One relationship concern I often hear about in my counseling work is coping with fault-finding or critical interactions...
Relationships are multi-dimensional
Relationships are multi-dimensional; there are a number of influences that come together and intermingle that influence relationship well-being: our own mindset and level of self-esteem, our partner's mindset and their way of engaging with us, as well as the wider social context within which we exist, with its own political and social influences…
Here, I want to write about coping with fault-finding interactions from the point of reference we can most control - our own“blame-resilient” mindset!
Where does a blaming response come from? (With excerpts from Liberating Inner Eve)
Blame can be appropriate or inappropriate. For example, it is appropriate to hold someone responsible for their behavior, if there exists any form of abuse.
But certainly there are times when blame can be inappropriate. Blaming others, for some people, can be about them retaining dominance, power, or control, by pushing their expectations and wants onto someone else, then blaming that someone else for their own dissatisfaction if they don’t fulfill those needs.
At other times, blame can be a way of coping.
Whenever we cherish ourselves, feel connected to what gives us inspiration and strength, and embrace our “power” to make our own choices, we are more likely to enter situations and face other people from a place of confidence, strength, and an experience of self-worth. As such, we are more likely to be in-tune with our inner experience and take appropriate responsibility for the way we think, feel, cope, and relate to others. This then reduces the likelihood to blame others for our own experience.
But at times, when our authentic selves get lost, either in the busyness of our day or in attending too much to the experience of others while neglecting our own, or when we are lacking in self-love, we can be vulnerable to allowing other people’s thoughts, opinions, and expectations to affect our experience of our own self-worth.
It is from such a place that we are more likely to resort to blaming. We may strive to experience a sense of power and control through influencing others to fulfill our expectations. Additionally, when we feel disconnected from ourselves, threatened by others’ opinions, or allow them too much power to influence us, to avoid appearing weak or vulnerable (many times subconsciously) we may at times be critical towards them so that their opinions are not as powerful and threatening. This brings about an illusion of superiority within us in relation to them, or simply undermines, in our eyes, their attitudes and thoughts.
We learn about experiencing blame very early in our lives. As children, we are naturally motivated to please and placate the adults in our lives, as we are instinctively aware of our dependency on them for physical and emotional survival, as well as of our own sense of inferiority in relation to them. Adults may seem to us all-powerful and knowing, bigger, and smarter.
As children, we are vulnerable to taking on board our family’s expectations and rules, as well as blame for other people’s dissatisfaction.
However, even in our adulthood, many individuals can continue to experience excessive levels of responsibility for others’ reactions, expectations, or behavior…
Protection against Blame
The most effective way to protect ourselves from being affected by someone else’s blame or from blaming others is to look to ourselves and our faith for guidance, approval, and choose to reclaim control over what we do and how we choose to be of service, within our own precious time; Learning to embrace control over where we chose to direct our attention, how we chose to spend our time, and most importantly, how we chose to continue the conversations in our head!
Paradoxically, it is often when we don’t “need” a sense of acceptance from others, when we are content to be ourselves and feel connected with our own experience and our unique essence, that we receive the approval that perhaps we were once hoping for. This could be because when we seek others’ approval we are sending the message that we are not feeling 100 per cent secure within ourselves. There are some people who may (often unconsciously) take advantage of this, trying to offer their support or acceptance under the condition that we comply with their expectations.
On the other hand, when we project an aura of self-love and acceptance, express ourselves comfortably, and metaphorically stand firmly on our own two feet, we are making it clear that we are not interested in obeying or conforming, only in connecting in a mutually supportive, loving presence, with fellow human beings who want the same!
Referene: Zawisz, B. Liberating Inner Eve. Wipf and Stock, 2020.