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Many years ago, I was participating in a seminar. I’ve done a lot of seminars but this was one of the first. The leader said something to the class that stopped me in my tracks. It was something like, ‘You cause your life.’ I can’t recall his exact phrasing, but it was self-help speak at its finest. The idea shook my brain off its axis for a bit. My reaction was,

“Wait, what?! I’m the one to blame for my dysfunctional childhood? I caused my divorce? I cause all the dissatisfaction in my life?”

I took this declaration and immediately started blaming myself for the state of my existence. Blame was the main ingredient of my discombobulated state.

I didn’t know it, but a shift was coming. Looking back, the fact is that I’d been blaming others for the state of my life up until I heard that sentence. But now, I began blaming myself more than others.

I bet you can guess that the seminar leader did not intend this.

I continued to wrestle with myself over this new concept. Deep down, I was ready to take responsibility and create positive change in my life. But I was really really stuck with his words.

There was no way I could take the blame for my childhood! As a kid, I had no control over what happened. The recent car accident on the freeway? I couldn’t accept blame for that either, I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet, I could own some of the responsibility for my divorce.

I struggled. I talked to others. Eventually, I let the concept go and moved on.

I had missed the point entirely.

I can’t recall how long it took, but I eventually understood what this teacher meant. No matter what happens in our lives, we get to choose how we respond to it. We can choose to blame ourselves, blame others, complain, rage, or shut down when things happen. We can choose to stay neutral. Or we can use our experiences as teachable moments and find the gold in them.

Here’s a definition of cause:

cause (kôz)

  • n.

    The producer of an effect, result, or consequence.

The point the teacher was making when he said, "You cause your life" was that we each get to choose what effect, result, or consequence we are going to create for our one wild and precious life.

Why not choose a good one?

We can’t choose what happens, but we can choose how we respond to what happens. We can choose the meaning we assign to what happens. We can choose not to blame and instead learn from unfortunate events. If we are really stuck, we can choose to get some help with seeing a new perspective on the issue.

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About The Author

Katie McClain SEP's picture

Katie McClain, SEP is a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner, author, and certified life coach. She’s been coaching for 25+ years and uses Somatic Experiencing®, a gentle body-mind method, to support her adult and child clients in releasing stress, growing self-compassion, and restoring goodness to their lives. Katie’s book, How to Tame Your Thought Monster, is available in multiple formats (English, Spanish, coloring book, and app) and presents mindfulness and positive thinking tools for adults and kids so they can feel better and do better. Visit Katie at her website,, follow her on Facebook  and Instagram.

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