Discomfort Without Blame Life irritates and we affix blame BY: Troy Murphy |February 2017
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We react to experience with emotion. We are emotional creatures. Chemicals flow through our veins, changing rhythms, speeding heart beats and tightening muscles. The changes to biological balance motivate action. Some emotions direct action without breaking through the veils of consciousness. Other emotions—painful and disruptive—demand attention, directing mental faculties to the triggering problem. We can focus on nothing else.
We experience emotion and respond. But the equation of emotion, feelings and behaviors is much more complicated than a simple chain reaction. The process of perceiving cues in the environment and communicating instructions for action is malleable. Unlike the fixed structure of a machine, the mind and body adapt—the past intrudes on the present. The adaptations, for the most part, are efficient and self-correcting, identifying dangers and opportunities with less information and scanty evidence. The growing knowledge provides a competitive advantage. Experiences we learn influence future chains of cause and effect. Pasts swoop down and program emotions, increasing sensitivities or building stoic toleration. These adaptations influence conscious and unconscious responses to present encounters.
Because of learning, events don’t occur isolated from the past. Intruding memories change biological responses for better and worse. The past isn’t the only coloring of experience. Surrounding contexts and co-occurring events impact the moment. Moods present when we encounter an environmental trigger enhance or dull the response—underlying sorrow, uneasiness, anger or joy may completely change our perception of an event, creating a new memory stored for future processing. After a frustrating day at work, we respond to simple requests with edginess, not fully aware of our orneriness, we project frustrations on loved ones. With drained mental resources, we respond to a partner’s slight misstep with an unreasonable explosion, where an undeserving victim suffers from accumulated frustrations. Self-deceptive mechanisms, working to protect the ego, blind us from the contextual influences and we blame the undeserving. Unmoderated the mind creates beautiful self-excusing stories.
To heal, we must recognize the contaminates poisoning our perceptions.
Because experience feels untainted from pasts and surrounding context, we see an incident as isolated—trigger and emotion. The explanations we create use these confining factors. Our frustrated bursts are easily justified; “You did this and made me feel that.” But when skeptically examine our responsibility relieving justifications lose strength. We see the toxic influencers over are reactions. We see the past spilling into the present. We see the days frustrations implode and then explode on the innocent. With wisdom, and deliberate, productive rumination we discover the infiltrating emotions disrupting important relationships necessary for security. Assigning blame is simple; we claim victimhood and conveniently scoot around the guilt of causing hurt to those important to us, calloused from our meanness, we continue to disrupt lives and spoil futures.
"Intruding memories change biological responses for better and worse."
Emotions—pleasant and unpleasant—are biological function of living experience, intimately tied to well-being and action. When we habitual blame others for discomfort, our maladaptive approach to emotions disrupts security of spouses and children, prompting adaptive changes in them, emotionally they build their own protections, often disconnecting and distancing from the danger. Through blaming others for our experience, we damage a significant source of meaning and security in our lives. We need the warm connections of others to flourish. These connections are not entitlements; they demand careful and sensitive nurturing.