Sanctuary for the Abused

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Blame



One Painful Way of Defeating Yourself

Traditional Western culture has developed an interesting concept -- one that is honed to a fine edge in the United States (and its criminal justice system) and one that is found as a component of Judeo-Christian based religions.

BLAME is the concept. Notice I didn't say "responsibility." Think for a few seconds about the two words. Perhaps use them in a sentence.

Blame is an affect laden word.

Responsibility, on the other hand, does not tend to have the same level of affective (emotional) weighting.

Usually, when we think of somebody as being to blame for an event we are judging both their behavior and that person.

We are also often involved in assigning or determining guilt (he/she's to blame for the car breaking- down). It may have been the person's responsibility to maintain the car in sound working order but the implication of blame involves, to some degree, causation (he/she caused the car to break-down). In the examples, blame implies causation and guilt.

In our heritage, establishment of guilt is followed by some form of punishment. The punishments vary from standing in a corner for five minutes to saying several extra prayers to a jail term or, in rare instances, the death penalty.

Our entire culture revolves around the concept of rules (both written and un-written) that are supposed to guide or regulate our behavior.

When we break the rules one or more persons judge us guilty, announce a punishment (which is to be imposed) and inform us when the punishment is to be ended (or when we
are absolved of the guilt).

We grow up in the culture learning this type of system of

* blame, * guilt, * punishment * and absolution *

and apply it with regularity to others and to ourselves.

We do this most frequently through our self talk.

We expend vast amounts of energy determining who is to blame for a particular event or phenomena.

(Who spilled the milk? Now, come on, 'fess up, who spilled the milk? Wait 'till your father/mother gets home. He/she will find out who spilled the milk and then you'll get it.)

The determination of blame (guilt) always seems to carry with it some implied or explicit suggestion of punishment (then you'll get it). Small wonder the responsible party is unwilling to step forward.

In most day-to-day situations where people set about the task of establishing blame the activity is of little actual importance. In the example of the spilled milk, the blame establisher probably is concerned that (1) the milk is spilled (and may need to be cleaned up), and (2) the responsible party be aware that the spilling of milk is something to be avoided (and is to be mopped up).

When we seek to establish blame for an event, we send a message. The message tends to be one that implies some terrible consequence following the establishment of blame.

We are, of course, attempting to establish a punishment for the wrongful event. But punishment is not always an effective means of changing behavior, feelings, and thoughts. You have probably learned in psychology that a punishment or a reward is associated with the behavior that most immediately preceded the administration of the reward or punishment. That's essentially true! But wait a minute -- which behavior immediately preceded the punishment?

Those of you who have (or have had) dogs may recall that when the dog did something wrong, you called the dog and spanked the dog for the transgression. The first time you did this the dog came right away, the next time the dog was slower to respond and eventually the dog would not come when called. The dog would not come when called because it learned that it would get spanked when it responded to your call. You have trained the dog to not come when you call as opposed to training the dog to not dig in the garden. Humans, though certainly very different than dogs, respond to learning situations in a very similar way.

What gets lost in the process of blame establishment is most often the fundamental reason for initiating the process at the outset. That is, a person has exhibited a behavior (done something) that has had an effect on our lives that we do not like. We do not want them to do the same thing again, particularly if the same consequence on our life may result. The objective is for that person (and we may be that person) to change his or her behavior in such a way that the new behavior will likely result in our experiencing a more favorable consequence (we want them to not spill milk so we will not have to spend our energy cleaning a floor with milk on it).

By seeking to establish blame we focus on establishment of guilt rather than on changing or modifying milk handling behavior. We punish "fessing up" (or coming when called) rather than teaching new, more productive, methods of handling milk to the people with responsibility for the handling of milk. We get angry when they don't respond and when the milk is spilled again. This seems like a rather unproductive group of activities.

How might we change our blame establishing behavior? -- Not by punishing ourselves for doing it, but by seeking to replace the behavior pattern with one that may get us closer to our overall objective. When we notice ourselves saying, either out loud or internally, things like: Who's to blame, who's at fault, who did this or that, and other similar phrases and we are feeling a strong emotion like anger -- STOP -- maybe even say out- loud the word stop -- and then ask the following questions: What difference does establishing blame make? Will establishing blame change anything that is happening or has happened? Will establishing blame change the behavior of the responsible person? As you review your responses to the questions you will probably note your emotional response has less intensity and that your self talk will start to move into the problem solving mode (O.K. -- now how can I correct the problem). Once in the problem solving mode you can then start determining your immediate and long range objectives (seeing to it that the milk is mopped from the floor and teaching people how to not spill milk) and the action steps involved (getting the mop for yourself or another person and teaching the responsible person how to more effectively hold a milk carton and pour milk).

As you make a habit of taking charge of situations rather than establishing blame you will most likely find that you have much more energy available to invest in more productive activities.

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shared by Barbara at 12:35 AM


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8 Comments:

A very important distinction - blame vs responsibility. The former can be a pointless, painful cycle, the latter a path to change.

1:43 AM  

Blame is one way of completely denying the reality of the pain and betrayal. It's unfortunate that other's subtle denials (e.g., changing subjects and even saying to get help in a dismissive way) contributes to this.

Blame continues the violence.

Loving Awareness : A Journey to Wholeness

6:08 PM  

I agree with Matthew. Blaming does continue the violence. I blamed myself for the incest for many years. A child is never at fault when they are abused but I didn't know that. I always thought it was my fault especially when it kept happening over the years. I know differently today. Blame belongs to the abuser.

11:25 PM  

After reading your article, I wrote one of my own called Blame Keeps You Stuck---Incest May Be A Part Of My Life Series---Part 7 found at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2008/01/blame-keeps-you-stuck-incest-may-be.html
I put in a link to this article as well. Thanks for the information.

2:21 PM  

Blame is really something that's hard to break, it's common way of freeing themselves from the reality. I've been to that situation it took years and almost destroyed my life blaming others for my miserly, but then again in the end there's no one to blame but me, there's no one to take responsibilities for my action but me.

2:30 AM  

Keep this in mind. People who have the brain functioning of a psychopath are unable to take blame, feel shame or take any responsibility but they ALWAYS try to induce this in others. We need to make sure that we reach those being abused by psychoapths with all this great stuff. So many times it's only the psychopaths themselves who get the benefit of the doubt and the rest of us who COULD really be helped by it, are left taking the blame and being responsible.

10:42 PM  

Great concept, blame vs. responsibility. I notice a lot of people who seem to have this eagerness to say "he or she did it", whatever they did, and I always stop and ask them what they accomplish from doing that. I especially notice this behavior with little kids, and my response is usually something like "I did not ask who did it, so quit blaming people and if you know something is needs to be fixed, fix it".

5:59 PM  

If you are looking to find fault, you surely will. This is a variation on the quote from Abraham Lincoln but it's an indicator for one who is a psychopath. They are NEVER searching for truth, wisdom or understanding but are always looking for ways that they can be "right." Again, it is all about manipulation, being in control, harming others.

They are always claiming that it's their RIGHT to do or say something and yes, we need to keep others from taking away our freedoms but for those who are manipulators they use these freedoms to get things for themselves.

For those who read this website consistantly you are aware that psychopathy is genteic and inborn and can be seen in children. Proverbs 20:11 "Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right." So if you have the opportunity to help a child who may be being manipulated by one who has the brain functioning of a psychopath, you can do this by letting the child know that they have a voice, to not group them all together and blame them all as one, but to encourage them and let them know that you hear and BELIEVE them. To not make a child responsible by telling them to fix a problem that needs to be fixed. Let's face it, most of us here are adults, WELL into adulthood and are just NOW realizing what is going on and the damage that the conscienceless do to all of us. So to expect a child who has even less understanding and control to fix a problem oftentimes STARTED by a bully (psychopath) is expecting them to do miricles. If you have the chance, give a child a voice.

3:26 PM  

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