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The MythoSelf Experience

The Effects of Blame and Self-Responsibility on Making Decisions

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Sometimes the decisions we make turn out not to be so great. Maybe we put off the decision until it was too late to take the right course of action, or maybe we just didn't have a clear idea of what we were going for when we made the decision. Whatever the case, we might apologize profusely for having made a poor decision. We might blame ourselves for our decision and its negative consequences. We might think, in turn, that blaming ourselves for our failures is a mature course of action, that it somehow ensures that "justice is done", or that it will inspire us to do better in the future.

But in fact, blaming ourselves is part of a negative cycle of thinking that often leads to our making bad decisions in the first place. When we blame ourselves, what we're really saying to ourselves is this: "Everything went wrong because of me. Somehow I was wrong in the choice I made. But I'll avoid doing that the next time."

If this is just rhetoric, then we're already in a bad position, because accepting blame for something with words alone doesn't give us any motivation for making better decisions the next time. At best, we'll have some idea, phrased in negative terms, that we'll avoid bad decisions in the future. But if we really, sincerely blame ourselves, then we're causing ourselves still worse trouble down the line, and effectively sabotaging our ability to be responsible for situations.

This ability to sabotage ourselves can be explained through neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). A fundamental assumption of NLP is that our perception of reality comes to us through a series of internal filters that act in numerous ways on the information given to us by our five senses. The most important of these filters are the neuro-linguistic structures that form based on the way we phrase the facts we know about the world. If our statements about the world are phrased poorly - even if they're literally "true" - then our perceptions of the world can be adversely affected.

Specifically, if we blame ourselves for our problems, we're making one very dangerous statement: I was wrong. The first dangerous statement isn't literally false: we were wrong in making our decision. But instead of elaborating on how and why we were wrong - instead of thinking in concrete terms - we simply think that we were wrong, and leave it at that. The result is that the disconnected quality of "wrongness" is now attached, in our mind, to our very sense of identity. And since we don't have any specific context for the quality, whenever our mind processes information about future decisions that need to be made, we filter all of that information through the idea, however faint, that we're fundamentally wrong in some way. This erodes our confidence and gives us a very easy excuse for not thinking about our decisions in the future - an excuse that some of us, traveling the easy road, may take to heart.

Blame, by its nature, directs our attention away from the outcome of our decisions and onto ourselves. When we blame ourselves for a bad decision, we not only do damage to our own sense of self-worth - one of our most important qualities - but we give ourselves an easy way out of actually thinking about our decisions. And if we're not thinking about the consequences of our decisions, past and future, we're not being responsible for them. We have no way of ensuring whether our decisions will go well or poorly in the future.

In order to make our decisions go well, we need to be responsible for them. This shouldn't be confused with accepting blame for our bad decisions (or even with accepting praise for our good decisions.) When we accept blame for a bad decision, we say "I was wrong." When we accept responsibility for a bad decision, we say "My thinking about the decision was wrong. And here's why." Instead of programming our minds with self-doubt, we think about the decision, assess why it was wrong, and set ourselves the positively-expressed goal of making the next decision a successful one.

Self-responsibility goes hand in hand with the NLP concept of a well-formed intention. A well-formed intention is positively expressed, concrete in nature, and has clear conditions for success or failure. If all of our goals are well-formed intentions, then we have a clear target at which to aim, instead of a sense of dread about what we need to avoid. And, importantly, we're not programming ourselves with negative systems of belief. Paradoxically, a sense of self-responsibility precludes our looking at ourselves at all. Instead of looking inward - and thus not at the possible outcome of our decisions - we look outward, at a problem that we've set ourselves the task of solving.

When it comes to decision-making, the difference between blame and self-responsibility is the difference between negative and positive, and often the difference between success and failure. If we blame ourselves, we start ourselves down a chain of negative thinking that leads, often, to negative outcomes. But if we take responsibility for our decisions, we give ourselves a clear, outward path to follow, and more importantly: we give ourselves a real chance of success.

Generative NLP are a refreshingly plain spoken resource and training centre for the MythoSelf® Process that is based in South West London and was founded in 2001 by Charles Moore who is one of only a handful of people who has the privilege of being in a close mentoring relationship with the models creator, Joseph Riggio Ph.D. from the beginning. 

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