Growing up, most of us had numerous experiences of being blamed. I was frequently blamed for things that I was too young to understand, or for things that I didn’t do ‘right’, or for things that, to me, didn’t seem worthy of blame.
Being blamed feels awful, and I learned to feel guilty even when I hadn’t actually done anything wrong. Looking back, I now understand that blaming and judging myself, which caused me to feel guilty, felt better and more empowering than feeling the depth of helplessness over being so unseen, unheard and misunderstood.
Today, I work with many clients who are very reactive to being blamed. They often get angry or defensive, rather than feeling the helplessness and heartbreak of being unseen, unheard and misunderstood. Of course, this creates problems in relationships, since their partner then also feels unseen and unheard at the other end of the anger and defensiveness.
Blame vs. Responsibility
One of the underlying issues is that there is often confusion between responsibility and blame.
What would happen in conflicts if partners and families accepted that everyone is responsible for their own behavior and choices, but that no one is actually to blame? What if we each chose to