When something happens and the mind sees as unfortunate, it tends to try to put the blame out there – onto others, God, life, or even being a victim. (The victim identity is “internal” to the self concept, but is still seen as “other” and “out there”.) What we blame depends on our worldview and background and can include childhood, parenting style, ancestors, karma, evolutionary traits, and any sub-personalities we see as screwing things up for us.
Putting blame “out there” is distressing since it’s not entirely true. There is a distressing battle between what we tell ourselves and others about the situation (the blame), and what we know about the situation if we take the time to look (our part in it).
The truth is a combination of our own responsibility and a set of circumstances, and the more we can own our own part of it, fully and honestly, the more there is a sense of quiet and peace around the situation. It settles for us.
For instance, my life derailed in several respects when I made a major life decision that went against my own inner voice and knowing. I can blame life, others, childhood trauma and more, and there may be some truth to all of it. And yet, I didn’t find peace with it until I could find and take a more full responsibility of my part. I was the one making that decision, and I was the one who stuck with it for far longer than was comfortable. I know some reasons why I did it (fears, trauma, cultural expectations), and they are part of the picture, but the real peace comes when I take a fuller responsibility for my part.
For me, it really helps to talk with good friends about this, as a confession. It helps “cement” my responsibility, and it helps the turmoil around it settle.
I was reminded of this when I saw a press conference with Therese Johaug, a Norwegian skier. She was caught using illegal medication (in this case, it seems to have been medication for sun burn), and she put all blame on her doctor. It’s very understandable since she needs to do what she can to avoid being excluded from future competitions. And it’s also understandable since many of us react and initially put the blame out there when something like this happens. At the same time, avoiding taking responsibility creates a great deal of distress. And it was her responsibility to look it up for herself and make sure it wasn’t on the list of banned medications.