When you have one half of a couple, that takes responsibility for nothing and liberally distributes blame to the other and the other half, that feels responsible for everything and willingly accepts blame, you have a match made in dysfunctional paradise.
Young children are incredibly ego-centric. They internalize negative messages and have an uncanny ability to make everything their fault. As a child grows and develops they become less internally focused and are able to examine and question their environment, internalizing less and looking more and more for logical and external explanations.
If you throw an emotionally manipulative parent into the mix, one who is quick to blame, shame and belittle their child, the lens that that child views the world with becomes more and more clear and points directly at them. They get into the pattern of thinking that they are responsible for everything and anything that may go wrong, is a direct result of something they have done. They seldom grow out of that pattern, because that way of thinking becomes habitual and they will continue to think this way until they learn how to break the cycle.
Breaking that pattern of thinking is an essential part of conquering codependency. It’s imperative that we learn exactly what we are responsible for and what we are not. Once we understand the difference then we have to get into the habit of monitoring how we are perceiving incoming data and learning how to interrupt that internal tape and teach ourselves newer, healthier ways of interpreting our environment.
What You Are Not Responsible For
- Other people’s behavior
- Other people’s moods
- Other people’s problems
- Other people’s financial or job situation
- Other people’s children
- Other people’s inability to take care of themselves
- Other people’s happiness
- Other people’s self-esteem
- Other people’s emotional outbursts
- Other people’s issues
- What other people think or say about you
What You are Responsible For
- Your behavior
- Your attitude
- Your choices
- Your well-being
- Your self-esteem
- Your children
- Financially supporting yourself
- Validating yourself
- Your life
Interrupting Your Tape
The first step, quite obviously, is to acknowledge that this is a behavior that you engage in. Pay attention to how many times you so willingly take responsibility for a situation that isn’t your fault and how many times you say you’re sorry. Do you have triggers that revert you back to childhood, such as an angry or raging partner or friend that starts acting up and yelling? Do you try to keep the peace by being quiet or do you take responsible for their behavior to ease the tension and their ire? Start to look for these patterns in your thinking and behavior and pay attention to the people in your life and how often they lay the blame at your feet. Be mindful of how many times these patterns happen in a day.
Once you start paying attention to these patterns, their frequency will shock you. Your job then becomes to interrupt the tape. Every time you find yourself in a situation where you are taking responsibility for something, take a step back and analyze the situation with a new lens. Ask yourself, “Who is really responsible for the situation? What are the facts? Is their reaction appropriate? Am I responding appropriately? Am I making myself feel small to make someone else feel better or to keep the peace?”
Every time we try to break a bad habit it becomes a battle. It’s called self-work because it is work. You must constantly challenge these notions and beliefs that enter your mind, otherwise the old tape will start up again. Be mindful of the pattern, interrupt it and challenge it every time it makes an appearance. Get in the habit of speaking your truth irrespective of how others will react to it. The impetus is on creating a new set of behaviors, a new way of perceiving our environment and a new tape.
Just like starting a new fitness regime, it will get easier as you continue to do it. It takes practice, practice, practice to master any task and this is no different. Our brains learn through repetition so this is something you will have to continue to do it. You’ll know you’re there when you start to see things objectively rather than always defaulting to ‘everything is my fault.’
Those people in your life who have enjoyed laying blame at your feet, will of course, not like the idea of you challenging the status quo. Once you know who they are start the process of eliminating them from your life. Hanging around people who want to blame you for everything, while you are trying to kick the habit of accepting blame, is the equivalent of an alcoholic hanging out in a bar. Practicing healthy behaviors should always be the goal and anyone who tries to get in the way of that should be removed from the front row of your life. When they complain you can truthfully tell them it was all their fault.
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