Great Health Guide
GET OUT OF THE BLAME GAME
The deep effects of blaming others in a relationship
Take a look at Genesis 3:8-12 in the Bible.
WHO WAS THE FIRST BLAMER?
The first blamer was Adam (ladies don’t laugh, you were second) and Adam actually had the nerve to blame both Eve and God. Blaming has been around since the beginning and the sad fact is, we seem to not have learned the lesson. It did not work for Adam or for Eve (who blamed the snake) and it does not work for us. So, what can we learn about blaming that might help us have more responsible and empowered lives?
THE EFFECTS OF BLAMING: 1. On the blamed:
A partner who gets blamed experiences many of the following reactions: hurt, anger, resentment, guilt, shame, misunderstood, invalidated, disconnection from blamer, humiliated, inferior and lowered selfesteem. There is a desire to withdraw from the blamer, with frustration about being unable to resolve the difficulty and if the blaming is chronic, a feeling of hopelessness about the relationship.
2. On the blamer:
The blamer experiences many of the following reactions: brief feelings of relief from being wrong and feelings of superiority and power. Defensive, selfrighteous, safe from attack, protected from shame or guilt (she/he did nothing wrong), self-satisfied and innocent. On a deeper level the blamer also experiences a lack of power. Since the one who is blamed is seen as the cause of the problem, then the blamer has no power to make positive changes or affect the situation in any way. He/ she must rely on the blamed to fix the problem.
3. On chronic blamers:
In essence, chronic blamers usually see themselves as victims who are the result of the blamed. Powerlessness is a direct effect of chronic blaming. Because blamers take no responsibility for the difficulty, they have no power to fix it. Chronic blamers feel superior but also feel helpless — a tragic price to pay for never being wrong. Finally, chronic blaming will often contribute to depression.
One of the most regrettable and harmful results of chronic blaming is that it blocks the blamer’s ability to be introspective.
Introspection is essential to the process of self-awareness and inner growth. If an individual cannot look inward due to excessive blaming (painful self-judgment) then she/he will avoid it entirely. The inability or unwillingness to look at one’s faults makes change impossible. How could we change what we cannot see? Inner work thus becomes stunted or nonexistent and the blamer’s personality will usually remain stuck in adolescence (the stage of life at which inner work begins).
4. On the relationship:
Blaming blocks trust, mutual understanding, creative problem
solving and intimacy. It erodes safety, compassion and the possibility of growth and healing. Chronic blaming usually requires professional help to change; otherwise it will destroy any meaningful relationship.
WHY DO BLAMERS BLAME?
Blaming arises out of low self-esteem, insecurity and an inability (usually born of fear and shame) to admit being wrong. It is also often accompanied by a childish and/or naïve expectation of perfection in self and others. The blamer cannot tolerate mistakes in him/herself and overreacts with judgment and punitive thoughts or actions. Blamers cannot distinguish between blame and responsibility and have a strong tendency to interpret mistakes as intentional or stupid. They also ‘see’ all feedback and criticism as attack and react accordingly.
HOW TO STOP THE BLAME GAME?
Blamers can be extremely difficult to confront. It is not easily done. They usually are highly sensitive to anything that even vaguely seems like criticism and will react with defensiveness or counterattack.
It is important that anyone who wants to have a helpful and healing conversation with a blamer must first build trust, find compassion for the blamer and become adept at communicating without judgment. A blamer is hypersensitive to criticism (for them it equals attack) and thus they must feel safe with the person who is trying to help them.
If you are in a relationship with a blamer, then it will become important for you to do two things.
1. Stop accepting blame.
I do not mean stop accepting responsibility since you may also contribute to the difficulties. However, these situations do not have to be a reason for put downs or attack by your partner. It is important that you require criticism to be communicated constructively and not judgmentally.
2. Go first.
It can be useful to ask your partner for feedback about what he/she does not like about you (only one item at a time, please). Discuss it and listen as non-defensively as you can. Then after hearing them out, ask your partner for equal time. Present your difficulty with compassion and gentleness. Unless you are dealing with a chronic blamer this technique can produce excellent results.
Dr Matthew Anderson has a Doctor of Ministry specialising in counselling. He has extensive training and experience in Gestalt and Jungian Psychology and has helped many people successfully navigate relationship issues. Dr Anderson has a best-selling book, ‘The Resurrection of Romance’ and he may be contacted via his website.