Blaming - The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.
Pointing the Finger:
People with Personality Disorders sometimes experience strong, rapid, inexplicablemood swings. It can be hard for the person to rationalize or understand why if their objective circumstances have remained relatively unchanged.
Because most people like to think their gut feelings are reliable, and do not like to think they may have mental health issues, it is not uncommon for those who experience dramatic mood swings to try to pin the blame elsewhere. Sometimes in their search for why they suddenly feel so sad or angry they decide the explanation is the perceived imperfections of the people closest to them.
This can lead to "always" and "never" statements,circular conversations, projection, shaming and splitting.
Sometimes you may face false accusations ordissociationand be blamed for something which isn’t real or never happened. It’s also fairly common to find yourself getting the blame for something that your accuser actually did or said themselves - this is known as projection.
Examples of Blaming:
- "I only did it because you don't love me"
- "If you hadn't done X and Y, I wouldn't have had to do Z"
- "This is all your fault".
- "You never listen to me! You only care about your friends."
What it feels like:
It’s normal to feel hurt and defensive when a person is blaming you for something and you believe you have done nothing wrong. You may fear that they will speak badly about you to others and give you a bad reputation. You may fear that they will begin to punish you for what you are supposed to have done. You may feel trapped and unable to fix the problem - yet you still feel like you are being held responsible for it.
Learning to Cope with Blaming:
Some mental health professionals promote the technique of validation whenever a Non-Personality-Disordered individual (Non) is confronted with an episode of blaming. Validation, when used skillfully, can sometimes help a person who is feeling very badly about themselves reverse course and begin to feel good about themselves. However, validation can only be effective if it is based on truth and given from a position of personal safety.
If a person is intentionally hurting you as a means of making themselves feel better, it is rarely productive to try to absorb the verbal abuse. You aren’t helping that person when you allow them to hurt you without taking responsibility for what they are doing. That is an unhealthy form of enabling which exchanges long term security for short term relief.
Blaming gives Personality Disordered individuals a mechanism to let off steam but does little to resolve real issues – especially as the root problem is often their own internalized negative feelings.
Furthermore, if the Non reacts defensively or destructively to the blaming, they may inadvertently turn a blaming episode into a full-blown verbal conflict. This can make blaming a self-fulfilling prophecy, and lead to chronic conflict in relationships.
The real problem is that the personality-disordered individual feels bad within themselves. They want to feel better. A discussion or argument around their list of your faults will not solve it.
What NOT to do:
- Don't become defensive and validate a false accusation or projection by arguing about it.
- Don't respond by arguing about facts. Blaming is about feelings, not the facts.
- Don't argue in front of children.
- Don't assume there is a logical reason for why you are being blamed.
- Don't assume that the person really believes what they are saying or always feels that way.
- Don't try to fix a person who has a Personality Disorder yourself. You can't change them by changing yourself.
- Don't assume that because their blame is inaccurate, they are being deliberately manipulative or calculating. They may be so focused on their feelings that they are giving very little attention to their behavior.
What TO do:
- Remember that an episode of blaming isn't about you. It's really all about the way the other person feels.
- Listen to the feelings rather than the facts being expressed. While the facts may be largely false, the underlying feelings are often real: “I feel scared”, “I feel worthless”, “I feel weak”.
- You can model “I” statements in your responses, such as “I feel scared when you say that”.
- Remember that what the person is feeling is temporary. They will probably feel different in a few days or a few hours.
- You can try to redirect the person to the real issue, if you can do so without feeling threatened or hurt yourself.
- Politely, briefly and calmly state the truth ONE TIME ONLY.
- End the conversation by taking a time-out even if the other person doesn't want to.