We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

It's Your Own Damn Fault
Regret. Cyn McCurry
 When I was sixteen I did a really dumb thing.  (Who hasn't at sixteen?) See, when I was fourteen I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and was promptly fitted with a Milwaukee brace, a neck to pelvis contraption that I wore 23 hours a day.  My tummy had not seen the sun in two years and I went with my friends on a day trip to the beach, fell asleep on the sand, and woke with a very red belly.  I shook and shivered on the way home but couldn't tolerate the scratchy, wool blanket I was given to wrap up in.  It hurt my skin.  I passed out once on the way into the house.  My boyfriend stayed with me until my mother came home and explained to her what happened.  I was crying in pain and my mother snapped, "It's your own damn fault!"

Yes.  She was right.  However, her being right didn't help.  It never helps me to point out this obvious fact that my suffering is my own doing.  That's right, it NEVER helps.  It hurts.  It comes under the category of if you don't have anything nice (or helpful) to say, don't say anything at all.  That's because my default is to blame myself for everything that happens to me. This is why I don't say certain things out loud because I am sure that someone will say, "Well, it's your own fault."  I miss my kids.  I miss them with everything in me.  I hurt tangibly and physically sometimes because I miss them.  I made the heart-wrenching decision seven years ago to be the one to leave the family home when their father and I divorced.  I moved a two hour's drive away.  It's still close enough to see them and they have spent time with me, but that pain never lessened or went away.  Now that they're older and have less time to spend with their mom, it's harder to arrange time to see them. We talk on the phone and on Facebook, but, well, you know, not the same.  This pain is my fault.  I know this and beat myself up about it on a regular basis.  Yes, I know that's not helpful.

There are people who don't take enough responsibility for their choices.  These are the blamers, the ones who point their finger at everyone and everything else for their pain.  Stuck in victim mode, their misfortune is always the result of something outside of themselves.  Saying, "It's your own damn fault," to them only helps if you first acknowledge their pain and accept that they are hurting.  It's difficult to show compassion to someone like this, but it's absolutely necessary if your goal is to speak a harsh truth to them.  They have to know first that you care, that you have their best interest in mind and you're not just another outside force causing more pain. 

On both ends of the spectrum, whether one takes on too much responsibility for the painful situation or not enough the most helpful advice is to focus on right now.  Before someone can take steps in a positive, forward moving direction, they have to release themselves of the blame, both directed at themselves and others.  The self-blamer believes that if she can isolate the actions and circumstances that caused the pain in the first place she can avoid the pain in the future.  The other-blamer relieves themselves of the responsibility to make changes and keep doing what they're doing because they aren't in control.  One assumes too much control while the other assumes too little.  Regardless of their locus of control, neither has the ability to move forward. The fear of pain keeps them stuck. 

In my tarot practice, I focus not on what will happen but on looking for ways to view the situation as it currently is and on steps one can take from here forward.  Taking responsibility for the choices we make in life is one thing.  Regretting them is something that happens often because once choices have been made they can't be unmade and they come with unknown and unintentional consequences.  The last thing anyone needs when they cry out in pain from shooting themselves in the foot is the reminder that they did it to themselves.  They already know that.  They're already kicking themselves with the uninjured foot.


  1. Great post!
    Guilt...something that took up so much space in my head because of my lack of self-worth,not understanding myself or others, the why and what other people said to me. I'm not blaming anyone, just the way it was. I even did a paper on guilt as an adult in a philosophy course in University so I could understand it better and rid myself of the torturing inner critic. A book that helped then was one of the first, followed by numerous others was Guilt, Anger & God by C. Fitzsimons Allison, The Patterns of Our Discontents.
    There's good guilt and bad. When it's bad next thing that follows? Shame, that says you not only made a mistake, you are a mistake. Which is total horse crap of course, because no one is born as junk! SO I've got a short sweet affirmation of sorts I try to remember when I see the unhealthy kind of guilt. SCREW GUILT! It works for me! Thanks for your very important post!
    Catherine Meyers

  2. Anonymous8:28 PM

    I remember my mistakes, but not so that I could kick myself over it for years afterward, instead we have got to wisen up and learn from past mistakes. God forgives us, so we must forgive ourselves.

  3. Thank you for the book recommendation, Catherine. I will see if I can find it. I understand guilt is only productive as far as we understand our own part in the matter and moving forward to better choices. It prompts responsibility toward ourselves an others. Bad guilt is that which diminishes us and leaves us paralyzed to make any healthy choice at all.

  4. Some choices continue to bring pain far beyond the time you made the choice. I think one can forgive oneself yet still hurt for a long time. Because the pain is still present it's easy to default into telling yourself, "It's your own damn fault" but that doesn't really help either. Not sure how to deal with present pain over past choices that were lesser of two evils type choices. It's not like we want a do-over. We just wanted things to be different somehow, less ongoing consequential pain.

  5. "The last thing anyone needs when they cry out in pain from shooting themselves in the foot is the reminder that they did it to themselves. They already know that. They're already kicking themselves with the uninjured foot. " Well said. It would be nice on a really big t-shirt or a giant mug or something. :-)

    But on the other hand, some people really DON'T know that it's their own fault. To me those are the most difficult situations. But I agree that focussing on the here and now, and how to go forward, is the most helpful.

  6. Momma Bear commented on a different post, but it was meant to go here: -- #1 no, it is not ALL your fault-it takes 2 people to totally F**Kup a marriage
    #2 speaking from experience, I did the same thing. decided I was the least disruptive to remove from my children's life. it was a tale of 2 cities(you know, it was the best of times..)anyway I left and kids stayed. until one of them decided I was the better choice..anyway what I want to say is the pain and doubt of the choice, doesn't go away. but I leaned it was better than no choice and better than going to war/divorce court. life is different but better. hard to not be able to be immediately there, but their new found independence is a hidden dividend.
    #3 saying "well it's your own fault" is the easy cowardly way out of a meaningful discussion, it derails you from arguing and sends you into a self-recrimination death- spiral *stop it!* we all make mistakes but playing the blame game never solves anything.
    #4 knowing all that, won't stop you from blaming yourself.
    #5 knowing that helps you acknowledge you are imperfect and helps you to move through the self-flagellation and on to more productive modes of thought...
    #6 it's never all you. you aren't the center of all that is bad,dumb,ignorant,unobservant etc... like I said it takes at least 2 people to screw up anything. your kiddies are doing well? they are happy to see you when they acknowledge you're existence? they would be this way even if you were 10ft away at all times and possibly, actively trying to get away from you. they are growing up, finding their boundaries, using those lessons you taught them. they will make their own mistakes, I does no harm to point out, where they went wrong and how/what they could have done different, even say "well that was stupid" point out the good in what they did do. make it a learning moment. tell them you love them or you are sorry they are hurting. make a joke (if giggles are needed) give 'em a hug. then dust them off and send them out to do it again. I'm 50. I'm still finding my way in the world and I am still tripping over stupid shit. I think "i should know better" but you don't. my Mom is 75 she does the same thing. life is learning and if you are at the least learning then you are living a good life!
    now go out and do it again!

  7. Awwww MommaBear -- your comment was so needed! Thank you!

  8. Yeah, Robert those are the other-blamers. Tiresome those.

  9. Sad story however you learned a lot since and now you take reponsibility..


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