On Blame

“Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability. Accountability by definition is a vulnerable process. It means calling you and saying ‘hey my feelings were really hurt about this’ and talking, It’s not blaming. Blaming is simply a way to discharge anger.”

Blame is one of the easiest instinctual responses to have in stressful, painful, or unsettling moments in life. But why? What exactly does it do for us? Well, at a very basic level it’s a defense mechanism that helps us feel more in control when we feel like things are totally out of our hands – when we’re devoid of power. It is easier to try to put someone down for something than it is to pull them in with our introspection and self-expression. ‘Why?’ you might ask. Because it’s safer. It’s easier to put the fault on someone else than it is to make yourself vulnerable by telling the other person how whatever happened made you feel because you’re mad and you want instant gratification. Blame allows us to stay hidden and protected when we’re already feeling bad, and provides the hope of leveling the playing field by putting someone else down and taking some power back.

The following video clip by Bren√© Brown does a great job of really explaining the meaning behind blame. What I like most about the clip is how she describes blame as being corrosive in relationships because it hinders the opportunity for empathy to emerge, which is crucial in any lasting or meaningful relationship. For instance, we all know those heated and unending arguments with significant others where both people are trying to blame the other for whatever happened. It’s so easy to fall in these disheartening back and forth arguments with loved ones because we’re upset in that acute moment and we want justice immediately. As regular and normal it is for couples to have these arguments, it is frequently toxic to the relationship because they are about one individual winning rather than both people learning and growing together.

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