Warning: This article contains adult content that may not be suitable for all readers; triggers of abuse, sexual abuse, depression and anxiety.
Is it not an appropriate time to talk about this subject - The Blame Game?!
I had planned to write this article in my series of All The Feels before we hit the COVID 19 pandemic and before the Black Lives Matter movement, and yet, synchronicity prevails again. What a great time to share what I know about the blame game, the personal story, and witnessing this toxic and emotional game.
First off, let me give some professional definitions of this tactic.
"One of the most destructive human pastimes is playing the blame game. It has been responsible for mass casualties of war, regrettable acts of road rage, and on a broad interpersonal level (social, familial and work-related), a considerable amount of human frustration and unhappiness. The blame game consists of blaming another person for an event or state of affairs thought to be undesirable, and persisting in it instead of proactively making changes that ameliorate the situation."
~ Elliot D. Cohen Ph.D.
Blame is a peculiar emotion that sits in between anger and defensiveness. This game does not aim at a constructive resolution of disagreements; instead, it aims at some vague, unrealistic, and harmful goal of making sure that people get what they deserve. It's the pointing of fingers and not taking responsibility or accountability for one's actions.
Some people want to blame everything on everybody else - you know those people? I've known a few. Then some feel they are to blame for everything. This could seem to be a Canadian theme, considering how often we say, "Sorry."
It could be effortless to blame my family, friends, co-workers, or anyone who has ever hurt me and blame them for their actions towards me, and I would be justified in doing so. I was young, I was uneducated, or it wasn't my fault, I was innocent. So I could blame all these harmful people, and let's face it, I did! I pointed many fingers expressing, "It's your fault that I'm like this!"
I've also had my fair share of self-blame. How could I have been so gullible and stupid to fall for a friend who was catphishing me? This event happened in 2014, and when I moved back to Calgary, I felt hoards of shame and guilt. "I shouldn't be loved, how can you love someone this stupid," I would tell my friends and family, "I'm such an idiot; I didn't see it coming." I gave my friends an out, so they didn't have to be with a friend who was such an idiot and susceptible to abuse. Of course, none of them left; they shared my feelings while offering sympathy and empathy - I wasn't the only one, but it doesn't mean I didn't blame myself.
If I've dished out blame while conversely pointing blame to myself, who wins? Which broken version of me is the victor? The answer is obvious - neither.
When it came to my childhood abuse, I wanted to blame anyone I could, and mostly I tried to blame my parents for failing me. Parents are supposed to be our protectors, teachers, and guides in navigating this world while prepping us for what is to come. When anything terrible happens, they are of the ones we look for to blame, and I did, and when that's done, then comes the ever-expanding circle of family and friends to blame next.
With all these actions against me, I wasn't going to put up with that. My response was to blame and flame-throw that shit right back at them! I was in defensive mode. I had minimal self-esteem, so protecting myself meant placing that energy onto someone else. It allowed me to hurt them while feeling justified in doing so. I didn't know any better.
I wanted them to hurt as much as I was hurting; I wanted them to know what it felt like to be me in my suffering and anger. I spewed the foulest words, mostly at my mother, because I knew she wouldn't defend herself. I tossed items against the wall, threw tantrums, bubbled myself in self-loathing telling people it was because of them, it was their fault. But I discovered that I could never blame them enough, and I could never hurt them sufficiently to equal the pain I endured. It was an insufferable well of anger and defensiveness.
So this is the game I was playing, a dangerous game of insults, accusations, forcing pain onto others for their role in my hurt. It wasn't just me jabbing fingers and slurring foulness; it was a vicious game that we all played because no one was aware of accountability and responsibility for causing the pain.
Blaming others is about wanting to be right, the need to be right. I knew I was right because I suffered at the hands of others, and because of this, I wasn't letting go until I received their validation that they were wrong.
We have the right to defend ourselves, especially if we're being and feeling attacked, I mean, let's face it, some people are assholes! I've been an asshole! I admit it. I've done hurtful things to defend myself like swearing and cursing someone up and down, being rude and dismissive. Hell yeah, I've done that. And I can still do that, but now I give a warning, a few warnings before I'm pushed that far. I express what I'm sensing, what has triggered me and how I'm currently feeling while removing myself from the situation.
Does it serve joy, happiness, love, inspiration, and tenderness? In my experience, I've never felt those emotions. Instead, I've felt more riled up, angrier, aggressive and always on the alert to attack again when someone (my mother, usually) wasn't able to defend themselves.
But what happens when we keep blaming people? Is there a resolution, has the conflict finally dissolved, is there peace? If unresolved, I've discovered that blame will shift onto the next person, the next victim. Blame is about deflecting responsibility for the pain I feel. I haven't released it or been free of it; I've just shifted it.
When I've assaulted someone with my blame, I'm the one left feeling shitty. Maybe I vented in a moment, great, perhaps I've got my pals cheering me on and in full support of what I'm justified in blaming, kudos to me!! But instead, I feel the same emotions the next time they arise, and then I begin the blame game all over again. It can become an Olympic sport while always coming in fourth. So how do I end this cycle? Through awareness.
If blame were indeed an Olympic sport, it would take years to build up the expertise and skills to become a fourth-place finisher; so I could conclude that it would take a similar amount of time and awareness to break this cycle. But in breaking this cycle, does it mean we induce self-guilt for the actions we have placed on others? As awareness begins to seep into our consciousness, understanding the pain becomes a tool in our healing kit.
You've heard me say this many times before; awareness is vital. It's the key to growth, acceptance, and understanding. It's also the key to freedom. "The truth will set you free," right? This quote is not a cliché, its fact. Looking back at my blame game, I need to be accountable for my actions and take responsibility for how I respond. Responding to past abuse can only begin with knowledge.
No one can feel my pain besides me, so no one can heal it other than me, and thus begins the processing healing. Therapy plays a significant role in folding back the layers of anger and abuse to reveal what is truly hidden; sadness.
In the sadness, I yearn for the nature and nurture of my mother, but this was absent. If we recall in my previous article where I talk about the feelings of unworthiness, the same principals apply; how can I blame my mother who knew no better than what she learned?
Here is where I gather sympathy because if my mother, and all the parental role models in my life, had truly understood how to nurture, they would've expressed the love that I desperately needed. Instead, their pain reflected onto me. So with this understanding and clarity, the mirroring of sadness and lack of nurturing becomes clear. If they had received the attention and nurturing they required, they would not have condemned their elders, hence the cycle.
Abusers don't' make me feel angry; I feel angry about being abused. My parents don't make me feel sad; I feel sorry for being neglected. The point is that everything I feel is a result of my experiences, my perceptions of my history, and because I'm in charge of those emotions, only I can be responsible for healing them. This awareness reduces the need to blame because it no longer becomes about pointing fingers to people who need to be accountable, it's about adjusting my emotions to nurture myself in the way that I didn't receive.
I ask myself some important questions: Do I want to be responsible for making someone feel shitty? Do I want to attack someone with guilt that may already feel/be guilty? Is this the power that I have and want? Is this how I best inspire, encourage and support someone?
If someone is not aware or awakened yet, it is not my responsibility to do this for them; this is an individual journey. Once the recognition of awareness builds, the game of blame begins to dissolve. There no longer becomes a need to accost someone; instead, the desire for inner peace and transformation takes over.
When we recognize that we are all in need of healing, as Deepak Chopra reminds us, we can feel empathy for our abusers. We can wish them well on their journey to healing and accountability as we continue on our path to a more enlightened future.*
This article was originally published in the Vol. 3, 2020, “Into the Blissful Dark” issue of Birth of a Woman Magazine. That issue may be found here.