So I don’t like football. Like. At all. To be honest I find it boring and I don’t particularly enjoy the culture associated with it (shoot me). BUT I did find myself watching the Euro final because I’m still enough of a people pleaser to not want to be totally ousted from the conversations that followed.
Sad times for me, I wasted 2 hours watching a sport I don’t like to then be flung in the pain of the collective match hangover.
It made me think a little bit about our tendency to blame. It’s everywhere, right? We blame partners for the breakdown of a relationship, we blame some one/thing else for making us late, at work it’s prolific…we blame anyone possible for the ‘failing’ of a project. Anything to save us from having to take it on the chin.
Why do we do this? I mean, even more interestingly, why do we do it when we played absolutely zero role in what happened — like this match? It’s not like anyone could come after us and tell us that it was somehow our fault… so why bother throwing blame around?
Blame is a way of avoiding uncomfortable emotions in ourselves. We blame other people in order to remove the uncomfortable feeling in ourselves and throw it onto someone else instead.
Think about it.
You’re late to meet someone. You think ‘they are going to have to wait for me’. That thought makes you feel guilty. Guilt is uncomfortable. Blame the bus being late. Guilt softens a bit.
Your project at work fails. You think ‘my boss is going to get mad at me’. That thought makes you feel fear of being held accountable. Fear is uncomfortable. Blame another team involved. Fear softens a bit.
Your relationship breaks down. You think ‘I failed in making it work with someone again’. That thought makes you feel ashamed at the part you played in it breaking down. Shame is uncomfortable. You blame your partner so you don’t have to feel accountable for it. Shame softens a bit.
England lose the Euro final. You think ‘I was meant to be having a massive night out celebrating after this’. You feel disappointment/anger/sadness (insert appropriate emotion). That emotion is uncomfortable. You blame the players so you don’t have to feel your own disappointment.
Blame is a mechanism we use to AVOID OUR FEELINGS. And as we all know, avoiding feelings doesn’t make them go away…
Part of being human is having feelings which are, at times, uncomfortable. But the issue is that we literally have zero mechanisms to manage them, so instead of processing them as we do ‘good’ feelings, we just through around that emotional charge onto other people.
Why do we do this? Because we were never taught emotional literacy. We were never taught how to recognise uncomfortable feelings, let alone manage them. It’s not part of the national curriculum… I mean as much as I loved learning about the bayeux tapestry and everything… I feel like this may have been marginally more useful in life.
If we are ever going to move out of blame culture, we have to start fully understanding that our feelings are created by our thoughts. We control our thoughts and therefore we control our feelings. We have to start taking responsibility for how we feel and stop throwing those emotional charges onto other people.
Until we do this, we will perpetually stay stuck in these cycles of abuse being thrown around at people who were undoubtedly doing their very best.
Because nobody intentionally misses a penalty.
(I will caveat that there is a clear clear clear race angle here which very much needs it’s own space to be explored but I don’t feel that I am well educated enough on the psychology of that space to do it justice here so would direct you to better educated resources to explore that!)
Any questions, let me know.