So much for planning! Remember the old saying "If you want God to laugh, show Him your plans?" Well, the Gipper must be having a good chuckle on me, it seems. Although I had a nifty little topic lined up for this week, something else cut to the front of the line, refusing to be denied. Ever had that happen? You think you are heading down one street, only to find the road's under construction, and you've got to settle in for a detour with a minimum of elevated blood pressure.
No matter where you turn, things are heating up around the planet. And, I'm not just talking about the impressive heat wave. The Blame Game seems pandemic. As the British Parliament takes on the Rupert Murdoch scandal, and the initial whistle blower is found dead in his apartment, all while the head of the police resigns, stating his personal "integrity remains intact," increasingly Americans grow alarmed with the thread of an economic Armageddon on August 2 if politicians can't get their act together, "get over themselves" and remember who hired them to do their job in the first place.
Regardless where we look, the blame game is in full swing. If we are honest we'll admit we've been there, ourselves, some of us more recently than others. I know that I am raising my hand on that score, too. One of the most slippery slopes we humans navigate is the "I'm right, you're wrong" game. No one ever wins. Sure, maybe in the short term someone walks away feeling pretty cocky. The trouble is that whenever this is the end of the road for discussion, our connection becomes more strained, our nerves more frayed. The end result is that it becomes harder and harder to trust one another when the next issue arises, as it most surely will. Before you know it both sides, having forgotten that we are connected as human beings, begin to gather more evidence to justify that the other is a jerk, and we, beyond rebuke.
And yet, the problem comes when you choose the "path of awakening." Because if you have, we know by now (even though we forget too often) that there really is "no one else out there." I'm not talking about card-carrying narcissism, here. No, I'm referring to the truth that we are "one." I promise you that whatever I might find unlikeable about you has a lot to do with what I do not find loveable in myself. In other words, projection is at work. The very thought makes us wince. Of course, the thing runs the other way, too: whatever I cherish in you is something I would delight in myself, if I would own up to this shared trait.
Here's the truth: There is good news. Each time I catch myself in "blame game" mode, be it with sarcastic comments about the other political party, a relative or someone I know, the fact is that I am guilty as charged with one crucial oversight. Conflict always is born from fear. Pure and simple fear. Fears that we are not enough, or that we will not have enough. Name an exception.
Yesterday I heard a woman, we'll call her Barbara, tell me that her husband is never interested anymore in sex. She's angry, hurt. Underneath it, when she gets honest, is the fear that she's not enough to hold his interest. Barbara turns his choice into self-blame.
Before that session, a high-powered corporate executive, "Gerald," blames his board of directors for not taking his ideas seriously. Beneath, he's wallowing in self-doubt.
Before his session, a father, who we'll call Sam, tells me his grown kids never come over for a visit. When Sam goes down memory lane, he fesses up that he spent far more time at work than with them when they were growing up, that the message he gave them, by his absence, was that other things were more important.
Faux solutions: mechanism vs. context. Regardless whether we are talking about phone tapping, the economy at the edge of the abyss, a partner or kids who seem disinterested in connecting or a work situation that seems to insult, the fact of the matter is that solutions never come from mechanics. By this, I mean unless you get to the root of the problem, the blame game will simply continue, disguising itself in some new form.
It's hard to flower in a bed of weeds. Without addressing the real, underlying issue, whatever solutions are offered is sheer fluff at best, and ineffectual at worst. This is why Washington, D.C., has not been successful in solving some of our biggest problems. There is far more energy going toward "right/wrong" than remembering we were formed as united states, connected, with a purpose larger than any one part.
Liberating Your Life from the Blame Game: The First Essential Step and Antidote
Let's take a peek at how this operates in the aforementioned true situations, using them to illustrate what can liberate from blame. The antidote has been road-tested, by the way, and works if you work it.
The Antidote to Fear: Barbara defeats herself when she blames her husband, Max. She is angry. She is hurt. We understand, unless we have stones for hearts. The reality is, however, that when Max seems disinterested in her, it stirs unconscious waters. Barbara's father was often gone, and eventually what came to light was that he was having an affair. Barbara, a daddy's girl, privately blamed her mother for not keeping herself attractive, for growing bored with life. Barbara has been afraid she is not sufficiently attractive and will end up like her mother. Her fear keeps her from finding what is attractive within her own nature, regardless whether she stays with Max or not.
Sam and Gerald would benefit by this, as well. The former admits he as never sought forgiveness from his sons or for himself from himself. He's been so busy feeling down and defending his absence that he has failed to be compassionate to the demands upon him as a breadwinner, who also grew up in a home without a dad. Gerald, age 63, is beginning to doubt his prowess in the corporate jungle, which coincides with his decline in health. He hesitates more in decision- making and is losing his verve as he attempts a cover up with growth hormones,and other anti-aging cosmetic strategies, like dying his hair.
Each of the three, like any of us, benefit greatly by the following: Take back your own measuring tape! Reassess your own value and find what can be cherished, in your own eyes first. Rabbi Hillel said it best, generations ago:
"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?"
-- Rabbi Hillel
Whenever you find yourself held hostage by fear, hurt, self-recrimination and get stuck in the blame game, take heart. You, too, are human. The "fix" might not happen overnight. Just like current national and international issues, many meetings might be required to get down to the basics of care, self-consideration and self-compassion. Without this, how will we ever remember that we are part of something bigger than our own agendas and hidden fears? The antidote to the blame game is not hurling another insult or retracting in rigidity. The antidote is forgiveness, beginning with the self. Whenever we get stuck, let's remember a teaching from nature. With enough time, even rock can be altered. Given sufficient water moving around it, shift happens.
Let's get back into "flow." Said Gandhi: "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the atttribute of the strong." Let us begin by getting stronger through self-forgiveness.
Your turn: Where have you given up the blame game? Where has self-forgiveness proved useful? Where might more forgiveness be of benefit? I'm listening, and I'm learning from you, my teachers.
To receive email notices when I post new blogs on HuffPost, click "Become a Fan" at the top of this page. Stay tuned for upcoming developments with The Love Project, including "Practicing Love," as well as "The Feel Good Factor" at press. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrCaraBarker.
Follow Dr. Cara Barker on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrCaraBarker