Humans crave certainty in an uncertain world. One way of handling uncertainty is by blaming. While blaming helps create a sense of certainty, it also comes at a high price. Do you think the price of blaming is ultimately too high?
A dear friend of mine recently lost three friends in a motor vehicle accident. The driver and passengers were allegedly under the influence of alcohol when the accident occurred.
In the wake of the deaths, the surviving families each pointed fingers at the sons of fellow surviving family members.
At the time of the funeral, the anger and level of blame had escalated to the point that the funerals were each conducted separately, on the same day, in different parts of the same community, and were not coordinated to allow for friends of all three men to attend each funeral.
At a time of internal and external chaos following the deaths of these young men, I can only imagine that the surviving friends and family members were trying their best to make sense of their loss.
Blame is one way of making sense of an otherwise senseless tragedy.
As a therapist, I always remind my clients that every reaction to a situation (be it a thought, behaviour, or feeling) has benefits as well as disadvantages.
Here are three disadvantages of blame – the counterpart to forgiveness.
Blame stops us from seeing that life is uncertain, that some things are random, and beyond our control
Is it reasonable to want a sense of certainty in a world where things are not always predictable; where multiple and often unseen factors impact on a situation or outcome?
Blame fosters toxic emotions and a heavy burden to carry
Blame is so intimately linked to the concept of punishment.
So whether we are blaming someone or something outside of ourselves, or in fact ourselves – the person doing the blaming carries the heaviness of wanting to seek revenge against whoever is believed to be at fault.
As we all know, this can be exhausting and painful for the person who blames.
Blaming another (or ourselves) keep us separate from our fellow man
When we blame we engage in what sociologists and psychologists refer as othering or projection.
Both concepts refer to how we unconsciously place what we see as unacceptable within ourselves onto others.
When we blame we:
- fear that others are monsters when we may ourselves be able to relate to what we see as monstrous in them, OR
- we believe that we are the monsters and are unable to see that everyone possesses the same potential or characteristics
Good examples of the outcomes of othering and projection are intergroup racism, religious fundamentalism, and nationalism.
Othering and projection are two mental maneuvers that allow people to go to war against their fellow man.
The processes of othering and projection serve to reduce the anxiety and discomfort of realizing that we all possess “unacceptable” aspects within ourselves.
The major disadvantage of these processes, however, is that they allow us to demonize others (or ourselves) and this prevents us from accepting that everyone is capable of both good and bad. That we are more similar than we are different!
Blaming is one way in which we make sense of our worlds.
Our minds are speared on to find quick and easy solutions to complex phenomena when faced with tragedy and the sheer sense of vulnerability tragedy evokes in us.
- Blaming others helps us make sense of tragedy and the unpredictable.
- Blaming provides us with a false sense of certainty while obscuring the fact that we are all capable of both good and bad, in a world with multiple unseen forces and seemingly random occurrences.
- Blaming is toxic and burdensome for the person doing the blaming and keeps us feeling separate from our fellow man.
Have you recently found yourself resorting to blame in order to make sense of the world? Was it too high a price to pay for you? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.