Ep 229: The Blame Game

Denis Murphy, author of The Blame Game, joins us to discuss the ways we often blame ourselves or our kids for things we can’t control. We also discuss the importance of staying in touch with our emotions and practicing self-honesty.

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Full show notes

Blame is one of humanity’s oldest coping mechanisms. When things go wrong, we’re quick to point a finger at someone and declare that it’s their fault–creating war, political division, and heartbreak as a result. Not to mention that half the time we’re pointing the finger at ourselves, which typically only leads to self-loathing and insecurity.

The truth is, blaming someone or something for our issues isn’t going to make them go away. If we really want to confront our problems, heal our traumas and live better we’ve got to stop blaming and start accepting.

This week, we’re talking to Denis Murphy, author of The Blame Game: How to Recover from the World's Oldest Addiction. Denis is a coach and healer who’s worked with companies, families and individuals all over the world. His practices focus on helping people stop blaming themselves or others for misfortune in their life, and instead learn to harness their mental and physical wellness to create the life they want.

In our interview, we’re talking about why parental expectations can lead us to blame kids when things go wrong. We also discuss how suppressing our negative thoughts can cause mental and even physical pain, and break down the importance of self honesty.

The Blame Game

One overarching cause of blame is labels, explains Denis. When we attach labels to people like “boss,” “mom,”  “best friend, or “boyfriend,” we’re also attaching expectations to go with them. These expectations rarely come from reality, but instead from TV, Hollywood, or other people’s families, says Denis. 

When people inevitably fail to live up to our unrealistic expectations, we get upset, and blame them for not behaving exactly as we hoped. This is often the cause of family disputes, Denis explains. We want kids to behave in a way that meets our expectations of who kids are supposed to be, and they want us to act like the perfect parents. Of course, this doesn’t happen, and both parents and kids feel mutual disappointment in the other. And although it might seem like we’re frustrated with our kids, what we’re actually upset about is the label, Denis says.

In the episode, Denis and I also talk about physical and emotional stress, and how it plays a role in familial blame. When we’re coming home from a long day of work and we’ve spent the whole day keeping a lid on our emotions, we’re bound to boil over and start blaming kids for anything that goes wrong. It becomes a cycle Denis says, with our stress multiplying and our blaming habits growing as a result.

Things don’t have to be this way, however. In the episode, Denis and I are talking about how we can start to work through and accept our negative feelings instead of playing the blame game.

The Power of Acceptance

One of the most common ways we deal with life’s disappointments is by blaming ourselves. Denis explains that this practice is often encouraged by those who preach self-discipline or self-improvement. We’re taught not to be a victim, not to let life walk all over us, and to power through every obstacle without flinching. 

But if we don’t face our feelings, we’ll end up exhausted and burnt out, Denis says. This is especially true for teens who might be overwhelmed with the stress of approaching adult life and managing the expectations of adolescence.

Instead of burying our negative thoughts and emotions, Denis encourages us to be in touch with them. As he explains in the episode, our thoughts help us figure out where our physical body is holding anxiety, fear and stress. If we can observe the ways these thoughts manifest themselves in our physical being, we can take the first steps towards healing our mental and even physical ailments. In the episode, Denis explains how mental and emotional anguish can sometimes even cause us to injure ourselves!

Accepting our thoughts instead of judging them is important if we want to reach inner peace. Denis explains. In our interview, we talk about how nature exists without blame, unapologetically changing with the seasons. If we want the same sense of peaceful acceptance for ourselves, we’ve got to start with being aware of our thoughts and emotions–and this goes for both parents and teens.

To truly be in touch with our feelings, we’ve got to be honest with ourselves. In the episode, Denis and I are breaking down all the ways self-honesty can change your life.

How to Practice Self-Honesty

Being honest with ourselves about every thought and emotion is not easy, says Denis. It’s much easier to control or avoid what we feel! As we go through life, we’re constantly suppressing our emotions, so much so that many of us stay in bad marriages, become addicted to substances, or do other extreme things simply to cope. As we do this, we create a gap between the person we’re living as and the one we truly are. If we want to bridge that gap, Denis says, we have to start being honest with ourselves.

Denis explains how this often manifests itself in our ability to cope with rejection. When we find ourselves turned down by a possible employer, for example, we tend to pivot to self-blame, telling ourselves we weren’t good enough, weren’t smart enough, or just didn’t try hard enough to get the job. But usually none of this is true, he says. The real truth? We didn’t actually want the job! Although we might object and say the job really was important to us, most of the time we actually just wanted the money, Denis says, and our hearts were never in it.

Parents sometimes struggle with this self-honesty, and end up using blame to cope instead, Denis says. We want to be perfect parents and when something goes wrong, we don’t want to deal with emotions like shame or disappointment. Instead, we blame our kids or ourselves, which only leads to an emotional wedge between us and them. Denis talks more about how parents can harness self-honesty to heal their relationships with kids in our interview!

In the Episode…

Denis and I cover lots of fascinating information about healing, blame and self-honesty in this week’s interview. On top of the topics discussed above, we also talk about:
  • Why we put blame on our spouse or partner
  • How meditation can become a distraction from healing
  • Why blame can become addictive
  • How controlling kids too much can become disastrous
If you enjoyed this week’s episode, you can find more from Denis at denisliammurphy.com or on Instagram @denisliammurphy. Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to share and subscribe. We’ll see you next week!

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Creators and Guests

Ep 229: The Blame Game
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