Blaming others keeps you stuck (and how to set yourself free)
I've got a confession to make. Sometimes I play the victim. I don't consciously choose to but when life feels overwhelming and I can't find a way out, I can find myself blaming other people for why I'm feeling helpless. In the past, I was told I was attention seeking and in a way they were right.
I wanted someone to come and look after me, to fix all my problems and whisk me off into some perfect life where the sun always shines and I never felt stuck.
It's been several years since I realised that I did this and when the going gets tough, it's what I can revert back to.
And it's a fine solution if you have a knight in shining armour who is prepared to give up his life to continually rescue you every time you start to struggle and you are willing to give up all control of your life to let him do it. (Although now I think about it, that doesn't sound so healthy).
So how does blaming people keep you stuck?
When you focus on blaming others for their faults and how they have wronged you and spend your time explaining that this is why you're stuck where you are, you give up control of your life. You are saying that the direction of your life is at the mercy of other people who do you wrong. And that's not true.
There's a really important difference between fault and responsibility.
If someone has treated you badly or something bad has happened to you and that still has an impact on the way you live today, what they did to you is their fault. They caused the damage, they did whatever it was that hurt you either physically or psychologically and they should not have done that. They are at fault. Their behaviour was wrong. Whatever reasons or excuses they have, the fault lies with them.
And it’s still your responsibility to make changes so that it doesn't continue to stop you living your life the way you want to.
It took me a long time to really understand this.
It is still your responsibility to fix your life.
It hurt to understand it – to realise how much of my life I had let pass by me because I didn't realise I could take control of it.
It’s your responsibility to draw new boundaries. That may be as simple as saying no. It might mean not see that person any more. You might need to make different choices to find a way to move past that experience.
This can feel really, really unfair. Perhaps you didn’t get an apology. Maybe they never even admitted what they did, or couldn't even see what they had done wrong.
It’s still your responsibility and that’s a good thing.
Because it means you are in control. You have the power to decide what you want to do with your life, who you want to spend time with and how you’re going to make it happen.
Don’t waste your life waiting on “karma” to right the wrongs. You can fix things up yourself and you can start right now.
You can take responsibility for how people treat you. You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop and what you reinforce.
Think about those times where someone says something to you or about you that you don’t like but you don’t pull them up on it because you don’t want to make a fuss.
What message are you giving to yourself and them by allowing them to treat you that way? That it's okay to treat you like that, that your feelings don't matter.
If you politely and firmly asked them not to talk like that, what would be different about that message?
It’s easy to dismiss this as something that doesn't matter. They might feel like things aren't worth getting upset about. You might be laughed at for speaking up. It’s easy to pretend it doesn’t matter.
These little things build up over time and become the perfect breeding ground for anger and resentment. And more importantly, they continue to reinforce the message that you don’t matter.
And that’s not true.
You do matter.
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About Alice Tew
Alice is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Bingham, Nottinghamshire.
She is a Registered Member of BACP and has a particular focus on working with people who are going through or have been through a divorce.