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By | June 26, 2012 15 Comments

Shifting The Blame

Well, I’m delighted to report that my son completed all his exams last week — and is confident that he did well. Recognizing his ability to respond to the challenge, he did everything within his power to make the most of the situation, staying calm and able to think as clearly as possible in a highly pressured situation. So, regardless of what happens next (the results are published in a couple of weeks) the fact remains that he’s done his very best, and it’s over.

Which is why, this week, I decided to expand on the subject of blame and responsibility. There’s a huge difference between thinking in those two opposing terms. There’s also, of course, a huge difference when people choose to use those kinds of behaviour — with a sociopath of course, the blame is always placed on another person. There is always some reason why the job fell through, why their last relationship was so difficult, why they need to borrow money or whatever else may have happened to justify their murky past. And when it all blows up, of course, well who is to blame? Their trusting, loving partner of course”¦ us, and all those like us!

So the way in which they use the power of responsibility and blame, is not healthy — it’s deliberately manipulative. It works so well because mastery in recognizing and harnessing the difference is such a powerful tool. The fact is, though, most of us have no reason to learn these kind of communication skills. Most of us go through life with the basic understanding that if we “do as you would be done by” then all will be well. Which accounts for why, in my opinion, any encounter with a manipulative or abusive person comes as such a shock to the system. And why we automatically ask ourselves the “where did I go wrong?” type of questions.

Communication Is Key

In business, however, particularly in managerial levels, it is very important that people have a more thorough appreciation about the impact their communication can have on others. This, as you know, is the arena where I have chosen to work in my professional career. Communication, self-responsibility, motivation and personal development skills have all been practiced, taught, and practiced again over the years. Indeed, it was living by so many of those skills I have taught that helped me survive and heal from my own situation.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been countless times when all those practiced abilities went out of the window, as yet another boulder crashed in to me. Many times it was all I could do just to make it through to the next minute — let alone to the end of the day. Thoughts of anything more than that were just too much to handle. So in those times I would just let myself be, slowly learning how to be gentle on myself while my shattered emotions began to heal. And that process alone, of course, taught me more lessons; adding, not detracting, from everything I’d learned before. But those are stories for another day.

So, OK then, what am I talking about when I say shifting the blame”¦? Well, this is based on some of the training I use within groups. This particular subject is the notion that we can consciously choose the way we approach a situation. Specifically, whether we decide to think about a situation in terms of blame, or in terms of responsibility. I am not talking about the kind of ”˜blame’ that all of us here will have experienced. Nor am I talking about the kind of ”˜responsibility’ that we may well have thought we should have been feeling when faced with those kind of accusations. You know the sort of accusations I mean? The ones that go along the lines of “It’s your fault I did this, you made me do it!” The ones that are then more than likely followed by this kind of thinking on our part “Why did that happen? Where did I go wrong?”

It’s All About Noticing — And Then Choosing

I would imagine that it’s pretty easy for most people to identify the blaming behaviour being demonstrated by the accuser. I wonder whether it’s quite so straight forward, then, to notice how the blame-thinking is then continued by the person who has been accused”¦?

Let me do my best to explain more clearly what I mean. In workshops, people usually discover that their automatic response reflex to most situations is to ask themselves why it happened.  Now ok, I actually believe that’s all well and good in many cases — so long as people are aware of the results their questions will achieve. If they think along the blame-style lines of “What is wrong?” “Why did it happen?” “Whose fault is it?” then they’re directing their brain (and internal resources) to explore the cause — and only the cause. What’s wrong with that? (notice the deliberate blame-style question by the way!) Well, nothing per-say is ”˜wrong’”¦ it’s just that by staying in that style of thinking and questioning, they hamper their ability to either find a solution or just to move forward.

OK, so how might the question or thinking behind the question be more useful? What could they ask instead and how might it affect what happens? Put in simple terms, I would typically invite people to think about the problem in terms of future rather than the past. Just by asking a few responsibility-based questions (thoughts that are firmly rooted in the future, in terms of what the person or group would like to happen) people can start to work through the situation, making the most of their ability to respond.

Specifically — questions like “What would I like to achieve?” “How will I know when I’ve achieved it?” “What can I do right now to help?” are all questions that help people to move forward. It opens up possibilities, and increases positivity.

I remember my ex asking me those kind of questions in the early days. He would, of course, use the questions in terms of “we” thereby ensuring that I was actively involved in designing our future — and feeling excited about it at the same time. Clever. Then, of course, when the blame and accusations came, along with the “It’s your fault, this is what you said you wanted!”  I went automatically in to typical blame-style thinking — “Why did this happen? What did I do? Where have I gone wrong?” and so the cycle continued. But I didn’t know it was happening. And that’s my point.

Looking back it is now so very clear to me. Yes, I know, I am a trainer in all these things. And yet still I didn’t spot what was happening. I’m sure you can imagine, therefore, just how hard on myself I was when the whole thing came out in the open! As I started looking at myself, and weighing up my situation (yup, it was tough”¦ many times I winced at the dawning realization of yet another example of how I had been manipulated) I actively started to choose my the direction of my thinking and my questions. Regardless of how difficult the particular dilemma might be — varying from irritating to full-blown crisis — I started to train myself to actively ask supportive questions that would move me forward.

In order to do that, I kept my focus on the future. I had to believe that I would get through. Because if I didn’t, well, it doesn’t bear thinking about. That meant that during those darkest times, I consciously chose to keep asking myself “Where am I choosing to go? If I don’t like the way I’m feeling right now, how would I like to feel instead? What can I do right now that helps?”

It wasn’t easy. There are still days now when it isn’t particularly easy. But you know what? Each time I flex my decision-making muscles, and deliberately choose future-based responsibility-style thinking — well, somehow the problems start to lose their grip.

This is powerful stuff. And I know from experience that it can be used against people. I also know that the more we become aware of what has been happening, and start to practice these tools in positive ways, then it lessens the opportunity for others to continue using them to manipulate or negatively influence us. Of course I can’t speak for everyone, but so far as I’m concerned at least, that can only be a good thing, eh? 🙂

 

 


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Ox Drover

Great Article, Mel! One that we all need to think about. I too found myself on the “wrong side of the clip board” having taught others, I failed myself. I did the very things I cautioned others not to do in relationships. I failed to set the boundaries…I allowed others to shift blame on to me when something didn’t go well.

Acceptiing responsibility rather than allowing someone to shift blame is a liberating way of looking at a situation. It frees us from the shame of having failed.

Thanks for your wonderful contributions to LoveFraud!

just-us

Yep, clever indeed. Mine did the same. Always including me in the decisions. What I didn’t realize even if I whole heartedly disagreed, he would first try to nicely sell me on what HE wanted, if that didn’t work he would bait me into a fight. Resulting in me becoming scared and drained, and giving into what he wanted. For an added bonus to him, my guilt and shame grew. Then, if all was well…the talk was all about him, if whatever it was went bad, it was, “you agreed with me” or “you wanted it too”. I have never minded to take responsibilty(blame), so for him…score…more guilt on my shoulders to carry.

Brilliant. Evil but brilliant. 🙂

20years

This is such an important topic. Thank you for writing this.

I’ve been thinking a lot, myself, about the concept of responsibility — “taking” responsibility, “accepting” responsibility, and how this topic is related to the blame-shifting dynamic.

It seems to be a matter of consciousness, or deliberateness, as opposed to thoughtlessness or robotic thinking. To learn to shift one’s thinking about one’s experiences (or maybe that’s part of it, or a way of seeing it).

A year ago, I had so many fingers pointed at me by CPS, my spath exhusband and his spathwife, in the CPS-mandated therapy…. I distinctly remember one day in the therapy session, when spath-ex said something accusingly to me, basically how there had been a terrible decision I’d made several months before which had, in his view, caused the whole thing, and it was a very harsh sense of condemnation. I mean seriously, like the finger he was pointing at me was spewing forth a laser beam of condemnation. The desired effect from that would have been for me to have accepted his view, his blame, to either say “I am sorry for all of it” or to go on the defensive and deny, lie, or do a little blame-shifting myself.

It was a turning point for me, as I responded, “I certainly did do the thing you say that I did, and it wasn’t the best nor the worst decision I’ve ever made. I cannot say that I wholly regret it or that am entirely proud of it. My action was not without consequences. But no matter how terrible you may have decided it is and how awful you think I am because of it, my action does not absolve you from all of the terrible things you have done to me over the years, including your recent behaviors towards me, which played a part in my decision.”

Now, that was not the be-all and end-all response. Just a turning point for me, as I started to see “taking responsibility” a bit differently. I started to see that I could simply “accept” the actions I’d done in the past, evaluate them somewhat neutrally, not beat myself up for them, and not be SO DISTRACTED BY ANY SMIDGEN OF BADNESS ON MY PART THAT I FORGET TO SEE THAT OTHERS PLAYED A PART, TOO.

Because I think that is the other part of it. I used to think, if I did 1% of the badness, I’d get all focused on that and then take the entire 100% of everything onto myself. I used to think (unconsciously) that that was what “accepting responsibility” meant. I mean, I would focus on what I’d done “wrong” and so would everyone else!

I also had some dawning awareness that my spath-ex was “doing something” in that moment that was a pattern (and had a name!): he was trying to shift ALL of the blame to me! And in recognizing it in the moment, I was able to call it out for what it was. I was willing to accept the part that I did, but I was not willing to take on his part in it, too.

Now, what I’m doing differently, is I choose to look upon all of my experiences (good, bad, neutral) and say, “yes, I was there. That was my experience. That was the role I played. A lot of what I did was somewhat automatic. I choose now to be more conscious and deliberate in my experiences.”

So in other words, for me the concept of “taking responsibility” is now far removed from “taking blame.” It means I can have a healthy regret for some of my past actions that led to unpleasant consequences for myself and/or others, but if I look at it with a willingness to learn from it all and be more conscious/aware from this point forward, then I can accept all of it.

Regardless of who did what to whom.

I also am starting to see that “accepting responsibility” also means to NOT take on any of anyone else’s responsibility. That is a huge one. I mean, in a sense I also see it as a “sin” (meaning something which distracts us from God) to wallow in misplaced guilt or the blame that someone else shifts to us. We should NOT accept any of that. Because then we become focused on our shame or pain. And not on the beauty of spirit.

This is a convoluted thinking trap, so I guess I just mean…. ideally, when we can see things more clearly, the pain, shame, blame, misplaced guilt is “released.” And then we are free of it.

This also means, eventually, that we not do the same thing, blame (condemn) the other person for “their part in it.”

For me this has been a long process with a lot of surprise lessons along the way. I don’t know why it takes so long to learn these things. And I’m quite sure I have a lot more to learn.

Truthspeak

Mel, THANK you for this outstanding article!

This is a very healing discussion and, for me, shifting focus to what I can do, now, is a real obstacle, right now. What’s been done has been done. What I might have “missed” has already been missed. My continued focus of “blame” and “responsibility” for my having “missed” anything is a foolish waste of my energy.

Identifying how to proceed and how to avoid the same mistakes is a personal imperative, for me. Yeah, the exspath pulled the long-con and blah…blah…blah. But, how can I learn and grow from these experiences?

My willingness to accept blame for the actions of someone else is another issue that I must learn to manage. I think that goes back to my personal shame-core. So, knowing what I do about myself and my “inner child,” I can begin to sort this out in pragmatic steps, rather than reacting to false perceptions.

What a terrific article, Mel. Once again……it’s what I needed when I needed it!

Brightest blessings!

20years

Truthspeak,

Regarding “shame-core,” don’t you think that’s how spaths do what they do? I mean…. the mechanism of it. (not “why” but “how”):

First of all, we are all innocent children of God (or spirit, or your particular view on this). Our TRUE core is perfect beauty of spirit; blameless, pure.

Along comes a spath (I’m not going into the “why” as I said… because that leads to “why are there spaths” and I don’t claim to know the answer) and they operate thus: they derive enjoyment (or a thrill, or energy) from defiling purity, corrupting innocence, debasing goodness.

All they have to do is make us BELIEVE that they have done so. They cannot actually do so because we are, at our core, of God. All they can do is confuse us and make us believe that we are that which they say we are (filthy, dirty, bad, guilty).

If they throw the hot potato of blame to us — we catch it! We do not need to do this.

The nicer our outward qualities (the more goodness shines forth), the more fun it is for them to succeed in sliming us.

They cannot win if we do not buy into their lies. That is ALL that they are: lies. The power of their lies is only in our willingness to believe them.

I believe that the FIRST thing we have to take responsibility for in our interactions with spaths is our misguided belief in their LIES. And even that… well, if we do not know, then we do not know. So how can we be blamed? Once we wake up, then AND ONLY THEN can we know the lies for what they are.

Taking responsibility is simply a recognition of what is true and a willingness to live within that truth.

Truthspeak

20years, my belief is that spaths have a shame-o-meter somewhere in their empty heads and, it beeps and beeps until it’s a constant whirring when the shame-o-meter has detected a perfect target.

Neither of my parents were spaths – mom was probably narcissistic, but the childhood shame was developed by MANY people – some had no idea of what their words did, and others had full intention of tearing me down.

And, I refuse to accept the blame for being a target, previously. I didn’t know – really KNOW – that I had no boundaries, and that’s to be forgiven. Today, I “know” that my boundaries are an issue, and the onus is upon my shoulders to maintain those boundaries and remain vigilant in spotting possible predators, on all levels.

I used to push my instincts to the back of the bus because I actually felt GUILTY for wondering about someone’s motives or behaviors – hell, everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, right? Oh, bullshit. Today, NOBODY gets the benefit of the doubt until such time as their actions directly reflect their personal assertions.

“I AM a nice guy. Just a different KIND of nice guy.” What rubbish!

20years

Truthspeak, “shame-o-meter” — brilliant!

And yes, actions speak much louder than words.

I’m glad you are tying in boundaries to the concept of taking responsibility.

I don’t know if this concept of boundaries existed (by that name) when we were growing up, to be taught to us. It certainly was never taught to me. (I have narcissistic parents and, like you, yes the childhood shame was developed by many people I came in contact with). I also don’t know what kinds of experiences people who were raised with healthy boundaries had… or what kinds of experiences (assaults) on our vulnerabilities we had, that they DIDN’T have. I don’t know how this is taught to children. I just know that I didn’t grow up with healthy boundaries and attachments, I had some pretty serious wounds at some points (shame wounds), and didn’t even know what boundaries were — that the concept even existed. It was a revelation, when I learned about them. But even so, it is still a learning process for me to figure out this alien concept.

“Where I end and you begin” (and vice versa) was a helpful way of putting it, when I first heard about it. Because if we are fused (no boundaries or mushy ones) then blame and responsibility are very hard to understand.

Another useful way of putting it is “whose job is this? Is this my job?” and frequently no, it isn’t. But I was taking it on, anyway, unquestioningly. Not fair to myself or to others.

I have also struggled to understand (as I have learned about boundaries) the differences between “meddling” and “helping.” Also, how to be “connected” to other people (friends, family) without being fused or completely detached.

Truthspeak

When I say that someone’s “actions directly reflect their personal assertions,” I mean that anyone (man, woman, child, hyena) tells me that they’re “good” people, I do not allow that personal assertion to give them a ladder to climb over my boundaries. What kind of person feels it necessary to verbally declare themselves as “good?” Someone who is trying to CONVINCE me that they are.

“But, she might turn out to be a good friend,” is not going to convince me that she deserved to BE my friend. “But, he’s just had such a tough life,” is not going to convince me that his behaviors are excusable.

And, I don’t feel guilty about this, anymore.

A friend of mine took the LoveFraud quiz, and she was horrified that the responses seemed to indicate that one was either a “nice” person or “cold and unloving.” I told her that the responses were not designed to suggest anything of the sort. The responses that might categorize someone as a “nice” person are actually attributes and qualities that must be guarded at the cost of life and limb. Those beautiful attributes, qualities, and values are spath fodder…..the best. And, that was the point of the quiz – NOT to suggest that those qualities and attributes were things to be ashamed of.

Truthspeak

20years, I think the differences between “helping” and “meddling” can be clearly defined once I understand the foundations of my boundaries – which I’m just NOW beginning to lay down, at this late date! LOL

“Helping” is when I recognize that someone is reaching out to me with sincerity, ON THEIR OWN. I no longer “offer” help to others because that’s pretty much a carte blanche for predators to close in for the kill. If the help required is financial, I’m sorry – I’m destitute, myself, but I’ll give you some of my food. If the help required is expecting me to solve someone else’s issues, I’m sorry – I have my own multitude of issues that I’m attempting to manage. I’ll hear you, and relate how I might approach an issue, but I don’t give “advice.”

“Meddling” is when I might insert my opinions, views, perceptions, or personal beliefs WITHOUT a direct invitation. I cannot save the world, and I’m not going to try telling or suggesting what someone else should, or should not, do. Meddling is when I see a parent of a 3-year-old giving that child Dr. Pepper instead of water to drink and saying, “Do you know how poisonous that is for him/her to drink?” It’s NOT my business.

As for how children are taught to construct healthy boundaries, it’s a magical combination of strong, truthful, and nurturing parenting, along with clear messages of responsibility and accountability. Do this to the best of your ability, and the reward is that you are recognized for your efforts. Do that, and you own the consequences. Teaching a child that they are valuable and VALID is a strong foundation for them to begin with, I think. Having typed all of this, I really can’t say anything other than these are my beliefs in how strong, self-assured children develop into strong, self-assured adults, as I have no personal experience (successful, that is) in teaching these core values.

20years

Truthspeak,

I agree with you about guarding our beautiful qualities. The best defense I’ve found for that is a mental defense… a strong and conscious belief and knowingness about myself and my TRUE nature. I am no longer unthinking and unaware. I am NOT that which they SAY that I am. I don’t believe them and their lies anymore.

I don’t have to guard my wonderful qualities by hiding them. I can shine them out into the world. But there is a difference between shining them like a beacon to attract the spaths to me, and shining them out like a blaze of blinding, pure Love. The first one is a bit like a tiny-watt bulb outside your front door at night which says, “hello! I’m here! Come and get me!” and they’d love nothing more than to throw a rock at it and put your light out. The other one is more like illuminating the darkness and erasing the shadows. The first one is spath-bait. The second one repels them.

Hard to express this in words.

Truthspeak

20years, I think you expressed it, beautifully!

I’m not at that point in my healing, yet, that I even WANT anyone to perceive me as a loving, giving human being. For the time being, I remain distant in Real Life situations, and probaly uber-hyper-vigilant, and I won’t apologize for either. I’ve done enough apologizing and defensive explaining to last several lifetimes, and I believe that I’ll get to a point when I’ll be comfortable in taking the shade off of that light of brilliant love once I’ve become a bit more self-assured.

20years

Truthspeak, I’m not totally there myself, yet! In some areas of my life, yes. In others, no…. I’m still very self protective.

The meddling/helping thing is still a great struggle for me. I was brought up in a nosy, busy-body/meddling type of family. And although I think I am much less that than I used to be, that terrible quality is still in me, and sometimes I kick myself for sticking my nose in when it is not my job, not my business. It is a struggle for me to let go of that.

More obvious now, I’m becoming more aware…. and I can see it in others more clearly…. but I think what’s hard is that when I step back and not jump in to volunteer to solve the problems of the world, I end up feeling “selfish.”

The temptation to offer advice is very hard for me to resist, at times. I’ve made a lot of progress, but still have a long way to go, I fear. What’s tough is that as soon as the words are out of my mouth, I KNOW that I’ve “done it again” and it’s been hard for me to realize it in advance of doing it, so that I don’t. 🙂

I am not sure, but suspect it has a lot to do with my upbringing. As I said, I have narcissistic parents. Not abusive. I think they mean/meant well and have done the best they can, but this is one twisted aspect of our family. Fused, no boundaries, too much meddling and advice giving, and I fear that I have done some of this to my own kids…. of COURSE with the best of intentions, but it is not healthy.

Interestingly…. and one reason I think this habit/mind-set is so difficult to break…. all of the “meddlers” in my family do not think they are doing anything wrong! I didn’t think so either, for many years. But now I think it is a horrible thing. Yet, if I am not paying attention, I still fall into those ingrained habits myself. Sigh.

kim frederick

As far as blame-shifting goes, and the accepting of responsibility: My x was a master at putting me on the defensive. Once he had me there, the focus was off of him, and squarely on me. I was then reacting emotionally, and any sort of solution was out of the question. This is spath trick #129, and it works remarkably well.
I learned to recognize when this was happening, and I think, one of the best techniques I ever learned, was to not let myself be derailed, and to keep myself from reacting with emotion.
This was also a core componant to the endlessly futile round of argument, where nothing ever got solved, and real issues were never really addressed….you know those arguments, they are almost identicle to the ones you had last week and the week before….they are like hamsters on a wheel, they go round, and round and round.
That is precisely because Spath does not want to get to the core of the problem. Spath does not want to get to the truth. Spath wants to keep the game going exactly like it is, and if he can get you to continue playing the way you always did, he wins. As long as this is going on, the trauma bond stands.

IMconfused

“We” is a word to pay attention to. If “we” seems to be used out of context to include us in something that we had previously not seemed to be a party to…watch out…we might be getting slagged.

The term “we” (when actually meaning he) is very familiar. Stating we as in…we got this, that, or whatever he was talking about, always pulled me in. It made me believe that I was some how included in his plans…I actually counted to him. I ultimately learned to correct him when I recognized that this was used as a controlling word to bring down my defences (after maybe 15 years of hearing “we” and determining that was a pattern) .

The idea of… “I did that because you did that other thing” holds true for me. As a result of discovering that my husband had not traveled to Salt Lake City to take a computer certification exam, but instead was in Leed, SD, I did some digging and found out that he actually was enjoying a “vacation” with a former girl friend.

“BECAUSE” of his phone call from a 605 prefex, I did some searching and made several discoveries. Because he did, I did things that I would never have considered doing…I searched through his paperwork and computer…I had never done that or even considered doing that prior to that phone call. While I do hold myself responsible for anything that I deliberately do, I also know that A proceeds B. In other words, someone elses behavior can influence my reactions. So, perhaps this makes me a SP…but I am not really convinced that I am.

This makes me believe that intense emotional pain can also trigger extreme reactions that would have previously been beyond one’s normal thoughts and behaviors…maybe help create crimes of passion. Is the doer responsible…you bet. Did the “victim” contribute to his/her demise…I think so…but the amount of contribututory cause probably hinges on the element of surprise…shock and awe!

He just walked in…need to log off…he is hooked to nmy computer via his home network…arrrgh!

callmeathena

IM confused

Sorry for your pain.

I too have had a similar experience. Had many healthy relationships and never ONCE spied on my lover or boyfriend. Had no reason to.

Then, the SPATH comes into my life. Starts saying this and that, two and two don’t add up, I start going to the court house, checking this record, checking that record, searching online, crazy shit. Trying to find the truth from the lies, the reality from the fiction, the commission from the omission.
What a bunch of crap. Yes, I own what I did. However.

Athena

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