Fixing Problems or Fixing Blame?

Do you have problems? Disappointments? Unhappiness? You’re a rare person indeed if you can answer, “Never, or hardly ever.” Some people deal with their problems and setbacks more effectively than others do. What’s the difference?

A key principle of Reality Therapy is that it’s important to distinguish between what you can control and what you can’t. There’s a lot that you can’t control: natural disasters, what other people do, the cat…(no one can control the cat!). However, there is one thing you can control: your own behaviour.

Practically speaking, how does that help? Recognizing that you control your own behaviour means that it’s within your power to control your reaction to your problems. You may not be able to control the problem, but you can control how you react to it. That is, you can choose whether or not to give the problem the power to make you miserable.

Let’s take Annie, for example, who feels unhappy because she has few friends. She blames her problem on her tight schedule, her demanding boss, and because she never meets any friendly people! Annie has plenty of excuses and she’s not alone…we can be very creative in coming up with excuses.

However, as one accepts responsibility for oneself, then it no longer makes sense to blame other people for how we feel. So, what can Annie control here?

Annie could choose to change what she’s doing. While she can’t “make” others be her friends, she could try behaving in ways so people see her as being open to friendship. She could also engage in activities that will bring her into contact with more people. Remember that if Annie, like any of us, continues behaving exactly as she has been behaving, she will likely continue to have the types of relationships that she already has.

Another possibility for Annie is to change her perception. What does she want from friendship? She might realize that she actually likes spending her free time alone. Or, she might see that her casual acquaintances are, in fact, friends.

One behaviour that seldom helps is asking, “Whose fault is it?” As Dr. Robert Wubbolding says in his book: A Set of Directions for Putting and Keeping Yourself Together, sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that if they can’t blame others, they should blame themselves. Will fixing the blame for your problem help the solution? Likely not! You don’t need a scapegoat—neither you nor someone else—before you can change.

Put your energy into fixing the problem, rather than fixing the blame.

Would you like to give this a try? Consider a problem. Without fixing blame, can you change what you are doing? Or, can change your perception of it? You are welcome to let me know how this works for you.

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