy. But ultimately, blaming is a mind trap that only serves to fog up our lens of reality and strips us of our power to make a change for the better. We either hold others responsible for our own shortcomings or blame ourselves for others’ problems.

Either way, blame takes us away from knowing and doing what is most important right now. It also keeps us stuck in looping cycles of stress, anxiety, depression, addiction and even trauma.

We can take Brene’s finding around blame and make it practical in our lives to gain freedom from it.

Here’s how:

  • See it in yourself – Spend a day being on the lookout for moments of blame. This may be blaming yourself or another and see if you can recognize how it was a moment of expelling pain, discomfort or some negative energy. How does it make you feel after? Was it relieving, does more negative energy creep in?
  • See it in others – Spend the next day noticing when other people use blame. Do you notice some pain or discomfort that preceded their moment of blaming?
  • See the freedom unfold – See what happens as you start to get curious about the experience of blame. 

It may just be the ticket to getting freedom from this depleting mind trap.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

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