Is it really your fault?
How would you know?
Let’s consider Maddy. As we do, you might find yourself feeling emotional. If so, I encourage you to tap while you listen. It’s appropriate and can be really helpful.
Maddy was an unwanted surprise. Neither Maddy’s mother nor father was happy she was conceived, continued to term, and was born. When people told them “Congratulations!” they just grunted.
Was this Maddy’s fault?
As a baby Maddy craved warmth and skin contact… and got neither. When Maddy cried, Mom would shove in a bottle or pacifier, slam the door, and turn up the TV. Maddy was rejected and neglected over and over again.
Was this Maddy’s fault?
By the time Maddy was 4-years-old, Mom was even more depressed and irritable. One day Maddy was playing with some imaginary friends behind the sofa where Mom was sleeping. Maddy laughed “too loudly.” Mom woke up and suddenly screamed, “Maddy! Stop that!!” followed by, “My life would be perfect if I wasn’t stuck with you!”
This must be Maddy’s fault… I mean Mom sounds so certain… right?
Maddy at 9 was incredibly helpful around the house. Dad had disappeared for a few years but now he was back… still an alcoholic… but occasionally Maddy could do things to please him. One of those things was pancakes and bacon in bed. Dad seemed to love Maddy’s pancakes and bacon…
...Except after a night of cheap wine mixed with tequila…
When Maddy brought Dad his special breakfast in bed that morning, he made a retching sound and looked at Maddy’s meal with disgust saying, “Don’t you know I hate this? Get out of here!” When Maddy’s shaking hands dropped the tray and all the food, Dad added, “Damnit Maddy! You’re as stupid AND clumsy as your mother!”
Since this was all Maddy’s fault… Dad said so… Maddy cleaned up every speck without making a sound or complaint.
In school Maddy was an excellent student, doing everything every teacher asked with extra, extra, extra effort. Maddy needed to make sure no one else would ever say, “You’re stupid!” The stress gave Maddy stomachaches and headaches… enough that they once made Maddy moan in class before a big test. Sent to the clinic, the nurse checked Maddy over and proclaimed, “You’re not really sick. Go back to class and stop pretending in order to get out of taking your tests!”
And the nurse must have been right, since Maddy never moaned (out loud at least) ever again. It was her fault for making such a big deal about a test that she pretended to be sick… don’t you think?
Maddy found it easy to make friends. When you agree with everything asked of you, it’s not so hard to find people who want that kind of friend. Maddy was generous, tolerant, and listened intently.
Of course, part of what Maddy was doing was making sure nothing wrong was said or done. And it worked, in the sense that these friends were SO much nicer than either Mom or Dad! Yeah, it was difficult when they demanded Maddy shoplift for things they wanted…
But that’s what you do for your friends, right?
As an athlete Maddy was really clever, creating something called Wrestle Dancing. It was wrestling without trying to win. The intention was to use each other’s body to be able to do moves you couldn’t do on your own. WOW! Suddenly, all the in-crowd wanted to Wrestle Dance with Maddy!
This made Maddy so proud and happy. So… when dancing after school, and one of the most popular kids grabbed Maddy’s crotch, Maddy froze and said nothing and did nothing to protest.
Maddy’s friends said what happened next was all Maddy’s fault. Maddy thought so, too. But is it true?
Through all this, Maddy struggled on the inside far more than anyone could see on the outside. Maddy looked good! Well-practiced at being generous, pleasing, and agreeable (even when teased or yelled at), Maddy ended up in a Perfect Marriage.
How do we know it was a perfect marriage? Just ask Maddy’s spouse!
Maddy’s spouse was never to blame and never apologized. Everything was Maddy’s fault, they both agreed.
Couldn’t be more Perfect, right?
Then one day…
Maddy’s spouse was waiting impatiently in a restaurant for Maddy to arrive. When Maddy finally got there, a loud stream of accusation spewed from Maddy’s spouse: “You’re always late. You’re so inconsiderate. You SHOULD have left early enough to get here on time. You’ve wasted my whole evening.” In a huff, Maddy’s spouse got up and headed to the bathroom.
At the next table was someone who couldn’t help but overhear. “Were you stuck on the interstate?” “Yes,” Maddy replied softly.
“Well then, you getting here late… was that REALLY your fault?!? You see, my partner is also stuck in that traffic behind the accident. It’s going to take them three times the normal time to get here. Life happens sometimes, right? It’s not something I could hold my partner to blame for. Maybe you’re not to blame either?”
Maddy nodded a quick thank you and ate dinner in silence listening to The Perfect One talk about all their wins and opinions.
Later that night… sitting alone and after some tears, Maddy started to feel something strange. Was it anger? Even rage????
“You know,” Maddy exclaimed out loud, “that accident was not my fault! I left in plenty of time even if the traffic had been much heavier than normal.”
It was starting to become clearer now… Maddy had accepted the blame for that which really was not Maddy’s fault.
…And here is where I invite us to pause from considering Maddy’s emotional world and consider… yours.
Do any of Maddy’s experiences remind you of what has ever happened in your life?
If so, please know you’re not alone. Tender-hearted people often carry the scars and bruises from blaming and shaming, especially from “friends” and “loved ones” and “authorities.”
Lack of safety, respect, and nourishing love affects us deeply. It warps our sense of what is ours and what is theirs and what is the Divine’s.
We end up with an Inner Critic instead of an Inner Buddy.
I know. It’s something I used to constantly struggle with and had to work hard to shift.
And it CAN be shifted.
It’s uncomfortable. It takes time and support. And together we CAN gain clarity about what’s real and true, and we can discern between that which is ours… and that which is theirs… and explore ways for our emotions to cultivate connection rather than shame.
For example, what is real is that Maddy did not know there was going to be an accident on the interstate. Neither did 1000 other people. She didn’t foresee the future, and neither did anyone else. That’s human, real, and the way it was.
Maddy’s spouse’s reaction was in the language of blaming and shaming. While Maddy found that “normal and expected,” it isn’t the ONLY way someone could react. The accepting attitude of the person at the other table shows us that.
Don’t you think it is POSSIBLE that an emotionally aware and kind partner could have greeted Maddy like this:
“So glad you made it safely, Dear Heart! I was finding myself worrying and getting jittery and way-too-anxious. I think I need a moment now that you’re here and I know you’re safe to go to the bathroom and freshen up. I’ll be back in a minute. Can I have a hug when I get back?”
How do you think it would it have felt to Maddy to hear that instead?
How would it feel to you?
Blaming and shaming and criticizing is… normal. Typical. We expect it. Most of us do it to ourselves before anyone else gets the chance.
If we are all going to get to experience Emotional Freedom, this is an area where change is essential. I’m asking you to join me in exploring this… how fault plays in your relationships to yourself and others. It can start with simply and openly considering…
How would I know who (if anyone) is really at fault here? And is that what is REALLY important here?
And one last thing…
It’s so much a part of our culture, this Fault Finding Compulsion. Today, I sorta see it like people going to the compost pile for the ingredients to make dinner… rather than opening the refrigerator that is full of fresh and yummy possibilities. And yes, I’ve cooked and eaten more than my share of burnt, rotting compost.
We can do better than that, Together.
Until next time, I'm Rick at Thrivingnow. Where are you finding fault with yourself… when maybe it isn’t your fault, or isn’t entirely yours to take on? Email me at Rick@EmotionalFreedom.Love. I’d be honored to parse through it together.
Or visit EmotionalFreedom.Love and leave a comment. Thanks for listening.
Episode 8 ~ Emotional Freedom for All Podcast
Listen & Subscribe ~
Maddy here is a composite person. In my professional work all these kinds of experiences Maddy had have shown up over and over again. The rejection, neglect, surprise abuse when you’re having fun, TRYING SO HARD and yet being yelled at, manipulated, or taken advantage of… and more.
It’s my prayer that as we share experiences like this and see someone like Maddy take the blame for that which really isn’t theirs to take… we can see ourselves more clearly and know with compassion that many of those who feel like they are always to blame, always the failure, come from backgrounds with a lot of “Maddy” in them.
If that makes you mad — for yourself and others — me, too. I do believe that we can both model what the stranger at the other table offered, some compassion that maybe this wasn’t something to feel ashamed about, as well as work towards owning our own emotional distresses and cleaning those up — rather than heaping them on the most tender and vulnerable amongst us (including ourselves).
I do welcome your stories and wisdom and who and how you are coping with fault and blame and shame in your life. We’re in this healing Together.
I am forever reminding my friend not to apologise for EVERYTHING. I am horrified to read the fictional Maddie’s story. I shudder to think what traumas my friend’s childhood may have included. Her husband is just like Maddie’s. She bends backwards to have minimal impact on his day. He angrily attacks her new silent crafting hobby. She only says how damaged he is. He still has PTSD from his Air-force days. Long retired he says he’s a product of his past, and refuses to believe the past has gone, and he may move on.
It’s really really hard to navigate a traumatized person, especially with our own traumas.
I find that internally, “I’m sorry” is something I offer quickly and easily — to try and diffuse an escalation.
It’s primal, a kind of submissive “see I’m a good dog not trying to challenge you” reaction.
What’s the alternative?
Well, it’s what we’re about here. Our inner dialogue can be upgraded.
Inside myself: “When I say I’m sorry when I have done nothing wrong, it is an expression of my desire to Do No Harm knowing that for those still suffering the effects of trauma, Do No Harm is often impossible or unlikely. They can get triggered or react in their primitive brain with fight/flight/freeze to something utterly unrelated to my intentions. I can say I’m sorry… without actually taking on the energy of blame-worthiness.”
Awww poor Maddy! I cried for her as I listened and I cried for myself too. I remember as a child a girl said to me, “I’ll be your friend when there is no one else around but I won’t be when the others are around.” I nodded but it felt bad. I used to have stomach aches in school too but the authorities thought I was just trying to get out of class. I kept my emotions bottled up for a long time until the pain got so bad I had to search for help. I’m so glad I found you and your wonderful circle. I still have times when I blame myself but those times are getting less and less.
Maybe you can talk about Maddy’s husband and why he has to blame all the time. He certainly has issues too.
I love this story/podcast.
Indeed, Maddy has had a tough road. So too so many, and you, and me. I used to have stomachaches too that were emotional. There’s definitely some of me in Maddy’s story.
And yeah, I know Maddy’s spouse feels like a man. I actually pictured the spouse as a female when writing it. I chose a name that was gender neutral in my brain, having known both male and female identified Maddy’s in my life.
Admittedly I don’t know as much what it is like to be “inside” someone who blames with such 100% certainty that they are right and everyone else is wrong / at fault. Harder for me to speak to that. Not that I’ve not blamed others for making me feel bad; it’s just there was always a preponderance for me of “…and most of it must be my fault…”
The more we share these stories, I feel the more we can feel comfortable amongst each other also sharing how we’d like to be and what we’d like to offer and be offered that would feel nourishing. <3 ~Rick