In this breakthrough book Dr. Carl Alasko takes apart the emotional stealth disease that destroys trust and happiness in every area of life: dating, marriage, parenting, friendship and work. Nothing is exempt from this hidden plague, including your financial security.
BLAME ALWAYS MAKES THINGS WORSE. Blame always creates resentment and anger, it inspires retribution and retaliation, it causes anxiety and pain. Blame pushes people away from finding solutions to their problems.
Blame is always destructive.
In my previous book, Emotional Bullshit, I focused on three of our most common interpersonal dynamics: denial, delusion and blame. I called them the Toxic Trio because they work together to deny reality, create an alternate delusional condition, and then allow us to blame someone else when things fall apart. Of these three dynamics, blame is the most confusing—and also the most damaging. For these reasons, blame requires its own book.
Why do we need a book entirely on blame? Because blame has seeped so deeply into how we think and how we communicate that we use it unconsciously, without realizing its destructiveness. We use it constantly because we grew up with it, and it's everywhere—it permeates our thoughts, ideas, beliefs and attitudes. But mostly we use it because we are unaware of how blame damages our relationships.
Most of us assume that blame fulfills an essential role in relationships. If we can't criticize or accuse people, how can we get them to correct mistakes, to change bad behaviors? But the problem is that whenever people are blamed, it always feels bad. When you're told that you're responsible for someone else's behavior or feelings, it feels wrong. When you're criticized for making a mistake, or accused of being wrong, inevitably you feel resentment. And if you’re the one who's using blame, you still end up feeling bad because your connection to the other person has been damaged.
This book will change all that. You will learn that you won't ever need toemploy blame's destructive arsenal.
This may sound revolutionary—if not impossible. It is revolutionary. Yet it's entirely possible and practical.
This book is based on the following components of blame:
• Blame means finding fault by criticizing, accusing and shifting responsibility.
• Peopleare hard-wired to use blame when they feel frustrated, want something and/or want to vent a feeling.
• Using blame always makes things worse.
• Blame can beentirely replacedwith Positive Accountability.
As these points are meticulously discussed throughout the book, you'll learn that blame is a highly destructive behavior that serves no useful purpose in your relationships, and especially when you use blame against yourself in the form of Self-Blame.
Part 1 of the book will explore the numerous ways blame is used within our relationships, including the Blame Cycle, Blame Attacks and the deadly Blame Spiral.
In Part 2 of the book, I'll provide a step-by-step method for replacing blame with what I call Positive Accountability.
Part 3 presents the Law of Personal Limitations, a truly radical method for eliminating blame, and internally reorganizing your attitude toward the mistakes, errors and offensive behaviors of those around you—including your own!
Say This, Not That
SAYING THE RIGHT WORDS AT THE RIGHT TIME IS NOT ALWAYS EASY.
Sometimes it seems impossible. I wrote this book as a straight-talk guide —to help you say theright words in the right way at the right time.
Just as important, this guide can help you stop saying the wrong words—ones that make things worse.
Twenty-five years of working as a psychotherapist with individuals and couples who struggle to communicate their feelings and ideas have taught me that people need direct guidance about how to choose the right words.
During my earlier years as a therapist, I had been taught to practice "clinical objectivity." My task was to remain neutral as patients sought to gain insights into their motives.
Some twenty years ago, for instance, when a couple like Kathy and Robb would arrive for their therapy session in a visibly agitated state and Kathy’s first words would be an angry, "Robb, why did you forget to call me? Can't you remember anything?" I would have asked her a clinically neutral question such as: "Kathy, how do you imagine Robb feels when you say that?"
Since then I've learned that actually, in that moment, Kathy doesn'tgive a hoot about how Robb feels. She’s frustrated and angry, her pulse rate is elevated, her blood vessels have constricted, she’s ready for a fight and has no desire for resolution.
She's after emotional blood.
So these days, in similar situations, I jump right into the middle and say firmly: "Kathy, don't say that to Robb. All you'll do is get him angry, and then he’ll just want to get even."
Confronted this directly, Kathy will usually ask, "Well, what should I say when he . . . ?"
I tell her to say this: " 'I'm upset that you didn't call me.' Nothing more. Just that."
Then I'll discuss with both of them why those few simple words—nothing more—makes a whole lot of sense.
Why does it make sense? Because when someone is already agitated, further confrontation only pumps up the tension and primes everyone for battle.
That's the core question this book addresses: What to say in stressful moments.
In the following pages, I'll explain how to carefully choose words and—equally important— adopt non-threatening gestures. Each two-page scene will demonstrate the difference between words that will start another conflict that pushes you further away from happiness, or help create a successful interaction that leads to more intimacy. Or at least to better results.
Let’s look deeper into the biology behind communication success or failure.
All of the scenes in this book are based on the following biological fact:
We are all hard-wired to react instantly to a physical or verbal attack.
Everyone is programmed with the fight/flight syndrome that instantly floods the bloodstream with adrenaline. This hard wiring is not a choice. Withinseconds we're primed to either fight like mad or run like hell. Our heart and muscles are ready for action—not for thinking.
No one escapes this basic human program.
So while we have learned over millennia to control our physical reactions (our tendency toward violence) we have a much harder time controlling our words.
In fact, when you're sufficiently excited, provoked, confused, fearful or embarrassed, you often can't think at all because the thought process itself often fails.
Anger and fear quickly take over. Your impulse is to get even by inflicting immediate pain on whoever is causing you pain. Pressured by your frustrations, anxieties, irritations and resentments, you say something sarcastic, critical or accusatory that only makes things worse by creating yet more conflict.
Conflict erodes emotional trust—the lifeblood of every successful relationship.
So how do you control what you say in such situations? How can you avoid spilling emotional blood?
You avoid it by having sensible responses already prepared for use in potentially out-of-control situations. By rehearsing in advance. And by memorizing specific guidelines of what to say when you're feeling pressure or you're upset. Rehearing a response can make all the difference in everyday interactions such as:
• Your boyfriend has left a mess in the kitchen . . . again!
• You order a special gift for your sister and she barely notices your effort.
• Your wife wonders why you're too dense to remember something she’s told you.
• You try your best to be helpful to a friend but she ignores you.
• A co-worker says something demeaning that implies you're incompetent.
• A relative criticizes an ambitious holiday meal you’d just prepared.
Knowing how to respond in the best possible way in any of these situations can make the difference between ending up feeling stronger, more self-assured, more connected and more competent—as opposed to feeling disconnected, criticized and incapable.