Disturbed and disordered characters use blame as a tactic to manipulate those whom they know to be conscientious enough to accept all or part of the responsibility for something that’s really not their fault at all.
Because neurotic individuals tend to have fairly well-developed and sometimes even “overactive” consciences, they’re often all-too-ready to accept the blame for things when a disturbed character uses the manipulation tactic of blaming.
The tragedy we witnessed two days ago is an old, old story becoming far too commonplace in our character-deficient age. We live in a complicated, demanding world and there are too many among us who never developed the character resources to deal adaptively with life’s challenges – especially failure – and to profit from their experiences, including their disappointments. It’s far too easy to just point a finger. And sadly, for too many, it’s easier still to place that same finger on a trigger and shoot.
In the moment the disturbed character engages in their dysfunctional thinking and behavior patterns, you know they’re also resisting the idea of accepting and internalizing the values and controls necessary to change. That’s why they’re almost certain to repeat the same problem behaviors unless they are more reliably confronted and corrected.
To care enough about the welfare of others to want to work on their behalf requires empathy, and is the essence of genuine love. Disturbed characters lack the capacity to love in this way because they lack empathy, and the warning signs are always in the attitudes they display toward accepting obligation.
Some individuals possess innate traits and have learning experiences that together more easily prepare them to lead a responsible life. But other individuals possess traits that make the socialization process inherently more challenging than usual. And, if on top of that such folks just happen to come from environments replete with various types of abuse, neglect, or inadequate guidance, they can enter adulthood with little motivation to bear the burden of responsible living.
Learning to be responsible is largely a matter of accepting burdens for the greater good, and folks lacking in empathy rarely have the motivation to bear such burdens. The willingness to do so can only arise out of love, which is why a person’s incapacity to genuinely love is always reflected in their shirking of responsibility.
Disturbed characters will expend all kinds of energy in self-serving pursuits. But they simply detest work they perceive is primarily on someone else’s behalf, or working for something that’s not clearly and intentionally self-serving, despite the potential benefit they might derive in the long run. That’s why they tend to give assent or “lip service” to the natural demands of a relationship (Assenting is one of the responsibility-avoidance tactics I outline in In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance), while resisting the real work of making amends.
Making amends in a meaningful way can be a particularly arduous task. But in a loving relationship, repairing any damage done (whether inadvertently or intentionally inflicted) is not only a person’s duty but also essential for maintaining integrity of character.
Whether or not we choose to ignore or discount the fact, character always has and always will matter. It matters in every aspect of our lives, from our relationships, to our work endeavors, to our civic duties. So let’s do our best to make it “cool” to talk about, focus on, and especially promote character once again.