The writer found the animation a little distracting (for which she has decided not to blame The RSA). You may love it or you may consider closing your eyes for Brené’s neat little exploration of blame: what it is and what it does, and how we might do well to monitor and reach beyond the blaming process within ourselves, and within our relationships. If you are in the UK, in the wake of our recent election, the embedded nature of blaming in our cultures is likely to be abundantly clear. It exists in almost all our social structures, and for the most part blaming attitudes and language go unchallenged – indeed are normalized and accepted.
‘Accountability’ is a word that features strongly in the lexicon of the blamer – but it is one of those words, like ‘love’, that changes meaning with the intention of the speaker. The difficulty with the ‘accountability’ of the blamer is the point Brené makes: blame cannot co-exist with genuine accountability. Indeed, they are inversely proportional: the more blame, the less accountability, the less acceptance by anyone of responsibility. The blamer speaks and acts from a armoured, closed-hearted place, and inevitably the person blamed also armours and closes… Who would voluntarily open their vulnerability to an unkind, punitive, empathy-free aggressive act? Blame dehumanizes, and generates disconnection.
As Brené comments, true accountability is a vulnerable process – for all involved. It is akin to the therapeutic process (and creates similar effects), because it has at its heart presence, empathy, congruence and a valuing of the personhood of everyone involved. It is a process of collaborative exploration, without an agenda. It is not one person, or a gang of people, going after another, with a view to identifying ‘wrongdoing’, blaming, shaming and punishing – ultimately a manifestation of oppression in the political sense, imposing a personal or cultural agenda, and external locus. That is inherently a disempowering and non-relational process. At its best, accountability has instead the potential to be a healing, growthful process for all participants, which generates trust and the willing assumption of personal responsibility from a place of internal locus.
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter