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Taking the Blame - or not.

You get pictures of the stuff tonight - though I see there are already a few floating around. Unfortunately, I can't see them at work, since Flickr and other similar sites are blocked at work, and I haven't been near a computer since 12th Night.

I'll fill you in on my impressions of an event most of you didn't go to (and many of you don't care about) this evening.

I've been reading a book I picked up in the grocery store (I do such things for kicks sometimes), called What Your Childhood Memories Say About You, by Kevin Leman - it's a bit facile, and terribly keen on the G word, but amusing and somewhat insightful in a superficially helpful way. According to it, I am actually a mix of all the birth orders, making me a neurotic mess.

I'm kidding (sort of; you know me).  I, like most of us, emcompass many of the traits of each birth order, because it's never quite so simple as when you were born in your family. The birth order traits section is interesting, and fun like those memes that do the "what does your choice of *blank* say about you?" thing, and it's always amusing picking out the various quirks of one's nature and seeing what fits and what doesn't. This section is the easy bit.

The more interesting point of the book (and the part where it actually approaches its greatest usefulness) is that we lie to ourselves all the time about what kind of person we are. In my New Year's post, I spoke about this - the image in your head doesn't always match how others see you, and your spoken intentions may not match your actions towards those intentions. The book says that you can change - if you are willing to work at becoming self-aware.

I've spent the better part of twenty years now trying to become more self-aware, and let me tell you, it isn't exactly a cakewalk. It's not a question of "oh, I need to do this", it's a long process of analysis, and truth-telling, even when the lie is more comfortable. And the biggest part of the lie is knowing where to assign blame.

It's easy and comfortable to either fall into continual self-blame ("I never do anything right!") or other-blame ("The world hates me!"), possibly especially for Americans (maybe, kinda, a little).  I love you guys, and believe me, you are anything but shallow, but you (the general you) have a teeny tendency to want to see things in either-or/black-white terms. As a nation, you seem terribly uncomfortable with grey areas, and the idea that the world is nothing but shades of grey seems to be rather upsetting.

Now, I'm not saying you're all like that; that would be stupid. But it does colour the way we (I'll include myself in this) all think, and it's much easier to see things in absolutes (especially right/wrong absolutes) than having to work through thousands of permutations to get to the right conclusion.

I'm getting somewhere with this other than insulting my adopted nation, I promise.

In the SCA, this either-or thinking is exacerbated by our acceptance of many marginally socialized people with some counter-productive personality traits.  In our mad drive to "never hurt anyone's feelings!", we never allow our other-blaming members to come face to face with the consequences of their thinking. Our self-blamers get all the fodder they need to keep thinking themselves into a mad spiral, because we never stop our assholes in their tracks and say "stop blaming the people around your for your lack of success!", but we do more damage than just allowing people to continue in their abnegation of reponsibility for their progress; we actually enable it, by giving in to their demands for success without any personal effort.

The flip side of this is the people who blame themselves when they have no reason to do so - part of accepting blame is knowing who really is to blame, and absolving yourself of blame when it is warranted.  Unfortunately, the only people that seem to do this are the people who really should be accepting the blame - the "I'm sorry you got offended" crowd, the "I'm just being honest!" crowd, and the "You should have told me, so it's your fault this didn't happen!" crowd - to name but a few.  If you always take the blame onto yourself, it might be good to repeat to yourself that even though someone is blaming you, it doesn't mean you're to blame.  The other party might just be an asshole.

Think of this - how many people do you know who constantly say and/or act like they so totally deserve that award they want, but do absolutely nothing to ever warrant elevation? How many people do you know who, when they fuck up (and they will), blame everyone around them, but never themselves? Heck, for the non-SCA people, how many people do you know who continually make the same mistakes, over and over again, yet never seem to realize that they're the cause of their problems?

As the Despair.com poster says:  "Dysfunction:  The only consistent feature of all your dissatisfying relationships is you."

The really bad thing about this is that the other-blamers can get massively poisonous in their efforts to maintain their self-lies; they'll hurt, slander, and destroy the people who quibble with their self-assessment, and do everything in their power to drive out the people who won't kow-tow to their vision of themselves.  They surround themselves with people who will agree with anything they say, and they turn those people against their "enemies" (i.e., the people who see them for what they really are).  They cause a great deal of strife and anguish, because most people will go along with them for the sake of "not hurting anyone's feelings!", and the dissenting members of the group will be ostracized and demonized - all for the sake of maintaining a lie.

Eventually, they drive everyone away, because they cannot maintain the lie, but in the meantime, they've caused a huge amount of damage.  Being aware of the damage these people can cause, and refusing to take false responsibility for their attacks is hard, but it allows for a certain measure of the peace that comes with knowing that no matter what that person says, you are not at fault for what happens.

I've watched people implode their SCA careers through being absolutely blind to the havoc they cause with their other-blame and self lies.  I've had people come whining to me that they don't understand why they're not getting what they want, or why people are mad at them, and they had no idea that they were the root cause of all their problems. I've dealt with the fallout from any number of these explosions, as they hurt my friends and acquaintances.  My own journey towards my personal truth has allowed me to see these people for what they are, but even my best efforts at helping them towards real success and away from their negative behaviour sometimes fails in the face of their self-lies.

(...and I have to constantly consider whether I have the right or the authority to speak out, which is why I do so very seldom, and only in the face of direct demand.  I'm not in the business of walking up to random people and pwning them for other people's satistfaction.)

I'll keep trying; the cost to the SCA as well as the more personal cost to my friends is too great for me to give up.  But I wonder sometimes what service we think we are doing to the rest of the SCA to allow other-blamers to continue to wreak their personal brand of havoc on everyone around them.  I wonder why we keep behaving like the needs of the loud one outweigh the needs of the quiet many.

(... and sometimes we don't; I've seen instances where the advice of peers has been strong enough to help the sitting Royalty make decisions about people that are not obviously other-blamers, but could cause great harm if elevated to a particular level.)

Everyone tells themselves little lies - it's how we get through rough patches.  But the essential truth of every situation needs to be acknowledged if we are to reach our goals and improve personally and as a Society.  It's okay to be a screw-up - we're all screw-ups in one way or another, and no-one's perfect.  It's really, really okay...

...as long as we learn from our mistakes - or at the very least, learn not to trust assholes who will throw us under the bus rather than admit they screwed up.
 

Comments

( 54 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
judithsewstoo
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
I know I for one appreciate when you go into your "deep thoughts' mode. At such times (and others) you give me plenty of food for thought and self-reflection.

"I hope to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am." ;)
attack_laurel
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :) Having no dog to live up to, I have to rely on Bob, who has been a patient and wonderful "therapist" for all my musings. We have long conversations in the car.
evil_fionn
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I wonder whether or not the SCA population in general contains more or less people of the Borderline or narcissistic personality types than the general population... Or if we as a group just give them more permission than Society as a whole to act out.
attack_laurel
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
I think it's the latter; general society tends to exclude chronic narcissistic personalities, and they are not usually given a forum other than their close friends and family to abuse. In the SCA, we tend to put them in office, and fail to remove them when they start acting out. :(
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pirategirleee
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
I've given my own nickname to "loud other blamers," in the SCA. I call them "repeat offenders." Some are more grevious than others. Some I ponder on why they won't go away. *sigh*

Anyhoo, I am sorry I didn't catch up with you at 12th night. I got to site late (around 1pm) and was in the kitchen virtually all day. I did see you after (2nd?) court but you appeared to be having a serious conversation so I didn't want to interupt you (and I had to get back to the kitchen). I'll most likely be coming to University. Could you bring my necklace?...if you're coming to University of course. :)

Edited at 2009-01-12 02:36 pm (UTC)
attack_laurel
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
How about you e-mail me your address and I'll send it to you? I'm not sure which events I'm going to yet. If it doesn't fit (i.e., we lost more beads than we thought), get it back to me, and I'll fix it. I'm so sorry for the delay.
(no subject) - pirategirleee - Jan. 12th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
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maricelt
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
This is a very timely and potent piece of thinking. Thank you, you've given me something to ruminate on. Now pass the ketchup, please. :>
attack_laurel
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
Mmmmmmmmm, ketchup. I love condiments. :)
gwacie
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
Good post with a lot of food for thought. Really it is hard to see yourself objectively and I like that you put both the self-blamers and other-blamers at fault.

I recall someone saying once about an award recommendation "But she really wants it!" as a reason to write the lady in; and I replied "yes, she's made sure everyone knows she really wants it, but you know what? I'll bet Lord So-and-So who hasn't said a peep wants it just as badly as she does." I've seen folks advance because they "Really wanted" the award... and often they're not happy when they get what they want. Because what they really wanted wasn't the award, it was the respect and influence which are much harder to earn.

Just a thought, or ramble. I really shouldn't post before my coffee ;)
attack_laurel
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
Respect and influence is all they want, not really the award at all, just what they think it wil get them. Unfortunately (or fortunately), earning respect is one of the few things you cannot short-cut.

People want to be big fish in the big pond, and can't figure out that instead of being the respected and admired people they think they should be, they're just being assholes. Respect is frequently earned by knowing when to keep your mouth shut. :)
(no subject) - gwacie - Jan. 12th, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
reasdream
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
Interesting post, and food for thought (if only my brain would work!). Especially the part about how, as a Society (and with a small s, too) we stay quiet rather than "cause trouble".

Are you planning to write about the people who innately apologize for everything? (just wondering, becuase I am one. does it have to do wtih my birth order? ;D )
attack_laurel
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
You'd be showing the traits of a first-born - needing to take responsibility for everything. :)

You know, people get on my case for saying "I'm sorry" all the time; for my family it's not an admission of guilt, it's an expression of sympathy. ...or a synonym for "I did not hear what you just said; could you repeat it, please?". :)
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I'm Sorry - that is, I mean . . . - donal_mac_r - Jan. 12th, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I'm Sorry - that is, I mean . . . - standgale - Jan. 12th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
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eggies_red_dres
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
Your posts always have wonderfully cross pollinating themes that can just about go anywhere or do anything. Human nature is an interesting beast, and your approach in a post like this is a page turner. Bravo.
(Deleted comment)
perilousknits
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
On birth order -- This sounds fascinating. I must do more research!

I was the youngest, with a big age gap between me and my only sibling. Then our parents divorced and each adult took one child . . . so I was an only child for a while. Then my mother re-married and I had three older step-siblings, but due to family conflicts I became the mediator and calming influence on the other kids. So I have no idea what "birth order" to claim. I'm burning with curiosity into the psychological ramifications of all that sibling-shuffling.
elasait
Jan. 13th, 2009 12:14 pm (UTC)
"As a nation, you seem terribly uncomfortable with grey areas, and the idea that the world is nothing but shades of grey seems to be rather upsetting."

This tendency drives me bananas! And I was born, raised, and still live in the heart of the Midwest.
firenzekat
Jan. 14th, 2009 03:54 am (UTC)
Thanks for that!

You said:
"The really bad thing about this is that the other-blamers can get massively poisonous in their efforts to maintain their self-lies; they'll hurt, slander, and destroy the people who quibble with their self-assessment, (SNIP)They surround themselves with people who will agree with anything they say, and they turn those people against their "enemies""

arrgghh... and people believe them!!!!
Yes, and I have nearly left the SCA (twice) because of people like this - the politics, the crap! But I eventually realised it is their problem, not mine!

I found the worst part was, when trying to talk to these people about such things (when appropriate), was the reply with the phrase "you are being discourteous by calling me discourteous"

This is the snag, in the SCA. We have procedures for dealing with difficult individuals that, even when followed and painstakingly trying to be proper, polite and SCA-courteous about it, 'you' are the one who cops the flack for even mentioning it in the first place!!!!!
huh???
...and these destructive people continue on their merry way to making everyone's life uncomfortable at the minimum and sometimes much worse...

This year, I have vowed to avoid these people and try (reallly hard) not to be caught up in their games.

Unfortunately, like society in general and other 'clubs', there is always a group of people like this - making others feel bad to make themselves feel better.

This year, I have vowed to avoid these people and try (reallly hard) not to be caught up in their games.

But there are definately some really lovely people - those gems who are the epitome of courtesy and niceness, generous to a fault. I know a few and they make the SCA so worth while.

It is a pity that more can't at least try to look at themselves and try to modify their behaviour... (another thing I am endevouring to try to do this year)...
sigh.

Thanks again for your comments.
( 54 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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