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Are you blaming others?

Dr Elizma van der Smit. June 2019

· Mind

This is the opposite of personalization. Instead of seeing everything as your fault, all blame is put on someone or something else.

It is also the most harmful ANT and it happens when you blame someone else for your own problems. People who suffer from this negative thought are prone to deflecting personal responsibility for their actions on others. To them, their problems are neverthe results of their own actions (or inaction). There is always someone who tends to gain from their misfortune. They are powerless, always at the mercy of someone or something and can never take control of their lives.

If you have this automatic negative thought playing on repeat in your brain, it could sound like:

  • “It’s your fault that I didn’t get the promotion.”
  • “It’s all because of you that I’m so out of shape.”
  • “It’s not my fault I was late, I got caught in traffic.”

To most people, blame is a defense mechanism to preserve a sense of self-esteem. Blame is also a tool that we use to hurt other people. It is often just easier to blame someone or something else than to accept responsibility.

A good way to understand how blame works is that such people have "cause-and-effect radar" that only works one way. The only things that register are how something affects them and their feelings -- which they use to justify their actions. What isn't picked up is how their behaviors or words affect others -- or how they are coming across to others.

What should I do?

Robert Leahy has suggested a number of techniques to challenge blaming:

  1. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis:

a. Do you think that blaming others will motivate them to try harder?
b. Does blaming them protect you in some way?
c. Do you thin blaming others is "realistic"?
d. What thoughts, feelings and behaviour change if you blamed others less?

  1. Examine evidence for and against your blaming statement.
  2. What cognitive distortions are you using to support your belief? Are you overgeneralizingmind readingpersonalizingdiscounting positives, using negative filterslabellingcatastrophizing or using "should" statements?
  3. If you look at their behaviour along a continuum, is it really as bad as it seems to you? Do they always behave this way?
  4. Using a 'pie-chart', distribute the possible causes for this event. To what degree was the outcome due to things about you, others or the situation?
  5. What was their intentions? Are you sure about your belief regarding their intentions? 
  6. Distinguish between criticizing others and requesting a change in their behaviour. What behaviour could they improve? What could you and they do differently in the future?
  7. Would everyone see it this way? Why not?
  8. Does your "should" rule come from any religious, moral or legal beliefs? Specify exactly where you learned this rule. Is this rule possibly a misperception of what was taught or written?
  9. If you really loved someone or cared about him or her, would you apply this "should" rule to them? Why? Is there some reason why you would use this rule for some people but not for others?Start taking 100% responsibility for what happens in your life.  If you don’t like your outcomes, change your responses.

This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy.This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.

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This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.