Depending on our character, we may become more quiet around loud people; or we may become louder. We may become pushy around people who are offering us resistance and we may become resistant around pushy people. We may become needy around independent people and we become more independent around needy people. Yet all the time we are the same person. We are playing out different roles in reaction and response to others. Others, in turn, respond to our response to them. We are in a constant dance with each other. Yet, we may be blaming people for behaviour which is really their reaction to our behaviour. If we become pushy around resistant people they may judge us as ‘pushy’ even if we are not normally that way. When we become pushy they may become resistant even if they are not normally that way. Sometimes this becomes obvious and we change our behaviour towards someone, but we are busy blaming them we may not notice that we have gone to an extreme in our own attitude and behaviour. If we feel we want to blame someone, they might be in reaction to this without us even saying a word as they may pick up on our attitude towards them from our body language and from what we do not say.
I had two bosses at work and whereas one was a bit cautious; the other was all go-go. Both of them went out to a meeting with an important client about a large project we were proposing to do for them. When they got back I asked the two bosses separately how it went. The go-go one said, “It went great. They really liked our ideas. We will be doing lots for them…”, and so on. I then went and talked to the cautious one about how the meeting went and he said, “Oh, there’s big problems….”.
It first it seemed obvious that they had different experience of the same meeting because one was an optimist and the other was a pessimist. However, one day I was having a personal chat the cautious one and he told me that he was really fed up playing what he felt was a ‘negative’ role in the company. He told me he felt that if he did not present the other side of the picture the go-go one would lose touch with reality and the company would make unrealistic commitments. I suggested that they were doing some kind of unconscious balancing act (the Balance Dance as I like to call it) and that if he went the other way, and presented the upside of things, the go-go one would have to balance him out and present the downside of things for a change. As I left he looked like he was pondering that idea.
When they returned from the next meeting with the client I asked them when they were together how it went. The normally cautious one said, “It went really well. They are such a good client and they really want to work with us…” – then the normally go-go one butted in – “Wait a minute. Let’s not get carried away here. There are problems we need to overcome…”. I nearly fell off my chair in surprise about how well that worked. I knew that they each had both been blaming each other for the roles which they played. Yet, it was their own imbalance (as the go-go one had thought the other ‘too negative’) which helped keep the other in their role.
We may be tempted to become more extreme than we normally feel in order to ‘teach’ people when we really need to learn something ourselves. I have two friends who are particularly active politically. One is a bit right wing in his politics; the other is a bit left wing in his politics. When I talk to them they are moderate and sensible people without any extreme views. When they talk to each other it is a different story. Within a few minutes of getting into a discussion on politics one sounds like a fanatical left winger and the other sounds like a fanatical right winger – and there is no compromise between them as they get into reaction with each other. The more extreme one gets the more extreme the other gets and so on. This dynamic plays it out in many ways with the people on each side blaming and judging the other, and going to extremes to try and make their point. It would be more fruitful to wonder about what we can learn from the other rather judging and blaming them and pushing our own views to extremes to make a point.
Life is a mirror. Who do we blame if we don’t like what we see in the mirror? Of course it best not to blame anyone including ourselves. If we find ourselves wanting to blame someone, or being blamed by someone, we could try taking a step back from the situation and see if there is some kind of Balance Dance going on. We can look to see if we are being blamed for behaviour which is actually us in reacting to behaviour or attitudes we see in them. If so we can look to find a better way to get our message across. We can look to see if behaviour we don’t like in someone else has to do with them reacting to behaviour or attitudes which they see in us. If we show lack of commitment in a relationship the other person may feel it and show lack of commitment too. Instead of blaming them for their lack of commitment we could make a stronger commitment – if it is a relationship we really want – rather than blaming them. Even if it still does not work out we will be stronger as we moved from a willingness to grow and learn rather than just being stuck on blaming.
It is not hard to see that releasing blame opens us in ways which would make it more easy to be forgiving. The more we can let go of our tendency to blame the more easily forgiving will come to us. Focussing on learning and growing instead of blaming creates a spaciousness and positivity where healthy thoughts and feelings can become established. We are then focussed on that which is life enhancing and life giving.
1. Can you see where letting go of blame would make it easier to forgive? Can you think of a particular situation where this would be useful?
2. Can you see any situations in which you may be in a Balance Dance with someone where you are unconsciously trying to balance each other out?