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An Axis Course On Don’t Believe Everything You Think

The cognitive distortion called blaming involves thinking of others as the source/cause of all negative feelings and experiences. For example: “I’m angry all the time, and it’s my brother’s fault for bullying me as a kid,” or, “My parents didn’t tend to my needs growing up, and that’s why I have all these problems.”

Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl is often attributed with saying, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In this powerful quote, Frankl points out that whenever something happens to us, even if we’ve gotten used to reacting automatically without thinking, we do have the capacity to choose. It’s a reminder that the events that happen to us can shape who we are to some extent; but the choices we make about those events—including how we’re going to think about them, and what we’re going to believe about them—shape who we are on an even deeper level.

The “blaming” distortion puts the responsibility entirely on other people, or on the events that happen in our lives. It convinces us that we are merely helpless victims of our circumstances, and that nothing we do will matter. To use a term from psychology, it convinces us that the “locus of control” is external, as opposed to internal.

Just because bad things happen doesn’t mean that we are excused from taking responsibility for how we respond to them. In Job 40:7, when God is speaking to Job out of the storm cloud, God says to him, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” In his interaction with God, Job has to take responsibility for himself—even though so many things happened to him that were not his fault at all. Similarly, we are called to “brace ourselves” for our lives and to take responsibility for our actions, our responses, and how we deal with the situations that come our way—and not just to put the blame entirely on others.