Making somebody else responsible for how I feel is sooooooo tempting. How do I stop blaming others for what’s happening in my life?
When I make someone else responsible for my state of mind, I feel justified in feeling irritation and resentment – and reciting this constant “woe is me…” monologue in my mind.
“I am sad because they are treating me like dirt…”
“If only I had this… I would feel differently.”
“Who wouldn’t feel the way I feel given the circumstances?”
“If they really cared, they would have…”
It’s so hard not to blame. Blaming is addictive.
When I engage in this train of thought, the blaming narrative runs in my mind over and over, making me sick.
The more I blame others the more justified I feel in my victimhood.
But there’s a high psychological and physiological price we pay for choosing to marinade ourselves in blame and resentment.
Every negative thought entails a negative emotion.
Every negative emotion triggers the release of stress chemicals – adrenaline and cortisol.
The longer we choose to feel those negative emotions, the longer those stress chemicals circulate in our bloodstream causing our brains to create dense neural pathways around them.
This means that over time, our brains become hardwired to repeat the same behavior automatically – because it feels familiar.
The brain always chooses what is familiar over what is unknown.
We can’t stop blaming because we have practiced it for so long.
Our body has become our own inner pharmacy with an unlimited supply of our drug of choice.
The stress chemicals we choose to flood our body with wreak havoc on our nervous system over time.
“Persistent bitterness may result in global feelings of anger and hostility that, when strong enough, could affect a person’s physical health,” says psychologist Dr. Carsten Wrosch from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.
How can you stop this vicious cycle?
We can’t stop blaming others until we change what hormones we choose to activate in our brain
Any behavior we repeat over a long time becomes our default behavior because our brain gets so familiar with the chemicals released that it craves them again and again.
Paradoxically, our brain gets addicted to the excitatory hormones that eventually damage our health.
To break this cycle, we need to break the habit of flooding our bodies with stress hormones.
The best way to do it is to practice a new behavior – feeding our brains with positive thoughts that trigger hormones of love, rest, and relaxation (oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin).
How do I stop feeling bitter and resentful by changing my focus?
- Next time you catch yourself blaming others, feeling bitter, complaining, or resenting someone, become aware of what’s going on and remind yourself: “By choosing to think these thoughts, I am flooding my body with stress hormones.”
- Shift your focus to something very general that is easy to focus on (like the humming of the A/C) – for at least 10 seconds. We can’t stop thinking about the pink elephant right away, but we can refocus on something else at least for a few moments.
- After about 10 seconds, when your thoughts shoot back to the old bitter narrative (they will), shift your focus to the next general thing that is easy to focus on (children laughing outside, the sound of the knife as you cut vegetables, the pattering of rain outside, etc).
- After shifting your focus 10-15 times (10 seconds each), you will find your old intrusive thoughts fading away from your mind little by little.
- When the “craving” to think about blame and resentment is no longer strong, find more specific thoughts and activities to focus on – activities that usually bring you positive emotions, conversations with uplifting people, thoughts and dreams that “feel good.”
With each repetition, we “live ourselves into a new way of thinking.” We tap our own inner pharmacy for the chemicals that make our bodies feel rested and relaxed. And our bodies respond by boosting our immunity, improving circulation and digestion, and increasing our energy levels.