I try to be blameless as much as I can. I struggle to do everything perfectly. I work hard to make others happy with me. It’s because I’m still running an old childhood script — one that makes me feel deep shame when anyone blames me for anything. So I’m constantly in fear of anyone thinking I’ve done something wrong.
It happened again Tuesday in a work situation. Something went wrong on a project which I’m overseeing. It wasn’t anything I caused. It wasn’t anything I could have prevented. I had no fault in the matter.
But someone was upset that he was inconvenienced in a small way. Because I was the bearer of the bad news — and because it’s my project — I could feel his blame. I could feel his unhappiness with me.
And I immediately felt a deep sense of shame — like a small boy whose angry father was blaming him for something he couldn’t control.
I haven’t been able to shake that feeling all day. Although it’s bedtime, I can’t let the shame go and just relax and end my day.
It’s not a rational thing. I don’t fear punishment. Nothing bad is going to happen to me as a result of the situation. My project will still be done. Everybody will be happy with it. In fact, nobody will even remember this little glitch when it’s over.
But I will feel tense and shamed along the way, even though I did nothing wrong, because there is an old element of childhood programming which tells me that I have to keep everybody else happy with me — or else I’ve obviously done something wrong.
I don’t want to live with this, but it does serve one useful purpose in my life. It reminds me that we can’t always tell how we’re affecting others.
You see, if you dealt with me in business or in normal social interactions, you would never see this side of me. I hide the way I feel and get on with the job at hand. If anything, I double down on getting things right. I’m willing to take responsibility even if I didn’t cause the problem and I’m prone to pushing harder to please whoever is upset with me. And such a person will never know I’m upset.
So this reminds me that others are running their own scripts that I’m not aware of. They’re getting upset about things I might do or say — and if they haven’t done a lot of work on themselves, they might not even know why they feel as they do. They might transfer all of their inner feelings — anger, shame, embarrassment, whatever — onto other people, maybe even me.
So when people lash out at me irrationally or act in ways which don’t make sense to me, they’re probably just acting out their own unconscious programming, too. I try to remember that.
Understanding this about myself — and about the people around me — makes me even more committed to raising children in emotionally healthy ways. I don’t want the children who I help raise to carry with them the shame and guilt and blame that so many of us carry from unhealthy childhoods.
I don’t think there’s any role we have that’s more important — or more sacred — than guarding the hearts and minds of children to becoming psychologically healthy adults. A lot of people are unconsciously doing to their children exactly what was done to them. And that’s not right.
In the meantime, I’ll feel this terrible shame when I know someone blames me for something, whether I’ve done anything wrong or not. I hope I’ll slowly be able to let more and more of it go. I’ll keep working on it.
But the programming you and I received as children — for both good and bad — is incredibly difficult to eliminate entirely.