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The Blame Game

Do you find yourself blaming others when events don’t unfold how you want them to? Once you blame someone, do you then think they deserve to be treated or thought of poorly? Do you notice this pattern repeating often in your life? If so, it’s probably because you are engaged in the blame game. This post will primarily focus on the psychological reasons for blaming others, the reasons we do it, as well as ways to overcome this distortion. If you would like to learn more about how cognitive behavioral therapy can help you overcome the “blaming others” psychology, then contact Citron Hennessey and schedule an appointment at our Manhattan office.


Blame is defined as assigning responsibility for a fault or wrong. We blame others for a number of events: so and so made us late, she made me feel guilty, they pressured me to make a decision, he made me explode with rage. Blaming others leads to several unhelpful emotions, such as resentment, anger, and hatred. We blame others for our behaviors, our thoughts, and our feelings that are negative. I have yet to meet anyone who blames people for the good things that happen in our lives.


So why do people blame others?

The reason why people usually blame others is that it’s a quick escape from guilt. Blame is an incredibly easy and effortless tactic to use when we feel defensive. If you don’t hold yourself accountable for the consequences of your behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, you get to continue living life thinking that you don’t have any flaws or areas needing improvement. Blame is often used by those of us who have a desire or need to be perfect. When discussing blame with clients, I find that clients who blame more usually have the irrational demand “I must/should/ought to be perfect and if I’m not, then I’m unworthy/unloveable/a failure/etc.” Holding ourselves accountable for our actions usually puts us in a vulnerable position, and as a result, it can be difficult to do.

When we blame others, we refuse responsibility for our contributions to the problem. Blaming other people is an easy out, and an easy way for us to continue our behaviors, which may be the source of the problem we’re hoping to put on someone else. This denial of responsibility also denies us control of a given situation. Once I blame the MTA employee, the barista who makes my coffee at a snail’s pace, my partner, my upbringing, my family, or my therapist, I can no longer change my circumstances because I’m thinking, “Well, I didn’t do anything to cause my problem; This was all her fault.” Blaming others keeps us from seeing ways we can alter our behavior to achieve a desired outcome, it leaves us powerless, and it stunts our personal growth.

This is obviously a state that we don’t want to stay in permanently. By making others the responsible party for our problems, personal progress can be stalled. In fact, when we choose to ignore any sign, big or small, regarding the displacement of blame, we can even find ourselves pushing away those who are coming from a place of support. However, if we address the situation with the attention it deserves, it’s much easier to read our own emotions and see the reason behind the underlying issue.

Like other adult habits, the blaming tendency traces back to early childhood development. Most people blame others because they never developed self-soothing skills to deal with powerful feelings, especially shame.

Like all defense mechanisms used to evade uncomfortable feelings, blame is considered a form of emotional avoidance. Blaming others for how we express inappropriate actions enhances our sense of being justified for those actions.

People typically blame others because:

  • It’s easy

  • It feeds a need for control

  • It fuels a desire for perfectionism

  • It keeps them from having to be vulnerable

  • It protects their ego

  • It unloads backed-up feelings

·       Blaming others for our mistakes does not come without consequences. Blaming someone else may make you feel like you’re winning. However, an inability to take responsibility for your actions does not benefit you in the long run.

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·       Eventually, blaming others will backfire on you. If it wasn’t obvious, those you blame realize you’re still in the wrong. Long-term consequences on your life, career, relationships, and personality can stem from blaming. 


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I proudly identify as part of one of the most influential generations in history - the Baby Boomers. During the late 1960s, we came together in solidarity to fight against hatred, discrimination, and


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