If you wake up in the morning with a pounding headache, it’s possible that you spent a long night drinking heavily, banging your head to loud music, and crushing beer cans against your skull. Another possibility is that you were minding your own business and an unprovoked lunatic assaulted you with a blunt object.
The thing is, you probably know which one it was. If you wake up with that pounding headache, you probably don’t confuse one cause for the other. You either wake up mad at your past self for a bunch of bad choices, or you recognize that it wasn’t your fault.
That’s for physical pain. We’re really, really bad at that for mental or emotional pain.
Some things are your fault. Some things aren’t. We make mistakes in both directions. We blame ourselves and internalize fault for things that had nothing to do with us. And we blame others (or “the universe“) for stuff that we absolutely engineered for ourselves.
So how do we avoid these mistakes? The very first step is to accept that neither one is automatically true. My observation has been that individuals tend to skew one way or the other. Either everything is their fault, or nothing is. By first accepting the paradigm that individual challenges need to be evaluated individually, you can begin to look for ways to look at your pain in a fair way.