This episode is all about releasing one of the most common toxic patterns many of us have (and that easily that hooks me, personally): judgment and blame.
Judgment and blame are really pervasive in our workplaces, our personal relationships, and in society at large. As we’ve experiences, it causes a lot of suffering when we label others as “wrong” or “bad” in some way. We can also get hooked by blame, and when it becomes habitual, it also keeps us stuck.
These reactions can arise with little things, like when someone forgets to do a simple favor you asked of them. And it can happen in moments of anger and unforgiveness from a deep wound or betrayal. When resentment is chronic, it can really weaken and damage our relationships as well.
When we’re blaming or judging, it makes it hard for us to be compassionate or to soften around the wall we’ve built up around our hearts to protect us. We can end up putting people in a box, seeing them as an “unreal other,” and closing off to the idea of an interaction.
It’s important to know this is totally human, totally expected when born in a body with a brain that evolved the way it did, so we need to be compassionate towards ourselves too. AND when it happens on a bigger scale, when we look at this as a baseline of so many people on the planet, we can also see the suffering it creates. If we want to genuinely move toward healing, peace, and helping the Earth heal, it will be helpful for us to practice letting go of blaming and “othering.”
So how do we explore this without offending someone else or turning into the “blame police”? And without making ourselves “wrong” for getting hooked by judgment and blame?
You’ve probably heard me talk about the evolutionary aspects of our brain and development before. Well, it applies here, too, with the stress response cycle of fight/flight/freeze/fawn. Blame is an expression of “fight.” It’s part of the human condition and it’s a universal response to when we feel threatened.
Then, due to our negativity bias, we’re consistently scanning for what’s wrong, or assuming there is something wrong, because evolutionarily, that kept us safer. It literally kept us alive!
On a societal level, we see this pattern a lot, and unfortunately, we perceive the most threat, and therefore blame, toward those that we perceive are different from us – religion, morals, politics, race/culture/ethnicity… We have a default response of “others” being more likely to be perceived as threats to our safety and most likely to be the target of our blame. Since this is the default of our brain, the first way we can examine this is to just be aware of it happening.
While we know the possible negative effects of judgment and blame, there is a sneakier reason for their bad reputation: Many people have a common belief that we shouldn’t be angry. But as weknow, anger is intelligent. It let’s us know we need to take action, that something is wrong, that we aren’t getting our needs met. So anger itself isn’t the problem – getting stuck in it is (via judgment and blame).
We’ve all been wounded by others. As we’ve seen recently in the U.S. with women’s rights, and with BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ and Gender non-conforming friends, entire populations have been devalued and systematically oppressed. This should make us angry.
So we use anger to awaken and mobilize. But not to hang out in.
Make no mistake, we need anger. .
If we suppress anger and, say, prematurely forgive, we’re not going to fully attend to our wounds and therefore won’t be able to effectively protect ourselves from more harm.
But when we are in a trance of blame all the stories that feed the blame replay over and over. When this happens, we have less access to our wise mind, so we get reactive and lash out or withdraw.
When we get stuck in that trance of blame, our perception of the other person also narrows. They become “unreal” or less human to us. Someone we can’t relate to easily. And if we look closely, not only are we creating an unreal other, we’re also creating an unreal self. We’re not connected to our own wholeness. We are in some limited story of a victimized self.
We can start to wake up to how blame is impacting our perceptions of both the other person (or people) and of ourselves. Ask ourselves – what’s the role I’m in? And most important, do I like myself this way? Is it who I really am?
We also have to acknowledge that undoing the toxic habits of judgment and blame is hard. And it’s usually hard because we are protecting ourselves from suffering. One question we must ask ourselves is, what makes us hold so tightly to blame? What parts of us are we protecting?
We can ask ourselves, “If I let go of thinking this way, what unpleasant feelings would I have to feel?” Because there’s really a whole constellation of vulnerable feelings that can show up under the armor we’ve put up.
Sometimes we hold onto blame because of misunderstandings about forgiveness. We may worry that forgiving someone will remove accountability or any possibility of change for the other person. Or that it condones harmful behavior. But this is a misunderstanding of forgiveness that can block our healing.
There’s also a question of whether we can make a difference in the world if we let go of blame. We think it fuels change. But we need to remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean passivity or inaction. We can seek justice and reparation for oppressed people AND release the hatred or blame towards those who are benefiting from and perpetuating the oppression.
There are three steps I use in my own life to leave the blame behind and begin to forgive:
- Awaken the intention to forgive – authentic desire to forgive
- Look inward at ourselves with compassion and wisdom to see what’s going on under that armor
- Widen the lens and see each other as our true selves with more open hearts
In each of us, beyond our ego, there’s a wisdom that knows that until we let go of the armoring around our hearts, we can’t be happy. We can’t love freely.
So there is something in all of us that knows that if we want to have a free heart – and we’re all about Freedom here – a big step is to let go of blame.
In this Episode you will learn:
// Why our brains are designed to blame and judge
// Why anger isn’t the problem… and why we actually need it
// How to recognize when you’re in a trance of judgment and blame
// How to stop the cycle of blame and let go
// What role the “two wings” of mindfulness and compassion have to shift us out of the stress response
// What we are running from when we blame – and how to turn towards it
// Episode 19: Anger
// Episode 34: How to Forgive
// Episode 87: The Problem with Being Right
// Episode 106: Empathy vs Compassion
// Check out this article I wrote for the Elephant Journal on Walking Each Other Home
// For ways you can take action to protect women’s reproductive rights, check out ReproductiveRights.org or PlannedParenthoodAction.org
// Did you know I lead silent mindfulness adventure retreats? Our next one is in Baja, Mexico in the week of March 26th, 2023. Save the dates. You will want to be on the early notification list!
// If you want to start integrating all of you into this one precious life we have, apply for the Adventure Mastermind. It’s Soul Work. Deep work. Important, necessary, and essential to what the world needs right now. Be a part of it.
If you’re remotely curious, apply. It will help you get clear, and then we can chat to see if it’s actually a good fit. Trust me – it’s an intense 6 months so I am just as invested as you are in making sure it’s an amazing match. Head over to AdventureMastermind.com and apply for the next cohort. We have 2 altered states retreats, weekly coaching, virtual retreats, and more. I’ve got you!
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist FB group, and tune in weekly when I go live on new topics.
// Want to dive into this work on a deeper level on your own time? To study it and practice it together with a group of people with the same goals of freedom, adventure and purpose? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out.