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anti-social personality's understanding of such words
is often incomplete and contradictory. For example, most alcoholics
agree their situation is largely their own fault: yet, they go on to deny
that their failures are their own responsibility; they are inclined
to place blame elsewhere. Clearly, their understanding of the notion
of responsibility is vague and contradictory.
Colin Wilson on
Blaming Justifies Your Own Bad Behavior
On this page:
Blame Action Loop | Blame and Selfishness | How This Attitude Can Get Your Head Blown Off | Constant Crisis
How many times have you heard someone who said something that is mean, vindictive and hurtful -- or committed a violent and/or destructive act -- justify it by saying the recipient had 'made' the perpetrator mad?
That's an example of using blame to excuse your own bad behavior.
Unfortunately, blame is like anger in that it dulls one sense of empathy. It allows a person to act in a hurtful way to another human being. It isn't the act itself, but it often clears the road. This is a small, but important point. Ordinary humans have inhibitions that serve as a buffer against what we know is bad behavior. Blame is not the act itself, but it either erodes or outright removes these inhibitions, often both . It develops a thought pattern that allows the person's emotions to override his/her self-control in order to achieve an often selfish end -- including sustaining dysfunctional patterns.
While this may seem like an overly harsh statement, also realize the kind of mindset that so quickly adopts blame as a defensive posture for emotional/ego protection is exactly the same one that will put you in front of, otherwise avoidable, physical danger.
It is not uncommon for people who engage in blaming behavior to also engage in selfish behavior. And as long as they are getting benefit from it -- whether monetary, emotional, comfort, entertainment or psychological stability -- they will continue to engage in those actions. But realize that most of the time the person is too busy doing the behavior to see their actions in this context. Look at the diagram below:
What this illustrates is a simplified action loop model of how humans interact with the world around them. When functioning on this basic level, 'stimuli' comes in from the 'world,' it is evaluated and an 'appropriate' action is taken. An example is you come to a corner with a traffic light. The stimuli coming in is the signal is red and cross traffic is passing. The evaluation is, according to the laws, wait. That's your action. That keeps you from getting run over. The light turns green, the cross traffic stops and you cross. We do this kind of looping process all the time, adjusting as the results of that action come in.
Notice that in the previous diagram there was a two way flow as actions and evaluation were compared with the results. In that model if something doesn't work then the approach is to change strategy/evaluation. This will become important in the next example.
This loop takes on a different form in the blamer's reality. This is partly because 'evaluation' is run through a couple of other filters. As long as everything works out for the blamer, these filters won't necessarily reveal themselves. For example, both a blamer and a normal person choosing not to try to cross against the light will be working in basically the same model as above. However, when the action don't work out as planned (1), the simple action loop becomes more complex.
This is what could be said to be happening inside the blamer's mind (2) when his/her behavior does NOT produce the desired results. When negative consequences result, it is always someone or something else's fault. This creates a one way flow that serves the purpose to 1) protect the blamer's core beliefs, 2) meet the blamer's desires or 3) in accordance to his/her emotional state at the time. Realize these three elements form a complex -- and self-reinforcing -- cocktail. A cocktail that is beyond the ability of the authors to explain, except to say that it both a powerful motivational force for the blamer as well as something that he/she is dedicated to protecting at all costs. It is the continuation and protection of these 'filters' that leads to the rest of the process. Let's look at this process staying with the street corner analogy. Upon arriving at the red right (and despite the cross traffic), the person decides to cross any way. This is a selfish decision (while there might be a legitimate reason to cross, most jaywalking really is based in impatience -- which could be any mix of the cocktail). The results of this action is the person is struck by an oncoming car.
This is where the blame process kicks in, instead of taking responsibility for his/her action that had unintended consequences, the blamer begins to find reasons why he/she should be excused from the repercussions. Repercussions that the blamer doesn't believe he/she 'deserved.' (Being judgmental of both self and others is common among blamers). Obviously the blamer will blame the driver ... let's say for speeding, e.g. If he hadn't been speeding he could have avoided hitting the blamer. Another way the blamer commonly will try to avoid taking responsibility for unpleasant results is by telling him/herself something along the lines of "If my boss wasn't such a nagger about being back from lunch on time I wouldn't have had to try to cross the street." Somehow magically it becomes the bosses fault that the blamer got hit by a car.
But here is where things get squishy, although avoiding external repercussions would appear to be the motive (e.g. trying to blame the driver for insurance purposes), the main goal of blaming others is to protect not just one's own emotions or ego, but apparently one's philosophy. And that is where this behavior becomes both self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating.
Blame and Selfishness
People who blame others tend to overemphasize themselves while at the same time underemphasizing the negative effects of their actions. Realize something very important here, we didn't say 'overemphasize the effects of others on them,' we said, overemphasize themselves. Overemphasizing the negative effects others have on had on them is very much a part of overemphasizing self. While one cannot state that all blamers have narcissistic personality disorder, blaming is a common behavior among those who fall somewhere on the continuum. As it is among other forms of dysfunction.
However, one doesn't have to be dysfunctional to blame others, often it just boils down to plain old lazy and selfish.
Like violence, power and so many other words, 'selfish' is another one of those words that covers a whole lot more than just our personal definition. And yet it is our personal definition that we usually limit ourselves to when thinking about the subject. Many behaviors are based on self-gratification -- whether overtly or subtly. Many people's actions operate around either gaining something pleasurable and avoiding something unpleasant -- like emotions or repercussions. That doesn't necessarily make them selfish, especially when those motivations are counterbalanced by and adjusted for other motivations. And yet we all realize that there is a line that someone crosses where no matter how they rationalize or justify it, someone's internal dialogue has started singing "It's all about me."
We do not propose to tell you where the line it, but only point out how incredibly subjective selfishness is. Like violence, it seems that many people's definition of selfish is "Any level of behavior that is beyond what I am comfortable using to get what I want." Talk about a slippery issue. Your behavior isn't selfish because it's in your comfort level and benefiting you, but someone who is willing to go further than that, you consider 'selfish.' And yet, that person is using the same rationalization and thereby believes he/she isn't being selfish. In the mean time, a third person considers you both selfish. Does this remind you of the quip about 'anyone driving slower than you is a moron, anyone driving faster is a dangerous maniac?' It should. This is one of those subjects that it really seems simple until you look at it ... and then you realize why morality, ethics and societal conduct have been pondered through the ages and, at the same time, is like nailing Jell-O to a tree.
So knowing that we must be careful of any personal definition of selfishness and that it is a huge subject beyond the scope of these pages, how do we talk about selfishness in the context of personal safety and blame? How about this, for the purposes of this article, we'll define selfishness as a short-term, gratifying (or self-serving) behavior without concern (or consideration) of long term consequences to oneself or others.
Because that's usually what gets people into immediate trouble.
We all make selfish, self-serving and lazy decisions now and then. Welcome to being human. However, blamers have a consistent pattern of making lots and lots of these kinds of short-term decisions. And yes, many of these people have self-esteem issues (issues that are reinforced by their behaviors). Their actions tend to revolve around either bolstering themselves or deflecting any negative consequence/idea that could further threaten that self-esteem.
For example, a "blamer" who decides to skip work once too often will maintain that it was the fact that the boss didn't like her that resulted in her being fired. She will disavow that her regularly (and for selfish and lazy reasons) opting not to go to work had anything to do with it. Often such a person will either minimize the amount of time she was absent or try to spread culpability to others with comments like "well everyone else did it, too. I didn't do it anymore than anybody else ... the only reason I got fired for it is because the boss hates me!" (Thereby returning to blame). It should also be noted that someone who regularly chooses to skip work because they "don't feel like going in" is also prone to other slipshod habits. This is another common trait of a person who works only to her 'comfort level.' And this is often the source of the animosity directed at such a person. However, she will interpret it as persecution -- totally ignoring her contribution to the situation.
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. (see the Blamer Diagram above) What isn't picked up is how their behaviors or words affect others -- or how they are coming across to others.
The blaming mindset is a slippery slope. One that is difficult to self-recognize because it is self-reinforcing. In short, you don't know that you are doing it because it seems logical and normal. And like high risk behavior that is fun, it brings you short term benefits. It isn't until you step outside this frame of reference that you will notice the imbalance in the flow of cause and effect.
How This Attitude Can Get Your
Head Blown Off
We wish that were hyperbole. The sad fact is, it isn't an overstatement.
The fact is that a blaming lifestyle can put you into a downhill slide. Alcoholism and drug addiction are real common results of the constant search for short term gratification and benefit. So too are dead end jobs where the blamer is shunted away to cause the least amount of damage possible. Unhappy, dysfunctional relationships? Saying that and Blamer is basically repeating oneself. But whether you're talking about long term or short term, the blamer's tendency for selfish actions brings him/her into the view of predators.
Making numbers up to convey a point, 75% of the people blamers are going to encounter are not as self-centered as they are. But usually this 75% just doesn't want anything to do with how this person behaves. That 75% will actively go out of their way to avoid dealing with an identified blamer or to keep interactions to a minimum. Once they know a person is a blamer, they'll say something polite and find some reason to move away or change the topic.
Then comes another 5% of people who are not as self-centered as the blamer, but doesn't let the blamer get away with his/her selfish behavior (e.g. a boss who demands the blamer actually do his/her job). The next 10% of the people they are going to be dealing with are people who are as selfish as themselves. The next 5% are only a little bit more selfish (or are perhaps better at it than they are). Given these numbers about 75% of the population is basically going to be background color and noise to these folks. That 20% however, is the blamer's bread and butter.
These are the people who provide for the trauma-drama in the blamer's life. They are the ones who not only will provide the blamer opportunity blame, but the blamer will actively seek them out. In fact, it is this small segment of the over-all population that blamers deal with almost exclusively in their lives. In fact, one can say that selfish people often form self-isolating social circles. That's why we say the majority of the population is just background color and noise to those of this mindset.
Did you however notice that there is still 5% missing?
Well, now the bad news, this last 5% aren't just more selfish than the blamer, they are human predators. A good number of them have many of the same traits as the blamer, but taken to a dangerous extreme. Unlike the blamer, who collects and cherishes wrongs done to him/her, these people will beat, rape or kill you over a perceived wrong. And like the blamer, feel totally justified about it. Other predators don't need an excuse, they'll do it just because they want to. The truly dangerous type are blamers who have degenerated into addiction and dysfunction and are supporting their addiction through robbery. While other dangerous types are somewhat predictable, these kinds are squirrely.
We tell you this because of an important fact, these kinds prowl the same 'selfish social circles' as the less selfish. In fact, it is the less selfish who are these people's primary prey.
Why should they bother going out hunting when their prey comes to them?
We have a different definition of high risk behavior than most. Our definition is: Any behavior that puts you into circumstances where violence is probable. We're not moralizing or saying that having a good time is bad. What we are saying is that certain self-gratifying lifestyles not only attract the less-selfish from mainstream who are looking for a good time, but also the dangerously selfish from elsewhere. Who are also looking for a good time. Unfortunately, part of those people's definition of a 'good time' is victimizing the less-selfish.
IF the blamer survives such an encounter from a blame standpoint he/she is 'fixed for life' that person has now moved from a blamer, to victimhood. All things considered however, there are easier and more successful life strategies.
Crisis: Do You Blame Others?
Basically if things keep going wrong in your life, if you keep on finding yourself in chaotic situations, if there is always some kind of crisis going on or if things "just keep on happening to you" -- you need to do a radar check.
This often entails asking people for an outside perspective -- and then listening to them. But the old adage of "birds of a feather flock together" also holds true. You need to ask people outside your circle of close friends and family. The reason people are your friends is that you all tend to think alike. You need to get an outside, objective opinion. It is best to ask professional counselors, but stable, successful, mature people also are good sources of information.
Unfortunately, when they do this, many people hear things that they don't want to hear -- that is why they don't normally ask. Odds are, what you are going to be told is NOT what you want to do. It is not going to be comfortable. It is not going to give you benediction for your actions and emotions. This is, however, a critical perspective to have because it shows you how other people think and how they perceive you.
And that is going to determine how people will treat you.
Even if you don't agree with what they are saying, ask yourself "what was the reasoning behind that statement?" Often other people see things that we don't see -- or, more importantly, don't want to see. If you ask 10 people and eight of them say the same thing, then there is obviously something that you are missing.
Now while some people will steadfastly maintain that they have considered all possibilities, by definition a blind spot is not only an area you can't see, but one that you don't know you can't see. When eight out of 10 people tell you something is wrong, something is wrong. If you feel an incredible surge of internal resistance about what is being said or toward continuing to ask mature and responsible people for an outside perspective, that too tells you something. (If you don't know any stable and reliable people to ask that should really tell you something).
If you encounter this resistance you must approach the issue from a different angle. The question then becomes: What would I lose if I did allow myself to see what I don't want to see? And that is a Pandora's Box question if there ever was one.
From there on you might want to consider trained, licensed, professional counseling.
Return to top
1)Realize when we use the term 'as planned' we're now talking variables. The action did not have a) the desired immediate effect, b) it did have the immediate, short-term effect/benefit but laid the ground for later conflict, c) went wrong right there. In all of these cases, blame will be used to deflect responsibility for the resulting effects.Return to Text
2) While many action loops exist and are accepted in psychology/ business/ communication fields (the first action loop is one such) the 'blame loop' we are presenting is not one of them. This particular model is our own theory and tool for giving a layman's explanation of the process.Return to Text
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