We have to begin by appreciating the fact that we, and absolutely everyone around us, is in a constant moment-to-moment fluctuation between ego and wisdom. And we’ll never completely get rid of ego because of course it is Yang to wisdom’s Yin. So what we’re shooting for is a largely enlightened society where there are enough people living in wisdom for long enough stretches of time that we can collectively absorb and not re-transmit the negativity that tends to emit from ego.
One of the key ways we can express negativity is through frustration, anger and blame. Blame is the result of the chaining together of expectations that are then compared to what really happened, and then a judgment is made. But that is all taking place in our consciousness only. It is not a part of other people’s reality.
The fact that an ego would tell itself such a story is logical and should hardly be surprising. This is why, when someone points the finger of blame at us, even if they do it very specifically, we’re still best to see that as someone throwing pain away from themselves, as opposed to throwing pain towards us. The only way to really throw it towards us is if we agree with those thoughts and think them too. In which case our response is to accept responsibility.
We might also want to accept responsibility even if we aren’t responsible if we value our friend’s sense of peace more than being ‘right.’ As I noted, blame is about comparing what is with what we wanted. Explaining the logic behind the fact that they had no business making their initial assumption in the first place will not go over well when people are feeling frustrated. They’re in pain. What they need is our compassion.
When people are in any kind of pain (and anger is always a sign of pain), we are best to to try to put ourselves into their shoes. We can often realize a great deal just by trying to see what’s happened from their perspective. In doing so, we can often also see why we might be a symbolic target for their pain. That logic makes it feel less like something they did to us, and more like something that happens between people are we’re both just riding it out.
We’ve all had that experience where no one did anything wrong and yet people got blamed for what really was bad luck, or someone else’s mistake. That never feels good. At the same time, other than the discomfort of the moment, if there is no material price (like getting fired etc.), then what does blame really matter? It is an ethereal force, disappearing from our consciousness as we live our lives. So as uncomfortable as it is, it’s best not to turn the experience into something overly dramatic. It’s a few frames in the movie of our life.
We can’t really live successfully if our objective is to avoid any and all discord. But we can eliminate a lot of the unnecessary discord by being more patient and understanding about the sources of people’s behaviour. If we understand that someone is reacting to their narrative rather than our reality then it’s much easier to not take their responses personally. Plus, let’s face it, we’ve all been the perpetrator in the blame game before. It’s very human to do. So maybe a little empathy, patience and tolerance from all of us can go a long way.
As much as possible try not to lay blame. It’s largely counter-productive. But if we lay it, we should forgive ourselves. And if we’re the one blamed, we’re best to take it in stride. It’s not that big a deal. We just have to remember that the blame is them responding to their internal monologue, not ours.
Realities are separate and they can be quite different. So don’t exasperate yourself by trying to get other people to live in yours. It just can’t be done. So when people blame you, just remember that they forgot that you can’t see their reality nor live up to 100% of their expectations for a variety of reasons. And that’s normal. In fact, it’s actually impressive how many of people expectations we do meet.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.