I recently watched an old Tony Robbins video on “How to Transform the Blame Game.” (An excerpt can be found here.) I work with a lot of people who fall into a victim mentality and spend all of their time blaming others or external forces for their bad lot in life. So, I’m constantly searching for new strategies to help pull them out of this vicious cycle. You see, when you play the victim or blame others you do nothing more than give your power away. When you blame others, you are making them responsible for the outcomes in your life. Making someone else responsible, by definition, means that you are unable to respond, thereby giving them all of your power or making you powerless.
To help overcome a victim mentality we usually spend time assessing how we benefit from being a victim, how to take responsibility for the situation (take our power back), and then how to break the victim habit by creating a new story. However, this strategy doesn’t always resonate with everyone. So, I was intrigued by Tony’s idea of transforming the blame game by becoming a more effective blamer.
The premise is this. If all pain comes from a story that is selfishly viewed only from our individual perspective, then changing that perspective by becoming a more effective blamer can rid us of that pain.
Many of us will hold onto something that we perceived to have happened to us in our past and focus so intently on it that it impacts our quality of life in a negative way. The problem with this is that it happened to us from our perspective, without context or consideration of what was going on with anyone else involved.
The example used in the video was of a woman who remembered a time when she was very young. She had called to her father to pick her up off the floor and he was so annoyed by her request that he picked her up and moved her into another room, completely ignoring her needs. In her story, he had done this because he didn’t have time for her, didn’t value her, and didn’t care about her needs. She has been so fixated on the story of this event that it completely damaged the relationship she has with her father and negatively impacted her relationship with all men…even though this happened 50 YEARS AGO. Seriously, she had held on to this story for 50 years.
When asked, this woman came up with a whole list of things she blamed and still blames her father for in her life because of this event.
This is an example of unconscious blaming. It occurs when we feel we have been wronged and we begin to attribute a list of negative feelings, situations, outcomes, etc. to a person without considering the other person’s perspective in the event.
Learning to blame consciously means not that we eliminate blame but that we blame honestly and intelligently by blaming them for everything they’ve done, not just the bad things.
1. Ask yourself why you think they did what they did? More often than not, it had nothing to do with us. Because we internalize and take everything so personally, we assume that things are all about us when in reality, they rarely are.
2. Ask yourself how the event has shaped you? Usually an event, and almost always a negative event, positively shape us in some way. What are the strengths and good qualities you’ve developed because of the event that you are particularly proud of or appreciate greatly? For instance, maybe losing your job forced you to reassess your career and allowed you to find your true purpose in life. Maybe feeling ignored by your father allowed you to become very independent. Maybe having a bad relationship with your mother allowed you to have a wonderful relationship with your children. Think about all of the positive things that would not have happened for you or been created in you if the person or situation that you blame had been perfect.
Now when you place blame, blame not only for the wrongdoing that you believed to have happened but also blame for all that’s beautiful in your life now as a result.
Then take this one step further by retelling yourself the story and add in their perspective. Add in the reasons they may have done what they did or the reasons why something may have happened. Add in their thought process, their context. You may find, as the woman in the video realized, that maybe her father didn’t put her in the other room because he didn’t value her. But that he was responding to the stress of being the sole provider for a large family and needing to get one more thing done for work before he could stop and play.
You never have to stop blaming. Just stop unconsciously blaming and begin to blame effectively with truth and intelligence. Combining the blame for everything wrong with the other person’s perspective and the blame for all of the right that came from it completely frees you from the story and re-establishes your power and control.