The Source from Which Self-Respect Springs

A relationship without basic trust has no security. Lack of trust creates anxiety. When we can’t tolerate anxiety, we resort to blame. And blame kills relationships. Anxiety is at the core of blame. When we’re upset, disappointed or angry because of another person’s behavior, we often use blame to discharge our feelings. To say it bluntly, we dump our negative emotions onto another person. Carl Alasko, Ph.D., the author of the book “Beyond Blame”.

John is rushing through breakfast. There’s no milk. He’s upset and says to Mary, “Darn it, Mary, why can’t you at least keep some milk in the house?”

In essence, John is criticizing Mary of being too domestically incompetent to even keep track of the household’s supply of milk.

Instantly she gets angry. “You know, John, I work too.” Frequently an accusation follows: “Since when are you so important that you can’t buy some milk yourself?”

Mary’s accusation angers him even more. “I almost got laid off at work and you expect me to stop and buy milk?!” Clearly, this argument is only going to get worse.

The antidote to blame is simple: state your complaint without criticizing or accusing. Admittedly not an easy thing to do.

But here’s how it works. John says: “Oh, darn, there’s no milk.” Not a word more.

Since Mary is devoted to John and committed to their success as a couple, she takes on the responsibility. “Really? I’m sorry. I forgot.” Nothing more needs to be said. Mary already feels bad. Carrying on about it won’t add anything to either the discussion or the reliability of the household milk supply.

To ensure trust, avoid blame. It’s a simple formula that helps keep relationships together.
A decade ago I might have been able to grasp the concept that Dr. Alasko writes about, but I would not have been able to practice it consistently. My anger about the past and fear about the future would have prevented it. How very grateful I am today that storm has dissipated though acceptance, hard work and growth. Today ‘I get it’, thankfully!

The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life
is the source from which self-respect springs.
Joan Didion

The majority of what is above comes from an article by Carl Alasko, Ph.D.

Originally posted here on May 22, 2012