When you place blame on others you shift responsibility.
When you shift responsibility you give up power.
You are responsible for the way you feel and the actions you take.
When you accept that responsibility you empower yourself to find peace and health.
It’s very common to blame other people for the problems we may be experiencing. After all, we live in a finger-pointing society: everywhere you look there’s someone screaming, “It’s not my fault–it’s his!” Blaming others for how we think, feel, and act may give us some comfort in the short run, but in the end we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice. Until we learn to own our problems we can never really solve them.
The hard truth is that I, alone, am responsible for my thoughts and feelings. Even the common saying, “He makes me so angry!” is a lie I tell myself. No outside influence can make me angry. He didn’t make me angry–I reacted with anger because this person offended me in some way. Anger is an emotion I choose to feel in a given situation because I disapprove of the way a person acts.
So what does this have to do with health and healing? The stress associated with negative thoughts and emotions has proven links to physical health problems. For many people, the realization that they can no longer blame others for their own actions or emotions is the key that unlocks the door to healing.
Understand that I am in no way justifying perceived harm that others may have inflicted upon you. Consider this example: Ellen has an overly demanding mother. As she was growing up it seemed that nothing she did could please her mother: If she made a “B” on a test, why hadn’t she made an “A”? If she cleaned her room, why hadn’t she cleaned the kitchen also? Her mother continually called her fat, lazy, and selfish. Ellen has now moved into adulthood and taken on the responsibilities of a career, husband, and children, but she continually hears her mother’s voice as she goes through the day. She struggles to be the perfect wife, mother, and employee. Of course, she will never measure up to the impossible standard of proving her worth to her mother in everything she does. If she continues on this road Ellen will eventually worry herself sick trying to be perfect.
While it’s true that it is not Ellen’s fault that she has a demanding parent, the guilt and shame she feels are her responsibility. Whether her mother acknowledges her own unreasonable criticisms or has tried to make amends for her actions is really secondary to the real question: How will Ellen choose to live? She’ll either continue to give her mother power over her emotional well-being or she can take charge of her own thoughts and actions.
It’s these emotional scars people carry that I most often see blocking a general sense of health and happiness: “My parents’ divorce makes me not trust people…She hurt my feelings so I’m bitter…He causes me pain so I want to hurt him back…I’m depressed because of what they said about me.” The characters and circumstances change, but the theme is usually the same: “It is his/her fault I feel depression, anxiety, pain, and poor health.” You’ll never be free from your physical and emotional problems until you stop blaming others for what you are feeling or doing in your life now.
In his powerful poem “Invictus” William Ernest Henley talks about dealing with the struggles of life. The trials can be difficult, he implies, but it is up to us to assume the responsibility for our ultimate destiny. He sums this idea up in the last two life-affirming lines: “I am the master of my fate:/I am the captain of my soul.”
So how do you begin to take responsibility and bring about changes in your life?
First, you must decide that you truly want change. That means that you’re ready to let go of many of the negative attitudes and emotions that you’ve blamed other people for causing.
Second, you accept that the past is the past and you cannot change it. You can, however, choose how you will move forward into the future. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging your feelings; in fact, it’s healthy to express your feelings of anger or frustration. The key here is to vent and move on! After you express those pent-up emotions it’s time to consciously choose to release, detach, and get on with your life.
Third, learn to forgive those you feel may have wronged you. This isn’t about justifying what those people may have done to you–it’s about canceling their debts so you can free yourself from unhealthy emotional entanglements.
Fourth, take full responsibility that you have allowed yourself to feel and act the way you have. Understand that you are in control of your life, not someone else. Allow yourself space and grace to make mistakes along the journey through life’s experiences.
Last, and most importantly, take positive steps to change whatever is holding you back. This can take many forms depending on your unique circumstances, but it might begin with lovingly but firmly learning to say “No” to the negative influences in your life and “Yes” to positive new opportunities.
You owe it to yourself to be in control of your own life and to be happy. When you continue to blame others for the way you feel or the things you do, you are effectively giving those people the power to control you. Take your power back!
For more information about her practice and to read many more articles by Dr. Marcantel, please visit her website at http://www.drmarcantel.com.