The Blame Game

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 1 month ago

Dr Demartini reveals why we can be quick to blame others, and the valuable feedback that the “blame game” can offer you on your journey to master your life.

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DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 1 month ago

Your tendency to assign blame is more than just a reaction; it serves as a valuable feedback system.

Have you ever wondered why people are often so quick to blame others for the events in our lives?

Let’s start by looking at the brain, particularly the amygdala, so you can understand how it influences an individual’s tendency to project blame or credit onto others and themselves.

The Role of the Amygdala

Inside the subcortical region of your brain, sits the amygdala, it’s part of your limbic system. This area is involved in processing incoming sensory perceptions by assigning valency to your perceptions which result in your polarized emotions and survival impulses and instincts. Your amygdala is a legacy from your animal origins, featuring two primary functions:

  • SEEKING mechanisms to pursue what you desire (impulse); and
     
  • AVOIDANCE mechanisms to evade anything you perceive as being a threat (instinct).

I often use the example of animals in the wild, where they will seek prey and avoid predator. You possess the same tendencies – however, you may not be conscious of them and how they playout in your day-to-day life.

When you encounter something you perceive to be desirable, say, a delicious meal, you tend to perceive more positives than negatives. In these moments, your brain's parasympathetic system activates, allowing you to relax, digest, and enjoy the experience. This reaction tends to build your body positively or anabolically, with you giving credit to these perceived positive food experiences for the way you feel.

Conversely, when you face something you perceive as threatening, your amygdala triggers an avoidance response. You then tend to see more negatives than positives, leading to a tendency to assign blame. Whether it's an external challenge or an internal conflict, this perception of more disadvantages than advantages, more losses than gains, tends to steer you towards blame.

The Dynamics of Blame and Credit

Your life is a continuous interplay of giving credit and assigning blame, not just to others but also to yourself. When you believe you've supported someone, you're likely to feel pride and give yourself credit. But if you perceive your actions have led to more disadvantages than advantages, you may feel shame or guilt.

This dynamic extends to how you perceive others. When you admire someone, you're likely to overlook their flaws and credit them with more advantages, desiring to impulsively seek them.

On the other hand, if you perceive someone negatively, you might discredit them and focus on their faults and feel resentment, desiring to instinctually avoid them.

Society often pushes the narrative of being either more one-sidedly positive or one-sidedly negative.

society-narrative-one-sided

Perhaps you were taught by a parent, teacher or preacher to strive to always be kind, never cruel; and generous, never stingy. But if you're honest with yourself, you'll likely recognize that you embody BOTH sides. You can be both kind and cruel, positive and negative, peaceful and wrathful. It's a misconception, as well as a fantasy, to believe that you, other people, and the world should only embody positive traits.

In my signature 2-day program, the Breakthrough Experience, that I teach most every week (and have done so for going on four decades), I've asked thousands of people if they are ‘ALWAYS nice’ ‘never mean’, or ‘mean never nice’; ‘peaceful never wrathful’ or ‘wrathful never peaceful’, etc. The results are consistent, that when people dig deeper into their own lives, they are highly likely to acknowledge they have both positive and negative traits. The result of this realization is a one of certainty and authenticity, as opposed to the uncertainty and hypocrisy of trying to live up to unrealistic, one-sided ideals.

As I often say: you will only have certainty when you authentically embrace both sides of your own being.

  • Trying to get rid of half of yourself and be one-sided is futile.
     
  • Expecting someone else to be one-sided is futile.
     
  • Expecting the world to be one-sided and not both-sided is also futile.

However, when you acknowledge the dual nature of human experience, as opposed to the fantasy of a one-sided world, you tend to be more poised, present, purposeful, productive, resilient, adaptable, objective, and empowered.

When you see both the positive and negative aspects of people and events, you transcend the amygdala's reactive survival mode and activate the executive center in the prefrontal cortex of your brain. This shift allows you to more frequently operate from a place of objective truth where you are free from the constraints of blame and credit.

It may surprise you to hear that the obstacles you perceive as being terrible and worthy of blame are actually FEEDBACK MECHANISMS.

These obstacles serve to shatter your attachment to unrealistic fantasies that an individual or situation “should” have all positives and no negatives. While these fantasies may be enticing, they are fairytales and not rooted in actuality. As such, when you chase these illusions or fantasies of a one-sided world or individual, your intuition subtly reminds you of the potential downsides to help guide you back to a more balanced, objective perspective.

Your forebrain's executive center is uniquely equipped to turn your fantasies into achievable goals. Yet, when societal expectations press upon you to be consistently nice, never mean, kind, and never cruel, you may unknowingly set yourself up for a one-sided fantasy.

This unrealistic pursuit can lead to frustration when life inevitably presents its other side. In these moments, the tendency to blame others or yourself arises not as a fault, but as a signal – a feedback system indicating your expectations may be unbalanced.

In other words, you are not just a 'nice' or 'mean' individual; you are a complex human being capable of a wide range of responses. If your values are supported, you might show kindness; if they are challenged, you may react meanly. Recognizing and embracing this duality in yourself and others can transform your life and help you set realistic expectations, reducing the likelihood of blame and disappointment.

Blame, in this context, is not just a reaction but a distraction, pulling you away from living a truly meaningful life. As I mentioned earlier, blame most likely arises when you pursue unattainable one-sidedness, whether in yourself, others, or the world. To live authentically and fully, it is wise to embrace both sides of your nature and the nature of others and balance your expectations.

balance-expectations

Action steps

When you align your life with your highest priorities and set realistic objectives, you engage the medial prefrontal cortex – your brain's decision-making center. This focused approach often results in fewer distractions from the unproductive cycle of assigning blame or giving undue credit.

Remember, the infatuations you credit and the resentments you blame are often the very distractions that prevent you from leading a truly meaningful life. They take up space and time in your mind and distract you.

Aristotle spoke of finding the mean between extremes. When you chase after others you infatuate with, attempt to adopt their set of values, or strive for a one-sided existence, you will end up crediting those who support your illusion and blaming those who challenge it.

It is wise to recognize that you have the power to set balanced objectives, which pave the way for a greater degree of adaptability, resilience, and presence in your life.

On the other hand, pursuing unattainable ideals and trying to avoid the unavoidable can lead to unnecessary suffering.

The key is to prioritize your life, seek objectivity, and set balanced goals. I also teach strategic planning, which involves anticipating potential challenges and preparing for them, helping you to see both sides of any situation. Foresight, in this context, is far more valuable than hindsight.

By adopting a balanced perspective, you reduce the likelihood of being caught in the web of fantasies, nightmares, and the dualities of pleasure and pain. Being present in the moment allows you to engage in activities that you love, find meaningful, and that inspire you, leading to greater productivity and fulfillment.

The art of seeing both sides

Many years back, my master martial arts teacher at the time, once challenged me to 'try to kill him' as a means of instruction. Despite my hesitation, this exercise was not about violence; it was a lesson in mastery. Each attempt I made was met with his effortless control, teaching me that in martial arts, as in life, the perception of an attack can be transformed into an opportunity for growth and harmony – an invitation to dance.

You, like the martial artist, can learn to see beyond the immediate reaction of pleasure or pain. When you encounter situations in life that seem either entirely positive or negative, it is wise to remember that there are two sides. This balanced view is not about giving credit or blame but about understanding that every external event mirrors an internal aspect of yourself.

In the Breakthrough Experience, I emphasize a key lesson: the situations and people you encounter, the ones you praise or blame, are often mirrors reflecting parts of yourself.

This realization is at the heart of the Demartini Method, which I teach to help you see beyond the projections imposed by the external world. Instead of getting caught in a cycle of seeking heroes and avoiding villains, this method can help you to see that every aspect of your life is a reflection of your own inner self, which has both.

full-spectrum-behaviors

By fully embracing this understanding, you can truly transform your life by moving from a place of blaming others or yourself, which often stems from holding unrealistic, one-sided expectations, to recognizing that each individual, including yourself, own the full spectrum of traits and behaviors – from supportive to challenging. This is a powerful step towards mastering your life.

In the Breakthrough Experience, you'll also learn to transcend the common pitfalls of infatuation and resentment, pride and shame. These polarized emotions often distort your view, making you overestimate or underestimate yourself and others. When you're infatuated, you're blinded to someone's downsides; when resentful, you're likely oblivious to their positives. Authenticity tends to be lost in this perceptual state of imbalance.

True awakening means embracing all parts of yourself and others, realizing that life is not just about survival, but about thriving in a state of love and full consciousness. All else, the illusion of separation, the exaggerated hero worship followed by blame when they fall short, is just that – an illusion. It's about seeing the two sides to every story, the multifaceted nature of people and events.

The Breakthrough Experience isn't just about learning these concepts; it's about living them. I'll guide you in turning your challenges and perceived shortcomings into fuel for growth. Instead of being a victim of your past, you'll learn to be the master of your destiny.

This shift from reactive to proactive living is about embracing a balanced view of life, which leads to resilience, adaptability, and a meaningful presence.

To Sum Up

  • Your amygdala plays a crucial role in how you perceive and react to the world. It can lead you to assign blame or credit based on a survival mechanism, often skewing your perception towards seeing more positives than negatives or vice versa in a given situation.
     
  • Many people’s lives involve a constant interplay of giving credit and assigning blame. True empowerment comes from understanding this dynamic and striving for a balanced perspective, both in how you view yourself and others.
     
  • It is wise to challenge societal narratives that push for a one-sided existence, and embrace the reality that allows you to embody both positive and negative traits. This duality is essential for authentic living and self-appreciation.
     
  • It is also wise to align your life with your highest priorities, or highest values. This approach engages your brain's executive center, leading to fewer distractions from unproductive blame and credit cycles.
     
  • Like a martial artist, consider learning to see beyond immediate reactions of pleasure or pain. Understand that every external event is a reflection of an internal aspect of yourself. Integrating this understanding helps you transcend credit and blame and embrace a more balanced and empowered perspective.
     
  • In the Breakthrough Experience, you can learn to neutralize polarities of blame and credit, moving beyond the illusive influence of the external world. This method allows you to embrace a more authentic and balanced view of yourself and others.
     
  • Embrace the journey from being reactive to proactive in your life. Governing your life with wisdom and love allows you to step into a reality where you're not just surviving but thriving, aligning with your true purpose and embracing a future filled with balance, purpose, and meaningful poise.
     
  • Remember, the desire for a one-sided, positive-only world is an unattainable fantasy and a source of suffering. By learning to see and embrace both sides of life, you free yourself from this cycle of suffering. Join me in the Breakthrough Experience, and embark on a journey to integrate your experiences, see the world more objectively, and live a life that is not just about surviving, but thriving in every sense.
     

“The uneducated person blames others for their failures; those who have just begun to be instructed blame themselves; those whose learning is complete blame neither others nor themselves.”                                                  

Epictetus


 

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