There’s a game that almost everyone likes to play all over the world. The game is popular among children, adults and even most elders; it is so easy that people play with everyone—from their cherished loved ones to their friends, colleagues, and even unknown strangers in the marketplace. Not only individuals, but even organisations, associations and countries are obsessed with playing it.
The uniqueness of this game is that winning is not possible. No matter how long you have practised and how well you play this game, losing is a guarantee. Yet, so rampant is this game among humans that to an alien species it would appear that we must be gaining a lot of health, wealth and other great benefits by playing it. If only they knew the reality!
If you haven’t yet figured out which game I am referring to, it’s called the blame game.
A chain smoker who is diagnosed with lung cancer sues the cigarette company for damages; a salesman blames the economy for his poor performance at work; an unfulfilled man holds his wife accountable for his woes, a politician blames his predecessors for his government’s failure. And, if nothing else works, people blame the invisible man in the sky for our misfortune.
The art of ducking
We blame because we are habitual blamers—that’s what we do. I am no exception. I have been playing this game forever and, as expected, have always lost. But old habits die hard, so I continue to play it even now. The only difference is that now I stop myself as soon as I remember that I will lose, no matter how effectively I play it.
Why would I play a losing game? Psychologists say blaming is a convenient defence mechanism. After all, who wants to admit he or she is in the wrong? Besides, on the surface, blaming comes across as a smart way to protect and preserve my self concept. But then I resort to blaming even when my self-concept is not under threat—like when I point a finger at the government, religious leaders, businessmen and many others for the ills that plague my world.
Blaming, it turns out, is actually an effective avoidance tactic. When I blame others, I duck the responsibility for my feelings of unhappiness, frustration or an undesirable situation. It makes me feel better, self-righteous if you will. And most frequently, it also helps give vent to my feelings in the heat of the moment.
Want to win? Stop playing
Alas, no matter how justified the pay-offs of blaming seem, in the end I lose. All it does is keeps me outer directed and stuck in the undesirable situation. What’s more, every time I play this game, I declare that I am helpless and, in effect, give up my power.
Perhaps the worst part about blaming is that it builds a wall between me and those whom I blame. At most times it alienates the others, who become defensive, or worse, retaliate by blaming me. Sometimes I succeed in making the other [often a loved one] feel guilty, resulting in a short-lived feeling of triumph but often at the cost of a long-term crack in the relationship.
And that’s how, every time I play this game, I lose… and then some. Still, on some lucky days, I surrender at half-time and claim all responsibility. Ironically, when I stop playing the game, I win. You see, with no one to blame, there’s no one to lose. That’s the secret of wining a losing game!
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