B l a m e !

We all seem to do it at some time. Modern Western individuals have gotten so very good at it. We can find the blame in almost anything that happens. Some people seem to blame someone else all the time. We want to find the blame.  As early as Adam and Eve, humanity as longed for a Garden of Eden, and when we aren’t allowed in, we can find someone or something to blame.  Some of the highest paid people in America are attorneys, people who make their living off of people’s blame.  Frivolous law suits drain a lot of energy, time, and money from our society.  We’ve been trained to blame; we look hard for blame.  Underneath blame is anger; blame is an easy channel for anger.

Where did blame come from?  I have never seen a blame on the ground, or flying above.  There is no blame that grows by itself.  People have tried to measure blame; juries try to assign amount of blame.  When that happens, someone loses (in civil court, people often lose money, but someone else wins).  That strengthens the idea that Blame is the thing to do.  Where did blame come from?  People construed it, constructed it – then went on to almost worship it.

Some of us blame ourselves, find unique ways to blame ourselves. And once we blame ourselves, we get stuck. It’s as if we believe once we find out how and whom to blame, everything will be fine, somehow.  And yet, when we blame ourselves, it eats away at confidence and positive mood.  It often leads to diminished self-esteem, lower mood, low energy, and even depression.

In some situations, someone is clearly more responsible for what happened than others. When someone plans, schemes, and acts to hurt someone else, as in clear cases of domestic violence, robberies, or attempted homicide, it may be helpful in some ways to find the correct person to pin the blame on (psychologically it is more healthy to think of this in terms of holding the correct person accountable). However, within human relationships, blame is not a helpful tool.  Blame focuses negative energy at a target, a type of war, which hurts any relationship involved, and even the “blamer”.

Overall, I’ve learned that blame is like concrete. Once it is poured out, it’s hard to take back. It sets and then it’s hard to get out of. Blame is heavy, blame is ugly and blame is shaming. Once blame has been cast, it’s about impossible to clean things up the way it was before. While it may go against what you have been taught, or maybe you haven’t thought about it, but blame is not the cement for relationships. We learn blame oh, so easily, too. Once we blame a family member, it can become a pattern or habit and our future relationships may be full of blame, also.

While we blame someone else, we are not investing any psychic energy on what we, ourselves are doing. As Pat Love (a famous relationship therapist) teaches, while we are blaming, we are stuck. Blame is not about healing, it’s not about building something better – it’s about sticking.  It does not really solve things.  Blame is one of the Seven Deadly Habits of Highly Miserable People (as written by William Glasser).  Blame makes it easier to see someone as less than a human being. Blame results very often in the recipient of the blame feeling attacked and reacting with defensiveness.  Blame sidetracks and disallows a person’s ability to reflect on more psychologically helpful activity; that of accepting accountability and learning about ourselves from our acts and consequences.  A.A. encourages people to look at their part in any negative interaction.

While it may take almost superhuman effort to live without blame – it can be done. If you want to live a better life and develop deeper relationships, find a way to live without blame. Life without blame might initially seem extra lonely. You won’t have the comfort of believing and feeling you are “right”. That can be unsettling – partly because I think most of us believe that if we are not right, we must be wrong. I believe that is also untrue.   In place of that blame, you might find a caring human would like to share some life space with you. Healthy, equal adult relationships are not fed by blame. Without blame, we are more likely to find answers or solutions.  While it may take learning new skills and it won’t be easy, sharing life with a caring person instead of blame has many rewards and much more potential.

About Divorce

I do not advocate divorce for all difficulties in a relationship, but there are situations where divorce may be healthier for most people in the family. Colorado is a No-Fault Divorce state. One would think that would help people dissolve a partnership that is not working and move on. However, I see a lot of people who think they have to blame the other person – seeing themselves as the victim. Victims (of divorce or trauma) do much better when they see “victimization” as a temporary thing, work to heal, and allow themselves to move on. Holding on to blame from a failed relationship (no matter who it is aimed at) may make it impossible to learn enough about yourself to have a healthy, sharing, happy relationship with a future partner.

Some people want to know what to do, how not to blame.   May I suggest four questions:

When you are about to blame something or someone,

1)   Ask yourself, “Has blame really helped me be happier or solve the problem?”   {Reflect on the habit of blame}

2)  Ask yourself, “What could I, myself, have done differently?”    {Self-reflection}

3)  Ask, “What can I learn from this (not using the concept of blame)?”    {Learn from experience}

4)  Ask or Choose, “Will I ever do that again?”    {Be an active agent in your life, more thoughtful about choosing/guiding your future}

Copyright 2012,  T J Price, PsyD
with some assistance from Dorothy Moon, PsyD & Justin Lincoln, PsyD.;  thank you.