Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The 'Blame' Game

A misconstrued thing about Mental Illness and trying to maintain a close connection with someone suffering, is that when the person suffering is in pain, the person who is their carer/partner/friend will feel like they are being 'blamed' when someone may be suffering from an episode or triggers of their illness. Its normal for someone that you have a strong connection with to take on board some of your pain, especially if they are an empath by nature. 

I will admit, over the years when someone has upset me or let me down, my projection may have come across to some people as me 'blaming' them. I know this isn't always the case though. Due to people being close to me, promising me things which ended up being tainted with dishonesty and then betraying my trust, my mental health is quick to deteriorate. Its like promising someone who cant breath an oxygen mask, placing it over their airway and securing it tightly, only to take it off slightly and watch them squirm. You miss the signs of the squirming and then you see yourself rip the mask off, then they cry out in pain and try hold you accountable for them not breathing. There are two sides to the accountability though. Ill get into detail about that in a bit. 

When something goes wrong, the first thing we want to know is who's 'fault' it is, instead of trying to work through the conflict and validate each others feelings.  When we blame people, their is no room for learning. The desire to learn about one another diminishes. When people are in denial about the accountability of their actions, they will go to all lengths to cover the errors and hide their real concerns. Then when someone spirals into that cycle, that is when denial, scapegoating and taking responsibility for your actions will present themselves. 

Blaming is an emotional process that often leads to negative emotions. What I think people lack when it comes to hurting someone (whether they have a mental illness or not), is taking accountability on their part. Accountability is something a lot of us fail to do when we have wronged someone or hurt someone else. I will give you an example. 

So just say you are sitting down in a chair. Along comes someone who asks to sit next to you on this chair. You trust them and are vulnerable, so you allow them to sit next to you. Little did you know this person would start kicking you. So they kick you once and you ask them not to do that again. They reassure you that its not their intention to hurt you. So you say okay and allow them to sit again. They keep kicking you again, you confront them and they excuse the kicking. Then the kicking starts happening again, and again, and again. Now you have reacted and questioned why they keep kicking you. The ignore your confrontation, deny that they were doing that or they simple just dont respond. You never see them again and you wonder to yourself why they couldn't take any accountability for the damage they have caused. You are sore from the repeated behaviour they were showing you. Some people can be the blame for the pain if they cannot hold any responsibility for their actions. 

There are ways you can be accountable. If someone has pulled you up on something that may hurt them, you should validate them. If we deny someone of our hurtful behaviours, that is due to feeling shame and guilt. If you hurt someone you care about, you would want to be accountable straight away. You would care enough to want to change your behaviour and confront the issue to avoid any animosity that may be felt between the two of you involved. It is these small steps we can be held accountable for actions that may have really impacted someone else. 

Blaming, on the other hand, is shaming others and searching for something to 'wrong' them. Confronting someones behaviours is not 'blaming' someone. Someone once left me in a psychosis and accused me of 'blaming' them. I asked them not to leave as I didn't feel safe. I never 'blamed' them for it leading into an overdose the next morning. Blaming someone would over ride the root of the problem at hand on a whole. blame generates fear and trust. By this person not being accountable for the behaviours that hurt me leading up to this, this then resulted in them blaming themselves. I even showed this person I didn't blame them for the overdose. But I did want them to be accountable for their hurtful actions and the way they dealt with things before and after my suicide attempt. That has never been shown. Thus, the person still blames themselves, even though I have tried everything to show them I dont blame them for the way I was feeling during my psychosis. That was beyond any of our control. 

Instead of facing our fears of blame and judgements, we will search for a short term fix rather than confront the source of the problem at hand. Blame often supports immediate relief and a 'the problem is solved' (Its their fault) when we approach a situation where conflict has arise.  This approach can cost effective communication and shifts  the person ever reaching any accountability for their actions or part in the conflict. It is really difficult also when someone has reached their part of accountability but the other person involved has chosen to 'blame' and ignore. 

Another scenario with my psychosis is when I held myself accountable for that (even though I was mentally impaired and mentally ill when the psychosis took place), it allowed me to move forward and get the right help. Even though my efforts at making amends with the other person involved was ignored, I was able to move forward with more clarity and growth as I held myself accountable at the end of the day. I was misunderstood, humiliated and invalidated, but I knew sitting in my room blaming the other person was not going to allow me any closure or clarity. I was treated unfairly at the end of the day, but I swallowed my pride and apologized. I know no matter how much this person was emotionally 'kicking' me, I was only accountable for myself and my health at the end of the day. You cannot ask the person kicking you to fix the damage after its done. They can help you heal, but they cannot fix the damage if they aren't holding any accountability. 

Blaming can also be an action of power play. Instead of taking a step back and assessing the hurt we may have caused, blaming can keep us in control. Each walk away thinking something is wrong with the other. So for example, I can see Cathy my work friend is responsible for the end of day task. She missed a duty and blamed Jim who had been on the afternoon shift before. In my mind, Cathy is responsible for the task that she was hired for. In her mind, Jim was to blame because she caused Cathy back work. Both get some initial relief in blaming each other, but in long term they keep blaming and blaming until communication has disintegrated and all accountability is lost. 

So how to we hold ourselves accountable for how we impact someone who has a mental illness or who has passed away from Suicide? I know a lot of people are in denial when it comes to acknowledging that their actions may have impacted someone to that point where the person ended up taking their own life. Its a gut wrenching though to live with. But we all can help prevent a suicide/mental illness episode from happening if we did hold some responsibility for our behaviours. 

Even when we do tread lightly, some people can fail. It is part of being human. Even when a worse case scenario such as suicide occurs, we tend to look at the individual who took their own life's problems instead of how we could of impacted someone. Their is looking at how we blame the person who is suffering and changing that dynamic. Its how we can change our ways not to suit others as such, but how we approach and conduct our behaviours after we have acknowledged we have upset someone else. 

First, we must want to change our thinking and feelings towards blame. As I said from the start, if someone is continually kicking you while you are sitting down, they are to blame for the pain caused. You how ever, are accountable for sitting in the chair allowing it to happen. You may have stayed in that chair out of love. But you are accountable to change your own perception of love and walk away from the person who is constantly kicking you. Secondly, we must be able to hold accountable both parts. Unfortunately, some people dont hold any accountability for their part. So you have to keep moving forward without that closure. But you now have the skill to know how to deal with conflict and be accountable when you may upset someone or something happens and two people are faced with conflict again. Thirdly, constructive conversations are made by an approach with mutual respect and understanding. Maybe sometimes someone needs that time away to really reflect on their behaviours to be able to have that constructive conversation. yet again, in some scenarios you may not get that. But I like to think most people have the decency to not treat others like they are nothing and come forward and talk it out. Invalidating and acting like someone doesn't exist can be mentally damaging for someone who is suffering and hasn't had any accountability from the other person involved. 

It takes courage and the willingness to learn to become accountable for things that go wrong in your life. Especially someone with a debilitating mental illness, it can take me a day after to realise how our suffering can be misunderstood and hurtful towards people that we love the most. So why should we move from blame to accountability? Because blame is temporary. It provides a sudden comfort but then an uncomfortable pain when accountability is ignored. When it is ignored by someone, it can drive the other person to the point they cant function properly. Blaming someone and not holding accountability can cause these effects. Developing accountability skills can help everyones health and maintain ways you approach conflict long term. 

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