Back to Blog

The thing about blame...


While updating me on her work life the other day, a friend of mine emphatically explained how her boss was to blame for the dramatic disintegration of his company, subsequent litigious employee morale, and her current unemployment. She explained that her boss had initially refused to comply with health code safety measures regarding this present pandemic—citing infringement on his personal liberties—and as a result, cases of the virus began to spread amongst their work place. The company had to shut its doors, and now there are lawsuits threatened and criminal actions pending from the employees who had chosen to come to work during the contagious period. As I listened to her speak, I could feel the fury of her frustration seething from each of her cells.

“He is to blame!”

Her words slipped through my ear canal and proceeded to rattle around my consciousness for the rest of the day. I decided to look up the word, “blame.” According to a myriad of online dictionaries, the most common definition of blame is to “assign responsibility for a fault or a wrong.” But as I read the explanation over and over, I could not help but feel it was wholly inadequate in its description of all that I had felt imbued in my friend’s declaration.

It struck me that, regardless of the particular inciting situation, most of us have a very cumbrous relationship with blame.

By exploring the personal aspects of our perception of blame, does that release people such as my friend’s boss from the responsibility of their decisions? Absolutely not. Everyone is responsible for the decisions that they make, the actions that they take—especially within the scope of the law. His culpability was not being called into question by my consciousness—that will continue to sort itself out logistically, legalistically.

What I had really been curious about was not the desire to designate legal responsibility, but rather, my friend’s acute desire to assign emotional responsibility over to her boss. Her deeply palpable petition to make her boss an outlet for her tremendous feelings of grief over the loss of a life and lifestyle to which she had become accustomed; an outlet for the overwhelming feelings of disempowerment, disenfranchisement, and, frankly, despair that often accompanies radical change away from our sense of familiarity.

I realized that we have all done this over the course of our lives. In fact, in an effort to soothe the savage beast of negative emotion, and save ourselves the pain of our own experiences, we have been conditioned to look outside ourselves for the salve of nearly every solution.

However, even though assigning responsibility over to another person, institution, or entity, may transfer with it emotional energy, it does NOT exorcise the emotion from our own mind and body. We may determine and delegate culpability for an unfortunate circumstance, painful choice or tragic crime, but the subsequent critical feelings evoked, provoked, and magnified by each situation lies, solely, within us.

From my own life, I have come to know that the biggest fallacy in trying to offload frustration, anger, and shame is that it is possible to really do so. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO TRULY HEAL OURSELF WITHOUT PROCESSING OUR OWN EMOTIONS. The moment we declare something external from ourselves —be it a condition, a person or a situation—as the reason for our emotional state of being, we abdicate all of our power. Even with the most traumatic of causal incidents, the inciting feelings are ours to deal with, they are ours to feel through. There is no life hack around human emotion. We have to go through to feel better.

It’s not possible to fully offload our negative feelings. In trying to do so—in an attempt to feel relatively and temporarily better—we tend to hand over the fuse of blame in trying to find some relief from the weight of responsibility. We, then, inadvertently spark the incendiary dynamite of defensiveness within the accused. By perpetuating the passing of blame, our social circles, our political structures, our cultures, societies, civilizations—our world—triggers one another with the kindling of castigation so that even one whisper from another person acts as the bellows that bursts the emotional embers into full blown flames.

We don’t know what to do with intense levels of negative emotion in our bodies, our minds. We have been so conditioned to distract ourselves from feeling, that when it becomes critical that we do so for the sake of change, we keep handing those around us the precarious explosive device of distress by trying to ‘assign’ it to someone else.

We cannot get to a place of new action when we are stuck in the loop of reaction. Hurling the projectiles of pain, the grenades of guilt, the bombs of blame back and forth between arbitrarily divided camps carved out of humankind only serves to set the whole world on fire.

In order to soothe the inflammation before everything burns to the ground, it is important to create some space—some unfettered air around ourselves—in which we can take a moment and breathe. All that we need to start extinguishing the flames that have been threatening to envelope us, is the willingness to pause, get quiet, acknowledge the fires of discontent surrounding us, and then allow ourselves to FEEL how it is affecting us. Right now. In this moment. In our bodies, in our hearts.


It is more than okay, in fact, it is VITAL in order to END THE CHAIN OF PAIN that comes from wanting so badly to pass the flame, the shame, the blame. By allowing ourselves, individually, personally, intimately, to feel our way through our own pain in the powerful present moment, we can begin to extinguish the collective engulfing flames.

Whether what we experience has to do with our work life, home life or social life, the moment we can stop, take in the information given to us, and make the difficult choice to recognize, acknowledge, and process how we feel, we can then access and embody our true source of power. The more we choose to reconcile our own painful emotions, the more we can become a fire retardant force in the world. And the more firefighters we can deputize in our community, our nation, our world by their willingness to choose and exercise awareness, the more we can create the safe space so desperately needed to lead the change we wish to see in the world.