The “Blame” Card

After all these years, I remain struck and fascinated by how readily, abruptly, selfishly and destructively my more narcissistic clients use blame as an interpersonal weapon.

This isn’t a surprising observation: Don’t like what you’re hearing (because it’s inconvenient)? Blame the messenger. Find an expectation oppressive (because it’s inconvenient)? Blame your partner as a nag, a bitch, or as insatiable.

Find it inconvenient to admit your deviousness or treachery? Blame the victim of your treachery for driving you into a corner and leaving you no choice (in other words, you betrayed me, before I betrayed you!).

For such individuals, blame becomes a reflex. It is often staggering to watch, as it suits their convenience in the moment, how they’ll switch it up and accuse a partner of something that they (not their partner) blatantly perpetrated.

Blame, in many of these cases, is often projected. By projected, I mean that the blamer (the aggressor) takes a feeling—say, guilt—and projects it onto his partner as, say, blame.

For instance, his guilt over an affair is projected as, “You drove me into her arms!” (In other words, I’m not guilty, but you should be!)

Should you challenge his twisted version of the truth, he may escalate his projecting along the lines of, “Don’t go pop psychology on me! There you go again, manipulating me with your pop psychology! You were a lousy wife, you treated me like shit, and so what the hell did you expect?! Shame on you! Take a look in the mirror, honey. You’re a loser!”

By now, a gaslighting effect risks emerging: disoriented by his vitriol and the seeming conviction of his accusations, you may begin to wonder, who’s crazy here? Him, as I once thought, or perhaps me?

Blame, of course, doesn’t always involve projection; sometimes the abuser’s contempt—that is, his devaluation of his target—is so great that, even while he’s consciously, lucidly aware that he violated you, he’ll blame you anyway.

This, of course, takes hubris. But what it most takes, as I just suggested, is a massive level of contempt. Consider the example of the individual who sexually assaults his victim and, fully recognizing the nature of his assault, nevertheless (and shamelessly) blames the victim, calling her a whore, saying she wanted it, she asked for it, she had it coming, what the hell did she expect?

My own view is that the sociopath, in general, has less need than the narcissist to “self-justify” his use of blame. His feeble conscience, which makes few, if any, demands of him, effectively enables and liberates the audacious expression of his contempt and self-centeredness.

I suspect this also explains (at least partly) how, knowing full well he’s been a scoundrel, the sociopath can look you in the eye with unabashed, naked contempt and brazenly endeavor to blame or lie his way out of accountability.

The comfort with which he can do this, the seeming absence of conflict, guilt and ambivalence with which he can blithely commit, and just as blithely deny, such exploitive behaviors, becomes a diagnostic indicator of his sociopathy.

(My use of “he” in this post was merely a convenience, and not meant to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and disorders discussed. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)

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188 Comments on "The “Blame” Card"

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Outlier, bless your heart. I learned that I am not responsible for anything other than myself – period. If someone wants to lay blame on me for events, episodes, etc., they are allowed to do that. However, it is MY choice to accept that blame or not. And, unless it is my mistake, error, good decision, or seemingly benign choice, I refuse, under any circumstance, to own someone else’s issues. How can I do that without all of the b.s.? Because I don’t HAVE to accept blame. 😉

Dear hopeforjoy, and Buttons. Thank you for responding.

Before the ptsd, I was able to cope. I figured she has a problem. But so hard to expose it as she’s a popular figure with a perfect life, home, job, children, social life etc. The gulf in communication between her/me and the world/me is very apparent. I allow her to abuse, bully, whilst not responding b/c she is the *onlyone* who does this. When she is abusive; I am looking upon her as a disordered individual. I don’t respond b/c you can’t change a 40 year old habit in her. When she’s abused, she walks off with a skipin her step. Let her; she’s a kid, tormented and can’t have the balls to be ntreat me with respect I deserve. She’d die if she was nice to me. Poor wee lamb.

The sh!t really happened when I DID respond (5 yrs ago) in a matter of 10-100 words. Retaliate and defend yourself against a pattern of abuse that’s lasted 40 years sets off such a malevalent energy in her, she can’t confront me, but gets others to hate me. I had no idea what would happen, but quickly noticed it. Revenge occurs for having the balls to hold a mirror to her. Expose a sociopath and you invite yourself to danger.

I can’t avoid her; she doesnt have to be anywhere near me to spread slander, orchestrate. She gets others to do the dirty. So in effect the only way to cope is to literally cut off everyone she assocaites with (ie my brothers). If I were raped she would be DEVASTATED I ruined the life of the man I accused. Nothing falls naturally with her.

3 groups of people exists: abuser(s), 9 billion people, the abuser’s enablers. The 3rd group is the biggest threat, as they can easily influence 9 billion people. I dont have a problem with the 2nd group, and they don’t have one with me. Before mybrothers changed, they were fine. It wasn’t until I spoke back to my sister that she punished me via the brothers, her husband. What can I do? Nothing. Cut the entire lot from my life. Stressful way to live without lifting a finger from my end. Enough to give me a cancer I’m sure. I genuinely feel I’m at one with people wrongly accused of crime, convicted and imprisoned. When their sentence is quashed and they are free (based on evidence); I know what they’ve been through. Living with slander is incredibly stressful and this is what consumes me. Not her namecalling or mocking my handicap (40 years she’s mocked my disability). Its’ the 3rd group she influences. Abusive life was positively lovely before I retaliated.

When she is interrogating/blaming; I know it’s rubbish; I can brush it off easily as it’s pure childspeak. She turns into an 8 y.o. The threat is when she retells edited versions of the truth to others. Funnily I don’t find HER a threat, but her ability to influence others IS her weapon and my biggest war – as it results in alienation, and slander to my name. She’s a child in an adult’s body in many ways. With other doctors around her, her act is sickening. No idea what she’s like to patients. She’s double quick to feign victimhood, accusing me of the exact things she’s done to me (she needs material, and she looks at her behaviour for it) Another facet of her weakness – she can’t do it effectively without the help of others. She was rubbish for decades, but effective with a husband, my brothers (and of course the neighbour) around her.

I’m only where I am b/c of the parents. If they weren’t on my agenda, I’d be thousands of miles away when I know I’d be laughing every day. Whilst I’m here being the carer, she is in control as it’s a life I didn’t want. She has a life; I don’t. My life doesnt begin until my parents relocate/death etc.

Er… this is longer than I though, sorry


What a nasty individual, if you can call her that. You know the truth, and even though she starts to get her husband and your brothers to act against you, don’t you think she will turn on them too? You may be her target, but as you aren’t playing her game, she will have to find someone else to victimize. Sooner or later, people find out. Her husband may have an idea that something isn’t right with his wife but chooses to overlook it.

It may take longer for some people to actually see her for what she is, at that point you could be in Aruba having the last laugh. Unfortuately, it takes time. It took me 19 years to know the extent of my husbands disordered behavior, but I always knew something was off, just didn’t listen to my intuition.

Hang in there Outlier! I bet your parents appreciate you and the sacrifice you are making for them.

I simply can’t imagine her ever turning nasty on the boys. Haha, no, never. They’ve observed a lifetime difference in us – me silent, alienated, dependent, colder, defensive (victim/target); her social, independent, generous (constant gift giving), successful, “normal”. Figure which person they prefer. nb I am not like this outside family. Nobody would notice an abused person as I don’t exhibit it. Within the nucleus of the family I am a monster not to be trusted. Period. My american cousin noticed it when we were kids. Takes an outsider to spot it. interesting, huh…

Her husband has a conscience, is the only person who challenged her when they courted. From that point he and I paid for that! His wide open eyes are firmly shut, and the abuse is better hidden, right under his nose often. She was so confident he would join her in the abuse. Instead he drew attention to it. That was 5 minutes of respite in 30 years. If I told him the truth (sexual abuse, ptsd, serial bullying), can you imagine what I’d have done to his happy solid marriage?! He’s not stupid (he challenged my sister!); but he’s been influenced (NOT his fault). I would love to tell him something, but not direct reference. But he can easily retell this to my sister who will recognise what I’m doing.

My parents are aware of the goodness my presence offers them. Father is full blown N, but he does identify more remote specific things I do. He knows my sister is a monster he can never trust. My mother knows this too, hence their dependence on me, only. I deliver when they ask. Not the martyr kind of delivering. I’ve ranted so much within a few hours. 40 years I held peace, contained it all. I dont want to spend the next 40 years speaking it. It’s just being near the family base always makes me a prime target and a hollow of the person I am.

Okay, enough from me. you are good people.

I just spotted my daily horoscope on the msn page heh.

Your health is being compromised by a toxic situation. You’ve been held prisoner by forces that don’t want you to realise your full potential. If you stay, you’ll be complicit in their abuse. Break free of this restrictive arrangement and seek greener pastures. Education, travelling overseas and writing a book are among the possibilities. The road will be bumpy, but at least it will be a refreshing change from being told what to do by your inferiors.


OMG! That horoscope was spot on!

This is the most spot on thing I have ever read about these idiots…I always wondered what the game was there, did they know they were chatting crap and they were really to blame or did they believe it…either way they are twisted…I hate mine, for no reason, even though he is on the surface being the best he ever has been..someone said here about when the kids are gone what then…its had a huge effect upon me..plans are now in place and I anticipate by the end of the week being here bawling my head off…for the last time..not the last time I will be here, the last time I will be in this situation…

The blame game know that one all too well. Let’s see . . . what was i blamed for?

His career. Yep, my fault . . . I “forced him into a career.” He was a floater, never knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. Now he makes close to 6-figures and it’s all my fault.

His being a bad father. Yep, my fault. Never mind his constant absences, his snapping at the boys when he was home, his not knowing the names of his boys’ teachers, friends, or when they went to the doctor, had a teacher work-day, etc.

His never taking me out on a date. Because I nagged him all the time, why would he want to do anything “fun” with me.

His being gone all the time. Didn’t I want him to be “successful?” The provider of the family? Well, because of my wants/needs he had to work a lot of late night hours, attend out of town conferences (code word: fool around).

Our lack of sex. My fault because I gave him a cold shoulder all the time. NOT! But I couldn’t just give it up when “he” wanted it, at that very moment — especially after working all day (including an hour commute), getting kids to and from school (he was too busy), clean house, dinner, homework, kids’ bath-time, bedtime stories, etc. (I was exhausted). Too, he treated me like a whore at the end (because I learned after he left me that he had been cheating on me for years and viewing porn 2-3 hours a day)

His lack of closeness with his family. Excuse me . . . did I not host his family every holiday, babysit his nieces/nephews, care for his grandparents, clean his mother’s house, buy the Christmas/birthday gifts for his six siblings and their families, attend social events with his mother, paint his sister’s house, maintain the online communication with his family, send kids photos, news articles, family updates to his entire family, vacation with his family, take in his sister and two kids to live with us when she left her abusive husband (and was her only shoulder to cry on)? 20 years his family monopolized my life . . . and yet my fault he doesn’t have a relationship with them.

His never helping out around the house. Because everything he did was not “good enough.” Actually I was very appreciative of help on the rare occasion that he did. But sometimes it was hard to bite my tongue when he overloaded the washing machine (btw that was one of the reasons why he left me — because I complained about how he did the laundry once or twice during our 16 year marriage).

Our never having money. I bought furniture at an auction and through Craigslist when we moved into a 3600 sq. foot house that we barely had furniture for — and he never let me live that down, though he was always wanting me to play the perfect hostess to his co-workers and business associates. Never mind his need for a new car every 2-3 years, his Johnston Murphy shoes and Brooks Brothers shirts (he had an “image to uphold” — his words), his $60 worth of male products every time he went to CVS, his weekly dry cleaning bills, his bottles of wine every night and $15 steaks, his golf outings. Me? I never cut my hair, went to the doctor, bought for myself, had a girls’ night out.

His having an affair(s). Because I didn’t emotionally support him, and not enough sex. See above . . . and too know that I gave up my career because of his need to move every three years (and yet I always managed to land on my feet with jobs . . . often times making more than him)

Now divorced — his lack of communication with his boys. This time though its not my fault, it’s theirs . . . elementary age boys and they are the ones who are to call HIM . . . “why didn’t you call me?” or “I’ve been expecting you to call me.” Always his first lines when on the phone with my boys.

Yep . . . all my fault he’s a miserable person.

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