The Recovering Farmer

Thursday, April 30, 2020

I Blame Myself

There is another component to playing the blame game. In my last post I talked about our tendency to blame others when things go wrong particularly if you throw stress and anxiety into the mix. I talked about taking the third person approach in trying to recognize what our mental health may be contributing to a conflict.

It is imperative to also ensure that we don’t go blaming ourselves. I admit that when I realize that my own emotions or cognitive distortions have created tensions in relationships I have a tendency to beat myself up. That in itself is not healthy either.

As I have mused about previously I easily get caught up in the negative aspects of life. They control my mood and my thoughts. They are often filled with regrets. Far too often I look back and wish I would have done things differently. I challenge myself and others to rid ourselves of negativity through positive thinking which is good and well as long as we don’t stew about those negative experiences. But stew I do. I need to change that.

Mark Manson, in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a “bleep”, speaks about the “feedback loop from hell”. That piqued my curiosity. I have this uncontrollable way of letting my mind run rampant with negative and morbid thoughts. And because I know better than to allow those thoughts, I start bemoaning the fact that I have these negative thoughts and that I am such an idiot for thinking them and such a loser for thinking that I am an idiot and because I am an idiot there is no wonder I am useless at this thing called life. Notice how quickly I can get myself in trouble? As Manson states; “we feel bad about feeling bad. We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious”.

Many people feel that self-criticism is healthy, it helps us do better. As a result we often say things about, and to ourselves that diminish who we are. Think about it. Do you think that if you used that same tone and words with others they would feel encouraged? I think not. We would be much more compassionate with others.

According to the Dictionary, compassion is defined as having “sympathy (empathy) for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help”. We know that caring for and wanting to help others is a good thing. It feels good. And we all know when others care about us, when they want to help us, it feels good.

We need to practice self-compassion. The theory is quite simple. Do you know that as humans we have an innate desire to be understood by others particularly during periods of distress? We never outgrow that. Our pain and anxiety reduces the more others understand and care. Our physical health improves when others show they care, when they show they understand, when they reach out to help.

Using that same principle on ourselves is just as important, it helps in countering negative thoughts and social isolation. It helps us in softening our attitudes about ourselves. You will find that the response is similar to when someone treats you with compassion. It can begin a journey of self-discovery, seeing ourselves as worthy of kindness and respect. Make it a good one.

“Believing in our hearts that who we are is enough is the key to a more satisfying and balanced life.” Ellen Sue Stern

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