Playing the Blame Game Well

The Blame Game

Manipulators are great at playing the blame game. So are other disturbed characters. Such folks might make a mess. Or cause trouble. They hurt others, often without compunction. However, it’s never their fault. They always have that plausible sounding explanation. They know just how to justify. (For more on this see: Rationalizing Away Wrongdoings.) But when their rationalizations don’t sway you, they find scapegoats. They might even blame you for the injury they inflicted on you. Some trick, huh? Do damage, and then vilify the victim! (See p. 128 in In Sheep’s Clothing.)

To cope with any disturbed character, you have to know just how to play the blame game. The number one rule: Don’t play!  That is, never accept blame for someone else’s poor behavioral choices. Besides, it doesn’t matter what underlies or motivates someone’s behavior. (Even though traditional psychology taught us to think that way!) People always have a choice about what they do. So, when someone makes the injurious choice, it’s strictly on them. Naturally, they may point the finger elsewhere. They may also try to justify. But their reasons are irrelevant. And,in the end, they alone bear responsibility for their choice. So, you empower yourself when you refuse to burden yourself with a duty belonging to someone else.

Honest Self-Reckoning

Forging integrity of character requires the courage to honestly self-reckon. And you can’t play the blame game to do that. We can’t always control what happens to us. But we have  a choice in how we respond. Character-impaired individuals are always looking outward. They find fault with everything and everyone else. Rarely do they self-examine. And when they do, they rarely do it honestly.

Decent people need to focus on their own choices, too. People in this world will hurt you. They will betray you. You’ll suffer injustice. And, unfortunately, you will be deceived. It’s simply the way of the world. How you respond is what matters. And you can’t let your fears or insecurities drive your actions. Nor can you let your pain paralyze you. Your anger might prompt an unhealthy impulse. You may be tempted to do some unwise things. But you never have to act on impulse. Besides, in the end, only mindful action on your part can rectify matters. That’s the great secret to healthy self-love. So, when you stop blaming and start taking proper loving action, things really change.

Getting It Right about Blaming

We’ve entertained some odd notions about blaming behavior. For example, many professionals considered blaming an example of “projection.” But true projection is an unconscious defense mechanism. It’s the mind’s way of protecting us from realities too painful or disconcerting to bear. Folks who project can readily see in someone else what they could never accept about themselves. However, they don’t do this consciously. Nor do they do it deliberately.

Folks who habitually blame and scapegoat aren’t necessarily unconscious projectors. More often, they’re conscious manipulators. Besides, they know that playing the blame game well has tactical advantages.  If you buy their excuses and take the blame for their actions, they get their way!  Moreover, they’re off the hook, too! That’s quite the payoff. So, you can see why impaired characters enjoy playing this game so much. (See also: Commonly Misused Psychology Terms – Wrap-Up and Externalizing – Manipulation Tactic 3.)

You might want to see some prior articles on this topic. (For example: The Blame Game – Part 3.) In fact there are three prior articles on the topic.  So, it’s time to move on to some other manipulation tactics. In the coming weeks we’ll look not only at more manipulation tactics but also at how to best respond to them.


The first of my 2018 workshop schedule can be now found on the Seminars page. In addition, you can find course descriptions on the PESI and Vyne websites.

I’ll have an announcement in the next few weeks about my upcoming new book.

Character Matters will again be broadcast live Sunday, April 15 2018. So, I can take phone calls. Tune in at 7 pm Eastern (6 pm Central and 4 pm Pacific) on UCY.TV.

As always, my sincerest thanks for recommending my books and this blog to others.


25 thoughts on “Playing the Blame Game Well

  1. How do you suggest handling a situation where the cd is blaming his wife in front of the kids and she’s calmly refuting him but he’s loud and nasty?

    1. Kim,
      Looks like she is already handling the situation very well. Keep calm, refute, don’t accept blame.
      I cannot think of anything better except maybe also add a pleasant smile while refuting.

  2. Kim,
    That sounds very frustrating and very familiar. What would you advise a friend if she were in the same situation? Sometimes we don’t apply our own advice to ourselves that we would tell others. Kudos to you for being calm in front of the children, that is the best thing you could do in my opinion because that’s for the children’s benefit. No matter what else you decide to do, you have your children’s best interest at heart and that is a wonderful thing.

  3. A narc plays the blame game well?

    Yeah, no kidding!!!!!

    I know that is also a part of gaslighting, as it was in my case.

    When someone causes you to question your own sanity, they mirror mental illness.

    Then you are blamed for it.

    What a great tactic.

  4. Like she did, calmly and quietly, then if she can walk away from him without him screaming at her.
    And he needs informed at a later time about his behavior and what it is doing to the children.

  5. Excellent article! The focus is on oneself to react, or not, accordingly, and with mindfulness and not on impulse, and acknowledging the fact that their bad action is on them, and our reaction is on us. This is a lesson on how to become healthy again, to Restore oneself after the harm of a CDN has been inflicted upon one.
    The X made a statement of blame that is so blatantly evil and with intent to inflict harm on me, that I’ll never forget when he stated, during a marriage counseling session, when confronted about his infidelity,t this is a 60 year old man who had a 22 year old “girlfriend”, later to find out prostitute, several of them — he turned to me and said, “Maybe you need to look at yourself to figure out why your husband would seek the affections of someone else.”
    The man is ugly to his core.

    1. Lucy,

      Sounds like it.

      Focus on your own beauty-not to become as self-absorbed, but to be successful at what he can never be.

      A hooker, not a girlfriend?

    2. Lucy, I found out my Ex was cheating on me all the time too. It seems to be their MO. He was diagnosed in rehab as psychopathic and he laughed about it, his counselors told me to take myself and kids away from him, that he had zero chance of changing. What I am wondering is why did I not see it, not so much about knowing about narcissism but just his behavior. I don’t know what I was thinking.

      1. kat,
        First off, the X always talked badly of women. He didn’t like women, so why would I think he had a “girlfriend” or druggie friend or prostitutes. Secondly, he was impotent or nearly so and didn’t show any interest in sex, in fact, avoided it. But the counselor said it made sense that he used prostitutes because the pressure was off because he didn’t have to “please” anyone, he was paying for a service.
        Kat, I think we “saw” weird and unusual and bad behaviors but unless you follow them around how do you really know what they are up to? You can guess, ask them, they lie, it doesn’t make sense, they use their tactics, you get frustrated and go, “Oh, well –” more as we say Alice in Wonderland stuff. Their abnormal behaviors were our norm. It got to be not so shocking. If these things happened to anyone else they would be on red alert, but our stuff happened daily and it was abnormally normal.
        So messed up.

        1. Lucy, Kat,JC,

          (Men who hate women, are called ( MYSOGINISTS) Again, we are reverting back to issues in childhood. (See KOHUT)

          It happens over a period of time. If we never learned proper boundaries how are we to know proper boundaries. Also, in today’s society/culture that which was taboo at one time is now common practice and we are the ones who generate the abnormalities.

          Everything is backwards today and we need to incorporate this negative thinking with proper thinking, ie., (today’s norms) it boils down to, we are the ones with the problems and the CD are in the right.

          It is what it is, and in order to take back our world, our lives, our sanity, we have to fight back with truth and perseverance. When our nearest and dearest gaslights us on a predatorial, stealth scale it is almost impossible for those with the strongest of boundaries to see through the pretense/smoke screeb. So don’t be so hard on yourselves.

          At this juncture, knowledge is power, so is putting in action of not accepting from anyone improper behavior or rids-respect for our person before it becomes out of hand. I look back and see my mistakes, I see the errors in judgement, I see complacency, I see all the things I did wrong. Never again, will I become food for the predator.

          All power lies within our reach, within ourselves, to deny sustenance to the vampiric sources of this cancer. Everyone of us, have the cureto eradicate this sickness. I say dose it out of existence with whatever means you have available..

          1. BTOV, we posted at the same time. Yes, fight back with truth – one really can’t go wrong to live by that. Hugs BTOV.

          2. Correction: rids-respect to disrespect
            : cureto, cure to
            Now I know I need new glasses or turn off this failed spell checker.

        2. Lucy, I see what you are saying, the frog in the boiling water thing. My Ex was a real charmer, women really liked him and didn’t see past the charm, like me I guess. Because I was always shy I admired his bravado. I had a really wrong idea of what was appropriate behavior, I think stemming from childhood stuff. I shouldn’t keep going around this like a dog chasing its tail. This explanation should be enough, and I don’t need to keep beating myself up for not seeing it sooner. When there’s children involved who have been hurt it is hard to forgive myself, but I don’t do anyone any good by doing that, not them, not myself. Mental note to remember this when I need to!

          1. Kat,

            The majority of the time it is all from childhood. We live what we learn. How can we live any other way if we don’t know, haven’t learned another way.

            What is important is you now see where you went wrong and own your mistakes and failures. The majority of us have made mistakes, when we own the behavior, change and make amends its a whole new game. Life is forever changing presenting new challenges and with experience we can forge ahead knowing what is right.

            Say it as many times as you need too, in order reinforce solid boundaries and confidence in yourself.

            Thanks, I needed a hug today……

          2. My narc mother called me to scream at me about my shortcomings, and how I am to blame for her lot in life, but then say I was “her favorite, a ‘good child’ and then it was “Are you LISTENING?”

            Why would I? I hung up on her.

            When she’s 75, I can have compassion for that, what created her to be like this, but I get to have compassion for myself. The call wasn’t an expected or desired one, that cannot be avoided sometimes, someone wants badly enough to try and make you miserable, I only decided not to allow it. If someone want to pick a fight no matter what, they will find a way.

            Forgiveness is one thing, putting up with it is another.

          3. JC, that sounds awful. Sorry you are having to deal with this. Its good you put up the boundary line and hung up. I didn’t have to deal with a NARC parent, you need all the tools Dr. Simon talks about. Blessings to you.

    1. JC
      I’d rather not delve further into the details, but the point being was that he engaged in bad acts and when confronted with the topic he made his best attempt to turn it around and blame me for his doing them, following the article Dr. Simon has posted here.

  6. It’s funny how you invoke the concept of the unconscious for things you believe in like projection, but don’t believe behaviour can come from unconscious fear. You use “unconscious” only if it agrees with your point of view. You even disregard entirely one’s motivations.
    Please don’t let your own personal theoretical biases impede your objectivity.

  7. Excellent. Some of this is finally starting to click for me. I’ve highlighted several lines in this. One thought that often helps me relax when I get caught up in my head about blame is, “The truth has no ego.” I think because really what blame is about is ego. If you get out of the way of that, the truth takes over. It came to me when Dr. Simon wrote about making sure to use the truth when confronting someone. Taking sides isn’t the point. Thanks!

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