The Blame Game

Gregory awakened Sunday morning and his first thought through a pounding head was, “Damn, how much did I drink last night?” He looked over at the night table and there was a half empty bottle of bourbon. “I don’t even remember what I did last night,” he lamented.

Gregory was in pretty bad shape. His problem drinking was out of hand. His wife had left him and taken their two kids aged 9 and 12. His boss had warned him earlier in the week that if he didn’t shape up he would be fired. He was in and out of rehab and counseling but neither was going well. He was constantly being told by other patients and counselors that he needed to stop blaming others for his problems.

Gregory had a long list of those who were to blame for his ills, beginning with his parents, his brothers, a couple of emotionally-abusive high-school coaches, numerous unfair high-school and college teachers, his wife, a lineup of insensitive supervisors and bosses, and rebellious kids. The only one he overlooked was the Devil! Gregory’s pattern of coping with his difficulties was consistent: find others to blame.

But now, here he was lying in bed on that Sunday morning, and he finally said to himself, “I have to face up to the fact that no one is to blame for my misery but me. I am at fault.” Sounds like a breakthrough, doesn’t it? At last, Gregory is taking a look inside rather than outside. Well, yes, that’s a positive step, but there’s still a fundamental problem with his approach: he’s still hung up on blaming someone, in this case, himself.

Coping with life is not about assigning blame; it’s about moving forward. Self-blame for your problems, even when true, is not a step forward; it’s stagnation, forming a pity parade that stands still because you feel you have justified your destructive behavior by blaming someone. As long as you’re obsessed with the blame game, you will never move forward.

So, what does Gregory need to do? First of all, drop the self-pity and accept that no one is going to cushion the corners of his world for him. He needs to assess his current situation and focus on actions and thoughts he can take, things under his control, to improve his situation. Imagine if Gregory called his wife that Sunday morning and said, “Honey, I understand now. It’s all my fault, not yours or the kids’. It’s all on me.”

She would best reply, “Well good for you, Greg. But I’m not interested in who’s to blame for where we are. It really doesn’t matter at this point. I’m interested in seeing what you’re going to do about where we are! Give me some actions, some positive changes in how you behave that will help this family move forward.”

Next time you find yourself trying to cope by deciding it’s all your fault, face the fact that self-pity is not going to improve your life. You must decide how you are going to change your behavior to cope. Choosing the best actions will require a lot of honesty, commitment, hard work, communication with others, help from them, and facing  up to what you can and cannot control.



2 thoughts on “The Blame Game”

  1. Constant self-blame is not very rational. “Struggling with self-blame” is nothing more than looking for sympathy. We’re all to blame now and then, but no one is at fault all the time. You need a more proactive reaction to constantly criticizing yourself. Modify your self-blame into evaluating how you can improve in situations: “I need to be a little more assertive next time”; “I should remember that others all had a hand in working on that project and it fell short because we could have cooperated more.” Such self-talk is more positive than the masochistic, “It’s all my fault.” But the more positive and realistic conversation must also be accompanied by positive, forward-looking actions. Do things that bring you some satisfaction, and keep telling yourself, “I am not the world’s martyr.” Self-blame lowers your self-esteem, which leads to self-blame, which lowers…..Break out of that vicious circle.


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