Blame and Responsibility Part 1
Before I start:
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to do some writing on this topic. I thought I would sit down and write this the next day-- but that didn't happen. Some things came up related to a new kind of creature I've been seeing this year. It's a creature that I first saw in a dream several months ago, but I started seeing it while I was awake and it scared me a lot. It doesn't scare me as much anymore-- I think I have a better sense of what it is and what it represents. Maybe in time I'll share it with you. Right now I understand it only well enough to be at peace with it within myself-- not enough to put into words. After that there was a lot of movement in my real life, which I may or may not write about later. I was going to attempt this blog again yesterday but instead I saw something or someone that shook me up again.
That's how it's been lately for me and I get an impression that there are a lot of things coming up for other people as well. I've heard (via energy readers on YouTube as well as the voices that have been telling me about this summer since January) that there are a lot of waves and changes coming in. It has been like this since the start of the year, but it is expected to continue through the beginning of August at least. In this time a lot of fears and old buried things might come up to be released and resolved. This is a time with a lot of potential for healing and growth, but it can be uncomfortable in the moment so if you are experiencing this kind of energetic upheaval be patient and gentle and know that it is only old stuff clearing out so that new, amazing, beautiful things can come in. We are all in this together.
Okay now for the actual blog:
Blame and Responsibility Part 1
Note: I was going to write about the entirety of this concept in one post, but I can already tell it's going to be really long, so instead I'm going to break it into sections. This section will just serve to introduce the concepts.
The concept I want to talk about here isn't one that the voices told me about or one that I've pondered my way to on my own. It is one I'm stealing from a number of sources including videos from Teal Swan (here is a link to her YouTube channel) and writing by Don Miguel Ruiz (The 4 Agreements, The Mastery of Love, The Voice of Knowledge), his son Don Miguel Ruiz Jr (The Mastery of Self); and a few other spiritual teachers/ enlightenment coaches I follow. It's not a new idea but it's something that I've only learned about in the last year and I have been thinking about it frequently because it is related to themes I have struggled with throughout most of my life.
The basis of the concept is this: blame and responsibility are not the same and in order to progress in our view of justice and fairness it is important to move away from a paradigm of blame and into one of responsibility. At first this sounds super counter-intuitive because our entire system of law and social structure is built on a version of justice that primarily concerned with blame. When we say "Who is responsible?" for something, what we usually mean is "Who do we blame for this?"
Since so much of our culture (and by that I mean the culture I have experienced in America within a family that is largely concerned with following rules and doing things "right") is based on a belief that justice involves finding who is to blame and punishing them (whether we couch it in those terms or not), it can be really alarming to argue that blame and punishment actually impedes justice. This idea can be argued about on a large scale for things like court and prison reform (and some of the sources I referred to earlier have presented it in that way) but I don't want to get into that right now. Instead I want to talk about how changing my own belief system to reflect one of responsibility, rather than blame has helped me change how I relate to myself and the world on a personal level.
Before I can get to the personal application though, I need to explain more clearly what the difference between blame and responsibility is and why it matters. So really quickly before I end this not-very-organized post here is what I mean when I talk about these topics:
Blame has to do with finding someone to punish for something going wrong. Even if you don't follow up with an actual action, the act of blaming is itself a form of punishment. When we blame someone for something, we say that they did something wrong or they are wrong-- it's not just that they caused something unpleasant or bad to happen but that since they did this there is some part of them that is "bad" or "wrong". Saying that someone is the cause of something isn't inherently negative, but blaming them adds a tone to it that implies "you are bad because you caused this and you need to suffer to make up for the badness in you." Most people do not want to see themselves as "bad." Since most of us do not want to be the "bad guys" in our own story we try to justify our actions when they are out of sync with our beliefs. We do this because not doing this leads to a very unpleasant feeling called "cognitive dissonance" and can create a pattern of either continual guilt and shame or denial and blame. Since this entire framework is based on the idea of justice=punishment, to do something bad requires that you receive a "punishment" in order for justice to be served. Therefore, from this perspective, any time you act out of sync with whatever you believe to be ideal you need to either punish yourself through feeling guilty, using harsh internal dialogue, or taking some other self-defeating action or else you need to justify why you are out of sync with your ideal by placing the blame on someone or something else. If you don't do one of these two things while using this framework you stay in a state of dissonance in which is essentially a place of confusion because you cannot reconcile how you see yourself in relation to a belief with the belief itself. Cognitive dissonance is extremely painful, so it is rare to stay in it for a space of longer than a second or two-- that is why most people don't usually notice when they have either justified an action or punished themselves. It happens so fast that we are rarely conscious that we do it.
There is a lot more depth that goes into the concept of blame and punishment, but for now I'll leave it at this: A system of justice based on blame says (in essence) that when something is unpleasant or out of sync with an ideal a culprit needs to be found and punished for that thing. Basically at the heart of this concept is the belief that since suffering (in some form great or small) was caused, suffering is required as payment and only when the culprit has suffered enough is justice is served.
The framework of responsibility is one that is less concerned with finding a culprit and not concerned at all with punishing them. From a perspective of responsibility the need to find a cause of an unpleasant situation or one that differs from an ideal or expectation is to address why that person or people are acting in a manner that is either harmful or out of sync and find a solution for those actions. If the action or situation is not a repetitive pattern it is not even necessary to find a culprit, because a framework of responsibility is based not on punishment but on solutions. From this framework to take responsibility for something going wrong does not mean that you assume blame or fault for it, but that you recognize that something is out of sync and that you are capable of addressing it in a way that puts it back in line with the ideal. Unless it is a repeating pattern it doesn't matter who or what caused the thing to be out of sync, it matters that the result of that thing is addressed so that things can go back into balance and harmony. Punishment is not needed for this. In fact, punishment tends to create more problems and therefore is counter to this perspective. One really good way to think about it is by looking at natural disasters. It is easier to use this framework before it depersonalizes the example and creates less resistance. So lets say that there is a huge earthquake and a bunch of buildings are destroyed. That is an unpleasant situation that is out of sync with the ideal living circumstances. A framework of blame might try to blame the earth for shaking or people for building in an earthquake zones or construction for not being resilient enough, etc. A framework of responsibility says that happened and it sucked. Now who is able to help the people who are in danger? Who is capable of helping to rebuild in a way that is safer? How do we recover from this? The people who are ABLE and willing to help assume responsibility-- not because they are at fault but because they can handle the circumstance and improve it. The people who suffered are also required to take on responsibility again not because they did anything wrong but because by being in the circumstance they have to respond to it. Taking responsibility for something then is not about saying it is my fault so I need to fix it, but calling in your personal sense of power to say I can help with this so I will or I am part of this and need to address it. It has nothing to do with blame, but everything to do with the power to create change and harmony within oneself and the world in general.
As with the concept of blame there is much more depth that can be added, but the basic idea here is that responsibility is the power to take action and heal or correct something that is out of sync with an ideal. The people with the most responsibility are the ones that have the most power in any given circumstance. This is why adults are generally expected to be the primary person responsible for their own lives-- they have the most power to control their choices, reactions, and environments in relation to themselves. Sometimes people try to get rid of this responsibility because they mix it up with blame, but doing this leads to a feeling a of powerlessness and from a responsibility framework it cannot actually be done (but that can be explained in more depth later). Responsibility comes down to the power of choice including the choice of how you respond to any given circumstance, if you choose something and decide you don't like it then it is your responsibility to choose something else instead-- there is no blame involved to taunt you and say you messed up, it is simple if you don't like what you've chosen then you make a different choice. If you don't like the new choice then you make another one. There is no shame or guilt or punishment, the emphasis is not on what happens or who to blame, but on how you will respond to where you are at any given moment.
Okay, those are the basics of the concepts for now. I will go more into greater depth and application soon. I hope this makes some sense.
Thank you for reading.