I encountered a situation with a friend recently and as we were catching up, she was sharing about how she was having a hard time with life. Her relationships were non-existent, her job was unfulfilling and her family life was apathetic. I’ll be honest, I felt sorry for her, because I’ve been there before – I know how it feels.
However, there was a common thread in her series of circumstances, there was always a reason for everything and they were all to blame, she was merely the victim. Her language sounded a lot like:
“If they didn’t X, I wouldn’t have Y…”
“It’s not my fault, I’m so nice…”
“How dare they? I can’t believe they did X…”
“Why does this always happen to me?…”
It made me curious about how sometimes we victimise ourselves in a situation, feeling like the world is against us. I wanted to understand how blame plays a part in our development. Why do we do it and how can we shift out of this?
Why we blame others?
- The Easy Way Out: Sociology experts have discovered that people who accept responsibility for the negative things in their lives are empowered, while those who feel like they are a victim to life’s circumstances are powerless. ¹ It’s easy to blame others because you don’t need to take accountability for it. It’s always about them, and you’re giving them the power to dictate your feelings and your circumstance. Even if you’re not conscious about shifting the blame, what you’re saying is that you do not want to carry the emotional responsibility of being at fault.
- The Need to Control: When you lose control of a situation, it’s easy to blame someone else in order to regain the control. Deflecting your loss and shifting the blame is a tactic that casts a veil over your anger and subconsciously, your powerlessness. Commonly used by gaslighters to avoid their own pain, they fixate on clouding your judgement than the actual issue at hand. This also means that the problem never gets resolved and it will happen repeatedly.
- Low Self-Esteem: No one likes to admit this. Even when you blame other people to make yourself seem like a victim, you’re still trying to boost your ego because you’re seeking attention from other people to validate that you’re correct. Blaming is like other formal defense mechanisms–a strategy of deception that we use to help preserve our self-esteem. It encompasses an attempt to disown feelings that we judge to be too uncomfortable or part of ourselves that create within us a sense of shame. ²
- Problem Solving: Sometimes blaming someone else helps people feel like you have located a cause. We often assume that someone has to be at fault if there is a problem. But this results in snap judgements and people’s tendency to deny responsibility. Once you’re on the offence, the other will automatically assume the role as the defence.
How do we shift out of it?
- Begin asking yourself questions about what can you learn from this? What has this situation taught you? What do you know now that you didn’t know before? It can start with something as small. You want to feel empowered by your decisions not disempowered.
- Relearn your defense mechanism. Remember that you’re the only one who actually has control over your behavior and therefore you will have to take personal responsibility for your next move. Shifting blame will be tiring because you won’t be able to get to the root of your issues.
- Emotional avoidance is the issue so being able to respond to your emotions and confront them is key.
- Explore why you feel so bad about yourself that you’re unable to take responsibility for your role in the situation.
Podcasts to listen to: