“Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.” ~ Brené Brown
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 3,472,234 times: my ideal way of being in regards to food is that it doesn’t control me and I don’t have to control it. Control is not part of the equation.
It’s a mindset I’ve been cultivating for years now because I don’t want to live my life with an either/or mindset: either “white-knuckle desperation” or “out-of-control-binge-eater.”
For many years, those were the only two options I could imagine. Now I know better. Of course there are times when I’m not living in that ideal state, but I know that it’s possible and, more importantly, I know what it feels like so I can access it more easily.
I’ve been thinking about blame in the same way.
I was brought up not to blame anyone else for my failures and shortcomings, to not be a victim, and to understand that victimhood is a mindset. And I totally get it. When we’re blaming others, we’re not taking responsibility for ourselves…we’re giving away our power.
But here’s the thing: instead of choosing to take responsibility (which scared me because I didn’t know what it looked like be responsible in a healthy way), I chose to blame myself. I saw only the two ways: blame others or blame myself. And blame is blame is blame, no matter who is being accused.
One of the more insidious things I did was to blame myself for my feelings (yes, I viewed my so-called negative feelings as failures and shortcomings)…and so as a result, I didn’t allow myself to feel them without guilt. My earliest experience with this is when I felt guilty that I was sad that my parents had gotten divorced.
So for me, feelings like sorrow, grief, anger, and frustration were tainted with shame and guilt. I thought that if I felt those negative feelings then it meant that I was blaming someone else…that I was a bad girl.
Now I know better. I understand that acknowledgement of sorrow, grief, anger, frustration (and myriad other emotions) is a key step in being able to move through and release them in a healthy way. In order to acknowledge, we must focus on the feeling, not distract ourselves from it.
Getting back to blame…
Over the years (especially in the last 18 or so months) I have spent a lot of time trying to work on my side of a contentious relationship in which I often felt like a victim. I was either blaming the other person, or I was blaming myself. I could see it clearly but didn’t know how to stop the cycle.
At some point, without consciously realizing it, I set an intention that I didn’t want to feel that way any more. What I wanted was to feel understanding and forgiveness for this person, but at the same time maintain appropriate boundaries (which right now means I have very little communication with this person). I honestly didn’t think it was possible!
I could only see the either/or: “Either I am full of hate and blame for this person, or I am full of hate and blame for myself.”
Slowly, and over time, I have come to the both/and: “I can feel both at peace in this relationship and I can maintain healthy boundaries, AND (that’s a bonus “and”) blame doesn’t have to be part of the equation!”
It didn’t happen over night or with the flip of a switch. I spent a lot of time feeling uncomfortable and confused. I clung to familiar patterns. But I could feel my grip loosening over time and in hindsight, I can see that it was setting the intention that allowed me to be aware of the both/and in this particular situation. Then came the acknowledgement and the healing.
I write a lot about moving from an either/or mindset into a both/and mindset. In what areas of your life have you embraced both/and?