FEAR OF BEING BLAMED

Lately life has taught me a lot in ways that I wouldn’t prefer.

It was 14th Feb, while everybody was busy wishing Valentine’s day to their loved ones – I was sitting in the hospital with my 3 year old son who had 103 degree fever. Unaware of what is causing the recurrent fever spikes, I was getting really tensed. He has had on and off cough since almost a month which I was not able to get rid of. I thought I had tried all possibilities to get rid of his cough but little did I know what lay ahead.

After 3 hours in the hospital I was in the doctor’s room. With the X-Ray report on her screen, the doctor looked at me seriously and said he has lung infection. We need to start him on antibiotics immediately. I was shocked. Lung infection? Again? Why? I had done all that the previous doctor had told me. What did I miss? He had a serious case of pneumonia when he was 1.5 years old and now again when he was 3. What did I do wrong?

Well 2 days of antibiotic did no impact on the infection. We had to admit him for 3 days. I cried to my pillow like crazy on the second night. Not just because I was worried but I felt horrible that I could not take care of him enough. It was only me and Joey on the third day in hospital because all other family members had to go attend a family wedding (which I and my son missed because of this unwelcomed infection).

When we came back from hospital, his immunity had dropped considerably. I had to leave my dog at the dog care center because animal hair would make his situation even worse. I called in Aastha to stay with me for those few days till my family would come back and she was a great help. He seemed to get better in a couple of days and I restarted his school – scared and worried.

Though things were getting back to normal, a couple of weeks later we visited a pulmonogist because it is not common for 3 year old to get pneumonia twice. I was literally hoping that he doesn’t give me any bad news regarding the anatomy of his lungs. He did not. But he said something worse – you cannot ignore even a single cough after a case of pneumonia. He needs to eat healthy, avoid dust, no pets, no junk food. Well, all this is something a mother generally knows isn’t it? Where did I miss it? Why didn’t I take him to pulmonogist when his cough wasn’t going away with cough syrups or anti-allergic? Why did I wait for the infection to reach his lungs? Am I not educated enough or do I not have common-sense?

Well, these are the thoughts that run into my mind now and they kill me every day. But initially I blamed everything apart from myself to run into this situation. I blamed my husband for staying away from us, and everybody else in my support system for not taking care of him enough, my work for keeping me extra busy, the circumstances, the doctor who told me that it is common cold and will go away with cough syrups. It took me time to see that I was standing right in middle of all this and all fingers are pointing at me. Every time I would talk to anybody about it, I would try to get defensive and say “You know that doctor doesn’t know anything” or “You know ginger honey really doesn’t work on cough” or whatever.

It took me almost a month of misery to take the responsibility of the situation. And I know that I was fearing getting blamed for all this. Well the fact is that I could have avoided him a lot of pain and whether I get blamed or not – I need to take responsibility of it. The sooner I accept the responsibility, lesser is the fear of being blamed. Blaming others is always easy but that is just one way of not accepting the responsibility.

Like they say – life sometime teaches you a hard way, especially when you resist learning something.

IT WAS DADDY! NOT ME!!

This Monday evening, my daughter decides to have pizza. She wanted to go to a “pizza house” and dine in. I would like to pen down the conversation between my daughter and her daddy.

Anaya (my 3yrs old girl): “Daddy!!! I want to have a pizza.”

Daddy (my husband): “Okay, I will tell delivery uncle to get one for you!”

Anaya: “No daddy. I WANT to go to the pizza house.”

Daddy: “Why??”

Anaya (with a fake crying face): “I want to, daddy!”

So, her daddy takes her to the ‘pizza house’. At her ‘pizza house’, she goes directly to a table and sits and says, “I want to eat here daddy.”

Daddy: “But mommy and uncle are at home. They want to eat pizza too. We have to share.”

Anaya: “No daddy! I want it here!”

Daddy (tensed and confused): “But, mommy will cry and uncle too.”

Anaya (in a low sad voice): “Oh!!! Mmmmm okay daddy.”


Finally, they reach home with her pizza and he narrates this incident to me.

He adds, “What on Earth is a pizza house??”

She stood right next to her daddy while he was narrating and was eating her pizza.

I asked her, “You wanted to eat your pizza in the ‘pizza house’??”

She just nods yes.

I add (I make a sad and almost crying face and makes sure she notices); “Without mommy?” 

She looks at me, stares at her dad. It takes her just 30 seconds to decide. She then, points her finger at her daddy and says, “Daddy said”. 

My husband and I, we looked at each other with surprise. She knows how to blame shift.

Her daddy asks her, “What?? I told you to sit and eat there?”

She looks at her pizza and says, “Yes, daddy!” 

She had the cutest of expression and even though there was a lot of innocence, it wasn’t the right thing. She wanted to be the good girl and please mommy. She knew daddy could handle mommy, and everything would be fine. Even though her expressions and the entire situation was funny but I felt the need to make her understand, that it is okay, if she said so. It’s just a wish she had. I told her the same. I explained that she shouldn’t blame others for the things she did. It is a bad thing for a good girl. I hope she understands, remembers and implements it. Well, frankly, I thought of times when I blame shifted, just be safe and loved. I was reminded how I used to fight, just to prove that I wasn’t blame shifting. Even my daughter has seen me do that. I wondered, what if she has learnt it all from me. Am I guiding her in the right path? No, was the answer. 

I have come across a lot of families and blaming others, when they are being questioned, has been a common characteristic for all the different household. Knowingly or unknowingly, it just happens. May be not as frequent, but sometimes people just play that card. In my family, I have seen my mom being blamed for each and everything that goes wrong in our family. I see my mom blaming someone for a thing she couldn’t do. . Even my mom-in-law goes through the same. Sometimes I see myself doing, exactly the same thing. If I am sick and sad, I tend to blame someone for it and bring out my frustration.

There are situations where in a relationship, this blame game comes to play. One of them blames the other for the things that went wrong in their relation. Then the other person blames the former and vice versa and it goes on and on.  These are the things, kids see and learn. When into a relation, both persons are accountable for things they do for or towards each other, good or bad.  This point fades out and situations drift out of hand. Blaming others has always been an easy option. Moreover it keeps us safe, no matter if or how it jeopardizes somebody else’s character or affairs. 

Sadly, we never think of mending this kind of situation. It is so addictive, even though compromising. We don’t put efforts to correct our kids. We don’t explain to them that whatever happens to them is an outcome of what they did, and not because of any situation, person or thing. Whatever they do and the result of it is solely their responsibility. We have only become more intelligent in our work. We as of now blame lifeless elements, where the other person has no option but to just keep mum. For example, today I was asked by one of my brothers, about a task he has given me to do. It was done but wasn’t perfect. Even though I told him the truth, still I blamed my house chores for keeping me from finishing it. Somehow, it has seeped into us and is so deeply rooted that, we just can’t avoid it. Even if we can, we don’t. 

I will not urge you to let go. I will, but try and change myself. I will refrain from giving excuses and blaming others for things I have been doing. All my success and my failures are mine. It’s my efforts that contribute into making me a success or a failure. I will try and be accountable in situations as such. I will try to use my anger, fear, guilt and shame to build me in the correct way. I will not make me, stand in my way to success. I will try and be a good example to my kid and the society. I will try.

GASLIGHTING – COERCION OF REALITY

Iteration of a lie often attains the status of perceived veracity.

The other day a cousin of mine was searching for the car keys, when her husband immediately confronted her saying “You always forget to keep the car keys at the right place, Neelam“. Switching on her defence mode my cousin reacted but retracted when she was reminded how she keeps forgetting things all the time. I had observed her backing off especially when she is told that she doesn’t remember things.  Neelam was excellent in academics and always remembers all the songs just by listening to once. I found it hard to believe that she actually has a problem with her memory. Later when I came across the concept of Gaslighting everything about Neelam’s constant retraction to any confrontation zoomed in.

The ‘Illusory truth effect’ or ‘Gaslighting’ is a form of psychological abuse where information is contorted to favour the abuser or information is falsified with the intent of making the victims doubt their perception and memory.

Basically Gaslighting is a form of blame shifting tactic used to mess with your perception of reality, making you constantly doubt your experiences by persistent lying, misdirection, contradiction and denial. It’s an attempt to undermine and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs and understanding of reality. The term is derived from a play (1938)by Patrick Hamilton, Gaslight where the husband tries to manipulate his wife’s sanity by causing her to question her reality.

This emotional abuse can happen to anyone but mostly occurs in personal relationships or workplace where the victim is constantly blamed and undergoes the make believe experiences, doubting their logic and rationale. In a subtle form Gaslighting creates a power dynamics in the relationship where the abuser blame shifts with microaggression. However there are severe cases of dominance, mind control and psychological exploits too.

Preston Ni (M.S.B.A) in his book “How to Successfully handle Gaslighters & stop Psychological bullying” has described the variations in stages of Gaslighting.

1. Fibbing and exaggerating the reality to put the victim on the defensive and iterate those lies constantly to control your percept.

“You’re oversensitive.”

“How would you know when you never remember things correctly.”

Constant use of such phrases is a red flag.

2. When challenged the abuser escalates refuting evidences and misdirecting with denial and blames.

Why do you always have to bring this up?”

I don’t want to deal with this nonsense.

Such statements of dismissal are again red flags.

3. The insecurity and anxiety instilled helps the abuser to gain control on the victim. Over the time this wears out the victim to debilitate and question  reality.

4. When you bring up the hurtful behavior, the abuser turns the table to play victim making it seem that you are harming the abuser by even bringing it up.

“Why am I always the bad guy?”

“I’m the one who’s actually hurting now.”

Abuser uses phrases like these conditioning you to mistrust your experiences.

5. Occasionally the abuser would treat you to positive reinforcements to keep you reigned in and you would end up contemplating, “May be they aren’t that bad.

With this temporary mildness tactic the abuser tries to reinforce a codependent controlled relationship.

Gaslighting as you can see is a form of coercion,  instilling fear, doubt and insecurity in the victim resulting in augmentation of power and personal gain of the abuser. So, how can the victim identify Gaslighting. To answer this let’s rewind to the statements mentioned above. With every reaction of blame, if you question the validity of your perception and memories you are being Gaslit. If people in your life are constantly accusing you of being sensitive and telling you that you never remember a thing, you are probably experiencing Gaslighting. When you express your hurt and are ignored or reverse blamed, the red flag of Gaslighting pops.

So, how can you address the situation and get out of this abuse. Well the hardest part is realizing and accepting the warning signs of Gaslighting. Spot out the people in your life who forces you to experience this abuse by noting their behavioral pattern. Always remember manipulation and abuse always has a pattern and trigger points. Realize those moments and don’t give in to the blame.  Trust your Instincts and experiences and most importantly trust yourself.

Many times it is difficult to gust out on your abuser owing to the fact that they are family. But be strong, voice your concern and actively affirm your memory and experiences. Don’t allow to be manipulated. Self affirmation is very critical while learning to trust yourself again.

Your own sense of truth can only bring you back to your reality in those moments of manipulation. Your feelings are valid and you have every right to react to things that hurt you. Remember that you are worthy and capable of being able to trust and find yourself again.

I DIDN’T DO IT; I AM A NARCISST

I heard someone tell me that when you have the guts to do something or say something then learn to say that “Yes, I did that.” In simple words ‘Own It’. But to accept one’s mistake and take its blame is not as easy as taking credit for all the good you did. Wanting others to see what you see and hear what you hear with your mindset is not an easy feat. This freedom to believe what you want is a matter of Free Will, and when we know we can’t tamper with other Free Will too, that’s where ‘Blame Shifting’ comes in.

Blame shifting is a phenomenon that is often linked with Narcissism. They tend to substitute their culpability to others. You see, it’s convenient. Shifting blame to victims is useful because it allows you to be free of any guilt and the cumbersome task of taking any responsibility or alteration plus let’s agree, it saves your face. You don’t have to go through the humiliation of being wrong or being unruly. Another reason is, narcissists are very good in vindicating everything. They can find 1001 reasons why everybody but them is to accuse. And they aren’t perturbed or fretful by the fact; it’s just an illusion they created for themselves.

They can’t see any imperfections in themselves, they have glorified themselves so much that they see themselves as ideal. So instead of condemning themselves, they criticise others. This is called Alloplastic Defense, which means they hold the world accountable for their problems, not themselves.

Narcissism is an actual condition, called NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) What we call “blame shifting” they call “protecting themselves”. While you call yourself a victim, they know that the real victim is them. You are trying to make them feel bad, guilty, or trap them. You are the manipulator. You are the instigator of this conflict. Why are you doing this to them?

Lies are just lies. They happen. There are so many ways to victimise; the NPD isn’t even aware of the fact that he/she is doing it. An NPD doesn’t (generally) intend to hurt anyone, they merely want to do what they want to do, and so they do it. What do other people have to do with that? None of their business.

Deceiving, evading, being insensitive… none of those is done to hurt people; they are solely ways for the NPD to pursue and project the life they feel they ought to have.

So, if you “attack” someone with NPD by saying, “You did something that hurt me,” their instinct is to call you the liar and utterly destroy you for trying to make them feel bad about themselves.

Since they lack “Purpose Integrity”— the ability to maintain favourable feelings about a person throughout a range of situations or distance—if you are attacking, you are the enemy. You must be destroyed.

After all, if they didn’t mean to hurt you, you shouldn’t be hurt.

But let us not forget a few things here. Not all crimes or mistakes are enormous; some are pretty small and modest, especially when done by kids. They often almost expect a parent to come to their aid.

Until my father passed away, I felt very protected and very secure. The reason being, he never blamed me for anything, be it my natural mistakes or the ruckus I deliberately or unintentionally created. He would just tell my Mom that he broke the vase, he spilt the milk, he forgot to recharge the phone, or he was the person who stained her saree. But while we were alone, and Mom was away he would lovingly tell me that it was wrong to do that, I shouldn’t have done it, and if I do it again, he won’t come to my rescue. And I very firmly believe that his way of saving me a scolding and disgrace but guiding to the right path made me the person I am. Today I am not afraid to accept 100% responsibility for the wrongs I did.

These benign incidents between a family that hurt no ones feeling, in particular, aren’t the source of anyone’s agony.

But yes,

For anyone who is a victim or a scapegoat…

Save the need for answers. Do not get quicksand in need of validation.

Save the questions. It perpetuates the vicious cycle of everything being about them.

Reverse your thought processes and make everything about you.

Get OUT. Survive.

Then go back to the whys, they won’t matter anyway. Until you are Free.

(PICTURE CREDIT: GOOGLE INC.)

​PEBBLE IN THE SHOE

“It Isn’t the Mountain Ahead That Wears You Out; It Is the Pebble in Your Shoe.” – Muhammad Ali

Tom and his mentor Dwyer were on their customary weekly walk through the forest when Dwyer sat down on a large rock to take off his shoe.

What are you doing?” asked Tom.

I have a pebble in my shoe,” explained Dwyer.

What are you stopping for? I have a pebble in my shoe as well, but we don’t have time to stop, so stop slowing us down. This is not acceptable. For a small problem of yours, you are  not only slowing yourself down but even involving me.

I can assure you Tom, me stopping isn’t holding us back at all, but will end up saving us time and probably pain further down the track. So be sensible and stop blaming it all on me.

Pfft,” said the young man as he turned and walked on by himself, leaving the old man behind to remove the annoying pebble.

After about 20 minutes of walking, Tom could hear footsteps behind him and was surprised to see Dwyer making ground on him.

Why are you limping?” the old man asked with a glint in his eye.

You know why?  I have a pebble in my shoe!” Tom retorted.

Why don’t you just stop and remove it?”

Because I don’t have time.”

They walked side by side for a while, but eventually, despite his best efforts and pride, Tom’s sore foot really started to slow him down and his limp became more pronounced.

He was determined not to show any pain, but he was conscious that he was now slowing down his walking partner, so he sat down on a large log and took off his shoe to remove the pebble.

When he did, he noticed a small amount of blood seeping through his sock. He removed that too and saw that he had a very sore, bleeding welt where the pebble had been rubbing.

He grimaced as he looked up at his mentor who smiled broadly, showing very little pity for his young protégé.

You know what the message here is don’t you? By not dealing with your problem to immediate effect, you not only affected your performance on the long run  but immediately blamed it on me. Whenever the, blame game starts, it eventually ends up in compromised performance.  Always deal with problems straight away.  You may think that you don’t have the time, but you’ll save yourself a lot of time and pain if you get the pebble out of your shoe before you get too far down the road.”

If you do not take out the pebble immediately, the resultant is the birth of another pebble called blame, that not only destroys Your Own performance but affects even the performance of your co-worker and colleague.

Tom nodded as he put his bloodied sock back on.

According to Jim Fanin, the World famous coach for nearly 25 NBA, Basketball stars, “Some pebbles are lodged only in your business shoes. Some reside in your house slippers that you tuck under your bed. Some pebbles find their way into your golf shoes while others form in the shoes worn while you parent. Unfortunately, some pebbles travel in all your shoes regardless of where you walk or run”.

The other day, I came across a patient, who was complaining of occasional pain in her abdomen. She was a retired Professor in English and quite a Scholar of her times. When I asked her the details of her condition, she was highly guarded and did not want to say anything. On careful prodding, she disclosed that she had a CT scan report with her, which categorically states that she had, Early stage Cancer of the Stomach. When I viewed the report, it was as she had said. I asked her, why, inspite of knowing this, she had not consulted a Surgeon and got herself treated. The reply she gave was amazing. She said, “My mother, had Cancer of the Stomach, and died of it, despite having got operated, hence I decided that since post Surgery she had died, I would never get operated.” All the time, while she was living with Cancer, she had this wrong notion that Surgery killed her mother and not the Cancer, which was quite advanced. Like the Pebble in the Shoe, the Cancer was hurting her daily but she wasn’t ready to do away with it. It could have been removed by going to a Surgeon, and just clarifying facts and notions. She did not address it immediately and that led to the birth of another pebble, which was a form of blame, which fell on the Surgeon. I assured her, that the Cancer, is a Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumour, as the report suggested and only Surgery will cure her and it does not have recurrence. Her Pebble was her wrong notion, that Surgery kills people.

Muhammad Ali, the most famous among the World Heavyweight Boxing Champions, was thinking, about this Pebble, in his shoe, when he was readying himself to fight, Sonny Liston. They all said that Sonny Liston could never be beaten and Ali bought that thought and lived with it for quite some time, until his trainers and advisors helped him remove that Pebble. Sonny Liston lasted just 10 minutes on the day of the fight.

While the mountain, our life’s purpose, is always ahead of us, the pebbles often trip us up.  We may perpetuate unhealthy behaviors, patterns and thoughts in our lives by worrying about all the what ifs, could have beens and never-going-to-be’s.

Keep your eyes fixed on that mountain!  Eliminate the pebbles, one by one. Use these tips to clear out the pesky hindrances to your progress:

1. Fix the small stuff.

In our lifetimes, we will spend four solid years doing housework and an entire year just looking for things we have lost in our homes.  Precious days of our life are squandered if we lack discipline and preparation.  You envision opening your own business one day, for example, yet haven’t made real progress towards this goal. The small stuff, the perpetual pebbles, is holding you back.

Do you keep looking for that form you need?  Do you need a better way to organize your bills? Taking care of these small, yet taxing tasks, will free you up for the road ahead.  Take the time to organize your home, balance your checkbook and clear out the clutter; make the preparations necessary to focus your time and effort on the real game.

2. Stop the development of a Second Pebble called Blame.

Many times we find it impossible to accept that the first pebble is hurting. In these settings, the development of a second pebble called, “Blame”develops. Blaming it on others makes it then impossible for us to remove the first pebble that was initially hurting us.

3. Never lose sight of your goal.

We must remain committed to our purpose and passion. This goes beyond lip service. Which steps can we take every day towards being a better co-worker, friend or spouse? Which actions can we point to in our lives that have cultivated not only our dream careers but also better care of ourselves?

Cornell University researchers studied something called the “endowment effect.” When we take complete ownership of our goals, we are more committed to their completion.  Writing them down and mapping out expectations for ourselves is key. There are hundreds of tools to write down and track our goals online. This chart called “Your 101 Life Goals List” is a great place to start.

4.  Lose the emotional pebbles.

Our emotional well-being is vital to tackling the mountain.  The daily pebbles we carry of stress, anxiety and disappointment slip us up.  Break down these rocks of emotional baggage the minute they creep up.  Push back against stress with a different one of the stress relieving strategies every day.  Most importantly “stop striving for perfection”, it teaches and reminds us that being easier on ourselves will start a chain reaction of positivity in our lives.  Once these daily pressures find relief, we have a more fruitful journey.

Our lives are priceless; let’s thrive by carrying a lighter load every day.  The extraction of the pebbles of distraction from your life will help you begin your ascension.

(PICTURE CREDIT: GOOGLE INC.)