Can I blame my family for all my problems?

Psychotherapy often gets blamed for blame.  There is a fear that psychotherapy is a practice of personal scape- goating and advocates blaming the past, parents, friends, bosses etc. and give clients a hall pass for taking responsibility for their life.   When you are looking at how your past influences your present, blame will tempt you, no doubt.  Blaming others for our shortcomings and hurt is a complicated part of the process of moving past the past.  Beneath blame are personal longings and grief that blame helps protect us from until we are ready to fully meet them with careful attention and compassion.
  1. Blame is about turning our focus away from ourselves to avoid discomfort.   What I get curious about in my work with clients who are doing a lot of blaming  is the impact their outward focus has on the self.  There is a kind of self abandonment that happens when we focus outward only.  And we sit together with that question with a lot of love, compassion and shared curiosity.   I will share some blame themes that have arisen over the years below. 
  2. Beneath blame is a monumental wellspring of hope, hope that whatever we are longing for in our relationship might actually happen even though it hasn’t for 30 years.   If we could soothe the sense of “paradise lost” and tend to that deep longing we likely wouldn’t be so invested in blame.  
  3.  Blame keeps us out of our insides.  In my experience blaming becomes a way to not have to feel the pain inside related to relationship let downs.  If I stay focused on judging everything and everyone around me, I don’t have to actually notice and feel what I feel.  Psychotherapy is designed for moving through feelings.   Staying in the blame cycle keeps them all stuck and creates a knot of tension that often leads to depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other problems. 
  4. Besides being a buffer for overwhelming feelings, blame is also a buffer for personal responsibility.  I don’t mean that hard ass kind that says “get over it and grow up.”  Deep down, it is easier to blame because to take responsibility for what we do have control over might feel like too much work.  We might actually have to feel all those feeling talked about in number two above but we also wouldn’t  be able to use our story of “woe” and blame as the reason why we are not living up to our potential. 

Here is the conundrum though, we do want to let those we care about know when they have crossed a line or hurt us and repair  the connection and remain close .  But what happens if some family members only hear “blame” when your only intention is to say “hey you hurt me” in hopes of repair?   Internal preparation is required in order to share honestly without flipping someone’s defensive switch.  The piece that is important is that you do your own work related to your expectations and your vibe.
Here is how to know if you are creating a defensive trap for yourself?  If you are sharing with; no expectations for a response, a clear intention, love in your heart and a desire for either repair or desire for a boundary and you are open - your energy and vibe is not a blame-oriented one.  However,  if beneath your sharing, is a wish a for the other person to change, a subtle need on your part to be right (even subtle) the other person is going to pick up on it energetically and slam the door in your face.  You may have said all the right words but if the vibe is “I’m right, you are wrong” or “You need to be different” or “you better hear me exactly the way I want” you will be met with defensiveness.  If you can really share the impact another has had on you with total openness and compassion for whatever response you get , your chances for a repair that leads to greater connection with yourself or between you and the other person are far greater. 

Letting go of blame is a hero’s journey and worth the journey.

by Traci Ruble, License Marriage and Family Therapist.  Traci practices in downtown San Francisco and specializes in working with couples and adults working on their relationships.  She also leads online mother's groups.  You can find out more about Traci's work here.

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