I love it when I start blaming someone for something because it's a good indication I've stopped taking care of myself, and I need to take a breath and figure out how I've given away my power. Taking responsibility for ourselves seems like a simple concept in theory, but to actually practice it is a whole other story. We love to blame people, life, situations, God and anything we can get our minds around for well...everything. The ongoing practice of taking responsibility for ourselves and our feelings, thoughts, and actions is really an act of meditation.
It is a very human tendency to immediately look for justification for why we behaved, thought or felt a certain way. Sometimes the excuses are related to the event at hand, for example: "I yelled at my kid because he was annoying me" or "I cheated on my partner because they were ignoring me".
Event centered excuses allow us to explain or understand why we behaved or felt a certain way in a given situation. In many cases they present a partial potentiality for why you did what we did, but do not necessarily represent the whole truth of a situation. We often think things like "anyone would have done/felt/thought the same thing" to help justify why we reacted the way we did.
Sometimes people reach further back in order to circumvent responsibility. "I can't say I love you because my family didn't say that to each other" or "my dad yelled a lot so I don't know how to express anger any other way". With that said, when we look into our family histories for explanations for our current behavior we are indeed onto something.
Family Systems Theory tells us we are a product of the environmental systems in which we have been a part. So if the system is dysfunctional we will learn dysfunctional coping strategies. If the system is healthy we learn healthy strategies. It makes a lot of sense, and there's a lot of truth to its claims.
Indeed, we are a product of the systems we live in. For example, if communication is poor at work, and we work in that environment long enough we may adopt some poor communication techniques in order to adapt to the system we're in.
However, the problem is that people begin to use the system as an excuse and justification to continue behaving in ways that don't work for themselves or others . At this point the system becomes a scapegoat and a resignation sets in that moves the responsibility and power outside of the individual and into the environment.
In both instances (event centered blaming and blaming the system) we strip ourselves of a level of autonomy and fee will. Yes, you may have been hurt by your partner's lack of attention (who wouldn't be!) but nobody held a gun to your head and made you cheat on your partner, and even if they did there's still a choice there...
Yes, you may have grown up in a family system where loving affirmations weren't expressed; and on one level you may have that modeled to you, but the past doesn't follow you with a knife in your back forcing you to repeat the unhealthy patterns you may have acquired.
Our past does indeed haunt us, but we have a self-responsibility to look for ways to exorcise the ghosts of our limiting systems. The past does not have the power to harm us in the present, only our memory of it can. If we have painful memories to work through it is our responsibility to do that, so as to not become possessed by the specters of history.
Some people feel that taking responsibility for their reactions to a situation (even as terrible as it may be) means that they condone what happened. This is far from the truth. If you are assaulted, it's clear that you will have multiple levels of emotion and healing to work through in order to process the event. It's also clear that no one in their right mind would welcome an assault; and actually, no one in their right mind would commit one either. Nonetheless fear and confusion are powerful drugs, and as a result fine people do horrendous things.
When you are infringed upon, particularly when it's violent, it's a natural part of the healing process to blame. That process may (and in many cases, should) include notifying the proper authorities so it doesn't happen to another person, particularly if the energy of the transgression is violent. That process also includes acknowledging and working through the anger you may have at that person, God, the situation, etc.
However, in order to gain any kind of real control, it must become clear that your emotional state, and tending to that state is your responsibility. You cease being a victim and become the candle that is not extinguished by the storm. We blame because we perceived we are going to lose something. Any time we lose something we grieve. Blaming is a natural healthy part of the grief process, but it shouldn't stop there.
This should be great news. As teacher and author Byron Katie says "nobody can leave me, they don't have that power". Replace the word leave with any kind of transgression "hurt", "lie to", "punch". Okay I know what your thinking; if someone "punches" you clearly they had that power because they punched you. Yes and no.
Yes, they may have physically punched you in the face, but you continually punch yourself every time you relive the anger, resentment, and pain over and over from that punch. The initial punch is over, but you keep punching yourself with the memory of what they did to you, you keep the pain alive through memory. We do this because we don't want to forget what happened so we won't be hurt again, but this rarely works.
Everything is a projection of our mind, and we choose heaven or hell through our identification with it.
If we set boundaries, it's other people's job to cross them. In this way we can eventually move from blame to gratitude at the people/situations at hand. Everyone and everything has the potential to be the teacher we are looking for.
It doesn't happen overnight, and sometimes taking responsibility is a moment to moment meditation that must practiced continuously throughout a lifetime. Taking responsibility for our mental-emotional state doesn't let people "off the hook" for hurting us in some way, but we may find that they get "off the hook" anyway because we enter into a new state of awareness surrounding what people do to us. We start to let in understanding and compassion. We start to understand that people are always doing the best they can at a t given moment. It cannot be otherwise. How do we know that? Because that's what they (and you) did.
As human beings we have the privilege of a wide range of emotions, thoughts and choices, and not all of them will be pleasant. Blaming is a natural response, it is the ego's way of staying alive. It's also the ego's way of staying good. Some egos blame others, some blame themselves, (two sides of the same coin). Emotions happen. Thoughts happen. Events happen.
Moving out of blame is an act of bravery, because it forces us to look at ourselves first and foremost. But if we forge on with the confidence to know that what we find cannot be anything but magnificently beautiful, then the dark crevices we have been neglecting seem far less frightening