in Creativity, Motivation, Philosophy, Psychology, Science

How Placing Blame Can Save Our Lives

Here are two quotes, which one do you feel suits you better?

Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.

– Joseph Campbell

Or:

I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?

– Yogi Berra

Can you see how both of them are right?

Well, some interesting research on suicide has been done by Dr. David Lester. Sounds like a downer? Yup, but it might just be useful! Let’s take a closer look.

Say that we’re “down on our luck” and feeling like complete crap. We can look at it in two ways. Either it’s our own damn fault and we should do something about it or we could start blaming the economy, our boss, the dog, the neighbors etc.

Denver

Denver, what did you do?

It seems as though being able to blame our unhappiness on something or somebody immunizes us against committing suicide. It’s when we have no external cause to blame that we become more likely to consider suicide. People have been known to call this the “no one left to blame” theory.

Now, before I happened upon the research I was an evangelist for the “we’re all responsible for our own lives” approach. The only exceptions being people who had serious disadvantages that restricted their options in life.

Only once did I stop to consider that it might be healthier for that person to just blame others rather than taking responsibility. Without getting into details, they’d done something that lead them into a spiral of self destructive behavior.

GnR - Appetite For Destruction

Salty, with a slightly metallic taste.

When I was helping them I tried to convince them that it was in their best interest to accept responsibility and move on. They were having none of it. After a while I gave in and said something like: “Ok, so maybe you’re right and it’s that person’s fault and that it’s unfair. We can’t change that. Let’s look at what we can do going forward instead.”

This approach made the process a lot smoother. I don’t think that the person was so badly off that they’d contemplate suicide. That being said, if they hadn’t been able to place blame maybe they’d fallen back into that self destructive behavior.

It was only a couple of years later I found out about the research and took a step back to think about how and when which approach is the best way to go. Also, sometimes people need professional counseling that isn’t directly linked with the kind of problems we’re dealing with.

Punch Out

Don’t worry Mac, he won’t bite.

This person was a fighter. They needed an “enemy” to work against to feel motivated. For them it was deflating to think about having to work on themselves. Maybe they’d been through something in life that made them feel like they were incapable of change? Who knows.

The point is this. We all have different ways of approaching issues and there’s really no right or wrong that suits everybody. What we need to ask ourselves is whether our approach is productive or not.

Productivity

Do you really need to hold the clock with two hands? Be productive, people!

So, which approach is your “go to”? Has it held you back at any time? How and when has it benefited you?

Let me know in the comments or hit me up on twitter.

Have a fantastic & creative day!

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