Stay connected

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts.


That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.
your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live
I met Brenda and took the MBTI… I had a fairly good understanding of these types before the meeting but was impressed by the depth of knowledge that Brenda shared with me. She clearly has a passion for this work and a gift in imparting the information. There have been doors opened for me because of our talks… — Alan Hintermeister
Alan Hintermeister
Thank you for all the words. You’ve created the magic drug I’ve been looking for all my life. Your blog has transformed my life, and I feel like I am on the brink of a most satisfying fulfilling journey…You’ve made me see everything in a new light. I now feel calmer, able to care better for my toddler, less hateful of people around, and hopeful for my future. I am not so afraid for our marriage anymore. — Shilpa CB
Shilpa CB
Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…

“I was struggling with my daughter (16 at the time) and our constant fighting. You said something to me that changed my life! You were speaking about your own situation and you said to me “my child could not handle my emotions”. This was a HUGE “lightbulb moment” for me and it forever changed the way I dealt with my emotions when I was around my daughter!

I am happy to say that things have never been better between my soon to be 18 year old daughter and myself! I honestly never thought we would…

Mom M
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…

Join us on Facebook

The Addiction Behind Criticism and Blame: How to Escape the Cycle

angry woman

Photo via Pixabay

Most relationships move into a more sedate, post-honeymoon phase. After the good bonding, falling-in-love chemicals (dopamine, oxytocin) dissipate and we perceive permanence in our relationship, we subconsciously start to miss the arousal and excitement of newness and chemicals.

We can make healthy choices and work on ways to keep our relationship open and evolving. Perhaps we join a community together or we support each other’s careers, but quite often the easier default behaviors take over. We assume we know our partner and can predict their behavior so we go on autopilot and become less present.

Why criticism and blame are so hard to avoid

To stir up energy and wake ourselves from the autopilot stupor, we also do something else. We create drama. One way to guarantee a reaction is to create conflict by pointing fingers or criticizing our partner.

I recently discovered, according to Dr, Gay Hendricks in Conscious Loving Ever After, that our brains secrete adrenaline (epinephrine) when we aim blame or criticism at someone. Adrenaline relieves boredom, fatigue and despair. Is it any wonder this hit of excitement becomes addictive?

Do you know anyone who seems to live to critique and judge? It’s possible they can’t stop because they have not found other ways to feel this kind of mini-rush?

Unresolved conflict

Chronic criticism and blame do not produce a positive result. Conflict that does not lead to progress does not serve our relationship. Our negativity and judgment only serve to perpetuate a race to see who is the biggest victim. Victimhood keeps us low. Criticism erodes intimacy.

When we’re stressed our partners become our enemies. When we feel safe, we are allies.

Ways to avert our addiction to blame and criticism

What do we say or do in place of criticizing or blaming?

  1. Extend our ability to feel natural good feelings (those not induced by alcohol, drugs, sugar, etc). When something good happens in our lives, we notice it and savor the moment. For example, when someone gives us a compliment, instead of deflecting it, we receive it fully and express gratitude by saying thank you. Practicing mindfulness and presence helps stretch our ability to hold onto positive feelings. Stay in the present versus looking to the past or future.
  2. Express wonder. When the urge to lash out at our partner (or children, friends, co-workers, etc.) strikes, pause and say “Hmmmm”. Get curious about your reaction and what caused it. Dr. Hendricks recommends asking ourselves questions like, “When have I felt this way before?” or “What is trying to emerge here?” Try to get at the fear behind our reaction and our loved one’s behavior.
  3. Express appreciation. One of the easiest ways to ground ourselves in the present and in good vibes is to express appreciation for what we have. Telling our partner how much we appreciate their help, kindness, home-cooked meal or anything about them, slows down our brain and focuses us on life’s gifts. All parties involved feel better.
  4. Take responsibility. It feels good when we criticize and get that hit of adrenaline, but it feels good when we reclaim our power over the situation too. Instead of delegating responsibility for a problem in our relationship, we can ask ourselves how we contribute to it and what actions we can take right away to absolve it. Numbers 2 and 3 above are good places to start.

Have you fallen into the blame and criticize trap? Is it keeping your relationship lively? How can you keep your relationship alive without going negative? 

About the Author:


  1. michaelrbuley April 20, 2018 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Great stuff here, Brenda. The rush from judging / critiquing — who’d a thunk? Makes perfect sense. It’s addictive behavior on the part of many people. Judge, criticize, blame, compare, put down, attack. And you get a rush. Of course. Why do we do things again and again? Because there’s a positive feeling that comes from it.

    The downside of all of that is huge, of course. Unhappiness with our lives. Destroy relationships. Never taking responsibility for our lives. And never really, truly being alive. All the negative finally destroys who we are. It’s toxic and corrosive. A lifetime of it, and we are virtually nothing of what we might have been.

    To find that rush from positive things — that changes everything. Yes, praise. Gratitude. Speak well of others, and only well of others. Speak well of ourselves, and only well of ourselves. Patterns and habits that we can develop over time.

    And find something that consumes us — a passion, a purpose, something bigger than ourselves. Otherwise we become consumed by petty nonsense, petty behaviors, that matter for nothing, and waste who we are.

    We seek purpose and meaning and passion — something that makes us feel that we are making a difference in the world. Something that is true to who we are. Not easy to find. But it is findable. We simply must keep searching, listening to that unmistakeable voice within us that will guide us.

    Thanks for shining that light on judging — that we get that momentarily positive rush from it. May we all seek to find that rush from something that positively consumes us, and brings us that joy that we seek.

    • Brenda Knowles April 25, 2018 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your comment Michael. 🙂 So good to hear from you! I hope we all can find the patience and wisdom to praise more than we put down, but it’s hard… especially when we get adrenaline from the criticizing. New habits, new neural pathways formed. They are worth the work. I’m sure trying. 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: