“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~ Lao Tzu
Sometimes, I master the art of blaming myself.
I’m the type of person who keeps trying to figure out what I did wrong if another person ignores me or withdraws from me. And if someone directly blames me, I’ll easily take the blame—regardless of the facts.
It wasn’t long before I realized I need to change this futile habit, and a couple of recent events have proven to me that self-blame is useless and pretty hazardous.
Regardless of who was right and who was wrong, I came to notice that blaming myself caused me great damage. I was unable to maintain a healthy emotional or mental state due to the incessant repetition of the incident in my mind. In other words, I was reacting more than I was actually taking action.
That said, I remained mentally stuck in a situation that had physically ended—I was unconsciously adamant on proving to myself that I was not to blame. Through self-blame, I was blocking myself from seeing the bigger image—which is realizing that I’m not to blame, and neither is the other person. Essentially, self-blame stopped me from leading a peaceful life.
Buddhism is one of the main factors that has helped me stop my habit of self-blame. Through the teachings, I have realized many truths I wasn’t able to perceive before.
According to Buddhism, it all boils down to two essential things:
2. Causes and conditions
Buddhists believe that change is part of the cycle of life. Everything goes through stages of birth and death, including physical objects and all living things. Change is an inevitable phenomenon that is destined to occur.
That said, when we blame ourselves for something going wrong, it’s as useful as blaming a flower for withering in winter.
The monk Dzongsar Khyentse compares this truth to a cooked egg. He tells us to consider a hen’s egg. Without actual change, the final result of the egg being cooked cannot possibly occur. It needs many causes and conditions to change. First, it requires essentials, such as the pot of water, fire and the hen’s egg itself. However, many other secondary factors—time, the kitchen, your hand—are needed for the egg to be cooked.
When all those conditions come together, the result is final. Many of us might mistake this for luck or fate, but it’s only a matter of change taking place. Dzongsar says that we do have the power to change those causes and conditions, but only to a certain extent. There will come a point when, even if we hope the egg won’t cook, it will eventually be cooked and there is nothing we can do about it.
In other words, whatever is happening is not our fault. This is why self-blame is futile. There are thousands of causes and conditions that have attributed to whatever dismal situation we are today.
Change is something we can’t escape—it’s something that will happen sooner or later.
We’re not fully in control of situations or other people. Being responsible for a particular event only constitutes 20% of the whole equation. We still have to consider the other person’s part, the known causes and conditions, the unknown factors and the inevitability of change.
Since we’re never entirely in control of what’s happening, it means we’re not to blame—however, it also means that the other person isn’t to blame either.
It just means that “the egg was meant to be cooked.”
When we understand that change is something we can’t escape in life—and that causes and conditions are also responsible—we will naturally start letting go a little. To entirely eradicate self-blame, we have to also accept that we can’t change the past.
The way I deal with calamities today is entirely different from how I used to in the past. Whatever goes awry now, I accept that it’s become part of the past. If there is something I can fix, then I take action and fix it—but if it doesn’t work out, I let it go.
I’m convinced now that the only time I should blame myself is when I don’t accept my present moment as it is, and I opt to resist it. Now, I try to learn from the experience and start anew, instead of giving myself a hard time about it.
I no longer resist change because it’s part of life.
Next time you’re about to blame yourself, remember that this is where you are meant to be at this moment.
Don’t resist it.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina