To err is human. To blame seems to be human also.
We blame nature, we blame God, we blame our enemies, our spouses and ourselves. We even blame politicians for never taking the blame!
The definition of blame is to hold responsible, to find fault with, to censure, for something that has happened, has failed to happen or which has had a negative impact in some way.
We need to blame for regulations of feelings, reparation of harm and restoration of order on personal, interpersonal and broadly social levels.
The Uses of Blame
In the best of circumstances blame for wrong doing once acknowledged results in apology, concessions to meet the demands of restorative justice or punishment to meet the demands of retributive justice.
The Misuses of Blame
Blame however is complex and like most human dynamics rarely unfolds smoothly. The inability to blame, the projection of blame on others, retaliation or an imposed code of silence are misuses of blame that are incompatible with regulation, restoration and recovery.
The Danger of Self-Blame
Although self-blame may be warranted as personal acknowledgment and rectification of actual wrongdoing, we often use self-blame when we are innocent of any wrong doing in an attempt to regulate unbearable feelings or situations that are out of our control.
The Impact of Other’s Blame
The defense of self-blame is often fueled by the need of others to blame the victim as a way to psychologically distance themselves – “She should never have taken the train so late.” “He never watched what he ate.” “They insisted on living abroad.”
It is destructively used when it is a projection of the split off blame of those who both harm and blame.
The inevitable consequence of incured self-blame is not only guilt but a sense of shame, reflected in a lack of confidence, self-disdain and fear of exposure. This makes us a victim of self. Too often it precludes the necessary empathy we need from self and others to heal.
The victim of an assault wonders how careless she might have been and wants to hide.
The wounded policeman is ashamed “How can a cop get shot?”
The parents of the lost child avoid what they expect to be other’s pity.
The world uses and misuses blame. Personally, we may at times need to blame ourselves and others. To truly go forward, blame needs to move us forward - to forgiveness.
For Further Reading
Garwood, A. (1996) ”The Holocaust and The Power of Powerlessness: Survivor Guilt an Unhealed Wound.”British Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. 13(2), 1996.
Photo by Geoffrey Fairchild, avialable under a Creative Commons attribution license.
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Last reviewed: 26 Dec 2011