Blaming: The Ineffective Art of Scrambling for Comfort

It can be as blatant as a sledge hammer hitting us in the face or as subtle as supreme ninja. The art of blaming is rampant and goes on to help absolutely nobody.

Pema Chodron writes:

“We habitually erect a barrier called blame that keeps us from communicating genuinely with others, and we fortify it with our concepts of who’s right and who’s wrong. We do that with the people who are closest to us and we do it with political systems, with all kinds of things that we don’t like about our associates or our society. It is a very common, ancient, well-perfected device for trying to feel better. Blame others. Blaming is a way to protect your heart, trying to protect what is soft and open and tender in yourself. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground.”

And why not protect our hearts when there have been so many experiences showing us that it so easily bleeds?

Blaming isn’t a conscious act really, it happens quite automatically and habitually. We learn it from our parents, teachers, cultures and religions. As children when we feel we are in trouble, our sense of belonging or love from others feels threatened and so we practice and repeat this art of blaming so it deflects any threat from us.

After enough practice and repetition, this becomes quite automatic and we no longer consciously think about it, it’s just the way we’re programmed now. Half the time or more we don’t even notice we’re doing it.

I see it all the time in couple’s therapy from hearing proclamations as blatant as “It’s all your fault, all our problems are because of you,” to “You make me nuts when you don’t put the toilet seat down.” This also happens individually as we play the intrapersonal blame game. We say, “There’s just something wrong with me.” This self blame is sometimes the most insidious and needs to called out. I also see it in the workplace, “The reason I didn’t get my work done is because my coworker keeps distracting me.” Or with addictive behaviors, “If I didn’t have so many friends around that drank, I woudn’t be drinking as much.”  Of course, this goes well beyond intimate couples and the workplace and into politics and beyond.

Whether it’s self-blame or blaming others, the way I like to think of blaming is as an unhealthy thought process that arises from time to time in my mind. Unhealthy because although it may give me short term relief, it always comes back to bite me and makes me feel worse.

Calling it a thought process allows me to name it…I say blaming and as they say if I can name it, I can tame it.

So the next time blaming arises in your mind, label it and see if there is a feeling associated with it. Is there fear, anger or sadness there? Perhaps a deeper emotional freedom lies in coming down from the blaming and into an intimate dance with our very own feelings we’re trying to avoid.

My Dad wrote a book a while back called Sacred Wounds: Succeeding Because of Life’s Pain and the lesson here is that our wounds in life are what may very well be our greatest teachers. So what we want to do is learn how to approach what is there instead of falling into routine habits that don’t serve our greatest good.

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

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Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

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