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Ep #36: Blame vs. Responsibility

Today, we’re looking into an extremely important topic – the difference between blame and responsibility. As we already established in a number of previous shows, all feelings are always self-generated. Coming back to the topic of emotional childhood and emotional adulthood, many of us believe that our feelings are caused by other people. When we blame someone else for how we feel, we are not taking responsibility for our own feelings and emotions. This process can feel extremely disempowering and even cause us agony and suffering.

Join us to learn why you should stop giving other people credit for your emotional life and take that power back. Discover how you can completely take your life into your own hands by taking responsibility for your thoughts and your choices.

Grab your copy of our new Wisdom From The Life Coach School Podcast book. It covers a decade worth of research, on life-changing topics from the podcast, distilled into only 200 pages. It's the truest shortcut to self-development we have ever created!

Listen to the show

What You will discover

  • The reason we think that other people make us feel a certain way.
  • Why you should take responsibility for your own actions instead of blaming yourself.
  • The benefits of taking responsibility.
  • The adverse effects of blaming yourself and/or others.
  • Empowering questions to ask yourself.

Get the Full Episode Transcript:

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Episode Transcript:

Welcome to the Life Coach School Podcast, where it's all about real clients, real problems, and real coaching. And now your host, master coach instructor Brooke Castillo.

Hey, what's up everyone? Welcome to episode 36. Check it out. This is going to be an amazing episode. We are going to talk about the difference between blame and responsibility. Huge topic. Hey, when is the last time you went over to my website and left me a comment. I am missing you there. Go there, leave me a comment. Let's talk. Let's chat together.

Let's get started. What is the difference between blame and responsibility? I got this topic because I was coaching someone recently and I was teaching her the difference. I was trying to teach her the difference between taking responsibility for something vs. blaming for something. Now there's two ways this works. In one instance we blame other people. In another instance we blame ourselves. It gets a little tricky. If we're going to take responsibility, how is that different from not blaming ourselves? It's a huge difference, and in fact, they're on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Taking responsibility for how we feel, for what we do, for what we think, for the results we get in our life, is the opposite of blaming.

Here's how you know the difference. The main difference is in how you feel. That's how you know if you're taking responsibility or if you're blaming. I want to talk first about how this affects relationships with other people. First and foremost I want to remind you that feelings are always self-generated, always. It's easy to remember this when we're coaching someone else. It's easy to remember this when we're looking at someone else. But when we are feeling crappy or we're feeling upset or we're feeling hurt, that's when it's really difficult to remember that all feelings are always self-generated. We believe our feelings or caused by other people. It's never the case. Other people can't cause us to feel anything.

When we blame someone else for how we feel we are not taking responsibility for how we feel. We've talked about this a lot before. It's the difference between emotional childhood and emotional adulthood. But, if you think about it, if you want to get really clear on it, when you say that person made me angry; that person hurt my feelings; that person caused me to have a bad day; that person frustrates me ... How many of us say that all the time? We all do. We all blame other people for how we feel. But what we're doing is we're basically saying no, that feeling wasn't self-generated. That feeling was caused by this person. We're giving that person for our emotional life. we are delegating responsibility to them as if they are responsible for how we feel.

Now here's the good news: no one is that powerful. Nobody can generate a feeling for us. That is something only we can do. When you're blaming someone you're holding them accountable. You're giving them credit for a feeling that you're having, an experience that you're having, a problem that you're having. When you do that you completely disempower yourself. You completely lose your ability to respond. Response, ability. When you blame you give it all to them. If they are the cause of how you feel then they'll be the cause of you not feeling that way, so then they have to take some action or do something in order to change how you feel.

Now most of us when we think someone's hurt our feelings do not want to have to rely on them to feel better, and yet that's what most of us do. We delegate our emotional life to them and we want them to change it. No matter what someone does, when we take responsibility for how we feel about it, then we are empowered to feel better, to feel different. We are empowered to respond the way we want to respond without feeling out of control and without being reactive.

Now, some people will say to me in that moment it sure doesn't seem like I have the ability. I can relate to that. There are times when I snap at people or I get frustrated and I blame the other person. I say "You're bugging me. You're frustrating me. You're driving me crazy." But that's never true. It really seems true though, doesn't it? But it really is never true. No one can drive you crazy.

I have a really good girlfriend of mine. Her name's Lisa and she has an amazing husband, Jim. Jim likes to whistle and he whistles all the time. Whistling makes me crazy. Nobody should be whistling. I don't like whistling; I don't want you whistling, especially when we're playing cards. Trying to focus here. Why are you whistling? What fascinates me is he will whistle away and his wife, who lives with him, who is sitting right next to him in this card game, is completely unaffected by the whistling. I do not understand it. The whistling needs to stop immediately.

It's such a great example because it's the same thing happening, the whistling. To Lisa it's totally fine. It doesn't bother her at all. It's great. To me, it's crazy. What's the difference? My thinking about it. Her thinking about the whistling is oh, it's nice. It's not a problem. It's great. I don't really notice it.

For me, it's like I need you to stop immediately. I can't stand the whistling. I am responsible for being annoyed. he's not responsible for me being annoyed because then he'd also be responsible for her not being annoyed. You see how that works? I have to take responsibility for my own annoyance. Now, if I'm blaming him I might be like "Jim, really with the whistling? Could you please stop the whistling? It's really annoying." I have made it all about the whistling is annoying in and of itself.

Or, if I take responsibility for being annoyed I may not say anything or I may say "Hey, would you please mind not whistling if it's the same to you because I have some thoughts about it." That would be fine. But I'm coming from a place of I'm responsible for how I feel about this. I know I'm the one causing this for myself. I can come from a place of non-annoyance actually to ask him to stop. Or I can just change my thoughts about it, which I've been able to do. I'm fascinated to sit down with him and do this now because I can see how my thoughts start triggering me and I think that it's him. Then I feel so disempowered by it and then it makes me crazy. It's so funny to watch my own brain do that to myself.

It's true with bigger things, like if someone yells at you, if someone forgets your birthday, if somebody tells you something you don't want to hear, if one of your kids says something rude. whatever. You get to decide how you're going to feel about it. You can either think it's no big deal or you can think oh my gosh, we can never be friends again. Think about that. Are you blaming someone for how you feel? Are you blaming someone for what you're doing? Are you blaming someone for the way you're reacting, for how you're letting yourself behave? I had a bad day. Blaming the people in your life. Blaming your boss for anyone of your thoughts, feelings, or actions. That is blaming.

The way that you know that you're blaming is it feels negative. You will notice that you feel disempowered and weak and hopeless and out of control. That's how you know when you're blaming. Blaming is never useful. All it does is gives your power away. It gives credit to something that isn't responsible. It's like when people say "When it is raining outside I always feel miserable," as if the weather is responsible for how that person feels. That person is responsible for how they feel. When the sun comes out, when any of the thoughts about it are what are going to determine it, the associations with it are what is going to determine it. For most normal people that is the case.

Now let's talk a little bit about blame vs. responsibility when it comes to our selves. What's the difference between blaming ourselves for overeating, blaming ourselves for overspending, blaming ourselves for getting in the fight with the husband vs. taking responsibility for it? Blaming is I'm beating you up. I'm telling you that it's your fault and you're stupid and you didn't do it right. It's always negative. Blame is always painful. When someone blames you for something you can associate that. It's usually a negative experience.

Now when you take responsibility for it notice immediately how empowered you feel. It's so empowering to take responsibility, even for something that you wish you hadn't done. I chose to eat a box of Oreos vs. how dare you, what's wrong with you, you're so out of control. That's blame. I chose to do it. I feel upset because of what I'm thinking. God, I can't even tell you how many times a day I tell myself that. The reason you feel this way is because of a thought you're thinking. That is the ultimate in responsibility. I'm taking responsibility for how I feel. I'm describing to myself why I'm feeling that way. I'm owning that it's a thought in my brain, and it gives me so much empowerment to be able to change if I want. It's just one thought away vs. beating myself up and blaming myself for it and making myself wrong.

If you are working on a relationship with somebody and you want your relationship to better, you can blame them for how you feel, you can blame yourself for how you feel, or you can take responsibility for it. The beauty of taking responsibility is then you start to make the change you want to make. Blame leads to no action because it's completely disempowering. You're beating yourself up. You're beating the other person up, whether it's mentally or verbally. If you do a full model on blame you will notice that all it does is disempower you. All it does is lead you with not wanting to take any action; whereas when you take responsibility and you own something, then you develop an authority over it. That's when you begin to make the change that you want to make in the relationship.

Now, when you own all of those parts of you, when you own the part of you that snapped at someone ... Here's the difference. I'll say "Oh, the reason I snapped at my mom is because she was being rude" vs. "The reason I snapped at my mom is because I didn't manage my emotional life there. I was in emotional childhood. I didn't take control over my mind and find a more peaceful place. I reacted. I snapped. That's on me. She didn't make me do that. She's not responsible for what I do. I am. I'm the reason I snapped at my mom. My mom is not the reason that I snapped at her."

I may not be able to change what my mom did but I can definitely change that I snapped at her, because that's what's upsetting me. Now if I blame her the only way I can stop snapping is if she changes. But the truth is I can stop snapping even without her changing. I have the ability, response ability, I have the ability to respond the way I want when I take responsibility for how I'm thinking about something, for how I'm feeling about something, and for how I'm acting towards someone.

Here's the thing. You get to decide in every situation how you want to feel. It's so powerful because if you feel upset about something you can own it. It doesn't mean you have to change how you're going to feel. Maybe you want to be upset about something. That's valid, but wanting to be upset and taking responsibility for feeling upset is very different than blaming someone else for being upset. If my husband comes in here and he says "How are you feeling?" and I'll say "I'm upset." "Why are you upset?" "She did this, that, this, that, this, that; and that made me mad." I'm going to be totally disempowered.

I'm not saying this just didn't happen to me yesterday. I'm not saying that at all. I'm not saying that allegedly there was a situation where I was very angry and blaming someone else. I told this situation to my husband and I said "Doesn't that make you so mad?" He's like "Not at all. It's really not a big deal." I'm like "Listen to me, buddy. We're going to be upset about this. This situation is upsetting." It really showed me he wasn't upset about it at all. He really didn't think it was a big deal at all. He was enjoying his day. He wasn't angry at all. He wasn't willing to even entertain the fact that he should be angry about this. He completely let it go, and it was really fascinating.

Now I'm not saying that I immediately switched it off, because I didn't. I was really indulging in anger and really trying to control this other person and get this person to do something differently because I was feeling angry. I was in a hurry. That's how I knew. I was in a hurry to talk to this person and change how they felt and change what they did so I could feel better.

Now this person did not change how they felt. We eventually had to agree to disagree, because I was defiant and they were defiant. At the end of the day it's so fascinating because I could have handled the whole situation so much better had I not been so angry and so disempowered in my reaction. Then I behaved in a way that I wasn't proud of. What was funny is the whole reason I was angry is because someone else wasn't behaving in a way that I felt proud of. I ended up creating that exact situation for myself.

Ask yourself when you're in situations, when you're working on relationships: Am I in blame? Am in self blame, or am I in responsibility? The way that you know the answer is by how you feel. Do you feel disempowered or do you feel empowered? Now, sometimes taking responsibility for a mistake you've made can be humbling, but it will also feel empowering. Owning your mistakes, owning your misgivings, owning things that you did that you're not proud of, doesn't always feel like rainbows and daisies; but if you take responsibility for it and own it, it feels like empowerment. It doesn't feel like hopelessness or out of control or rage. It feels likes yes, that's me. I did that. I own it and it's okay. I can move on from it. Self-blame is you did this. You're wrong. You should be ashamed. You're awful. What's wrong with you? Can't you get your act together? That's blame.

If you can shift in your life to taking responsibility for all of your mistakes, for anything you do wrong, in your own mind owning it all, owning all of your actions, owning all of your results, owning all of your feelings, you're not going to feel happy all the time but you will not feel disempowered. You will not feel out of control. From there you can make the most change in your life. When you retain your response ability, that's when you can change your life.

I would love to hear for you guys how you have identified the difference between blame, self-blame, and self-responsibility, and how you distinguished it in your relationships with yourself and with the people in your life that you love - and especially the people in your life that you don't necessarily love. I'd love to hear all about it. All right, everybody. I'll talk to you next week. Take care. Bye bye.
Speaker 2: thank you for listening to the Life Coach School Podcast. It would be incredibly awesome if you would take a moment to write a quick review on iTunes. For any questions, comments, or coaching issues you would like to hear on the show, please visit us at www.thelifecoachschool.com.

22 Comments

  1. Just a quick note to let you I’ve listened to all your podcasts (many more than once) and I’m grateful that you offer these free. You explain things very well and I appreciate your style. You are adding good to the world and to me.

  2. Thank you so much for your podcasts. I have had so many a-ha moments! One thing I am struggling with is the constant fight against where my mind wants to go–to thoughts of negativity and to automatically comfort myself by eating. I am so grateful that I am more aware of what is happening, but the constant battle with my mind to halt the negative thoughts is exhausting! I would love any thoughts you and others have about being more patient with the process, and if this does get easier with time. Thank you again for all you do!!!

    1. Hey Melissa,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment here.

      Negative thoughts are going to happen no matter how much you learn about this. You have the opportunity to greet them or be upset over them. If you are upset, then you just add more negativity. Pay attention to this.

      There is no need to “halt” negative thinking.. Thoughts happen.

      And notice how able you are to feel negative emotion without eating. This capability will change you life.

      B

  3. you are such an inspiration/i cant get enough of your teachings it’s so simple , why havent i done this on my own
    keep on with your bad self, brooke
    we will absolutely cross paths one day, it’s just an awesome feeling i have about you
    happy new year 2015

  4. Hey Brooke,

    I’ve listened to every one of your excellent podcasts since its inception this past summer, and this is my first time contacting you with a question. My question regards a concept that you had brought up in episode 36 of your podcast, Blame versus Responsibility. The idea concerned how we know that we’ve placed blame on others if we feel bad, and empowered if we’ve taken responsibility.

    Just recently, I sent an e-mail to an ex of mine, and it concerned a lot of our past. It was a response to a work related e-mail wherein I explicitly brought up the past to justify why I couldn’t know him personally anymore, and where I said goodbye. I felt like I did the right thing when I sent it, and at first felt empowered, but have since then felt guilty as though I have done something wrong. I think it’s important to established boundaries with people who have hurt you, verbally abused, or harassed you.

    My question is this: Is it possible to feel guilty, but have done the right thing? I ask because in your podcasts, you’re an advocate for listening to ones feelings for the answers. I’m eagerly awaiting to see what your thoughts are on this topic.

    Thanks for your excellent podcasts! I listen to them weekly.

    1. HI Jay,

      What a great question!

      Let’s remember…

      All of our thoughts cause all of our feelings.

      So you don’t feel guilty for sending the email, you feel guilty because of what you are thinking about sending the email.

      You are having a thought: I have done something wrong.

      This thought is increasing your feelings of guilt.

      So explore why you are choosing to think that thought and you will be much more aware of whether you THINK you did the right thing or not.

      Brooke

  5. Hi Brooke,
    Absolutely love your podcasts. I have an issue that I’m wrestling with on blame and responsibility. I’m going through a divorce and I’m definitely feeling all kinds of feelings spanning from anger to depression to victimness (not sure that’s a word). I recently discovered that my soon to be ex has been hanging out with a very good friend of mine quite a bit. I share some very intimate things about my divorce with this friend and I was extremely hurt to hear that she has been having drinks and doing stuff with my ex. (we just started the divorce process so I’m feeling very fragile). I mentioned to my friend that I had heard she had gone out with him and she said she was just trying to stay neutral. However, I view a close friendship where I confide in her about my ex to be kind of sacred. I want to establish a boundary about my own friendship. I know I can’t control their actions but I can certainly control how I feel about our relationship. I feel like I need to tell her how I feel but in a way that states my feelings plainly and not blaming her for them. Advice?
    Thank you
    Heather

    1. Heather,

      You aren’t in a place to talk to her yet. Here’s why: Your goal is for her to stop going out with your ex. You are trying to control her behavior. This is not a boundary.

      Curious why she would want to stay neutral? I might ask her why that is important to her.

      A boundary you might set with her is the unspoken one of you not communicating any personal information about your divorce with her if she continues to go out with him.

      A boundary is about your behavior not hers.

      You have to take responsibility for how you feel about her going out with him. You can ask her to stop, but just don’t hang your emotional life on whether she does or not. Make sense?

      B

  6. Hey Brook, I love your podcasts! I am curious about how to handle a situation in which you blame yourself. For instance, a girlfriend of mine is going through a divorce and she blames herself for all the struggle it has caused the kids. I do not see how telling her to just take responsibility for her wanting a divorce will help. I must be missing something. Can you add some insight?
    Thank you!

  7. I have just started your podcasts and they are awesome, really more than awesome but i wont go into that right now. Through my life, im 27, I have thought being female was always a little more challenging dealing with emotions because of hormones. Since your podcasts I have been questioning whether or not they were just an excuse. I thought I would listen some more thinking you might touch on it but over the past few weeks changing my mindset I have noticed a huge difference in my moods. Don’t get me wrong anyone can tell you I am a pretty happy person but I do have my downs and just don’t care to show it but they are there. I feel now listening to this podcasts that most of the time when i want to “blame” my hormones its not really my hormones its me not taking responsibility for my actions. I have been for a few years trying to find ways to “manage” my hormones and I got to the point where I think something is physically messed up in me. Over the past 5 years I have changed my lifestyle for the better and loving every minute of it. I am plant based, drink tea, do yoga and meditate, seeing results for sure but now noticing a big difference, after listening to your podcasts, by just changing my thoughts. What are your thoughts on hormone imbalance?

  8. Hi Brooke,
    I cannot thank you enough for all of the insight your podcasts have shown me in the last several weeks. I started from episode 1 and have just devoured every episode. Some more than once. I have been taking an inventory of my life and have been applying the model on almost a daily basis. I can almost feel my brain shifting and changing to the many concepts and ideas I have learned. I have recently been playing these podcasts in the car with my 13 yr old son listening. He has had many issues and challenges since an early age socially. He has Asperger’s and his pre-teen years have been rough. I will pause your podcast and he and I will have some really nice conversations regarding the various topics. I am looking forward to listening to many more podcasts in the near future.
    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Kim, Glad you found Brooke’s podcast and are enjoying it! Thank you for the feedback. Brooke appreciates it. –Rebekah

  9. This is perfect!!! I rediscovered your work a few weeks ago and reread Self Coaching 101. Then life happened and one night I was feeling upset with my husband so instead of seething and stuffing, I shared what I was feeling. He did not take it well. While I was taking a walk with my dog I said out loud “Hello! You are not taking 100% responsibility for how you feel based on what you were thinking!! Duh! Brooke gave you the model to use, not to just read about”

    So…..I shared my aha moment with my husband and it was great. What would have been a 3 day silence fest in my house just dissipated the negativity in one day. And the bonus – when he shared that he was pissed at me and his thoughts that led to that feeling I knew that was 100% his responsibility. I didn’t need to argue, defend or correct anything he was thinking. What a game changer!!

    Love you Brooke!
    Dawn

    1. Hi Dawn, Glad to hear her podcast has been helping you. Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback. Brooke appreciates it! –Rebekah

  10. Hi Brooke. Thank you so much. I am really having my eyes opened and loving you podcasts. But there is something that I’m really struggling with and hope you can help my.
    For years my disabled teenage daughter was in a special needs swimming club. I was on the committee and very involved in supporting this club and had though I had a great support system and friendships. There were some issues with the management of the club bullying people out , I’m not proud to say , I had turned a blind eye for some time until it happened to someone close to me and I stood up and said something against it which in the end resulted in me and my family receiving the same treatment to a point that we felt we had to leave. We were devastated. Although we are now in much better and more professional club we still have to see these people as swimming events regularly. We have considered taking her out of swimming as these events we attend are now something we dread. But I don’t see why she should miss out something that is her only lifeline. My stomach churns on seeing them and am filled with resentment and anger. I would love to be able to move on and feel nothing how wonderful would it be to be able to actually look back and appreciate all they once did for my daughter. I have listened to so many of your podcasts about forgiveness, acceptance, victim mentality, toxic people etc and tried to do the model on this issue many times. I agree with everything you say and am trying to work on my thoughts around these people but am really struggling to overcome these feelings as I feel they are justified. I am generally a positive person and don’t understand why I can’t just get over this. Any advice from you would be wonderful Brooke as you always make so much sense.

    P.S. I would love to come and do sessions with you but I am in Scotland. So. It really ideal. Lol x

  11. I just had to share with you that last weekend we attended a swimming Gala. I had been doing the
    Model, asking myself why was I thinking this way, and even though I dont really have all the answers to the questions I ask myself yet I was able to be around these people without my stomach churning and feeling the need to give them evil looks and talk about the wrong they did me to anyone who would listen. I even managed a sival conversation with one of them. It was so freeing. Thanks you so Much. What a huge shift to realise it is me that has been creating all this drama in my head.

    I am now trying to apply this to other parts of
    My life. Love your work Brooke x

    1. Thank you for sharing, Suzanne! Brooke appreciates it. Glad to hear her podcast has been helping you during this time in your life. –Brecklyn

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