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Blamers & Shamers


By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

Some people in this world are expert blamers and shamers. Perhaps you know one.

It begins with the need to blame. You did something bad. How could you have done this? Then it easily slides into the need to shame. You are something bad. What is the matter with you?

When something goes wrong, it can never be an accident. Or, a random act of nature. Or, a simple mistake. Or, a lack of judgment. Or, a moment of inattentiveness. It cannot even be a misdemeanor. No, no, no, no, no! It’s got to be a felony.

Accidents are not allowed to happen. You heard me. No accidents. Somebody has to be blamed. And, amazingly enough, the finger is always pointed outwards.

In a traffic jam? - “This wouldn’t have happened if you were ready on time.”
A noisy appliance? - “If you used it right, it wouldn’t be making that noise.”
A relationship problem? - “Just get to the point and fix it instead of talking so much!

It’s no secret that Hal is a blame-based person. A ‘type A’ personality and perfectionist, he’s one tough guy to deal with when something goes wrong. You can count on being the target of his anger if you’re within striking distance or have anything to do with his frustration.

Hal is not the kind of guy whose anger might suggest the need for an order of protection. Indeed, he has contempt for anyone who would hit a woman or wreck a house. He is a responsible guy. Others just need to be as responsible as he is.

For him, everything is judgment. Good or bad. Right or wrong. He’s got zero tolerance for carelessness, lateness or irresponsibility. Do what you’re supposed to do, the way it should be done and on time! No excuses!

Can someone like Hal loosen up? Not right away. Yet, what may start the change process is an unpleasant encounter in which he begins to think that maybe he’s done something harsh or hurtful.

For Hal, it began when he drove Jason, his 8-year-old son, to the softball game. When they arrived, Hal saw that the game had already begun. Of course, he blamed Jason for “making him” misread the schedule, because of his fooling around. Jason rushed from the car, tears in his eyes. When his coach asked him why he was late, he shrugged, “I don’t know. I never do anything right.”

At that moment, something clicked. Hal recognized how damaging his blaming was to Jason’s self-esteem. Yes, he wanted him to be more responsible. Yes, he wanted him to be more attentive. But, he didn’t want to make his son miserable. Indeed, he wanted to build up his pride and ego.

But, a blame-based person does not easily change his ways. Seeking someone to blame was in Hal’s blood. It was his way of trying to keep the control, trying to make things right.

Over time, however, Hal learned to appreciate that when things go wrong, it’s not always necessary to blame someone. Sometimes the problem is just situational (more traffic than expected) or organizational (the mailing was late) or technological (the website was down) or human nature (people make mistakes).

Still, it took Hal awhile before he was willing to examine the roots of his need to blame. To reflect on why control was so important to him. To remember how he felt as a kid when he was on the receiving end of the blame.

Hal never did become an introspective person who loved to delve deep into his psyche. Indeed, that would have required a personality transplant. But there definitely was a mellowing process. A chilling out. A lighter, less blaming and shaming way of looking at life and all its myriad problems.

The result: A less intense Hal, a happier son, a more relaxed wife. Not too shabby, I would say.

Copyright © 2017: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.
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