Relationship Problems: How To Give Up The Blame Game

Have you noticed that, when anything negative, unpleasant, or embarrassing happens, people look for someone or something to blame?

As I mentioned in today’s podcast, even when someone trips while walking on a sidewalk, they don’t think about needing to pay more attention to where they are walking. They look to see what tripped them, and make it the city’s fault, bad workmanship, or the Universe out to get them!

To feel and be empowered, it’s wise to look at ourselves first. If something isn’t going well with a partner, at work, or in the family, it demonstrates emotional maturity to look within yourself first…even though, it’s easier to look for someone to blame.

Couples get very skilled at blaming each other. That’s because they practice so much! 

Couples come in to see me–or arrive for our session on Skype–and they are pointing fingers at each other for why they are experiencing difficulties. You know that old thing: when you point at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you. Instead of noticing that, many folks just point harder at their partners. That’s a combination of project and denial.

The American author, John  Burroughs, wrote:

” A man may fail many times,
but he isn’t a failure
until he begins to blame somebody else.”

That’s powerful stuff! Clear and powerful.

In a powerful essay on The Dissection of Blame, Kendall F. Person wrote:

When our decisions and our choices, wreak havoc in our lives, we may tend to become more defensive, angry without knowing why. We are challenged in getting back on track, everything we do derails, and everything we try does fail. So we begin the dissection of blame, assigning each disappointment to a family member or friend. We blame our parents for something they did, ignoring the reality, it has been 40 years since then. We blame immigrants for taking our job, dismissing the notion, that we were caught sleeping, while guarding the store.  Obsessed by blaming others, becoming a victim in our own mind, leads to a confusion so complete, we live in a belief, based on our own lies.

Stumbles, free-falls and mistakes happen, but most scars are not permanent, if we accept,  we can learn from and avoid the same mistakes. Blame is not always malicious or done with intent, it protects our psyches, when they are frail, offering self-esteem when needed,rejecting the reality of its false existence. The importance of accepting responsibility for our choices that turned bad, cannot be understated. It is how we start to heal.

Why not start the journey to healing now? It begins with replacing blame with self-reflection, and moves on to active, loving problem-solving together.

That’s what emotional grown-ups learn to do. When G. Charles Andersen, MA, and I wrote Soul Solitude: Taking Time For Our Souls To Catch Upwe talked about how insidious blame is: the subtle–or not so subtle–cumulative harmfulness to others AND to ourselves. Our conclusion: stop blaming, start communicating, and become emotional grown-ups. Your relationship is not the sandbox on a playground of your youth!

One thing that makes blame so attractive to our immature selves: our egos are not fans of self-reflection. The ego behaves as though anyone out there, at any time in our past, present, and future, is a much more likely cause for our conditions, relationships, and situations than we could possibly be ourselves.

We use blame as an ego-defense. We project our fears, concerns, and issues about ourselves onto others. That is projection. Then, we behave as though their could not possibly be any flies on us, which is denial. Denial and projection, dastardly bedfellows that create crazy-making in relationships!

Responding to a recent post on blame by a colleague, I wrote this:

“Blame is not a waterfall, constantly running downstream away from you.
  Blame has a backlash, constantly eroding its source.”  

Being a blamer hurts you. It damages your relationships, the primary one with yourself, and all others where you blame. Through crooked thinking, people who blame send out the arrow they know is destined for themselves in the direction of someone else. They forget that the arrow is really a boomerang. It will come back, and you’ll like it even less!

It’s so easy to just say that the fastest way to give up the blame game is to simply stop. That would be miraculous. Most folks will need to get some help from someone like me to make that leap. They need another set of eyes–not a friend or family member’s eyes–to uncover old decisions that continue to create present patterns. Grow together by having new insights and learning new skills.

Oh, and that blaming our parents for things? Yes, we are very affected by our upbringing, but that was quite a while ago, right? We are affected by it, but any good therapist will tell you that it’s best use is as a learning tool. Whether or not we choose to see it that way is indicative of our maturity. When we re-visit it with the help of a knowledgeable consultant, we can see the decisions we made–or were made for us–at the time, or the sense we made of it later, and then, we understand how those choices now affect the life we have. Most important learning: what would you like to change now, how to do it, and getting on with it.

Construct your life and relationships consciously, kindly, and compassionately. Live your values. And, I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing that one of your values is not “Blame!”


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