NO BLAME NO SHAME.

Today let’s talk about some serious BS: blame and shame. 

For our purposes we will be talking about blame as being other-oriented and shame as self-oriented. 

These two forces can fling us back and forth like an unfortunate ragdoll, one moment criticizing ourselves, the next judging others. When the lens is turned inwards we lament, “What’s wrong with me?”…and find plenty! When we turn our focus outwards we obsess on what is wrong with others. 

In either instance our power is lost, sucked into a vortex of BS. 

But we can sever the cycle of blame or shame simply by learning to spot it. The moment we see it occurring we are no longer caught in its spell. 

When we see it we can choose to either let it go by stepping out of the mindstream and into the mindful moment or transform it through skilled enquiry. Both approaches have the capacity to turn lead into gold, BS into fertilizer. 

Blame and shame are a vortex of BS!

MOVING BEYOND BLAME AND SHAME

The idea of going beyond BS first came to me as a young fella while doing a three week rebirthing intensive. Everyday we ventured into the inner catacombs to purge the pains that lay within. 

One day, I was with one of my mentors from the group, supporting her through a breathwork process. She was going for it hammer and tongs as only cathartic rebirthers can do, screaming vitriol towards all the people she blamed for hurting her then crying out in shame about how she felt she’d harmed her son and herself along the way. 

Then in the middle of her moving back and forth between the other and the self I had an intuitive flash. I suggested she “Take all that blame, everything that was every done to you and put it into one hand! Now take all your shame, everything you’ve ever done wrong to yourself and others into the other hand!” 

She went for it, charging up each hand with her blame and shame and gradually bringing them together until she had this core of energy. In a single moment she let her hands explode outwards and felt into the space that lay between blame and shame, the space that was beyond them. 

Her eyes, her face and her being lit up! Suddenly, in a moment, there was all this freedom. She saw the possibility of life without this blame and shame cycle clouding her mind and cramping her heart. 

Through this experience, clarity about this possibility dawned for me as well. 

Suddenly in a moment, there was all this freedom.

WHY WE NEED TO CUT THE BS

Just to be clear, you don’t have to be in a heightened, healing space to go beyond blame and shame. In fact, it’s so very easy! 

But first, why would we want to drop them? 

When it comes to blame, the payoff of feeling above another has a pretty severe cost. Think about a moment you were fully invested in blaming another and ask yourself, “Was I happy?” 

Being invested in blame is analogous to drinking poison and hoping the other person will get sick. At best, only you are hurt by it. At worst, it can really harm both of you. 

It also takes away our ability to hold up a mirror effectively. When we approach people in the grip of blame they are less likely to understand how their behavior has effected us or was perceived by us. It cuts off the possibility of the deeper learning that can occur with connected dialogue. 

On the shame front, let’s first distinguish what we’re talking about from guilt. Guilt can be quite healthy. It can be that helpful impulse to check how our behavior may have been off, how we may have harmed another or acted inappropriately in a given situation. Guilt is that conscientious reminder that we have something we need to try to clean up or, at the least, learn from. 

Shame on the other hand cuts to the core of our being and has us internalize the idea that we are somehow intrinsically bad. Various researchers, including the inspiring Brene Brown, have found there is no more corrosive psychological force than shame. Shame tends to move us towards isolation, and is often correlated with depression, anxiety and behaviors of self-harm. 

Blame is like swallowing poison while hoping someone else suffers. 

TURNING BS INTO FERTILIZER FOR OUR JOY AND GROWTH

The most empowering thing you can do to end the negative impacts of blame and shame is to keep your eyes open. Be vigilant in terms of the content of your mind. Look out for when you are telling yourself stories that keep you cycling around in various degrees of suffering. 

When I say paying attention to the stories we tell ourselves, one of the best ways to spot it is in relation to our attitude. You can easily sense if you are looking at yourself or others with openness, kindness and compassion or if you are viewing yourself or others with a sense of being contracted, unkind or disconnected. 

And when you catch yourself in blame and shame? 

First, don’t give yourself a hard time for it. 

Then you can drop it by reorienting your attention to whatever is taking place beyond the BS thoughts. The breath, your trusty and ever present friend, can be foregrounded in your attention. You can reorient to your senses, paying attention to what you can see, hear, taste, smell or feel right now. You can step out of mindlessness and into mindfulness. 

Whether we are in blame or shame, reaching out to others is another perfect medicine. This invites in empathy and connection and shines the light of awareness onto what can otherwise be quite unconscious processes. 

We can reach out to inquire how our behavior has affected others and to clean up any of the concerns we may have. We can reach out and ask for support if we are feeling down on ourselves. We can curiously enquire about why someone has behaved in a certain way and invite in an open and honest dialogue. 

Another possibility is to ask yourself a series of questions that will turn that which harms into that which heals. Essentially, question the validity of the thought, recognize its lack of ABSOLUTE truth, turn it around and reflect on what you can do to empower the turnarounds. 

More than anything, I’d suggest developing a playful attitude to the contents of your mind. When we treat our thoughts as possibilities rather than truths and view our inner critic as a comic, the inner tragedy of BS can quickly transform into a brilliant comedy…and you have the front row seat!