Monday, March 21, 2011

My UT Checkerboard Socks

I have two pairs of University of Tennessee orange and white checkerboard socks.  When I was younger, I assumed that these socks brought luck to my favorite football team, the Tennessee Volunteers, whenever I would wear them. I didn't have to be at the game, I just had to be wearing them during the game.  The problem was, one of these pairs of socks always won the game, and one pair only won some of the time.  I couldn't remember which pair brought the luck.  So if UT lost the football game, it was my fault for wearing the wrong pair of socks and not bringing the right mojo.

How many times do we assume responsibility for something when it really has nothing to do with us at all?  This is called personalization.  When my dad's friend looked over at me and told me the problem with the Vols was that I was wearing the wrong socks, that was called irrational blame.  Personalization and Irrational Blame are defined as mistakenly assigning the cause of something to either yourself or to someone else.

Why is this a problem? This can lead to inappropriate feelings of guilt or resentment and trying to change the wrong thing.  When we personalize or blame others for events, we either take total responsibility for an event or put total responsibility for that event onto someone else.  That can take the focus away from the actual problem and leave us focused on our anger toward ourselves or others. This does not help to solve the actual problem.

It is important to accurately assess the causes of problems and to work to solve those problems rather than constantly look for who to blame.  Attributing the cause of something to yourself or someone else is okay if it is accurate and if it helps to solve the actual problem. 

I later learned that the Vols' poor execution of the plan had nothing to do with my socks, and I quit taking their losses so hard.  I no longer blamed myself for something I really could not control.  I learned that this problem had nothing to do with me, and that gave me freedom to enjoy the games much more fully.

What about you? When have you mistakenly assigned all of the blame for something to either yourself or to someone else?

Pucci, A. R. (2008). Feel the Way You Want To Feel, No Matter What! New York: iUniverse.