Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chutes & Ladders (and The Blame Game)

The last time I sat down with my boys to play a game of Chutes and Ladders I came to a conclusion. I decided that I'm going to blame my late-in-life grasp of "choices equal consequences" (cause-and-effect) on the fact that nobody ever played Chutes and Ladders with me when I was a kid.

I'm the baby in my family. My siblings are much older than me so they never had much interest in childish board games, and the kids in my neighborhood hated board games. We used our imaginations too much to slow down for board games. Our favorite pastimes included playing Barbies, playing with She-Ra: Princess of Power action figures, and challenging each others' choreographical genius by making up outrageous dance routines to songs like "Eye of the Tiger" and "Walk Like an Egyptian." We were a creative bunch, and we just didn't have time to sit still. Board games? More like bored games! Not a chance!

As a child, I had time to literally beg my mother to make me an "Annie" dress 
so I could (as authentically as possible) sing "Tomorrow" at the top of my lungs 
and drive everyone in my neighborhood absolutely crazy until I outgrew said dress, 
but I simply did not have time for board games. I was too busy for those.

The object of  "Chutes and Ladders" is to get your pawn to the "WINNER" square by spinning a spinner and moving across a series of squares which are numbered 1 to 100. Some of the squares have cartoon-y pictures of kids on them. If your pawn lands on a picture square at the base of a ladder, you get to immediately climb up the ladder. Once you get to the top of the ladder there's another picture. If you look closely at the pictures you can see that the kids at the bases of all these ladders are doing nice things: good deeds, making wise decisions, helping others. For example, the kid who's eating a balanced meal at the base of the ladder on square 36 moves up the ladder to square 44 and is rewarded with growing taller. The little boy who's taking out the trash on square 71 climbs to square 91 and is handsomely rewarded with an ice cream sundae. If you check out the pictures on the chutes, you see the same kind of thing going on in reverse. When you land on a picture square at the top of a chute, you slide down and have to start your pursuit of the WINNER square from your landing point. The kids at the tops of the chutes are doing things like drawing on the walls and riding their bikes with no hands, and their descents end with those kids cleaning up their messes and sitting in wheelchairs with broken bones and black eyes. I'm sure this game was developed to teach preschoolers all kinds of things. One purpose is to reinforce the cause-and-effect rule to the kids who are playing the game. Good choices result in wonderful things, and bad choices lead to a load of cleanup work and pain. (What a concept!)

So the next time my therapist asks me why I think I made a particular decision that resulted in catastrophe, I'm just going to look at her and say, "Well, don't blame me! I never played Chutes and Ladders!" This will, by way of diversion and deception, place the blame on my parents, who bought me things like Easy Bake Ovens, Rock Star Barbies and Pogo Balls instead of silly old boring educational board games. Ah, The Blame Game. Now that's a fun one!

In all seriousness, the "blame game" often becomes a coping mechanism that allows us to shift focus (from ourselves and the consequences of our actions) on to someone else. Since I've been on this healing journey one of the things I've learned to do (almost reflexively at this point) is to check myself when I start playing the blame game and ask myself what it is that I need to change about a situation in order to move on. When I notice that my rants about a situation become more about "the other guy" and what he's done to me and less about myself and how I can fix it (or let go of it when I truly can't change it), that's a red flag. That's my "wake-up call" to shut up and stop whining. Anyway, 9 times out of 10 I've landed in the muck I'm in because of a decision that I've made... and the sooner I take responsibility for it, the sooner I can climb up life's ladder and move toward that winner's square. Do you sometimes find yourself playing the blame game? How do you recognize that that's what you're doing? How do you stop it? Share your tips and tools in the comments section.

Until next time... May you be blessed - and inspired to pass it on!


I'm THAT girl said...

I usually realize that I'm playing the blame game when I am angry and galloping in negative thinking. Even if I'm "righteous" in my mind and have truly been wronged... to stay there is very toxic for me. Some situations are easier to let go of than others. The other situations, I tend to let go, take back, let go, take back... I can usually notice them by all the claw marks on them :P

Meggs said...

Oh, those claw marks! I know all about them. LOL... Thank you so much for sharing. =)

Anonymous said...

First time reader here. The tag "childhood sexual abuse" caught my eye and I had to look. I am a survivor/thriver, too! God bless you, sister. I'll be following along. Know that you are in good company. Thank you for your authenticity! I hope you'll come by my blog sometime, too. With love, Becky

Meggs said...

Welcome, Becky! Thanks so much for checking out my blog and for sharing with me. I just had a chance to go read your latest entry and I've gotta say it's no accident you found me because I need what you're sharing over at your space. Thank YOU for your authenticity. This is great! I can't wait to get a chance to catch up with your archived blogs. I plan on reading EVERY ONE! Blessings to you!

One Cluttered Brain said...

I think we all have participated in the blame game at one time or another in our lives! I LOVED the games Chutes and Ladders as a girl!
Love the analogy!

Sandra said...

I give you so much credit for coming to this conclusing at this point of your life. Some people go their ENTIRE lives and never take ownership of their choices, and on their death beds, they wonder why nobody is willing to hold their hand...ok, that's a bit extreme, but you get it.
As for "bored games" I'm so on "board" with you, I can't stand them!

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