Video: Brene Brown on Blame (and Anxiety)

I just watched this hilarious 3-minute video (below) by Brene Brown about blaming. Brene Brown, Ph.D. is a research professor and author who specializes in the social science of "vulnerability." She has done some really fantastic work in that field, and a lot of that work has some subtle but powerful links with anxiety.

This particular video offers some insight into blaming. According to Dr. Brown, we generally blame when we are in pain or angry. We blame because it gives us some semblance of control over that uncomfortable or frustrating situation. However, the unfortunate thing about blaming is that it has what Dr. Brown calls an inverse relationship with accountability - when we blame others, we miss the opportunity to see what role we had in the situation and what we might do to change it.

And it's that relationship that I think has a real connection with anxiety. Anxiety is, by definition, a very stressful, uncomfortable situation. When we feel anxious, we tend to blame. Think about it. Maybe you are anxious standing in line at the grocery so you blame the person in front of you for taking too long. Maybe you are stressed about a work deadline so you blame a coworker or become short tempered with your family. Or maybe you're having a panicky day and are afraid to be home alone, so when your husband calls to say he needs to stay an hour late at work you feel as if he's just said something utterly and unforgivably wrong. (Been there, just ask my poor husband who was on the receiving end of that particular blame game.) Panic and anxiety are uncomfortable. In some ways, it's not surprising that we start to blame others for that discomfort.

However, as Dr. Brown highlights, when we blame, we miss an opportunity to be accountable and to learn from the situation. Instead of blaming my husband and becoming angry with him for his boss asking him to stay at work an hour longer, I could have reflected on why I was so uncomfortable being home alone. Or instead of becoming angry with the coupon-wielding person in front of you in the grocery line, perhaps ask yourself why you are in a rush or why you are uncomfortable waiting an extra 60 seconds. Check out this hilarious short video by Brene Brown and start paying attention to when and why you blame, and how that might be related to anxiety.

P.S. If you like Brene Brown as much as I do, check out this other piece I've written about her TED Talk called "The Power of Vulnerability."