Have you ever wanted to scream at your boss for holding you back? Or tell a family member what you really think of them and that they’re to blame for everything? But somehow, you manage to smile through as you push those feelings –under the rug.
It feels good to be able to control and conquer these honest feelings. We feel we have succeeded in doing what humans should do – get better at self-control. Because the more resilient and self-disciplined we are, the happier and successful we will be. Right? Maybe not.
If control is the answer, and we have more ways than ever to control and conquer our mind and body, then why are we witnessing more mental, emotional and physical pain around the world, not less?
Remember those days when it seemed easier to let things go. But nowadays maintaining your positive energy is harder? What about the times a double espresso, a bar of chocolate or a 5k run helped you get back on track? But now, not so much.
When it comes to self-control, we all have a threshold. Once it is crossed, no coping mechanism will keep your honest thoughts and feelings from revealing themselves. Sometimes in passive aggressive ways, other times in just aggressive ways.
As much as control has its part to play in our lives, it is clearly unsustainable. It is designed for short-term use. So why do we keep doubling down and relying on it? The answer might surprise you.
The Control-and-Conquer Warrior
For thousands of years our stoic ability at controlling and conquering our mind and body has been revered and celebrated. It is hard to question this ancient wisdom when equally renowned and feted scholars compound and pass on this very message. How can you argue with Buddha when he proposed ‘It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.’ Plato followed suit and said: ‘For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.’
Here’s the issue: control (and conquering) is a paradox. We like the idea of controlling others and ourselves, but if I asked you “do you like to be controlled?” what would you say? If you are like the thousands of other people I have asked, you don’t like it. You visually recoil at the thought of it. So this begs the question: why do we continue to force it onto ourselves and others?
Control not only takes an enormous amount of energy to sustain, which leads to extreme experiences, it teaches us to avoid our self-honesty. This is why, when the dam bursts, there can be cries for divorce bouncing off the kitchen walls because the dishwasher wasn’t loaded properly. It can seem crazy and out of character that such an insignificant event can create such a large reaction.
But it all makes perfect sense when you start to consider you might have an unknown addiction playing out, influencing every thought you have and every decision you make.
Addicted to Blame
In my new book, The Blame Game: How To Recover From The World’s Oldest Addiction, I outline the reason we are experiencing so much emotional, mental and physical pain, hardship and suffering, while offering a solution that doesn’t involve control, that has been hiding in plain sight for thousands of years:
‘Everywhere we turn, we are knowingly and unknowingly encouraging each other to join in and play the blame game. Deep down, we know blame isn’t the answer to our problems. We regularly hear ourselves say, “I know I shouldn’t blame, but…” followed by some creative justification.
‘We just can’t stop. Why? Because blaming has transcended its game status to become an addiction. And what makes this addiction different from all others is that we don’t know we all have it, so there has been no attempt at recovery. And a big part of the recovery process is radical self-honesty.’
You don’t have to look much further than what is happening with Prince Harry to see how playing the blame game pans out.
For years he felt hard done by and used self-control to make it seem like everything was OK. In these years, he built up a case file of evidence to prove he was the victim and never to blame.
Feeling powerless to make a change, he experimented with various coping mechanisms. When these no longer worked, and his control threshold was crossed, he started to voice his version of the truth to anyone that would listen.
If we take away the fact he is part of a Royal family, and has a Netflix series and a book, is he doing and experiencing anything different to what is going on in many families around the world? What I mean is, he acted in the way he was trained to. He held it together with a stiff upper lip for as long as he could. Then he started airing his side of the story.
And the rest of us aren’t any different. Maybe it is over the dinner table, in a bar or while on a lunch break with a colleague. Maybe it is via a social media post. Either way, we are often expressing our blame-based perceptions all day to anyone that will listen. We are collecting the same case file of evidence as Prince Harry that we are convinced is true. We then use it to get validation that ‘I am right, they are wrong!’
This is blame, and it is very addictive. So, what can Prince Harry (and you) do about your addiction to blame?
The first stage is awareness. Because this addiction has been unknowingly playing out for thousands of years, we have effortlessly passed it down from one generation to the next.
That means becoming aware that something needs addressing is key. Otherwise, it would be like drinking a litre of cola a day, not realising the impact this is having on your weight-loss efforts. The comparison is, we are consuming a litre of blame a day not realising the profound impact it is having on our ability to be happy, successful and healthy.
During my coaching sessions I let clients know they are in a ‘victim cycle’ because whenever you blame others (shift the blame) or yourself (self blame), you immediately enter the victim mindset.
It leaves us with crippling fear (anxiety), shame and guilt. And it is this deep sense of victimhood that leads to our mental, emotional and physical exhaustion and pain. Chronic fatigue, burn out, and hardship are all indicators we are in the victim cycle.
Blame is so prevalent we have accepted its presence in our life. We can’t imagine a world without it. It is why Prince Harry is on the largest platforms, unknowingly promoting the blame game. If we look at this symbolically, maybe he is unwittingly helping us all self-reflect on how much we are unknowingly playing the same game.
But now it’s time to practice a new skill. Here are a few ways to start your blame recovery journey.
Get Radically Honest
After years controlling our honest feelings and being ‘fake positive’ we have become experts at lying to ourselves and others. This is why so many people feel lost and don’t know what they want to do in life. Self-reflecting on your honest motivations and endgames is a great start. Sometimes when your friend cancels plans, you have a sense of relief that can be quickly pushed away and replaced with blame.
Open Your Mind
Blame closes our mind down. As such, we need to train our perception muscles so we have access to more information, awareness and wisdom. Exposing yourself or researching people, cultures and subjects you disagree with are some ways to do this.
Reconnect With Your Creativity
Humans are innately creative beings, so we shut down, become tired and unmotivated when we are not being creative.
Let Go Of Your Ideals
Hatred, anger, frustration are not ‘normal’ human behaviours. They originate from blame. They are learned responses to thinking that something isn’t going the way you think they should. Just because your ideals aren’t met, doesn’t mean you are not benefitting in some way.
Get Lost In Nature
There is no blame in nature. It is why it flourishes so well when left alone. It is a unique space to be in. At this time of our evolution, every other place is full of blame – the office, home, gym, even the yoga studio. It is why these places can feel so stressful, and why nature can feel so relaxing and grounding.