by Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Allen consulted with me because his wife of 18 years had threatened to leave him if he didn’t stop blaming her all the time. He admitted to frequently blaming her in a variety of situations. He blamed her if he thought she made a mistake, if he thought she was wrong about something, if he was feeling alone, or even if he had a bad day at work. He blamed her for asking him questions when he didn’t know the answer. He would sometimes even blame her if his golf game was off. He always blamed her when he felt judged by her, or when he didn’t get her approval. While he freely admitted that he blamed her, he couldn’t seem to stop, and he had no idea why he blamed her.
As I explored various situations with Allen, it became apparent that he was not just blaming his wife. Allen was constantly blaming and judging himself. He would verbally beat himself up for mistakes, telling himself things like, “I’m such a jerk,” and would often say very negative things to himself, such as, “Things will never get any better,” or “I’m just a loser,” or “I’m a big disappointment to myself.” He would then feel angry and agitated as a result of abusing himself, but he never connected his anger with his self-judgment. Instead, he would dump his anger on his wife, or yell at other drivers on the freeway.
It became apparent to Allen that he would not be able to stop blaming his wife until he stopped blaming and judging himself. His addiction to blaming others was a direct result of his self-abuse.
The problem was that Allen had learned to be very self-indulgent regarding his thoughts. He let his thoughts run rampant, never stopping to discern whether or not what he was telling himself was the truth or was a lie. As a result, he was constantly allowing the wounded part of himself, his ego self, to be in charge. And this part of him was filled with all the lies he had learned in the 46 years of his life.
Allen was appalled when he realized that all his anger at others was really his anger at himself for abusing himself. He was projecting onto others what he was doing to himself. He saw that he was especially sensitive to others’ judgment because he was so judgmental of himself.
As we explored why Allen was so self-abusive, he realized that he believed that if he judged himself enough, he could have control over getting himself to do it “right.” He realized this wasn’t true by an experience he had playing tennis.
“I played last Wednesday and I was in a really good mood. I was just playing for the fun of it, rather than to play well, and I played my best game ever! The very next day I played worse than I have for a long time. I realized that, having done so well on Wednesday, I now wanted control over doing as well on Thursday. As soon as I tried to control it, I lost it.
I want to stop doing this, but I’ve been doing it my while life. How do I stop?”
Stopping any addiction is always a challenge. Changing our thought process is especially challenging. However, there is a process available, but it will work only when you really want to change. Changing from being self-abusive to self-loving has to become more important to you than continuing to try to control yourself through your self-judgments.
1. Pay attention to your feelings. Learn to be aware of when you are feeling angry, anxious, hurt, scared, guilty, shamed, depressed, and so on.
2. Make a conscious decision to learn about what you are telling yourself that is causing your pain, rather than ignoring it, turning to substance or process addictions, or continuing to abuse yourself.
3. Ask yourself, “What am I telling myself that is causing me to feel badly?” Once you are aware of what you are telling yourself, ask yourself, “Am I certain that what I’m telling myself is the truth, or is it just something I’ve made up?” Then ask yourself, “What am I trying to control by telling myself this?”
4. Once you are aware that you are telling yourself a lie that is causing you to feel badly, and why you are telling it to yourself, ask the highest, wisest part of yourself, or ask an inner teacher or a spiritual source of guidance,
“What is the truth?” When you sincerely want to know the truth, it will easily come to you.
5. Change your thinking, now telling yourself the truth.
6. Notice how you feel. Lies will always make you feel badly, while the truth brings inner peace. Any time you are not in peace, go through this process to discover what lie you are telling yourself. Eventually, with enough practice, you will be in truth and peace more and more of the time.
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