Disturbed and disordered characters are notorious for playing the blame game. As I mentioned in last week’s post (see: Externalizing Blame Can Have Deadly Consequences), their unwillingness to accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions always causes problems and can sometimes even have deadly repercussions. But given how different folks with character disturbances are from those I affectionately term as more “neurotic” (for more on the key differences between neurotic and character-disturbed and disordered individuals, see the series of articles beginning with: Neurotic or Character Disorder? – Criterion One: Anxiety and the two chapters on neurosis-character disorder differences in my books In Sheep’s Clothing, Character Disturbance, and The Judas Syndrome), how one plays the blame game can make all the difference in the world in a relationship.
In the series on neurotic-disturbed character differences, I make the point that the aforementioned two groups of individuals are markedly different in nature on just about every dimension of interpersonal functioning one can imagine. One of those dimensions has to do with a person’s level of conscientiousness, which is itself a consequence of how well-developed someone’s conscience is (for more on this, see: Neurotic vs. Character Disorder? Criterion Two – Conscience). And 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. That’s what enables the tactic to work so well. Manipulators know that conscientious people always want to do the right thing. So, when issues arise, rather than look at their own part in things, it’s so much easier (for more on this see: Character and Attitudes toward Work) and so much more effective in getting one’s way to invite the more conscientious party in the relationship to do all the work and accept all the responsibility.
One of the things I came to realize early on in counseling couples beset with character-related problems is that one partner (i.e. the more conscientious partner) “enabled” a lot of manipulation because they didn’t clearly recognize the natural boundaries between the things they vs. their partner should rightfully be held accountable for. The more “neurotic” partner, forever seeking to “understand” (for more on this topic see the article: (Abuse Victims Try Too Hard to Understand) their disturbed character partner’s behavior, would inevitably end up inadvertently finding excuses for it (e.g., fears of commitment, harsh upbringing, presumed low self-esteem, etc.) instead of holding their partner to account for the choices they made and behaviors they displayed. Moreover, when on occasion they did try to hold their partner accountable, they too easily succumbed to their manipulator’s tactic of blaming circumstances, others, etc. – everyone and everything other than themselves.
In next week’s concluding article I’ll be presenting two case examples that will hopefully illustrate how difficult it can sometimes be for the overly conscientious party in a relationship to recognize clearly the natural boundaries that exist between what truly belongs to them vs. what lies in the exclusive domain of their character-impaired partner.
Sunday’s Character Matters Program should be a live broadcast (if all my current traveling goes as planned) so I should be able to take your calls.