Why is the blame game so addictive?

Why is the blame game so addictive? 150 150 Jane Evans

The blame loop

Having someone or something external to blame when things don’t go our way, or WE make a mistake, can easily become a habit. In childhood, blaming others can be a means of survival, especially if getting caught or owning up is likely to incur the wrath of the adults around us.

As children if there is a risk of being shouted at, shamed, punished or being given the cold shoulder from those we love. We learn to adapt to avoid the discomfort of these. This might find us saying we didn’t do it. Or, convincingly declaring that one of our siblings or another child did it.

If the stakes seem high in our childlike world, we survive by blaming others. We learn how to do this when our key adults (the ones who will then be cross with us) blame us for upsetting them, our sister, breaking or spoiling something, or a situation.

Common ways we use blame:

  • I would have finished my report, if I hadn’t been held up on a long call
  • I messed up because they kept stressing me out by changing their minds
  • I do better when other people leave me alone
  • They weren’t clear enough about what they wanted me to provide
  • The demand for our product is no longer there
  • Brexit is stressing everyone out so no-one is spending right now
  • I’d be much calmer if they’d stop winding me up
  • They are so difficult that I can’t stand being around them
  • I feel so down because they just don’t meet my emotional needs
  • It’s not my fault that they…
  • I’ll be able to sort myself out when they stop being such a pain in the backside

What’s the attraction of blame?

Think of a time when you have felt deficient because you made a mistake or otherwise stuffed up. The shame of it, or realisation that there will likely be a consequence, flicks you into an automatic fight or flight response.

In this state of high energy and emotion, it’s easy to look outwards and release an angry, tirade of frustration. The accompanying surge of adrenaline and cortisol means you are soon buzzing. Often because you are externally or internally releasing a long unpleasant commentary on exactly why it wasn’t your fault and was someone or something elses!

This familiar pattern and state is easily triggered if we are stressed and have grown up around it. Ultimately blame becomes a habitual way of avoiding:

  • Being with ourselves
  • Any kind of self-examination
  • Seeking help to avoid getting into difficulty
  • Blocking off emotions that might otherwise overwhelm us
  • Change
  • Creating a more accepting view of life and others (no adrenaline and cortisol high in this!)
  • Growing and developing individually, or within personal and professional relationships

Ways to stop playing the blame game

If you’ve been blaming others since childhood, change will be tough, not impossible, but tough. As the blame loop is a well established neural circuit in your brain which links to a familiar chemical response in your body and brain. You may not notice it at all as its happening at a subconscious, automatic level. It is always about a perceived threat and uses our ancient survival responses which are not designed to be given up lightly!

5 Ways to reduce the blame habit:

  1. Become more aware by listening to what you say when something goes wrong
  2. Just start by being curious so you recognise what your blaming sounds, looks and feels like (do you get tense and shouty, fume on the inside, does your tone of voice change, do you get hot under the collar?)
  3. If you feel brave enough to hear the responses, ask those you trust to tell you what you do when you are in blame mode
  4. Take a long deep breath before you speak or react, in fact take several, it’ll bring you out of fight/flight
  5. Start a new conscious habit of pausing to grab the gratitude pot off the shelf – “In this moment I am grateful for….” You can’t be a grouch and grateful at the same time!

To do any of these, you will first need to SLOW DOWN, which could be your greatest challenge. Being more in the moment, you’ll need to repeat these changes over and over as you are rewiring your habitual responses in your brain and body circuits.

A faster, lasting, long-term solution will come from uninstalling the blame habit from your subconscious mind. Then installing new beliefs to create new habits, a bit like a software update on your phone! If this interests you, drop me a message and we can chat through what this would you’d like to achieve, and why.  

I should also mention self-blame as most of us are pretty damn good at that too! Sometimes when we have spewed our blame all over others, we then turn it in on ourselves. Or, we may have a habit of blaming ourselves for everything which is unhealthy, and super destructive. I’ll save that for another blog…


Jane Evans

Jane is a ‘learn the hard way’ person. She has learnt from her personal experiences and her direct work with people who have often been in really bad places emotionally, relationally, practically and sometimes professionally.

All stories by: Jane Evans

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