why do people blame others?

Why Do People Blame Others?

In dynamics with more than one person, blaming others in the face of disagreement or conflict is common. In moments where we are triggered or activated, it’s natural to go into a protective mode, which orients us outward. It’s much easier to look outside of yourself and see how other things or people are creating the situation.

For this reason, whether blaming the circumstance or another person, the blame game is typical in relationships. However, it can also become destructive. Generally, dynamics are the result of more than one person’s input.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say a husband comes home from work and forgets he was supposed to pick up some groceries. When he arrives, his wife looks at him with disappointment and becomes annoyed that he forgot the one thing he was supposed to do for her that day, criticizing him for his incapability. The husband then walks away from her and logs back onto his computer to check emails, which makes the wife more angry that he does not care about how he hurt her. Now they are in a moment of disconnect.

In this situation, it could be really natural for the wife to blame the husband for not caring about her enough and causing this fight. The husband may also blame the wife’s criticism of him for his response of pulling away from her. The reality? Both of their actions have contributed to the moment of disconnect they found themselves in.

The refusal to take accountability from partners will leave them stuck in a place of defense and prevent them from having a conversation that will help them resolve and move forward.

Understanding the reasons that the tendency to blame or project pops up can help you respond more effectively to the situation. I’m going to share why people blame others when things go south so you can do just that.

If you read this and still feel stuck, continue reaching out to an Emotion-Focused Therapist, who has expertise breaking free from unhelpful relationship patterns, for support.

why do people blame others

Why do People Blame Others?

Here are some of the reasons people blame others. Keep in mind that these are often unconscious, meaning that the person blaming may not realize these are the reasons they do so.

Usually blaming is a defense mechanism, meaning that a person who does so may have been stressed, triggered, or activated in some way. This stress leads to responses that are developed over time that help keep the person feel safe in the moment.

Stress responses inherently orient us outward. They involve vigilance for a threat and a response to that threat (e.g. fight, flight, freeze, fawn). The responses are used to try to keep us safe from something happening outside of us.

Someone who is operating from such a stress response is looking for something outside to respond to. They have not oriented themselves to look inward and identify their part in a dynamic or stressful situation.

It’s natural, adaptive, and even healthy to move into a stress response when we become activated. This is the evolutionary mechanism that keeps us safe when there is a real threat to our safety.

However, with a lack of emotion regulation skills, people stay stuck in a stress response. They have a hard time discerning between an upsetting situation and a dangerous one. Without the ability to regulate their own emotions in the moment, they project them externally onto someone or something else.

What would happen if someone was willing to look inward and notice their part in a dynamic? This could lead to feelings that are difficult to manage- things like guilt or shame.

Sometimes people (inaccurately and unconsciously) conflate responsibility with their view of their own goodness. If they acknowledge the way they hurt someone else, they might feel guilty or wonder if they are a good person.

These are difficult emotions and thoughts to manage, which is why we unconsciously employ defense mechanisms, like projection and blame, to push them away.

The other piece of taking accountability is the responsibility it leaves you to create change. If you only blame others for the way things are in your life, it’s easy to stay in a mindset like “it’s not my problem.” This mindset protects you from doing any of the work of adjusting, changing, and growing yourself.

This perspective may give someone a sense of control, but it’s actually a false perception. You actually take control and autonomy for things to change when you recognize the power you have to change them, and act accordingly.

how to stop the blame game

How to stop the blame game

The first piece to changing any behavior is to identify when it is happening. After a fight with someone, or a stressful interaction, identify your own thoughts about the situation. Recognize if your tendency is to put the blame on others for how things went wrong.

There is no need to judge yourself if you find that you have blamed others. Everyone has done it. The important part is to observe with curiosity so you can create some space for something different.

Once you notice or identify that some blaming has occurred, validate yourself for your ability to observe that.

From there, consider the thoughts that you have about the event. Do you tell yourself that the problem is only other people? Do you look for more evidence that they are the only part of the problem? And do you look to other people to reinforce the thoughts that you are right?

Begin writing those reinforcing thoughts down and consider if you can challenge them by zooming out. Consider the perspective of someone else in the same situation and how they may have seen things. Work on disrupting unhelpful thought patterns that keep you stuck in the same loop of self serving bias.

Part of the reason we remain in places of projection and blame is because we have not regulated our own emotional response to conflict, discomfort, or pain.

There are many ways to learn to start regulating yourself, and therapy is a great place to build these skills.

On your own, there are some simple methods you can start with. Notice when you have the urge to blame someone else. See if instead, you can take some deep breaths and resist the urge. If you can let the urge pass, notice if any emotions start to arise that you had been pushing away. See if you can ground yourself as those emotions come up and allow them to take up space in your mind and body.

Judgement for yourself will only continue to keep you stuck. The truth is, blaming others is your mind’s way of trying to keep you safe from perceiving danger.

However, you are strong and capable of feeling uncomfortable emotions and moving forward in personal growth. Have compassion and understanding for the ways you have been in relationships before, and create space for a new way of being.

This will increase your own sense of self worth and help you work on your self esteem, which actually allows you to take accountability for behaviors and still know that you are a good person. Have capacity for error for yourself and others without creating judgment about who you are as people.

Emotion regulation skills can be challenging to learn and practice without support. A emotion focused therapy counselor will help you make sense of blaming behavior and help you develop coping skills to support your own mental health.

Couples therapy (couples therapy for young adults or any stage of your relationship) is a great place to start if you recognize you are stuck in a pattern of blaming each other in a close relationship.

why do people blame others

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