Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Blame Game

So what are some of the things that stand in the way of a healthy relationship with our bodies? I want to spend some of the next few blogs talking about the obstacles to having the kind of relationship with your body that lights you up inside, makes life easier, allows you to work together rather than at odds with each other.

One of the biggest obstacles to a great relationship with your body comes up in many other kinds of relationships too: blame. Think about it, how many times do you want to point the finger at how awful your life is, how it's just not where you want it to be because your body won't cooperate? It's not thin enough, not healthy enough, not moving fast enough.

One woman I worked with--and I can relate--said that it feels sometimes like everything that's going wrong in her life comes down to her not being thin enough. If only her body would lose weight and be thin, everything would be alright. Sound familiar?

If you're dealing with symptoms of an illness this one is even more challenging. Not only might you be angry and frustrated with your body for not doing what it once could, but you might even take on some blame or guilt yourself, wondering if you did something wrong, if anything you did created what's happening now.

Either way, blame is not a useful emotion. It keeps us stuck in our lives because we either take on too much responsibility or not enough. As long as you can point the finger, you don't have to deal with the ways you might have to transform yourself to stay open to healing. And if you take on too much blame, you stay mired in the past rather than focusing on what you can do now, one day at a time.

What's the solution? Look for your own all-or-nothing thinking and the way it might keep you mired in despair and hopelessness. Make a commitment to take blame out of the equation and think about what you might replace it with. Sometimes I'll ask workshop participants to write out the following sentence: "I am willing to replace blaming myself/my body with ________ (fill in the blank with a more useful quality) in order to create a better life for both of us."

What might you put in that blank? Would it be love? Kindness? A commitment to listen and work together?

If blame wasn't taking up so much space in your head, what might you start taking responsibility for? One client realized that once she could no longer blame her body alone for her weight gain--as if it was purposefully defying her--she had to start making a commitment herself to better self-care, diet and exercise. But instead of doing those things resentfully because she felt she 'had' to, she could see doing them as part of building a health relationship where she and her body worked together.

What if it's blame and guilt that you've taken on for whatever your body is going through? Recognize that blame and guilt may be serving as protection against some deeper feelings of loss and helplessness, and that they are false protections. Life is full of random events and it's hard to realize that often there's nothing you could have done to change what's happened. Figure out where you need to take responsibility in order to make positive changes and where you need to simply let go and grieve with your body so you can move forward together.

An exercise I find incredibly useful in many stages of healing the body relationship is simply to write a letter to your body. Try asking its forgiveness or offering yours. Express the things you may have been blaming it for and be honest about how you'd like to do things differently in the future. Share with it the qualities you'd like to bring to the relationship instead of blame. Then listen and see if your body responds. It almost always does--maybe not with words, but often with a quiet, grateful pulse of gratitude and connection.