Disturbed characters are notorious for blaming others when confronted on misbehavior. It’s never their fault. It’s always somebody else’s. And they’re always the victim, misunderstood, and treated unfairly.
You might catch them red-handed. They might have done something so clearly insensitive, inappropriate, or hurtful, that it would seem almost impossible to deny. Still, they find a way to pin the fault on someone or something else. Moreover, they act as if they had no choice. Attacked, they simply had to defend themselves. At least that’s the way they portray it.
For years, traditional psychology perspectives gave cover to the serial blamers among us. Simply put, the thinking was that they really did feel threatened. And, unconsciously, they projected onto others what they would find abhorent to admit about themselves. This, of course, seems like nonsense. And it truly is. Disturbed characters know the difference between being unfairly accused and being caught. They know the difference between being miscast and being unmasked. And they know the difference between accepting responsibility and making every excuse in the book. So, what’s the real reason they are always blaming others?
Why They Do It
Here’s the short answer to why disturbed characters are always blaming others:
- To manipulate. Conscientious folks don’t like being the bad guy. So, convince them that they are, and they’ll back down, back off, or concede. Game, set, match!!
- To resist the thing they abhor the most: subordination to a higher power or standard of conduct. Disturbed characters know what the proper rules are. And they know what higher purpose those rules serve. However, they hate playing by them. They want to set the rules. Moreover, because they like who they are and how they see and do things, they want only to continue as they always have.
Aggressive Vs. Defensive Modes of Behavior
Here in a nutshell, is the landmark distinction I first made over 20 years ago in In Sheep’s Clothing:
What many have long viewed as unconscious defenses are actually conscious power and control tactics. They’re part of a manipulator’s behavioral tool kit.
Realizing this began a revolution of sorts. We’ve come to realize that while some behaviors may be habitual or automatic, they’re not necessarily unconscious. Manipulators generally know exactly what they’re doing. They want things their way and want to keep doing what has always worked for them. To change would be tantamount to subordination, which they detest. And it would involve the kind of work they hate the most. (See also: pp. 102-107 in Character Disturbance.) Their tactics are automatic behaviors that keep them from internalizing appropriate norms and values.
More About the Blame Game
The tactic of blaming others often goes hand-in-hand with playing the victim role. And both tactics can be used quite subtly. But recognizing the tactics and responding appropriately is the key to empowerment.
I’ll have more to say about the tactic of making oneself out the victim and the subtle ways to do it next time.