The Blame Game

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”

Albert Ellis, psychologist

This week a friend of mine lost her mother. A year and a half ago she’d been diagnosed with bone cancer. Despite numerous surgeries and treatments, the cancer continued to spread widely and was found in her brain two months ago. After accepting hospice a week ago, she died at home with her family. She was 57. By all accounts my friend’s mother was an active, youthful, gentle woman. “She lived quietly, with meaning and purpose, and loved deeply,” a close relative shared at the funeral. Her death got me thinking, as these events will, about the relative shortness of life – even for those who live to a ripe old age far beyond this woman’s years. How will any of us feel about how we’ve lived our lives when our own time comes? Have we taken ownership of every moment and accepted our choices – compromises, triumphs, screw-ups, and all? Will we feel like we’ve lived life on our own terms? Or, more tragically, will we realize we’ve wasted precious time always blaming others, blaming circumstances while we put off creating the healthy and fulfilling life we’d always wanted?

We all know people who have relegated themselves to living some half-developed life, meanwhile nursing a long-past resentment or irrational choice that continually holds them back. As a health coach and trainer, I see it all the time. Maybe they blame their upbringing – the habits they feel are too ingrained or what they see as the insurmountable challenge of getting beyond obesity and/or health conditions they’ve accepted over the years. Some people feel they’re too far gone to get up again.

Others blame their uncooperative spouses or their kids and the chaos of family life. Still other people tell themselves progress just isn’t possible given their financial situation, work schedule, or aggregate life demands. They’re already juggling too much and can’t give up any part of the routine. They can’t find it in themselves to simplify their act, so to speak, or just renounce it entirely to search for a better way. In other words, some folks can’t find their way out of the box because they refuse to visualize anything but the enclosure around them.

Maybe it’s unconscious irrationality, as Albert Ellis suggested most of us possess in some regard, or maybe it’s a more intentional, embittered blame. Either way, it’s passing the buck. It’s giving up on your own life, health, and chance at happiness. How is this gratifying?

Blame admittedly allows us to languish in the presumed comfort of bad habits. It allows us to wallow in laziness, to accept inertia for the sake of ongoing bitterness. Yet, blame always betrays us in the end. Behind the resignation is painful longing, the essential, enduring instinct to live fully. Whatever excuses we tell ourselves day after day, the sense of loss – of being locked out of our own lives – is still there. It’s a grief that leaves us hollowed out and estranged from life in general.

Occasionally, there are legitimate circumstances that can intuitively call us to slow down, to turn inward, to stop on the side of the road for a time. We lose a spouse or a parent or a child. We navigate the end of a long-term relationship. We face a severe illness or injury that imposes extensive and sometimes grueling treatments. These events can leave us physically detached and emotionally disoriented. It’s a natural, albeit individual, response. When we’ve allowed ourselves the time and space to get our bearings again, we’re likely faced with an equally difficult task – reinventing our lives and well-being in a new and challenging context. Some things in life we can change and some we can’t, but with time we can forge a way again.

In finally giving up the blame game, I think we make peace with the complexity and difficulty of life. We shake off the last of our excuses and let go of the martyr role. The fact is, every one of us works around day-to-day chaos and frustration. We will all face desperation and grief of some sort in our lifetimes. No one here promised anything different. It’s the rest of life – the chance to live fully and gratifyingly in our bodies, in our relationships, in our vocations, in our explorations – that we get to grab hold of and find joy in.

Life isn’t always fair (my friend’s mother being one example of this). We don’t get to chose every circumstance. We don’t get to control the people around us. Likewise, we don’t get all the time in the world to wait for the ideal circumstances to come around.

Life, as we will eventually come to understand (hopefully before it’s too late), will never be perfect. It will never be easy. There will always be obstacles, annoyances, and limitations to contend with on the path to health and well-being. Regardless of what our lives look like next to someone else’s, ours is still the one we go home with at the end of the day. Ours is the one we get to live – for all its possibility as well as challenge. What will you make of it today?

What do you see behind the blame game and the shift to mastering your health and life? Let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by, folks.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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176 thoughts on “The Blame Game”

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  1. I don’t regularly watch Oprah, but I did watch her last episode.. she said something along these same lines, which I think resonated with a lot of people:

    “Nobody but you is responsible for your life. It doesn’t matter what your mama did; it doesn’t matter what your daddy didn’t do. You are responsible for your life. … You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself, and you’re responsible for the energy that you bring to others.”

    She said she has a sign in her make-up room to remind her of this, I think it’s pretty thought-provoking:

    “Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space”…

    1. …more of this television entertainment wisdom, and I am going to… BLEEURGHHH! all over the screen

      “please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space”

      (please feel a big, heavy blanket of guilt decend upon you if you just happen to be in a bad mood today – Oprah says so)

      what a narcissistic cow Oprah Winfrey is

      makes me feel quite happy I am half a globe away from her! 😀

      hah! now I managed to take responsibility for my own life, and flip it all around..

      1. Jealous much? What impact have you made on the world, Ms. Negativity? I’m glad you live a half globe away from ME.

        1. Oprah is a TELEVISION ENTERTAINER. Yes, later on in her career she was able to make huge charitable contributions to the world–because she sat on TV and talked for over a decade.

          A lot of that success is who you know. People do not just decide to get on TV and then go on TV. They have connections. It’s the same with a lot of the material success that certain people enjoy today. They had an in, someone to talk to, someone who knew people.

          Maybe bobbie is doing quite a lot in her own little part of the world. You wouldn’t know from one blog comment. Just because she can’t get on TV doesn’t mean she isn’t doing anything. TV is not reality. It’s just TV.

          For most of us, who didn’t fit into Oprah’s pet charitable causes? Oprah hasn’t done a damn thing.

        2. Wow….you missed the whole point. The article that Mark wrote and then the reply about Oprah is not about the reason Oprah succeeded. If you look at Oprah and see where she came from in life she is a huge inspiration to people. Born dirt poor and growing up the way she did; do you actually think she had all those connections at her finger tips. She worked hard, never gave up, kept striving to do better and not lettting life keep her down. That is what all this is about. Finding the good in things and not letting life get to you and finding ways to continue on and holding onto your dreams and pushing on.

        3. I’m not big on slamming people, but I don’t think people (Oprah) should be defended if they are making a NEGATIVE impact on the world. Did you know she endorses a cosmetic product that uses skin cells grown from circumcised foreskin of newborns subjected to this permanent & painful money-making procedure? Come on, now. Does such a vain woman seeking the fountain of youth at the cost of cutting newborn boys worth your defense?

        4. Wow, it’s amazing to me that someone can read what Mark just wrote and not even realize how negative they are. I don’t think anyone is capable of judging another person, let alone a complete stranger labeling another person as a narcissistic cow. Do you even understand how your own negative thoughts are shaping the view you have of the world around you? Did anything Mark just wrote sink in? Or is this just for everyone else? I hope one day you will awaken to the nightmare you are creating.

        5. Thank you Jason and Barry! Apparently several have completely missed the whole point of this exercise. Here are two of my favorite bible versus….

          Luke 6:42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

          Romans 2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

        6. To Kristen : When I was I newborn I was circumsised. Glad of it (ok, maybe not then). I didn’t and don’t give a damn what anyone did with the foreskin after it was removed from me. There are many medical reasons why circumsision is a good thing-do the research. In any case my foreskin was biological waste and if it can be used for even somthing as “vain” as cosmetic production who cares?

      2. whereas i tend to agree with you about people like Oprah, i am offended that you feel free to pour your scorn on someone you don’t know, from the distance of “half a globe”. if the concept The Primalist expressed means something to her/him, what gives you the right to ridicule it?

        1. [email protected] Dana….just keep thinking that. So many people have wealth envy, it’s pathetic. Especially when the extraordinarily wealthy person is of the “wrong” gender or “wrong” race. You’ve proven how dumb you are by saying Oprah hasn’t done a damn thing. How many houses have you built for people? How many people have you personally put through college? Just as I thought. NONE.

        2. Wow, and what part of your butt did you pull that information from, Kristen?

      3. Damn lurker–you aren’t even a member so GO AWAY and take your poison with you.

      4. Wow, really? I may make a sign myself and put it right above my standup workstation. I think its incredibly inspirational.

        We should all take responsibility for our own life. I have more recently and have seen incredible results.

        I am not going to say I am happy I am a half globe away from you. I don’t care who the hell you are or what the hell you have done. I will aways give someone a chance to flip the switch from “off” to “on.”

        As I become more “popular” in the primal community I get some rediculous comments from people who wish to put their anger on someone else. They are jealous and they show it in a negative way.

        That’s fine with me today. I can deal with it just fine. I would love to meet them and learn about how they got to where they are today.

        While we all need to take responsibility for our actions we also need to realize that we base our choices off of our environment. Some of us grow up in a terrible environment and we have no control over it.

        But, this may light a fire in someone who ends up flipping the switch to one hell of a life.

        We can’t control our circumstances but we can control how we act towards them.

        What is your choice? Are you going to flip the switch to “on”?

        1. umm… make that I love your statement. You wouldn’t believe the embarrassment I felt as I hit submit comment and realized what I had written.

        2. Wow, that is quite a bit of wisdom from someone so young. and you are so right.

        3. Thank you! That was the whole point 🙂 We don’t choose where we come from, we choose where we go!

        4. I really enjoyed what you had to say and appreciate your words… this story that Mark posted was very heart-felt and meant as a means for all to take another look at what is going on in our lives and weather or not we are going to do anything to change it.

          Since joining the primal community 4 months ago I am in the best shape I have been in in a long time and have been so grateful to all that Mark and everyone who suggested I try this have done for me… It has really made me see what I have done to control my own life and realized not much… I have always been a determined individual and this way of life, the primal way, has shown me that we all have to power within us to make the right choices, to believe in ourselves and take each days as it comes…

          Living in the past and blaming others is not going to solve the problems that have been embossed in our brains, we have to take back the control and do it for ourselves…

          I live each day knowing that, yes I have made mistakes but that each day now is a step in the right direction and accepting myself and everyone for who they are… Living life to fullest extent possible and making sure that those we have in our lives that mean the most to us know that every day because we have no idea when or how we will leave this world, all we can do is make it the best one possible…

          Thank you Mark for sharing this with us and letting us express our own sentiments to this subject… I wish you all great success and happy days to come!

      5. <>

        I don’t think this makes her narcissistic at all, nor do I think it is intended to lower a blanket of guilt over anyone.

        I think that this saying implies an understanding of the difference between our feelings and our actions. We can feel crummy, but that doesn’t mean we need to take it out on others around us. We are responsible for our actions, not for feeling super-great all the time.

        It’s an adult decision.

      6. Exactly. This holier then thou attitude beaming from the stupid box.

        Before people start having a go research who owns the six corporations that own 96% of the worlds media. You’ll find it’s the same people who own big pharma and Monsanto and the same people who own the Federal Reserve.

        Oprah is a prostitute of the highest order given a platform not for our benefit.

      1. “(please feel a big, heavy blanket of guilt decend upon you if you just happen to be in a bad mood today – Oprah says so)”

        Don’t care whether you like Oprah or not (not, myself); taking responsibility for the energy you bring into ANY space is a legitimate request (and a good choice). If you just ‘happen to be in a bad mood today” — it’s STILL your responsibility to the people around you (and/or to yourself!) to keep it to yourself. “Kicking the dog” because you feel bad is just plain inappropriate. ‘Kicking’ the people around you because you feel bad is ALSO inappropriate.

        (Would you rather her sign said: “if you’re in a nasty mood, keep it to yourself, bitch”? That’s much less polite than “please be mindful of your … emissions…”

        A million years ago, when I was in high school, we were *required* to play field hockey in gym class. I HATED field hockey!! But since I was forced to do this horrible thing, I CHOSE to do it with a good(-enough) will and I played it like I meant it.

        Did I have a revelation and come to like it? No, I still HATE field hockey.(Pretty sure I always will!) But what useful purpose would I have served by whining about it or playing half-heartedly? I still would not have enjoyed it, but I would also have ruined the game for my friends and school mates who DID like it. That would have been a pretty sh***y way to treat them.

        If someone needs a reminder to … mind their emissions on behalf of the humans and other animals around them, then the reminder Oprah posted is useful.

        Anyone here needs that reminder? {wink}

        1. I was “forced” to play field hockey my senior yr of high school. In the past I was one of those that was always last chosen for any type of team (as was my sister) also, we had just moved so we were the new kids. Turned out that me & my sister could play a pretty decent field hockey & it wasn’t long before we were the 1st 2 picked for teams 🙂
          Hey, they made a song about it: “Life’s what you make it”

      2. not only ironic, but quite validating in support of Mark’s article. Interesting to observe…

    2. First, when life gives you lemonade, you make a bottle of lemon brandy, my good man. J/K. I don’t drink. Anymore.

      Second, Oprah is only a good thing if you are a woman who oppresses men. And thank god your icon will spew less filth now. Maybe we can get back to equality.

      The energy I strobe is an energy of hope, aggressive hope. There’s no time to sit and mope. The sun will stop shining this evening and you will look yourself in the eye. You’d better like what you see.

      Don’t be afraid to have a bad day, and don’t take crap from the sunshine gallery when you do. But, also, don’t be afraid to cheer someone up when you’re got the mojo for it.

      Life gave most of us a big bag of trash when we were born. You’ve just got to pick out the best few bits in there and make them work for you so you can improve things.

      One last thing, as a previous member of the culture of poverty, you rich people should understand that we are not taught the things you are. You speak money, you are trained to think positive things and encouraged to pursue your dreams. My parents forbid any talk of money, to suppress exposing the bleakness of the situation, because they were not taught how to SAVE and PLAN. And so, neither was I. For goodness’ sake, I didn’t know until my 20’s when I was in rehab that it was okay to control my own thoughts. Without good role models, a human is only a little bit more than a very smart animal. Truth. So be willing to share your good luck. Teach someone how to fish.

    3. Just wanted to offer a point of clarification on “Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.”


    4. I practice Buddhism and have for 7 years. I also caught Oprah’s last show and though she’s a Christian, what she said aligns itself with Buddhism in that the source of happiness lies within. But also the part about taking responsibility for our lives or our karma, is very profound. We believe very strongly in not seeking happiness or anything else outside of ourselves, but it’s very hard to live this way or to separate our true selves from our ego, which is the source of all of our fundamental darkness or negativity. But the heart is what’s most important and the essence of our lives is revealed in our behavior as human beings. How we treat ourselves and others is what matters most.

  2. I have a hard time explaining to most people that while going to a primal like diet and fitness regime helped all my numerous medical conditions (fibromyalgia, fatigue, food intolerances, etc), getting my head going in the same direction was probably the harder task in the equation.

    I wallowed in my miserable state of being for years, and not surprisingly I continued to stay in that state no matter what I did physically. Duh. I truly wanted to be healthy, but I was not practicing any mental habits that matched that state of being. I think in the back of my mind I was still waiting for the magic pill that would make it all go away with no work involved on my part.

    My turning point was the day I told myself I was done being the victim, I was going to change everything I had control of and if it still didn’t work then I could whine. I still have no reason to whine and do not suppose I ever will. I might have an off day or moment, but in the end, I know that I have to work and put in the time to get what I truly want.

    1. Great response, Erin. I’m with you. This way of eating seems to solve many of the pesky physical problems, but the mental habits remain. I think I’ll make a similar declaration today. Thanks! I am the same age as the mom who died in Mark’s post, so that’s added inspiration! It’s habit, really, and an inability to see a different way of being. Visualizing the world outside that box, commencing now…

    2. “…I was done being the victim…”

      You got that right in so many ways!

    1. I love your post!!

      And life :).

      And for the Oprah-bashing… I have a secret indulgence, I read O magazine every once in awhile.

      There was a beautiful article about LETTING go of anger – forgiving those that have caused grief and pain, even when they’re not sorry.

      I don’t know about Oprah’s whole track record since I am busy living my own life, but I do know that THAT article opened up my eyes and helped me to stop undermining myself while trying to get back at someone else that didn’t even care to know the effects of what they’d done.

      Love life and actively CHOOSE to be happy… voila, there’s no room for hate and resentment.

  3. I saw this in action as I visited my in-laws over the holiday. It was the first time I’ve seen them since going Primal, so naturally my new “diet” was the subject of conversation. I think I at least planted some seeds as they glanced at the PB book and wrote down the website. But my stepmother-in-law was already giving excuses about how it wasn’t a good time for them to start a diet or how she probably couldn’t give up bread, etc.

    Our attitudes really do make all the difference. I need to remember that I can’t control anyone else’s life, as much as I do want my family to follow along with me. I can only take charge of my own health and be proud of the changes I’ve made this year.

    1. I had the exact same experience, i.e., first visit with the “in-laws” after going Primal. However, I took a little different approach. I didn’t say anything about my new way of eating and just make appropriate choices from the foods available. When the rest of the family was reaching for cereal and milk, I was reaching for an apple and an orange for breakfast (though if I had been home, I would have fixed eggs with veggies scrambled in).

      I have only gone Primal two weeks ago. When the weight loss is noticable (I have 110 lbs to lose), and family and friends notice, THEN I’ll tell them what I’m doing to get to a healthy weight.

    2. I so agree with you and can relate to your experience. I, too, always get questions about my new way of living and “funny diet.” I also constantly get questions about how people can be in the shape I am or have the energy that I do. Of course, as soon as I tell them how I live, a freak out reaction soon follows with a load of excuses trailing behind. So what did I do?! I gave up fighting other people and defending my choices. And when they’re ready… really ready (if ever) they’ll come to me and I’ll be more than willing to share my experience. In doing this I’ve gotten my three best friends to go primal. Hoping the approach works for my parents! Especially my lovely mom who will profess that she’s had a good day because she only ate a can of pringles and a pack of bubblegum… and it can’t be that many calories right?!

  4. “some folks can’t find their way out of the box because they refuse to visualize anything but the enclosure around them.”

    I really like that quote and the one at the top. Thought-provoking.

    1. I found that quote really resonated with me as well. Also, “blame always betrays us in the end” Great article.

  5. This is just another example of how important it is to be and live in the present moment. Most of the big life lessons I have learned boil down to being *here* now and directing my energy to the present.

  6. I have a hard time with this. I know what people are trying to say but there’s something to be said for accepting reality.

    I had an abusive childhood but I was told (by my abuser) that people who blame their parents for anything are just whiny babies. I spent decades telling myself I was fine (and that the depression and anxiety I struggled with were nothing to do with my family) and I finally almost had a nervous breakdown.

    Now I no longer lie to myself. My childhood screwed me up and the person who raised me is sick. It’s not that I’m inherently flawed, it’s what I dealt with my whole life that caused a lot of my problems, and pretending my childhood was “fine” just made it worse.

    But the thing is, I realize that this person will never fix me. *I* have to. So yes, we are responsible for our own lives. But if someone hurts you badly, my opinion is that it’s better to realize that and put the blame where it belongs and then set about doing the hard work of cleaning up their mess and making your life what you want it to be.

    Just my 2 cents.

    1. I agree very much with you on this one.

      I think that there are different seasons for different things.

      some times you need to look at what others did to you. some times you need to accept that you are in a bad place, and that other people put you there. Some times you need to get up and do something about it, while some times you just need to take it easy, or maybe scream as high as you can, maybe throw a plate or two into the wall.

    2. You can’t blame your past for your present. I was raised in a screwed up family by a bi polar manic depressive and it had an impact on me and how I relate to people. You can’t let it hold you back though and you can’t keep it from letting you change. If you dwell in the past then you can never truly live in the present. If you can recognize that your past was screwed up then there is no reason you can’t change it. You have to confront your demons before you can dismiss them. I have been there and it can be done.

      1. But if you refuse to even look at the past, how do you move forward? I know, for me, I didn’t. I spent 20 years of my adult life thinking there was something inherently wrong with me and that’s why I was depressed and anxious. Because it *couldn’t* be the abusive childhood and bad relationship with my parent.

        I finally accepted my childhood was abusive, finally accepted that this person is still not and never will be someone who is good for me to be around, cut them out of my life, took measures to fix what they screwed up and NOW I’m doing well.

        Spending all that time telling myself that only whiners complain about the past just kept me from growing.

    3. As children, we rely on others to be responsible in many areas of our lives, and if they fail miserably at that, all we can do as adults is be as responsible as we can from that point forward.

      Carrying a burden of blame on your own shoulders when it legitimately belongs to someone else is just as much of a trap as blaming others for problems of your own making. Being an adult is about setting those burdens down with clear eyes and saying “What can I do next to make things better?”

      It sounds like you’re already there.

      1. “Carrying a burden of blame on your own shoulders when it legitimately belongs to someone else is just as much of a trap as blaming others for problems of your own making”

        Thumbs up 😀

    4. The trouble is that people do not understand the difference between going through the grieving process of having a crappy, abusive family, and choosing to not live your life–to wallow in self-pity rather than making your life what you want it to be. Grief has a way of interfering with life, if it’s strong enough. I do not look down on people who do not experience heavy grief after a life trauma; we all experience it differently. But I sure do see people putting ME down for suffering it more than they do, or not healing from it as fast as they did.

      People who do not come from crappy, abusive families do not understand this. And no, the two possible settings for a family are not “perfect” and “crappy and abusive.” There’s a whole range of possibilities there. But it’s the ones who had good families or who had minimal serious problems and an easy recovery who presume to tell the rest of us how we should react to our own issues.

      Screw that.

      What if my ideal life would be having a good relationship with my family? What if my family doesn’t WANT that good relationship with me? What if that is through no fault of my own–what if my mother was neglecting me for the first three and a half years of my life and the only ones who cared were my grandparents and no one else bothered stepping in?

      Yes, I can choose to cope with that–and I am. I just got reminded AGAIN that I wasn’t wanted in the first place–no one bothered telling me that the woman who babysat me while Mom worked and taught me my ABCs passed away over two weeks ago. (I found out Memorial Day. Through the Find A Grave site.) I have several members of my maternal family on Facebook and they know I’m there. One of them was even on my friends list.

      My father’s family, frankly, is not much better. Out of sight, out of mind, as far as they’re concerned.

      This is my reality. I want the good family who cares about me. I am never going to have it. The two are irreconcilable. So I have to choose to stop expecting anything out of them. But that hurts. That means I was rejected. To not hurt in response to that is like killing a part of myself. Family is part of the primal (there goes that word again) human experience. It is something we should all be able to expect. To be deprived of it is generally considered a bad thing. But I’m supposed to blithely get on with my life. And I will. But it feels all WRONG.

      I also tried the “make your own family” tack. The trouble is that if you are not blood-related to someone in this culture? Most of the time, they can take or leave you. When the chips are down it will usually be the latter.

      I’m realizing I just need to focus hard on being the best mom I can be to my daughter. That’s all I can do now. But when she’s grown? I have nothing to fall back on. I don’t even know what will happen to her if something happens to me. Her dad’s a flake and none of my family give a damn about me. She’ll be lucky not to wind up in foster care for the rest of her childhood.

      What attitude will cure any of this? At best it will help me cope. By going into denial. That’s not helpful either.

      And if you guessed this is all a huge distraction to me from dealing with other parts of my life, *ding*ding*ding* you win the door prize.

      Nobody suggest therapy please… they don’t help either. I don’t have the time or patience to go through half a dozen people before I get someone who acts like they’re helping only to move to another practice or change their career after my third visit. Been there! (Something like that, anyway.) There are no easy answers.

      1. Hi Dana,
        I feel for what you are going through. In my own “family” I’ve had similar issues. The best you can do is realize it is about THEM not YOU and do your best to move on and make your own life.
        I wish you well…

      2. I relate to so much you wrote.

        I got a lot from talking to other people but not so much from therapy. The best thing I did was go to a local Adult Survivor’s of Child Abuse group. They have an online forum but it’s not very active. I also found an online group to talk to full of other adult children who grew up with mentally ill parents (mine has not been diagnosed but it doesn’t matter – I got so much from talking to those people).

        And now I don’t need it so much. Dealing with my past was pretty much a full time job for awhile, and I put in the time and now I’m ok. It’s not on my mind every hour of every day anymore. It was something I needed to do, for me. To hell with what anyone else thought (though I was lucky in that my friends were super supportive).

        The best thing I did for me though was accept that my parent will never change and that I had to cut our relationship. That is something that most people will never understand. They think I’m stuck in the past and the blame game and what I’m actually doing here is taking care of me and my kids. But that was me – I know not everyone will feel the need to go that far.

        I’m rambling now. Just wanted to say I agree and good luck.

        1. I understand needing to cut someone from your life. If they are not willing to change and their actions are harmful to you it’s the only healthy decision. I say forgive but don’t forget. in other words, don’t hold on to the hate or the blame but don’t let them continue to hurt you either!

          Dana, try tapping. It is really helping me deal with the damage from my abusive childhood and you can do it all on your own, you don’t need to rely on a therapist. Check out
          It seems lame at first, but anything,s worth trying once, especially when it’s free and only takes a few minutes a day.
          I hope it helps you too.

      3. Dana,

        You write great wisdom, as always.

        I also grew up without a father, not through fate but by his choice.

        You really can’t get over a thing like that. It will always shape who you are. The challenge is to draw wisdom from it rather than unremitting grief.

        And that is something we have both done, for our own children will know only love from us, rather than abandonment. Even though we can’t give them the extended family they deserve, that is certainly good enough for me. I hope it is for you, as well.

        By seizing responsibility for what we can control, we are no longer victimized by what we can’t.

      4. I share with you an image of a mother and a young daughter and I imagine the scene much the same as your life. It is my own…. the picture of my grandmother and her daughter (my mother). I do not know the reason why the husband, the man abandoned his spouse and his child (my grandmother and my mother) and most likely I never will. I have seen the pattern repeat with divorces in the generations that followed. I have experienced the bitterness of loss as a result of the experience of being unwanted and rejected. I have also rejected others and caused them the pain of being abandoned.

      5. Dana,
        I’ve severed contact with most of my family because they never did add anything positive to my life and I got tired of feeling the need to defend my own life to them just because they disagreed with me being able to make my own choices.

        I feel quite isolated now since my son was diagnosed with autism. I don’t work anymore and I don’t really get many chance to go out because going out with my son is difficult at best and impossible when he’s having a sensory overload day. My only contact currently with anyone that doesn’t live with me is the Internet. Facebook, online support groups, etc. I need friends and people I can get close enough to to feel like family. Maybe we won’t be able to get that close, I don’t know, but if you’re willing to try, I’m game. I don’t think we live in the same place so we’d have to be cyber buddies, hehe. I’m on the forums if you need to find me, same name. Of course, you can always tell me to stick it in my ear and I’ll just leave you alone then ;D.

      6. I completely relate to this. I’m the “black sheep” of a family of six children, headed by a narcissistic female whose only True Love was herself. That hasn’t changed, nor have any of my family members–they don’t see themselves as having done or participated in anything wrong. The projected blame always lands on me for being some kind of bad actor (which I wasn’t and am not now), and it hasn’t stopped even though we’re all nearly seniors. I’ve had to dump them all; I also have great difficult trusting others, and as you’ve said, when the chips are down, “created” families can fall apart when someone moves, gets a new job, a marriage, or a blood family of his or her own. It’s happened to me more times than I can count. Women especially make huge changes in their friend lists once they marry. Single women know how what it’s like to be excluded from groups of couples.

    5. Someone very wise once told me:

      A victim is someone still under the influence of past circumstances.

      A survivor is someone that has moved on.

      It’s not easy, but one has to move from victim to survivor.

      Actually, her choice of words was better, but that is the best summary I can give.

    6. You are right that what other people do can effect you. that is the part about not being able to control others. A really good book about this issue is “Toxic Parents”

    7. Don’t confuse what Mark is saying about placing blame with denial. Abuse is a terrible thing to live through. (Yes, I’ve been there and still have the scars to prove it). But if you are messed up by the abuse, you are messed up and you need to work through that. Working through it includes placing responsibility where it belongs because must victims of abuse are holding the guilt themselves because they’ve probably been led to believe they did something to deserve the abuse they suffered through so they must be a bad person.

      Telling yourself you are fine when you really aren’t isn’t working through it, that’s denial. Denial will only work for so long. Eventually that egg shell will crack and you will fall down as low as you can go. I’ve done that one too.

      Now that you know the truth and have accepted it for what it was, you can heal and part of that healing is to know the difference between placing blame on something or someone else for your life sucking, and taking responsibility for your own actions.

      For example, I could eat an entire pint of ice cream and then blame Haagen-Daz for being so tasty when I get that bloated, sluggish feeling, or I could take responsibility that I succumbed to a moment of weakness and use this as a learning tool for why we don’t want to indulge in those weaknesses because they do nasty things to us and we don’t likes it. *Lord of the Rings Gollum moment, sorry*

      We are always responsible for how long we allow ourselves to be hurt by someone else. I doubt Mark is suggesting we need to turn our hearts into stone, after all, if you are cold hearted, how can you love the people around you and enjoy life to the fullest? But sitting and pining over something that happened decades ago isn’t helping you and it isn’t hurting the person who hurt you either because in all likelihood, they don’t even know they messed you up like they did.

      If we dwell on things that are long since past and wallow in situations that can’t be changed, the only person we are hurting is ourselves. The past is what it is and we can’t call a do-over. Take what you have now and go forward without looking back and vow that nobody will allow you to lose yourself again. That way, everything you feel is yours and nobody else can take credit for your happiness. On the other side of that same coin, you can’t blame your misery or disappointments on someone else either, it’s all you now baby!

  7. Love this article. The natural consequences of blame are obscured in the modern world. Thanks for bringing them into sharper relief, Mark. Grok couldn’t afford to waste time lost in the blame game and neither should we.

  8. I spent a good portion of my life feeling the way you described in this article. Saw a therapist, read the books, did everything you’re told to do, and had nothing to show for it. That all changed, very organically, recently. Ever read that Henry Rollins article, “The Iron”? He’s got a great line in there (one of many), “I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts.” Absolutely true. I went primal, lost 40 lbs of fat, started lifting weights, put on 20 lbs of muscle. Confidence through the roof, and I KNOW I can fight my way through anything. Thanks, Mark.

  9. Shannon — I think what you’re saying aligns well with what Mark was. Denying the facts is not point. The realization that only you can take action and change your life is(sometimes by facing the bad past and finding ways to accept and live a good life anyway). It’s all about whether you’re stuck in the putting the blame phase you reference or are busy making headway in the hard work/cleaning up phase. That’s where the prize is! Best to you!

    1. Thanks! But the thing is, being in the blame phase looks bad to outsiders. I think that’s what the problem is. I spent a good six months being really, really angry at that person. On the outside, I was wallowing. But it was what I needed (after a lifetime of pretending we had a good relationship). So yeah, maybe spending your entire life blaming someone is bad but I think we have to allow ourselves to wallow when we need it and screw what others think.

      1. Yep. You actually have no way of knowing what phase someone is in or what they are going through. What we see of a person is only a snapshot of their life. If we judge them based on that then how are we any better than they are? The anti-blamers need to live by example.

      2. What a lovely article, and Shannon I spent years in therapy, read the collected works of Jung, wrote lots of unpublished books, and still the past is with me and always will be a foundational fault. But I like to hold onto the possibility of change. I love the idea of the retroactive effect of meaning. The last line of a sentence can change all that came before. In the words of Emily D. “What plenty it would be had all my life but been mistake just rectified in thee.”

  10. Great post.

    The blame game is a very easy trap to fall into. I’m guilty of it to an extent, and my dad (who has more or less given up on life) is extremely guilty of it.

    Failure to take ownership of your life is not only frustrating to those around you, but extremely self-limiting. You do yourself no favors when you blame others.

    1. It may merely be your phrasing, but I got a wry/sad chuckle at this:
      “The blame game is a very easy trap to fall into. I’m guilty of it to an extent, and my dad (who has more or less given up on life) is extremely guilty of it.”

      (This a gentle question for your consideration, not a negative comment:) Are you blaming your dad for not fighting on the way YOU want him to, or the way you would? (Or maybe just objectively pointing out his negativity?)

      When my dad was dying of cancer, he struggled back and forth with: should he try all kinds of weird (macrobiotic and the like) diets in the hopes of a cure or relief, that is, give up his pleasures in the hopes something would save him? Or should he cut the anchor and sail on out with all the foods he loved the best? You can’t advise someone on that — you can support them, research for them, be a sounding board for them (to continue to sailing metaphor), and tell them your own feelings, but until you’re IN the position, until it’s your body betraying you daily, you cannot know what is the right choice.

      This is one of the hardest things to learn when you’re in a ‘helping’ profession: you can tell people what you KNOW will help them… and they can choose to ignore it — and you HAVE to leave it there. (Don’t we all face that in teaching about primal/paleo?!)

  11. I blame the SAD! No abusive family, pretty kick ass childhood, but mental and physical problems up the wazoo. Diet really was to blame as is evidenced by my complete recovery upon starting the Paleo diet. What had been a great childhood suddenly turned into a nightmare when I was about 11 years old wasn’t anybody’s fault but my stupid freaking diet. Honestly, the only reason I ever made it to the happy person I am today was luck, luck that I ran into the Paleo diet at all. I mean ok, and a little strength of will, but you get my meaning.

  12. I agree. It is really easy to get caught up in excuses and wallow in self pity. (I love to wallow, I’ll bet Grok was a good wallower.) I love how you started with the Albert Ellis quote. He is awesome. What I ultimately have come up with regarding responsibility is that what happened in the past is in the past. It needs to be acknowledged and dealt with, but the present and the future are all to be decided. If you had a bad experience, mourn it lament it , get it out of your system and move on. Thanks Mark!

  13. Well done Mark except for that ubiquitous exception in the blame game…. Blame it on too many carbs….

  14. I think that jumping to place blame is a bit of a natural reaction, but once the heat of the moment subsides, we need to take a step back and ask “what could I have done to alter the outcome of this situation?”

    At the very least, we come out of that situation with a lesson learned and are better prepared to handle the future.

    In the end, we can not control anyone’s actions but our own.

  15. This could not come at a better time in my life…. a time when I am FINALLY willing to stop being a victim of circumstance and start taking ownership of my life.

    I was raised in a very sterile household; no love, no happiness, lots of misery and anger. I was bullied throughout all of my years in school. I developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol and as a result lived a life of abuse (by self and others). I was diagnosed with Crohns disease about 10 years ago.

    One of the things I will be forever grateful for is that I belong to a community that has helped me recover from those things. I have been taught that while I WAS a victim, I don’t have to be one anymore…. today I can choose to do whatever I want…. that limitations are self-imposed. My diseases definitely may make it harder for me to do certain things, but I will never let them get in the way of me doing what I want.

    The reason I am so emphatic about this is that because of my self-imposed limitations I lost out on a job opportunity I wanted more than anything. I was told that if I want the job in the future, I must overcome that.

    I am living proof that someone who was living in the gutter can rise up and be a success. I have found that anything I set my mind to, no matter what, I have achieved. I have had to work alot harder at it than some people, and it has taken a long time but I refuse to give up.

    Being primal strengthens my physical self so that I can overcome my mental and emotional challenges (believe me, I have many of them!).

  16. The Precious Present — a great book by Spencer Johnson sums up Mark’s whole post. Today is the day, go for it. Life is great if you want it to be. I love it.

  17. I’ve seen so many people defeat themselves by making excuses and having bad attitudes. Ultimately, a person’s success depends upon his/her commitment to excellence.

  18. I like to learn about life. From the fascinating physics of matter and light, to the mind boggling variety of cells that make us function. From what i’ve learned so far i’ve found that there is not a word invented by anyone in history to describe the complexities of life as we know it. But when you ‘scale up’ and begin to generalise then you see that their really are two primary choices for a human being :

    ” Accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibilty for changing them. ”

    Keep Smiling,

    Carl :o)

    1. I love physics. Quantum Physics tried to find the smallest thing in the atom and couldn’t pin anything down! And that’s what we are: pure potentiality.

      1. We share a common interest, reading about Quantum physics has been one of my greatest decisions in my life so far.

        Learning about the components of atoms, photons and electrons and how they interact to form molecules is simply jaw dropping knowledge. To see how the millions of atomic interactions then combine to form the millions of self replicating molecules within a single living cell goes beyond jaw dropping. But then it gets even more mind numbingly complex. Each of us have arisen from these interactions, over billions of years, with hundreds of trillions of these cells in each of our bodies, each containing millions of pieces of information. The numbers are astronomical but the beauty is that we all have the ability to take this stunningly complex process of life, and make a single choice.
        My choice is simple, ‘Don’t ask why? because their is no real answer. Ask how? and then change life to be however you want it to be.’ 🙂

        1. Everyone should watch “What the Bleep Do We Know” and” What the Bleep do We know: Down the Rabbit Hole”. It’s the best description of quantum physics for the lay person there is out there. Blew my mind, I’ll tell you that. It made me realize just what my negative self talk was in fact doing to myself. It kind of scared me to think about it. I can’t say that I did a complete 180 on the self denigration over night, but I am much more aware of it then I used to be.

  19. I have to agree with Jim Arkus in that when we take control of our health and start to live primally all the other bits just seem to fall into place. No more depression or blaming anyone else just take full control of all aspects of our health. I include financial, emotional health in this and if we do that our spiritual health will also come together. To think outside the box firstly we must realize that we have been living in a box. On our financial health we have to stop trusting all these advisors and go back to real money ie. precious metals to protect our health

  20. Primal money = precious metals.

    If you do not own some you should.

    Money is an indirect exchange medium for consumption, one step above barter, which is direct exchange.

    Excess money, aka savings is delayed consumption (under consuming) and debt is over consuming.

    Money also has to be scarce (along with other properties) and have an intrinsic value. No paper money today is backed by a commodity.

    So while people can blame the politicians for spending too much, blame the Federal Reserve for enabling the over spending and devaluing the dollar, which results in business cycles and bubbles, one can can hedge themselves buy owning precious metals.

    Having physical precious metals are not an investment, but is real savings. Owning, say stock in a mining company, would be an investment.

  21. I agree with Mark’s article. At what point do we take responsibility? While I didn’t have a bad childhood (ie..abusive parents), I am a survivor of sexual abuse (predator was a high school band teacher & one of his students). For years, i blamed myself for what happened, then I blamed others who knew but did nothing. I went thru a period of self-inflicted abuse where I ate my way to an extra 100 lbs. and didn’t see the value of life. Now, here I am fighting to get my life & health back. Its not easy, however not impossible either!

  22. What separates the successful (whatever your marker of success may be) from the not successful? The willingness to take the leap, to accept the risk of failure. Yes it gets harder to do with a family, yes it’s harder to do when you’re having to live paycheck to paycheck. Everyone has it in them to be successful, but it’s our fears that hold us all back. Since we have trouble embracing and accepting those fears, we find something else that can shoulder the blame for our own fears and reservations.

    Accepting failures, learning from mistakes and actually thriving are all important parts of truly living life.

  23. This is a very good point Mark, i grew up blaming my “bad genes” for being fat and my low metabolism. The fact that i have been lean and strong for a year now shows that it is all about taking responsibility for your life.

  24. Thanks to all for sharing in your words on Mark’s topic about how we are responsible for ourselves.
    This forum is a joy to read because of the intelligent comments and personal insights and I learn from you all.
    I saw the final Oprah and felt the words quoted above were full of sage observation. Not that any of us don’t have that same ability and more, we do. We just don’t have a staff and a venue.
    To quote another media figure…Anthony Robbins (give or take and maybe he borrowed this from someone else;) “people say they know something and don’t need to hear it again”. The question then becomes, is one practicing it? When something becomes part of one, then and only then does one know it and no longer need to hear it (learn it)”
    Thanks to Mark’s research and insights he’s provided a place that “collects” a group of thinking sharing individuals to provide a learning place for “improvements on the human condition” until we “know” them.

  25. This was really well said Mark. Several of my friends have had parents die recently & the thought crosses my mind that I’m just not sure I can handle that when it’s my turn to go through that. I’m actually going to print this post out and file it away for such times so I can remind myself that it’ll do no good whatsoever to get lost in saddness or self pity. Not that there’s not a morning/transition period etc. But I want to remember to walk through it with a healthy mindset. Thank you so much!

  26. Beautiful article, Mark. I see a lot of people pointing fingers at others, and they’re worse off because of it; such a waste of time that could be spent enjoying or bettering life. It’s like the concept of a sunk cost in economics; there’s little to be gained by dwelling on the past, people should focus on what they can do now and in the future to improve.

  27. I love this post. I’ve lived a healthy lifestyle for years now, but still have felt really disconnected from nature. I’ve always felt like I should live near the ocean (I live in DC). Ever since I started reading MDA, I’ve felt more and more inspired to take a leap of faith, and make the move to somewhere close to the beach, maybe even out to Cali. Who knows, I’m not there yet, but I know I will be. Thank you!

    1. I made the choice 5 years ago to move to the beach, and I think it’s done so much for my health and state of mind. If that is what you want, you should go for it!

  28. Enjoy the present moment – it is a PRESENT. Nothing of the past is in the present moment.

  29. There is that saying-“when you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future-you’re whizzing all over today” What I know today is what I choose to think about IS a choice. Resentments are like stabbing yourself and expecting someone else to feel the pain.

  30. Wow!!! Daddy Grok. Sorry to hear about your friend’s mother. I hope the family finds peace.
    Mark, this is the best blog of yours I’ve read to date. Again, WOW!! You have discovered the final component for health…Peace. Peace in knowing, it is indeed the world “WE” create. Every action has a reaction and it is our choices that stimulate the responses in our world. The ego is offended so as to not accept fault, we blame others. Wisdom states, “Count it all joy” meaning if we stay calm and first seek to understand, we do learn not to make the same choices that irritate us and we grow. Perhaps we all should first learn to behave. Certainly without the stress of being offended we produce less cortisol, less inflammation, less Atherosclerosis, less heart disease. Let our emotions be our health GPS; if we feel negative about something, it means we are thinking wrong thoughts. Change your mind and change your life. (Some one us made that quote too), but it works.
    Sorry, this is a great subject and I could go on forever sharing the endless wisdom of fore fathers. Let’s face it they’ve been there, done that. We’ve learned a lot from Grok, nutriously; wisdom helps us spiritually.
    People of zee world, relax! (prettyboy)

  31. Mark,

    A great article. It amazes me how many people cut themselves off from their own lives with a web of excuses and blame. If you look hard enough you can always find an excuse not to do something. People who are stuck, metaphysically as well as physically, are usually afraid of change. This goes for positive change as well as negative. Change is all about facing yourself and admitting that things aren’t how you want them to be-this is a tough nut to crack when you are really attached to your familiar old self. I practice Zen meditation and it has helped me be much more open and receptive to allowing change into my life; I highly recommend it for anyone feeling a little stuck, or afraid.

    Grock on!


  32. You can’t strengthen your mind truly unless you strengthen your body and you can’t strengthen your body unless you strengthen your mind. So start somewhere, and go from there in ever increasing circles. Slowly.

  33. To whomever posted it: Thank you for the Henry Rollins reference. I have long admired his work, but have not yet seen that one. It misted my eyes.

    The world needs more good men.

  34. I appreciate the post Mark. I know as much as I try to help others help themselves…sometimes I need a “pick me up” myself.

    Listening to others who are doing for themselves (as well as helping others) in any capacity inspires me to continue forward.

  35. I myself came from a very emotionally abusive family(mother and sisters). I remember at one point wishing it were physical just so I had proof to show the world what was done to me. Like many others in that situation, I hated myself. When my mother died 4 years ago, I was happy for her as that was what she wanted but all the memories I repressed flooded me like a tidal wave and it was just this year at age 35 that I finally found the inner peace and happiness that I needed and I found it by going primal. Something about this lifestyle gave me the much needed kick in the arse that showed me that even though I was raised with much negativity, I was a good person and deserved to treat MYSELF with respect and stop beating myself up for what others did to me. Thank you Mark for this post and all that you do.

  36. Excellent article. Well-written and thought provoking. Thanks for sharing.

  37. I think that everyone goes through periods of unhealthy blaming. It’s common in a lot of conversations. The same is true with vilifying politicians or berating celebrities, but it goes the other way as well. Iconizing people we don’t really know. The one for sure thing is that, at the end of the day, we have ourselves.

    From a primal perspective I often wonder how our thoughts and emotions have evolved to allow us to feel grief and joy and failure and success. It also interests me that some people are easily beaten down, while others never say die. Some of these things are inherent, it seems, and some result from nurture.

    Whether or not people deserve blame, and some do in my estimation. The fact remains that to engage in blame, deserved or not, is not beneficial.

    I have found that in the year since I went primal, the diet has been a great influence apon my mental well-being. Breaking my addiction to sugar has stabilized my mood in a big way. Exercise, which I have always practiced, does the same.

    Health is holistic, and I am convinced that the healthier we are physically and mentally, the better equipped we are to face the world without blame.

    P.S. Peace always to you and yours!

    Having said that, and on the down side, I have suffered a loss of faith in some of the systems that made our nation great.

  38. As seems to happen so often, Mark, your words are the ones I personally so need to hear today. Thank you.

    I do think, though, that there is a matter of skillful means in dealing with others, one needs to be charitable to people who aren’t yet ready to hear it all in one big ear-gulp exactly the we we understand it. One maybe needs to try it but not punish the person for not being ready. There is a teaching in Buddhism about giving the dharma in the form that the student is ready to hear being a far more noble thing than giving it in the most direct form we are capable of giving it. Sometimes fostering readiness is the best teaching. This is certainly true for people who have been the object of too much aggression from those closest to them, who haven’t had a safe space.

  39. I’ve always been pretty good at taking responsibility for my life. My problem has been a huge feeling of inferiority and comparing myself to others who seem superior in every way. I’d say that’s the one factor that’s been the biggest impediment for me. I fight it and don’t give in to it as much as I used to.

    I’m generally overwhelmed and fearful constantly, but where does that get you? So these are my impediments that only I can be brave enough to change. I need to focus on the things I CAN control and quit worrying about what I CAN’T control. It does make me feel good when I change my life for the better.

    Love your blog, by the way. You and many others have helped me on my journey. Thanks for the example!

  40. I was so impressed to see how emotionally mature the Japanese citizens were in response to their recent disastrous earthquake and tsunami. I heard a farmer asked who was to blame for the radiative fallout preventing him from selling his milk and he said “we are all to blame for wanting cheap electricity without requiring proper safe guards”. If that happened here (in the US) I couldn’t help but think about the public outcry and blaming of government/industry that would follow. It seems that by becoming a litigious society we have been conditioned to look to blame others for our problems/mistakes and the 24hr news only helps to reenforce this as they look for a villain in the story they tell. And so it becomes very easy to get sucked into this blame game.

    I agree with Mark that we should be ever vigilant to take responsibility for our actions – what we can actually control. After all life is often not fair.

    1. I’ve noticed that many cultures and people from different parts of the world think that way.

      Those cultures think more like how much they can contribute to a community.
      White man thinks about how much he can get for himself.

      White people are materialistic consumers. I see mexican families living together under 1 roof…several families in 1 house.
      White people would kill each other.

  41. Thank you, Mark, for this article today – it’s exactly what I needed to hear.

  42. I think it’s ok to blame some of the people some of the time. There IS injustice in this world. People do bad things to other people, and they should be held accountable, although they often just totally get away with it.

    “I get knocked down, but I get up again…” etc.

  43. This needs to go viral. Bravo!! and to Jim… love your Rollins quote as well, that’s going up in the box.

  44. I appreciate the comments on this website…..especially about this topic. With the exception of only a few folks, the people here are understanding and supportive. At this point (post very difficult and unexpected divorce), I can use all the help I can get. Thank you all for the insightful and honest comments! Since I’ve gone Primal, I’ve lost 27 lbs. and am slowly starting to feel like myself again….and I’m just beginning to workout again.

  45. What an excellent post, Mark. Thanks so much.

    We all have our ups and downs, and it is so easy to blame someone/something else. But Mark is so correct. Blame can be extremely debilitating, and in the end we have to accept who and where we are in life, and choose to move on to a better future. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Thank you.

  46. Thanks, this advice and attitude is almost as healthy as the primal blueprint. Not much reason to be physically healthy and pissed off all the time. Peace and Blessings, Gary

  47. I thought it might be appropriate to share the following quotes from Confusius:

    “If one dwells on the past, then you rob the present”.

    “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart”.

  48. In the brain, neurons that fire together, wire together, and neurons that fire apart, wire apart…

    Millions of people live with unresolved trauma. This usually causes them to hold onto negative cognitions about themselves; “I’m to blame…I’m worthless…I’m a failure…I’m dying…It was my fault” etc… These negative cognitions do indeed get in the way, and until they are transformed, progress and happiness come slowly, if at all. Trauma, if left unprocessed, will cause the neurons to fire apart, and instead of the belief of “I was in danger, now I am not, and I am okay,” the brain will still function as if the “danger” is still there.

    Many times people are held back by the limiting beliefs brought on by traumatic experiences. Working on processing these trauma(s) (sometimes they are big, and sometimes they are small and persistent) is taking responsibility for your life.

    For anyone who has had trauma in their past, I encourage you to look into EMDR, which is a therapeutic tool that processes trauma very very quickly. There are therapists who specialize in this, and use this as a resource:

  49. The best article ever posted on this site. Thanks for encouraging a deep and introspective look at all the elements of my life.

  50. As soon as I accept my own mistake the sooner I have it solved. Accepting my own mistakes bring me peace, blaming them on someone else only causes a fight.

  51. One of the best things I ever heard was, “Your biggest problem is that you think you’re not supposed to have any.” Quite an eye-opener.

    Problems” are a sign of life – how we respond to them, what we make them mean, that’s who we are, and determines the quality of our lives.

  52. I really enjoyed your blog post “The Blame Game”. I’ve seen grown people slowly turn into bitter, ugly versions of themselves because they are never able to fully embrace their own choices and the consequences that they bring. I have also seen a tremendous down spiral in their overall quality of life if that bitterness really takes root and is fed – through blame, guilt, and unforgiveness. Your blog is a great reminder that we only live one life and we must make the best of it by serving others and forgiving.

  53. I had more than my share of challenges to get beyond, but I came to understand that I am responsible for the circle of my life, relationships, work, etc; and other people’s circles overlap, but sometimes you have to step outside that hurtful circle in order to maintain your dignity, sense of purpose, values, and all that matters to you. I refuse to stay in relationship with negative people, I don’t want to be in their circle of misery and discontent. I want a good, productive life, peopled with those I love, respect, enjoy. Life is simply too short to waste it on blame, anger, jealousy, and all the rest that hampers a full life.

  54. This post was spot on and the timing pricelss for me personally, today.
    I lost both parents, my job, in financial chaos and two physical maladies needing surgery, as of today. I am exactly where you indicated: Inside of a box and unable to visually see beyond. Surely this is due to my own demise. Not blaming or feeling sorry for myself…I am simply incapable of coping today with all of this, so just for today I will make no decisions or plans. Like someone else said: We only have today.

  55. Does anyone have any good suggestions for “first steps” to help dig out of the hole that is created by engaging in the negative behaviors discussed here?

    1. I think there is a tendency to conflate two separate matters.

      Let’s say your dad is/was an abusive a-hole.

      Issue 1 Is Dad’s conduct blameworthy?
      Issue 2 What are YOU going to do about YOUR life?

      On 1, yes.
      But that still leaves issue 2. And that is still about YOU.

      In fact, it really can’t be any other way. If you don’t believe that is the answer to 2, then how can you think dad is to blame? If you are not responsible for what YOU do, then dad is not responsible either. Maybe grandpa was an abusive a-hole. That didn’t make it ok for dad to be that way to you, any more than it would make it ok for you to be that way to your son. Or anyone else. Or make it ok for you to do and be less than you can do and be.

      So, yes, dad is/was a jerk and YES, you are responsible for you, good and bad, so get on with it.

      I hope that is helpful.

  56. Today’s post of yours was my favorite yet. Even after all the tips and recipes I have gotten from this site. This is exactly what I blog about constantly. About appreciation of life and how quickly it can end. There is no knowing. No date we can stamp on it. Loved the post.

  57. I loved Mark’s post! Like what the Buddha said with
    The Four Noble Truths

    1. Life means suffering.

    2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

    3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

    4. The path to the cessation of suffering.


  58. Interestingly it was the death of both of my parents (car accident when I was a teenager) that eventually created the desperation I needed to step out of the role of victim. It just shows that even “bad” things can be a catalyst for positive changes.
    Thanks for the great thoughts Mark.

  59. I loved this post. Wonderful timing for me personally. Thanks, Mark.

  60. Like mama always said, don’t carry a grudge. As long as you’re holding the weight, the other guy’s out dancing. Holding onto resentment is like holding onto a hot poker because you’d like to burn someone else. Kinda silly, no?

  61. I blame everything on my beyond awesome childhood. Great parents, atari, little league, and big wheels. 4 awesome older brothers. I turned into an adult and had nowhere to go but down. Curse you, wonderful childhood!

  62. I blame my mother for feeding me crap while growing up.
    I blame my mother for not seeing that I had suffered from malnutrition during my childhood.
    I blame her for not noticing that I had chronic sinus problems.
    I blame her for my crooked teeth.
    I blame her for not feeding me butter when I was begging for it as a young child and she denied any type of fat for me because herself and my older sister were obese. ( I was skin and bones )
    I blame my mother for telling me to get off my high horse when I wanted to go to college to be a Chemist.
    I blame her for ending up in an office enviroment and a paper pusher.
    I blame my mother for denying me guitar lessons…saying all the money went into my sisters piano lessons and there was no money left.
    I blame my Dad for treating my mother like a mushroom, kept in the dark and fed full of shit.
    I blame both my parents for being stupid marrying each other when both came from extremely poor families but the 2 wanted to have children right away….with NO money in the bank.

      1. The ironic part is my mother STILL doesn’t know any better and starts to argue when I bring up anything that would reflect negative on her.
        She is quick to play the victim and to throw her own kids out of her life because she feels offended.

        My parents don’t want anything to do with my sister because of the man she married. Then they call me over the phone and rag about my sister.
        My sister says they rag to her about me…

        Two old bitter people that are always right and play both of their daughters against each other…or so they try. It ain’t working though…I love my sister 🙂

        I’ve forgiven them long ago but my sister can’t.
        Sometimes distance is the best way to forgiveness. I live 8000 miles from my parents while my sister had to deal with them her entire life. I was smart, I got out. I literally left the country because of my parents.

        1. Good for you! I didn’t escape by distance, but I still escaped. My sister is still right there in it.

    1. my mother damaged my life, too — but she thought she was doing the right thing, and worked very hard at it, too! ironic how things work out, sometimes!

  63. Thanks for posting this, Mark. Long time advocate of personal responsibility here. 😉

  64. One of the biggest things that I have gotten out of going primal is actually taking responsibility for my health. I have been empowered to tell my doc where he can put that statin script, and feel confident that all my markers of health are getting better every day I eat this way.

    And as an educational psychologist, I applaud you for going down this road and bringing up the ‘blame’ game… From a clinical perspective, good psychology is about empowering people to take responsibility for the hand they have been dealt and giving them the tools to keep symptoms at bay and then go beyond and engage in growth–that is some powerful stuff!

    Too many people have an external locus of control- their destiny is determined by other things, events, people, situations. People with a high internal locus of control attribute things that go sideways to some element they have control over and they ask instead, “what can I do about this differently to improve” rather than, “woe is me, this or that is happening and I am a victim.” The good news is that people, through taking responsibility for their lives (i.e. PB) can learn to elevate their internal locus of control…

    Grock on,

    1. ‘taking responsibility for my health’

      Yes, me,too. I am thankful I found MDA and that Mark shares his knowledge and wisdom with the rest of us.
      Taking charge of my own health was quite liberating and has wiped a lot of anger, frustration and fear off of my shoulders.

      I am no longer a victim in many categories of my life. Eating primal allowed me to ‘wake up’ and smell the roses. It has also allowed me to see through a lot of bullsh!t in other areas of my life.

  65. This is a wonderful post, and I’ve gleaned a lot from it and from reading (some of) the comments.

    I’d just like to add: through clean eating, exercise, time spent in nature, reading lots of great (usually spiritual) texts, contemplation and meditation, I sometimes come to this place where I see EVERYTHING in life as a gift. And sometimes, I see that the most difficult, horrible stuff contains the biggest gifts. (Or presents/presence, if you like.)

    And then sometimes I just blame everyone for everything.

    But the time spent in “victim me” is much less.

    Thanks Mark, for such an engaging post, and for the opportunity to dialogue about it 🙂

  66. This is by far the best of the daily apples I have read. The Navajo people have a concept loosely translated as “Autonomy.” It means that each person is responsible for their life, and they do not suggest to others what they should or should not do. To outsiders it looks like chaos, but it is I believe one of the culture’s greatest jewels. No blame possible from their young as they make their own choices in growing – not in an individualistic and detached manner but in a responsible and self-searching road toward maturity.

  67. My sister died recently from breast cancer and I was lucky with my brother and sisters to share a lot of time with time in her final weeks of life. What I realised was this
    Life is essentially about the love we have to give to each other and the years of our lives are about how we can create the circumstances to be able to do that for each other

  68. When you blame yourself or others, you are in a victim mode and cannot move on. The key is to move on and learn from your or their mistakes. Successful people apply this technique all the time. Some people fail, give up and blame others; while the successful ones learn from their experience and keep on marching towards their goals.

  69. When you ask yourself the question “what have I done to create this situation” it gives you the bright shiny valuable opportunity to learn from your mistakes. The world is great like that; it gives constant feedback that is truly helpful if we’re receptive to it. Blaming others without looking at your own behavior and assumptions really cuts back on how much wisdom you can reap from life experience; and I think that makes a huge impact on how happy a person can be.

  70. Thank you Mark for this post. It is a good reminder to all of us that we are the final arbiter of what our lives will be. Like a previous poster said, forgive but don’t forget. It took me a little while to get this one. I wasted a couple of years hating my ex. It finally sunk in that I wasn’t hurting him but I was hurting myself. Forgiving him allowed me to move on. Taking increasing personal responsibility for all aspects of my life (financial, health, professional) has led me to a pretty awesome now.

  71. Thanks for the post Mark. I try to remember that my life belongs to me and most good or bad that happens is because of the choices that I make. Of course there are times when life gets to me (having a child with autism will do that to the best of us I think) and all I want to do is sit, eat chocolate covered salted caramel and macadamia nuts and blame someone else for why my life is so hard. The thing is, there isn’t anyone else I can blame my son’s autism on. It isn’t anyone’s fault, including mine. It was a fluke, chance, bolt of lightning out of the blue. All I can do is deal the best I can. I do wish I had family who cared about me enough to look past their personal beef with my life choices and help me so I didn’t feel so alone in it all. But I have no control over them so I am alone and it’s their loss because my son is an amazing little boy they will never have as part of their lives.

    As for Oprah… I have my own beef with her and her irresponsible ‘reporting’ of information that she takes as fact but really is just opinion. I have an issue with the people she puts on pedestals as icons to the cause of autism as if they are the only people going through it and their ideas are the only ones that matter. I’m speaking of course of her endorsement of Jenny McCarthy and her opinion that vaccines cause autism when there isn’t any science to back up her belief. For making this person who is spreading lies and misinformation an ‘inspiration to all who are living with autism’ I hold her personally responsible for anyone who has died due to the anti-vaccine movement. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with putting responsibility where it belongs. There’s a big difference between that and blame I think.

    1. Just in reply to Venna’s post. Vaccines are definitely not Primal. If we feed our bodies nutritous foods and live as close as possible to the ten primal foundations our immune systems grow strong and there is no need to be injected with these extremely dubious vaccines. The evidence that these vaccines cause more harm than good is growing all the time and I suggest you go to Dr Mercola’s website and check this out. I am very sorry to hear about your son’s autism but I hope that a primal diet should alleviate many of the symptoms if he sticks to it.

  72. i blame myself for everything. till i wake up and noticed the ground is hard im freeing im bored. Everything has its need and everyione is on a different journey. Psychology is one of the biggest dangers to not take care about ourself and not be good to ourself.

    we have to be real. being psycho or intelegual wont give us love and joy.

    words are just words and turned around they have divers meanig. keep it real. make fun play a it. explore the world experiement. live your life. judging and blameing others is good. wasting yourself is hurtful. how long you wanna feel hurted and how long should the pain last.?

  73. Thanks for this post. It’s something I need to internalize. I’m only 22 and I’m already convinced that I’ve wasted my best years and will amount to nothing – and as I watch my youth drift by, I’m aware that this feeling is only going to get worse the older I get. So, I guess it’s time to step in and take control. It may be giving myself an excuse, but I feel like I don’t know how. But maybe that’s just a comfortable story. 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for the food for thought.

    1. Nas, they’re *all* the best years. Take it from someone who’s 38 and learned that age brings gifts I never could’ve envisioned in my 20s. I look forward to the coming decades now and the self-development and perspective they’ll bring. My 2 cents: just embrace the moment for what it is in your life at this particular time.

  74. Wow Mark! Brilliant piece today. Thank you. I’ve never posted before, but today’s entry has moved me to speak up. I started paleo about 18mths ago when I found an article connecting depression to sugar intake. I hunted down more info and found MDA, Robb Wolf, Cordain etc and devoured it all. Once I started the change and began seeing results I didn’t look back. I was amazed at the completely different version of me that came to life once I cleaned up my diet, added back the saturated fats, grass fed meats, vegies with butter and supplements. Only once I got out of it could I look back and see just how stuck in that rut of hopelessness I’d been. I’d been living that sad, half developed life you describe, hanging onto stupid old resentments and just barely existing. As you so rightly describe it, because of my poor nutrition, I couldn’t visualize anything but the enclosure around me.

    So this year I was coasting along, loving the emotional lightness living primally had brought me, when in Feb I found a breast lump and was diagnosed with cancer. I was only 44 and I was in utter shock. I had been feeling so good. As I went through the treatment of surgery and radiotherapy I had time to really examine my life. I was totally humbled by the love and support I received. The greatest lesson by far was facing those long nights early in the diagnosis and contemplating that I really could die from this. I may have to leave this wonderful life I’d only just really discovered. I don’t know how long the tumour had been growing but I do know instinctively it was from a combination of poor diet (including very low vitD and Iodine) and just as importantly I believe it was the emotional ghetto I had been living in. I hate to think how I would have coped with the diagnosis in my old lifestyle.

    It has changed me totally. I am blessed and humbled to have escaped this cancer lightly, where so many others don’t and I’m not wasting life anymore. For me it’s no more wasteful laziness. Now it’s about living now, pure nourishment, valuing those around me, enhancing lives where I can, laughing, getting out and enjoying any weather and more.

    Btw, some of the cancer fighting dietary “advice” out there is truly scary. Eat up your whole grains deary! Along the journey coming back to MDA and using your seach facility to find sound reasonable ideas was so reassuring!

    Thank you Mark for the wonderful work you do sharing this vital, life enriching, information with people.

  75. This post strikes me as very bourgeois and somewhat psychologically naive. If you have ever been a twenty-something trying to feed a family with a jobless rate above 20% you know how worthless all the positive thinking in the world can be. If you knew what it is like to graduate college, speak two languages, and have a resume that starts at 13, only to work for illegal immigrants for $10/hr, you would know what blame is. I didn’t choose to be allergic to soy, I didn’t choose to make it an American staple. I didn’t choose any of the things that define my life. The most I can do is choose to continue fighting. But choosing is not something any of us “chooses” to do; genes and environment collide and we do whatever we do.

  76. Love your blog, and love reading all the responses it provoked. I love how we are all different, and there’s something to learn from everyone. I especially love “when you know better, you do better”. I’ve made my path one of service, and “knowing/doing better”.

  77. I am deeply sorry to hear of the loss of her mother. One thing I found that helps with the blame game: make a list of all the people who are to blame for all that is wrong in your life. Then put your name at the top if the list. Accept the responsibility of your situation, then throw that list away. You won’t need it.
    I like Larry Winget! His book Shut Up, Stop Whining and Get a Life is a great motivational book in that respect.

  78. I think everyone gets at least one wake-up call in their lives. Whether it changes anything is up to them. For me, hearing the Big C word in 2006 was my wakeup call. After successful treatment, I began on a path to better health and wellbeing, and hopefully a long happy life in the process. As you can guess eventually my quest led me to MDA and I found exactly what I was looking for.

  79. Mark’s post rocked.
    Life is short, so carpe diem my primal friends.

  80. I just gotta say – not taking any sides – that the first 10 or so comments on this are absolutely hysterical.

    Long live MDA.

  81. I don’t ever comment on these blogs but this one for some reason hit home. Thank you mark for the well thought out article

  82. This post came at a really perfect time. Today I had one of those days where I wined all day and did nothing productive, because I was too busy wining.
    Thank you for another great post Mark, I feel better.

  83. Great article. Thanks for the reminder about our personality responsibility for our lives.

  84. Fantastic read! Love the honesty and truth provided. I wish all people would stand accountable for their current condition instead of blaming other people or circumstances. THANKS!

  85. Dear Mark, Thank you for taking the time to write such a lovely article. I do not have the time to write a long and detailed letter, as I would like, but I will say a few words. As lovely, as inspiring and motivating as your article may appear to be on the surface; I find it somewhat disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to talk like you, I know what the “socially approved” words and key phrases are, I do like and truly respect Oprah (although, I also do not follow her blindly.) She is on the ball most of the time, although I have at time disagreed with one thing here or there which she may have said.

    I do understand the intention behind what you are trying to say and I do appreciate that. However, I also not only think it is dangerous but I also think that it is irresponsible and unreal to view human psyche, human emotions, human thinking as simplistically as you do. The fact of the matter is that we are not as “free willed” as you would like to assume. I am not talking about God, but I am talking about our history. People say do not “blame your mother or father or etc….” but this is much too simplistic. If this was the case, then Dr. Phil would not say in his show that by doing “this or that or etc….” then you are forever setting up your child (children) for a life time of problems. He would simply say that “if your child simply wants it badly enough then he will be able to overcome anything which you do to him. Go ahead, abuse him sexually, go ahead beat him up daily, go ahead destroy her emotionally, go ahead play with her mind, lie to her and mislead her; but if they want to, when they grow up, (statistically speaking) most of them will be able to overcome all these obstacles that you have put in their path … if they want it badly enough. If they are lucky enough to meet a health coach or an inspiration speaker such as yourself. (The matter of fact is that what you are saying is inaccurate and in my opinion also dangerous.) Yes, children are resilient but there are limits. The fact of the matter is Mark, that we are highly programmed by our “mothers” and “fathers” or
    ” whoever raised us” and the environment and upbringing which we received. Do we have a choice in how to live our lives, yes we do. But how much choice we actually have is extremely influenced by our upbringing. I will not bring up the genetics issue here. I think that as a “motivator” you cannot address this issue as much as you, perhaps, should because it would go against what you are trying to do. You are trying to inspire people to change and by acknowledging that in fact, a great deal, of who we are, who we can realistically be, was in fact “programmed” into us by our environment as a child would go against the work which you are trying to do. However, I still had to say what I am saying here. I believe that in the future research will show more proof for what I am trying to parlay; but this is my opinion. I think it is dangerous to say to people that your environment as a child cannot and does not control you to a large degree because in my opinion that is a wrong, wrong and inaccurate statement. I am certain that if people were to think about it; they will be able to come up with better phrases and statements that will be able to both motivate individuals and to not be so misleading in what they are saying. What I am saying is far too complicate to fully explain in this short writing but I think that for those who read this material they will be able to have some understanding of what I am trying to say.

  86. Beautiful post. As for those people bashing Oprah, I don’t like her either, but hating the messenger doesn’t always mean you have to hate every single message they give. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and in Oprah’s case I think that quote was right on the money.

  87. I choose life, been out windsurfing today………Love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  88. Mark,

    Great post. Always good to remind ourselves what’s important in life. Instead of blaming others, we should take matters into our own hands, especially when it comes to health.


  89. A great post! This goes right to the heart of all positive change. Taking responsibility for our own lives. It is true for achieving health. You can not blame your genes, or how much or little money you have. In the end, the power to affect your own health is within yourself.

    It is a great feeling to realize that you have this control over your own wellbeing, but even more profound when you realize the same principle applies to everything in life. Our work, relationships, hobbies, and even our emotions. They are all there for us to take responsibility for and ownership over.

  90. One of the warmest, most heartfelt posts you’ve ever written Mark.
    It’s so timely for me too hearing this message. Sorry about the loss, I too once lost someone close.

    Well I look back over the last 6 years of my life and I have been at college, no direction, year after year just going down the drain. Lately I’ve realized just how little it has amounted to, with no end in sight all I am doing is accumulating debt and wasting what are meant to be the best years of my life. I know I tried, but it shouldn’t be this way.

    So despite family and peer pressure I just dropped it all and I am in the process of enlisting in the Air Force. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve come to realize just how precious life is. It’s a special gift and it really cheapens its value to narrow it down solely to making money, obtaining social status, and consumption.

    At 24 I believe it’s important to be content with what you do and who you are.

    Man do I regret this huge mistake I’ve made, all I can do is move on.

    Thanks Mark.