It’s Not Your Fault

This is a scene from the movie Good Will Hunting. I’m always moved by it.

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a talented but troubled man. Abused as a child, he subconsciously blames himself for the things that go wrong in his life. In this scene towards the end of the movie, Will admits another failure to his psychotherapist (Robin Williams), a man with his own troubles and feelings of guilt.

When he let go of his ego long enough to really grasp it, that it wasn’t his fault, it was the beginning of the end of his pain.

This probably resonates with many people about many things. When it comes to health behaviors, I see many people blame themselves for poor choices. Maybe they eat too much fast food, or they don’t get enough exercise, or enough sleep, or they smoke, drink, take drugs. Certainly there is an element of individual responsibility, but there is also a huge web of social and political and economic forces that set people up to make the choices they do.

People don’t get to pick their parents, or the family and society they are born into. The circumstances of their childhood are largely out of their control. When they grow up, people are hounded by the market (and by a culture influenced by the market) to consume products that are not always health-promoting. And when people get sick, they are intimidated by a medical industry into consuming their highly-profitable bandaids, their drugs, surgeries, and other therapies that don’t address the root cause of the sickness, that are more about treatment than prevention.

If we could let go of our egos long enough to grasp it, that we are products of our environment, it could be the beginning of the end of our suffering.

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