Archive for the ‘blame’ Tag

WHAT WOULD MY FATHER THINK?   13 comments

At this point in writing my father’s story, I am deeply immersed in the years 1910 – 1912. Before my father went off to college supported by the money he had saved working for two years on a job he didn’t like. Before the first World War that killed his first – and maybe only—best friend and Best Man at my parent’s wedding (June 6, 1917.)

Some few people in Forestville/Bristol Connecticut were buying cars, enough so there were six automobile dealers and retailers listed in the city business directory. He walked to work past private homes whose green lawns were enhanced by gardens of asters and chrysanthemums. On Sundays he walked to Bethesda Lutheran Church to participate in the Swedish service, singing in the choir, having practiced there on Wednesday evenings.

I imagine peace, quiet, and hope when I spend time there. But on 9/30/1910, three days after my father arrived in the United states, the newspapers reported a terrorist bombing of the Los Angeles Times. Twenty people were killed. The source I read didn’t give any details about the bomber or motivation for the carnage. But it awakens me to the fact that we have never been without terrorism.

So what would my father have to say today if he were here about the most recent terrorist attack? Maybe that’s when he’d say of his life, “I’m glad I’m on my way out.” I know he’d feel sadness, dismay, and probably disgust that people or groups choose killing as a way of solving problems. I’m quite sure we would be discussing it at the dinner table, searching for possible answers.

I know he wouldn’t jump to conclusions about motive, while he would relate it to the spate of killings to which we have, sadly, become accustomed. I know he wouldn’t scapegoat.

Was the Orlando attack part of an organized plan by an organized enemy? Apparently not, according to FBI reports. Was it hatred of the LGBT community? Was it the perpetrator’s personal illness – bipolar disorder? Was it the killers confused battle with his own sexuality? Was it a combination of some or all of the above?

Whatever lay behind the horror, he’d know it can’t be explained by simplistic assumptions. He’d worry that some might not understand how complex the situation is and would choose to rush into inappropriate reactions. My father wasn’t opposed to emotions, but he did favor rational consideration when it comes to understanding and responding.

Looking over all the terrorist attacks, domestic or externally motivated, from Columbine to now, he’d see, as we can’t help but see, that the one common denominator is not only the use of guns, but more basically the choice of violence.

On today’s news I heard that investigators are suggesting a psychological factor uniting them all – that the killer(s) were trying to gain control. My father’s youngest daughter (me) finds that highly reasonable. Having control over one’s own life is basic to being fully human. To oversimplify, it comes from expressing one’s own individual abilities and strengths and feeling rewarded and respected for them. When one doesn’t receive that gift through life situations or genetic givens, then shame may encourage debilitating depression, or, with more energy, blaming and gaining control over others. Demagoguery is one control route, but not for all. Enslavement is another, as is killing, whether organized or individual.

I think my father would say we’d better be careful before rushing to violent conclusions of our own, and take a look at the complexity of life under any circumstances, but certainly in a democracy. It may not be immediately satisfying, but solutions that stick in the long run usually aren’t quick and easy.

 

 

RULE #7. CONSIDER, “IF NOT ‘YOU’ THEN ‘I’?”   15 comments

When, as in my last post, I advise people to avoid using “you” because it is so blaming, I encourage the use of “I” because it is honest. But just like the pitfalls related to “you,” there are hazards in using “I.”

Consider when I say, “You make me feel so angry.” It’s good to recognize a variant on the thought attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. “No one can make you angry without your cooperation.” It’s more honest to say, “I feel angry when you say/do things like that.”

It’s that basic issue of control again. “I” am the one responding with anger. “I” can decide how to handle my anger. “You” can control what you do. “You” can decide to refrain from such behavior in the future in order to avoid contributing to my angry feeling. Or you can choose to decide that I’m being ridiculous. Or you can realize that what you said/did was appropriate, and maybe there’s some conversation needed between the two of us. Or whatever. The point is, “I” am responsible to myself and “you” are responsible for “you.”

Whenever “I” hold you responsible for my reactions, “I” am not only being dishonest; “I” am ceding my power and control to you.

As a general rule, I prefer the “I” word.

But, of course, there are other things to consider. “I” can be a very selfish word when it attempts to turn the focus of attention on “me” and away from “you.” Consider a few examples. There’s the sympathetic listener whose first response is, “Oh, I know just how you feel.” — No, you don’t!

Or maybe there’s the “sympathetic” response that goes like this. “Let me tell you about my accident/operation/breakup/whatever.” No, I want you to listen to me! I’m hurting and I need someone to hear about me. When you start your “I” comments, you are not showing support for me.

Another example of the undesirable use of “I:” We’ve all experienced it, I’ll bet, like when we have – or overhear – a conversation between two people on a date and one person is doing most of the talking, with lots of “I”s.

So yes, “I” puts the focus on the speaker, with all the aspects of honesty and control mentioned at the beginning. Or “I” puts the focus on the speaker with little concern for the “you” of the other person.

For all these reasons, I developed the practice when teaching a class never to ask “Do you understand?” (potentially blaming) But rather to inquire, “Have I made myself clear?” (acknowledging my responsibility as teacher/lecturer.)

Whew! “I’m” finding it hard to make my point clear. Only “you” know whether I have.

 

RULE #6: WATCH OUT FOR THAT DANGEROUS WORD “YOU.”   10 comments

In general, I suggest to people that they never use the word “you” except to say something positive like “I love you,” or “You did such a great job on that project.” But there is another way that “you” becomes a positive word, as in “I’m so interested to hear your opinion about that,” or “Please tell me what interesting experiences you’ve had around that issue.”

But I still advise caution with that word “you.” Too often it’s a shaming word, as in “Why did you fall for that scam,” or “You should have known better.”

Worse yet, it’s a blaming word, as in “I lost because you gave me bad advice,” “Everything would have worked out OK if you hadn’t interfered.”

Sometimes it’s a blaming word even when it’s meant to be inspirational. I heard recently of a lecture session in which the speaker recounted the historically bad ways in which an ethnic group had been treated. At the end he suggested to the audience something like “You have a chance now to go out and rectify this situation.”  Many were heard as they left saying something like, “Why should I be blamed for something I didn’t do?” It’s that word “you.” All by itself it’s heard as an accusation.

Maybe the most annoying use of the word “you” is when it’s intrusive. I’d be willing to bet each of us has experienced the negative effects of this, and done our share of “you” intrusiveness in speaking to others. It happens most often, I think, when people are trying to be helpful. The person in financial, emotional, or other difficulty is bombarded by friends and other helpers attacking with, “Have you tried … ?” Why don’t you …” “You should …” “If you’d only … “Had you thought of … ?” Put them all together they amount to shame and blame. The victim of the unsolicited help is usually too polite to say, “Come off it. Do you think I’m stupid? Of course I’ve tried everything I could think of. Get off my back.”

The promise of “you” is a matter of respect. When I ask to learn more about you and what you did or do, it may come through as intrusive. Or, well presented with genuine interest, it may be experienced as a neat opportunity to share oneself with someone who cares.

Now I’ve told you what you ought to know about the word “you.” Are you sufficiently annoyed yet?

 

 

Posted April 1, 2016 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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“RULE” #2. APPRECIATE YOUR SHADOW   8 comments

Rule #1 requires honesty and accepting responsibility. Both those things require knowing one’s self, including the Shadow. And that’s not easy, because the Shadow is that part of ourselves that lurks deep in the background where we don’t want to acknowledge it. Why is it hidden? Because it’s not acceptable. So the thought scares us – seeing things we don’t like about ourselves.

In fact, this may be the hardest “rule” of all. Those shadow places are pretty well closed off. But if you can do it, be prepared to hang on to those shadowy things when they pop up. And even if you reject it when someone suggests something about you that you don’t like, take it home with you and examine it when no one is looking. Nothing says you have to tell them you’ve discovered they’re right. (Though it might not hurt.)

It does help us, though, to understand – even empathize – with those “others” out there. And when we understand and empathize, we’re better able to come up with a way to handle the situation to our own benefit as well as for the general welfare.

There’s a funny thing called attribution. We can look at the same thing and attribute different causes depending on who’s involved. Someone else walks out of the store without paying the bill. They’re stealing. I walk out of the store without paying and I’m forgetful. It plays right into the blame game.

From my adult vantage point, I can get pretty uppity about violent kids in “good” neighborhoods. Then I remember when I was ten years old, visiting someone with my parents. I went with their ten-year-old daughter up to the privacy of her bedroom. There she described the gang she belonged to, the idea being to fight with the other gang – and win. The funny thing is, I remember it to this day because I was jealous. I mean deep in my bones, to the bottom of my well of emotion, jealous. The Shadow practically filled the room.

So it’s important to acknowledge our own unacceptable parts. And besides, folks tend to like others who are as flawed as they are. “Perfect” people are pretty boring, or maybe just not believable.

But here’s the funny thing. For some of us – my fellow Scandinavians may recognize this – part of what’s unacceptable may be stuff that other people think is great. “You shouldn’t think so highly of yourself.” “Don’t puff yourself up.” “Being humble is a good thing; don’t brag.” It may seem weird, but good things can lurk in the Shadow because those childhood warnings drove them there, and the general culture keeps them there. How many good assertive contributions are lost because one isn’t willing to admit to positive virtues?

My apologies to the Shadow. It’s so much more powerful than I make it sound here. But because it’s so powerful, it’s worth getting to know and accepting.

The path to forgiving [or any other healthy thing] means accepting your own dark side. Preface to “Forgiving One Page at a Time: The Diary of your Journey to Restoration and Confidence.”

RECENT FACEBOOK PAGE ENTRIES   3 comments

Today on 4giveletGrow:

“We can blame somebody and refuse to forgive him. But we cannot forgive him if we dare not blame him.” Lewis B. Smedes, page 77 in the “Art of Forgiving,” (my favorite book after my own.)

Yesterday on 4giveletGrow:

Today’s 2:00 a.m. thought. After the hurt two things are needed: grieving and rebuilding/restructuring – and they probably shouldn’t be done in the same place.

This morning I finished giving a four-session course on forgiveness to a wonderful group of about 15 people. I’ll miss them, but I’ll carry the good fruits of our relationship for a long time. And I hope they will too.

 

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