“Breaking Blame” is a combination memoir and “self-healing” book written by Dave Schroeder, based on his 50-year career as a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry and as a gay man and single dad. It offers readers a how-to manual for finding happiness by coping with sadness and fear while avoiding the often-accompanying depression and anxiety. He uses wry humor, anecdotes and personal experiences to get his message across, and admits to sometimes invoking a little drama to make his point.
Schroeder was raised in Santa Ana during the Truman and Eisenhower era and earned a medical degree from Loma Linda University in 1967. He started visiting Laguna Beach in the 1940s with his Seventh Day Adventist parents, whom he says gave him a puritanical upbringing. He bought his first home in Laguna in 1975, and in 1978, moved to his current home in the Village where he raised his kids and has lived for the past 41 years. He describes himself as a “student of history, world traveler, do-it-yourselfer, host to foreign visitors and wannabe architect.”
The overarching tenet of the book is summed up in a line from Chapter 11. “Blame does to the mind’s eye what a cataract does to the anatomical eye.” The book contains a glossary of terms, some common, some self-generated, which act as a guide to help the reader through the text.
When Schroeder was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, he was completing an internship at Orange County Hospital. He signed on to the Berry Plan, which committed him to entering the military as a psychiatrist when he finished his residency in thepsychiatry department at UCI Medical School.
“The military agreed not to interfere with my training for three years. When my training was finished, the U.S. Navy stationed me as the base psychiatrist at Camp Pendleton from 1971 to ’73 to serve 30,000 Marines who were in training. Fortunately, I was well-grounded in psychology, ethics and medicine,” Schroeder said. He was also grateful that he was able to live in his own home with his family while fulfilling his draft obligation.
Throughout Schroeder’s career in private practice from 1973 to 2007, he held staff positions at Mission Community Hospital in Mission Viejo (now Mission Hospital run by St. Joseph Healthcare), the former psychiatric hospital, Capistranto-by-the-Sea, and South Coast Medial Center (now Mission Hospital Laguna Beach). He has also worked in charity clinics, homeless centers, an AIDS hospice and with Auschwitz survivors. Of the latter, he said, “They taught me that if I would just be there, holding their hearts with them, they’d also reclaim a life worth living.”
The major credo of “Breaking Blame” is Schroeder’s belief that we’re all doing the best we can in any given instant. His view extends to children as well. “You should never raise a child to think they should have been better than they are,” said the author, who is a father of three. Two chapters in the book address childrearing. He believes in giving kids “little packages of adulthood.”
In the chapter on love and marriage, Schroeder posits that each person in a relationship has the right to be what they are; discord arises when one tries to make the other wrong. He suggests that it is one’s own responsibility to find happiness in or out of the marriage.
The author also challenges the adage, “time heals everything.” Instead, he writes, “I think not taking it personally heals anything that’s going to heal.” He reiterates, “You go through life giving it the best you can at any given instant. As you see how the world reacts to what you are doing, you can change what you are doing. But remember, you are just changing the odds. It is still true the world does what the world does.”
Schroeder concludes, “To be happy one must accept the nature of things and concentrate on what’s good. The nature of things is that we never get it right, and the closest we ever get is on the day we die.”
“Breaking Blame” is available locally at Vertigo Home, 1550 S. Coast Highway, or Soul Project, 1516 S. Coast Highway. It can also be found on Amazon and at breakingblame.com.