When we constantly blame our circumstances on others, we are able to neatly evade taking any kind of responsibility for our own actions. While active in our addictions, we likely became quite the experts. Everything was everyone else’s fault – we were just helpless little victims of our unjust lives and the cruel and unusual people in them. It wasn’t our fault we incessantly drank and used drugs – you would too if you had experienced all of the horrible things that we had experienced. It wasn’t our fault that we flunked out of school, got fired from every job we’d ever had, and constantly needed financial assistance. How could we possibly excel in life with so much unresolved pain? Pain that OTHERS had caused us?
It wasn’t our fault that we were late. The old man ahead of us was going 30 miles per hour. If he had sped up just a little bit, we would have been on time. (Never mind the fact that we would have also been on time had we not hit the snooze button 12 times in succession.)
No matter what the situation, we could find someone to blame for the outcome. Blaming others was easy. We were good at it. What was difficult (and what for so long seemed unfathomable) was taking responsibility for our own actions, and working towards self-betterment. When we blamed others, we avoided honestly looking at ourselves. We didn’t need to concentrate on improving our shortcomings, because we simply didn’t have any. We suffered at the hands of others, and never even considered that maybe – just maybe – we were bringing the suffering upon ourselves.
Grandiosity and Blame
Many recovering addicts and alcoholics will describe themselves as “egomaniacs with some major self-esteem issues”. The addicted mind is a strange and paradoxical thing. We tend to view ourselves as deserving and entitled, and simultaneously view ourselves as the living, breathing scum of the earth. We are full of self-loathing and shame, and equally as full of unfounded grandiosity. When one displays grandiosity, it means that he or she has an unrealistic sense of his or her own importance.
Those who exhibit a strong sense of grandiosity will find it difficult (or impossible) to accept any degree of criticism. When something goes wrong, the grandiose individual will quickly place the blame on someone or something else. No matter how blatantly obvious it is that the misfortunes that constantly occur in the life of the grandiose individual are his fault and his alone, he will always have an excuse on-hand. Some individuals who experience a great and unwavering sense of grandiosity may in fact be suffering from a mental health disorder known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
In most cases, however, we employ grandiosity as a means of deflection and avoidance. By clinging to a false sense of self-importance, we may be able to further avoid taking an honest and searching look at our own role in things.
On the other hand, we may take on all of the responsibility. We may sincerely believe that everything that happens to us is our fault, and that we are solely responsible for all of the unfortunate experiences we undergo. When we self-blame, we feel responsible for the actions of others. This is very common amongst victims of abuse, sexual assault and other traumatic events. We may resort to self-blame when we feel powerless – if we fault ourselves for what has happened, we may be able to prevent it from happening again. Just as it is important for us to humble ourselves and recognize that we play a part in our own lives, it is important for us to recognize that some things truly are out of our control.
True fulfillment and authentic freedom will come when we accept things as they are and do what we can to better our own lives (and the lives of others), without desperately searching for a place to put the blame. Acceptance is the answer, truly and simply. We can spend our entire lives dwelling on past injustices, or we can take action and begin paving the way for a better tomorrow.
The serenity prayer comes to mind:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
We may choose to believe that everything happens for a reason – that there are no mistakes or coincidences. This is a beneficial outlook, because it helps us to take things in stride and continue moving forward. Perhaps someone stole your wallet out of your car while you were inside of a gas station going to the restroom. You could choose to blame the thief, wallowing in self-pity and milking the victim role for all that it is worth. You may choose to post a long and melancholic status on Facebook, detailing how unjust the world is and how you simply can’t seem to get a break. You may choose to blame yourself, cursing yourself for leaving your car door unlocked, replaying the scenario over and over in your head and kicking yourself for being so foolish. Or, you may choose to accept the circumstances and take action. Cancel your credit card, file for a replacement license, thank God that you only had $20 cash, and learn from your mistake while accepting your humanity. Life happens.
When we take responsibility for our own mistakes, we are able to learn and grow from them. When we choose to end the vicious and futile cycle of blaming ourselves and others, we open ourselves up to the prospect of true emotional freedom.