Are You Being Blamed?


What is blame and how does it figure into your love life? The standard definition for blame is to assign responsibility for a fault or a wrong to someone.

For most people blame also has a little bit of a negative feeling in it too. When you blame someone you are not doing something nice to him or her.

Of course there are people who deserve the blame you are assigning to them, as in cases where someone has done something bad to someone else. But this isn’t the kind of blame I want to talk about.

The kind of blame I’m interested in is the ‘negative’ kind. That’s the kind that shows up the most in some people’s love-lives. It’s the kind of blame that occurs when you didn’t do anything to deserve it. It’s also founded on a deception or a lie.

It’s safe to say that ‘chronic blaming’ is a form of emotional abuse. It’s basically an act of verbally beating someone down by falsely accusing him or her of doing something he or she did not in reality do.

The worse outcome of all of this false blaming occurs when the victim of chronic blaming is vulnerable to blame. What tends to happen to people who are subjected to a regular diet of blame is, they start believing that they have responsibility for things they had little or nothing to do with.

Victims of blame start blaming themselves and feeling guilt for the things they are blaming themselves for. Neat trick by the blamer. This magic act starts with a ‘blaming you for the things that happen to me,’ and ends up being a ‘blaming me for the things that happen to you.’

The end result is the inevitable plunge into lower and lower self-esteem. And we all know what happens when your esteem for yourself is low in your love-life, right? Well for those of you who forgot, what happens is lower and lower standards for the kind of treatment you will tolerate and accept in your love relationships.

Now, there are a couple of things I’d like you to understand about blame. One is, our earliest experience with blame, and the other is a quick look at the ‘psychology of the blamer.’

We all start out in life with some personal experience with self-blame. You could say this reality makes it possible for just about everybody to be susceptible, to whatever extent, to the effects of blaming.

We all start out in life trying to be responsible for things that happen to us. Nobody really starts their lives with a rational view of responsibility. One of the best examples of childhood self-blame is when a kid blames herself for her parents’ divorce. “If only I had done better in school daddy and mommy wouldn’t have fought so much.” “If only I had not said that bad word, daddy wouldn’t have left.”

This kind of childhood thinking and self-blame can have a lot to do with adulthood self-esteem problems, but that’s for another post. In fact if it doesn’t get ‘corrected’ at some point, it can make a person even more vulnerable to blaming in adulthood relationships.

Moving onto the ‘blamer.’ This is a person who has learned to avoid or deny personal responsibilities and their consequences by finding unwitting victims for their false blaming.

They probably learned early in life that responsibility taken, is too painful. The problem of course is that this particular defense mechanism is a bit costly.

The act of falsely blaming automatically reduces intimacy, increases defensiveness, and encourages distance in a relationship because it is based on a lie or deception. If I blame you, I get to preserve whatever false image I have of myself. But everyone knows you can’t have a secure sense of yourself and a loving open relationship if you are lying to your partner.

If you are a blamer and realize that blaming is ruining your love-life, the ‘cure’ is to rebuild (or build for the first time) your tolerance and appreciation for honesty and responsibility. You’d basically be re-learning how to tell the truth and trusting that truth and love are closely related.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan


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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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