04/16/2015 01:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Taming the Beast: How I Stopped the Blame Game From Controlling My Life

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Everyone's been there.

"I hate the way I look -- I wish my mom would have instilled more confidence in me." Or, "I suck at sports. Great job teaching me the basics, dad." And how about, "I'm too freakishly neurotic to ever find peace in my life... God, my parents really screwed me up."

Maybe all of that is true. No one gets to choose their parents. (Although I imagine an even more catastrophic world if that were the case.)

And hey, there is that thing called birth control. If you didn't want children, yet one miraculously popped out of you (or your girlfriend/mistress/fiancé/wife's body) nine months later, then a good thing to do probably involves treating that child like a human being. Children are not stupid. They pick up on things. They internalize these things. Twenty, 30 or 40 years later, they are talking to a therapist about these things.


The tricky part is when you blame your parents for every. single. detail. that is wrong with your life. Or any caretaker or authority figure that played a part in raising you, for that matter. Minor disappointments, major traumatic events.

Blame is part of the healing process. But if you're not careful, you'll never leave that place and end up stuck in a strange purgatory where you want to get better but can't. Because you just can't let go. And when you can't let go, you can't accept responsibility.

I don't mean responsibility in the sense that whatever happened to you or however you may have been treated was your fault. Responsibility meaning that you are able to acknowledge that, "Yea, that horrible thing happened. Yes, that person may have been a monster." (Or maybe they truly are a good person, just not a good parent. "Good." Things get even murkier here, because nothing is ever black and white.)

Responsibility meaning, "These sad or horrendous things happened, but now I'm an adult. Maybe I don't feel like an adult, but I am. So now what can I do? What can I do to get better?"

Note the "I" in "What can I do?" I is the most important part here. You can't change the past. You certainly can't change people. You can change the way you react. If you don't, you'll never gain back the control you've lost over your life (if you had any to begin with).

It's important to acknowledge that things were not perfect. Traumatic things happened. Maybe those who were cruel to you truly regret the way they raised you or treated you. Maybe they don't. But in the end, does it matter? (This is assuming, of course, that that person is no longer hurting other people).

But you have to ask yourself, "Who is this bottled-up, unrelenting anger hurting more?" The answer is most likely you.


Anyone who goes through hardship or trauma will feel pain. From that pain often stems the need for blame. We don't want to believe we are the own source of our pain. And in many cases, we aren't. That doesn't mean we get to stew in our own feelings of injustice forever. It means we deny, we grieve, we're sad, we act out, we're angry, we do incredibly stupid things. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Eventually, that cycle gets pretty damn old. If you're not at that point, I assure you, it will happen eventually.

So how did I learn to let go? Well, I'm certainly not perfect. There are many things that happened in my past that continue to affect my life, my relationship, my friendships and my career. I let go because I had no other choice. I had exhausted all other options. It was either forgive (though you are never required to forget. As if that's even a possibility for some people). Or you continue running on that same hamster wheel no matter how squeaky, dilapidated and rusty it gets.

At some point, I got tired of the squeaks. I escaped the cage and found freedom from the wood pellets and stale feeder food. Maybe certain people tried to look for me; maybe they didn't. I didn't care. I was a hamster with a plan. I came to a fork, took the road less traveled and began running like my life depended on it (and hey, maybe it did). After all, it was a hell of a lot better than that squeaky old wheel.