Linda Lewis Griffith

Playing the blame game? It's time to stop

Blame can keep us trapped in a cycle of unhappiness and prevent us from moving forward, says San Luis Obispo family therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says.
Blame can keep us trapped in a cycle of unhappiness and prevent us from moving forward, says San Luis Obispo family therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says.

Blame is the act of assigning responsibility for a misdeed.

For example, a mother may blame her third-grader’s principal for not protecting her son from being bullied by his classmates.

Sometimes blame is productive. It identifies the culprit, who can then make restitution for the crimes. When the problem is satisfactorily resolved, both parties quickly forget the problem and move on with their lives.

Other situations are less clear cut. A woman may blame her father for abusing her as a child. Or a husband may blame his in-laws for interfering in his marriage. Such deep-seated resentment can fester for decades, negatively impacting both our health and our relationships.

For instance, blame keeps us trapped in a cycle of unhappiness. We recall and respond to the unpleasantness as if it were still happening today and overlook the joy that surrounds us.

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Linda Lewis Griffith is a retired marriage, family and child therapist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Blame focuses our attentions on others’ faults instead of their strengths. No one likes to be criticized, especially for something that happened long ago. When family members live in an atmosphere of blame, their self esteem crumbles or they become numb to the non-stop harangues.

Blame prevents us from understanding our role in the problem. Statements such as, “I wouldn’t have to drink if you behaved better,” stop us from making an accurate assessment of the situation — or, at the least, understanding how we make things worse.

Blame becomes a habit. We’re unaware that we view everyone through critical lenses and zero in on their shortcomings.

Finally, blame prevents us from moving forward. We’re perpetually stuck in the emotional quicksand of pain from an event in the past.

Of course, horrific misdeeds do occur and may have dire consequences for our physical and emotional health. But the sooner we stop assigning blame and begin the healing process, the quicker we move toward happiness.

How to let go of blame

Identify the person and perceived crime. Is the situation still relevant? Does it need to be discussed? If so, take steps to address the problem. If not, let it go and move on.

Notice how thoughts keep you entrenched in the problem. Catch yourself in the act of negative thinking. Relax and take several long, slow breaths. Replace hurt with soothing phrases, such as, “That happened long ago,” or, “I’m not in that situation anymore.”

Practice forgiveness. Send loving thoughts to the perpetrator: “I wish you well. I wish you peace. I forgive what you did.”

Change your emotional channels. You have the ability to control your thoughts. When past anger creeps up, think about something pleasant.

Notice what others are doing right. Folks make mistakes, but they also do things well. Compliment loved ones and co-workers frequently. Your behavior will brighten everyone’s day.

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