Tuesday, November 1, 2011
There are many reason to cultivate emotions such as gratitude, brotherly and sisterly love, forgiveness, and compassion. Experiencing these feelings creates a ground substance in which healing can occur on every level, including physically. All of these emotions create mental spaciousness, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, help the muscles relax.
Of course there are also emotional states that do not contribute to healing, such as bitterness and resentment. Anger can be, as Pema Chodron says, a "piercing" experience that reveals the truth. But if we cling to anger, it will burn us. Pema is very smart.
One of the most destructive emotional states is blame, both self blame and blaming other(s). In every case, this emotional state is disempowering. Worst of all, blame leads to punishment and revenge, bitterness and resentment, rarely to healing. Blame raises blood pressure, increases stress. When you blame yourself or others, you hold your breath, clench your jaw. Yep. Blame is not good for us.
Blaming creates a false reality in which every situation is black and white, in which one person or side of a situation holds all the cards, "good" and "bad." When we blame others, we blind ourselves to the role we played in the situation.
Self blame is a form of grandiosity, a state of mind in which we convince ourselves no one else participated in what went down. It's a nefarious type of controlling behavior. And it is never true. Life is complicated, and shit happens, pardon my french. It would be easier if the world were black and white, but it is not.
In my society, assigning blame always takes precedence. After a snowstorm, it's the power company's fault when trees limbs cut off the electricity. In relationships it's the partner having an affair who caused a rift, etc. etc. There's a way in which it's a relief to feel blameless even though that includes powerlessness, or to take on all the blame. It simplifies things, I guess, but it is not healing.
In a perfect world, people would examine their motivations, consider the ways in which they contribute to situations gone wrong, learn from the experience, then move directly towards compassion, forgiveness and healing. In the case of the snowstorm, perhaps the power company is culpable, but there's also the truth that we demand electricity 24/7 while, in most of the world, that is a ridiculous expectation. Should we blame the trees for growing too big? Or the weather gods for dumping the snow? Or should we try to figure out ways to use less electricity, cultivate a sense of humor for when the inevitable takes place, invest in candles and flashlights?
I do NOT blame people for getting upset when the power grid goes down. It's scary - the survival instinct kicks in at times like that. I get it. But I also think we could learn to deal with these situations perhaps slightly more gracefully. Yes? I say yes.
I know this isn't a perfect world! Hence: lawsuits, finger pointing, disempowerment, and, in the aftermath, a lack of time/energy to truly heal. I have demonized, pointed the finger, thrown away my own power many a time. What a waste of good energy!
Anymore, when I hear about a divorce, or that someone has been fired or suddenly quit their job, I don't ask what happened. The answer is, the marriage or job wasn't working, so it ended. When I can manage to avoid blame, it's possible to lend energy to the recovery from these sad events.
I try to avoid blame whenever possible. The more I practice, the closer I get to living a no-fault existence. I have a ways to go, of course. Am I a dreamer? Maybe, but I'm not the only one. May your day today be blameless, no fault. Shalom!