This episode does a deep dive between the difference between responsibility and blame as well as how to tell which one you are using.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
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Hello, my friends, I hope you're doing well. So last week we talked about radical responsibility. And we touched a little bit on the difference between responsibility and blame. And I want to go deeper into that this week because I think it is really vital to understand the difference between these two, especially for abuse survivors. When I talk about responsibility, I am talking about taking ownership for the things that are in your control. Your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, what you have in your life. We usually aren't solely responsible for for everything. There are multiple factors that come together to ultimately create our reality or our lives. but responsibility looks at what you have under your control and takes conscious examination and decision making for those things. Responsibility gives you a sense of power and a sense of control over your life. You understand how you are contributing to your life and you can see how you can actively tweak and alter what you are doing in order to get different results should you want them. Whereas blame gives a sense of powerlessness. With blame, things seem outside of your control. And there are two typesof blame:
outward blame and self blame. An outward blame relinquishes the responsibility to outside sources, like other people or outside circumstances, the economy, the government, whatever. And there aren't solutions that feel within reach or that are even easily identifiable. It feels out of control and oftentimes hopeless when we're using external blame. And this isn't to say that we aren't affected by other people or by outside circumstances. but it isn't all or nothing. Like we are still active participants, whether we want to take responsibility for that participation or not. There is always something that we can control. Viktor Frankl in his book Man's Search for Meaning, talks about his experience as a prisoner inside of a Nazi concentration. Camp. And he noted a difference that determined whether someone survived the camp or not. And it was their mindset. FRANKEL wrote, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms, to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. When we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves." Viktor Frankl could not change that he was a prisoner in a concentration camp. Right? That was an external circumstance that was outside of his control. The horrors inside of that camp, the abuse he endured-- all of it was outside of his control. but he was able to take responsibility for his own mind and for his own response to those circumstances. And that is what enabled him to survive. That is what taking responsibility looks like. Blame only looks at the circumstance and it says I'm a prisoner. What am I supposed to do? And those were the people that died inwardly before they died outwardly. And where external blame takes no responsibility, internal blame takes too much responsibility. This comes from taking responsibility for things that you don't have responsibility for. Usually, it's other people's actions or other people's feelings. Internal blame is taking responsibility for things that are outside of your control. And it also leads to a sense of powerlessness. Because whenever we are fixated on something that we cannot change, it feels very hopeless. Abuse Survivors tend towards internal blame. And it makes sense because we are usually groomed to do that, You tell a kid that it makes you sad when they don't share with right. their sister. It teaches them that they are in control of other people's feelings that they have to be careful because they are responsible for how everyone else feels. And a lot of us got groomed to believe this and to take responsibility for things that are outside of our control. And abusers really take advantage of that conditioning. Abusers usually use outward blame. Nothing is ever their fault. It's always someone else's fault. Usually yours. They'll tell you that if you just didn't make them mad or if you just weren't so stupid or clumsy or whatever, they wouldn't lose control. They try to pass off the responsibility for their actions, for what they chose to do, to you. And the problem is that sometimes we pick that responsibility up and we start trying to take responsibility for things that aren't in our control. Internal blame can be very painful because on some level it is believing that if bad things happen, it is because you deserved it and if you were just different, it wouldn't happen. I can always tell us that someone is internally blaming themselves for their abuse when they look at their abusers new partner and wonder if he's also abusing her or if it was just them. If you've ever thought maybe it was me then you were probably in self blame. And how do I know that? Because you cannot cause other people's actions. You might have learned someone's triggers, right? You might know what sets him off and so you can fool yourself into thinking that you can control him but you can't really. it's still always his choice how he responds. Right if it was just you, the same abusive behavior would happen everywhere. but it didn't did it? No in public. He was great. He waited until it was private, before unleashing. If you were actually the one in control, he wouldn't be able to control the timing of that. Or if it was really you then he wouldn't be the only one affected that way. Everyone in your life would be responding the same way. If he's always calling you a stupid whore because of you, then everyone would be calling you a stupid whore. but they don't do that. Because it isn't you. Or if it were you, you can make it stop then. But no matter what you did, it never stopped. Did it? Because it wasn't you. It was always him. His actions were always his responsibility. Always. He never took responsibility for it. but that doesn't mean that the responsibility belongs to you. And I'm using the he/ him pronouns here because statistically speaking, it's most likely to be the man who is the abuser. And of course that is in no way the case every single time, right? It could be either gender, but for simplicity's sake, that's the pronouns that I'm using here feel free to sub whatever pronouns work for you. A true responsibility only takes ownership of what is inside of your control and leaves the rest. So what does that even look like for an abuse survivor? For me, it looks like examining how I contributed to being abused. And be very careful here because so many people hear this as blame. But we've already established that I couldn't have caused his actions. But what was I responsible for in this situation? Because remember, external blame assumes that I had no part in it, that he was a sole actor. And that is rarely ever the case. So what was I actually responsible for? Well, I was responsible for ignoring the red flags in the beginning. I was responsible for staying in that relationship. I was responsible for going back to him after I left the first time. Those were the things that I did. Those were my actions, and I am responsible for my actions. So when I start acknowledging that I am responsible for those things, I can begin to go back and look at why. Why did I stay? Why did I ignore those red flags? Why did I go back? And in looking at that, and in answering those questions, I found what inside of me needed healing. And if I hadn't taken responsibility for that, I wouldn't have found that. I would be living in fear of being in another abusive relationship. Because if I believed it was totally out of my control, as external blame would tell you, then it could happen at any time. It could happen again. And that's fucking terrifying. No. Taking responsibility and coming to understand my own role has made it so I don't ever worry about ending up there again. I don't have to. Responsibility is what allowed me to see what needed healing. It is what let me take care of myself. Blame would have prevented that. Blame prevents healing. Blame will keep you stuck. All right, my friends, this was a lot. As always, if you want to talk through any of it, or get help with your own situation, you can use the link in the show notes or visit my website at www.melindagerdungcoaching.com To schedule a session with me. Until next time, be well