Isn’t it such a natural reaction when anything goes wrong to look for something (or someone) to blame? As human beings, we do it all the time. It seems to be one of the egos most well developed defense mechanisms. We don’t want to be wrong. We want to guard against feelings of shame and inadequacy. Often, we don’t want to be responsible. But we always have a part to play in whatever is happening around us, even if it’s that we’re not taking action (or empowering thought) to help ourselves. Taking responsibility can grant us the ability to take control and stop us from feeling victimized. Firstly, let’s look at our habit of blaming and feeling like a victim. We don’t just blame others. We blame our pasts, our limitations and, sometimes, even life itself. Having victim mentality, or investing in victimhood, can have its pay-offs. Therefore, it may take commitment to change.
Why become set in victim mentality?
First off, I want to be clear. There are bad things that happen to us and they are not our fault. We can become entwined with people who don’t treat us well and their behavior is not our ‘fault’. This is not where the responsibility lies. Responsibility, and hence empowerment, lies with what we do about what is happening to us. If we become set in victim mentality our default position is to look to blame others, or blame an external concept such as ‘bad luck’, or blame a certain limitation we haven’t taken steps to overcome. Those with victim mentality will often use statements such as ‘this always happens to me’, or ‘he/she always treats me badly’. Talking like this immediately assigns power to something, or someone, outside of ourselves. We absolve ourselves of responsibility but by doing so we hand our power to external forces. What happens to YOU from now on in, no longer depends on YOU, but on something, or someone else, over whom you have no control.
Being a victim can generate a lot of attention from others. Those claiming victimhood can gather sympathy, and understanding, as they share their woes. This, in itself, can become appealing. It is also fodder for the ego to believe that one is always right. Not only does it make us feel more important, (as mentioned above), it can be an important defense mechanism for someone with a weaker sense of self. It may be painful to hear, but the less well established our self-esteem, the more likely we are to look to justify what happens to us and seek to blame rather than take responsibility.
Why give up blaming others?
When we think that the source of the problem is outside of ourselves, we think that the solution is also outside or others. It is beyond our control. We are left feeling helpless. We may not always be responsible for what has happened, or what some else does, but we are always capable of taking responsibility for what we do about it and how we approach a situation. When we take responsibility in this way (rather than hoping that someone, or something, will change) we are recognizing that we are the masters of our own lives. We become proactive, rather than reactive. We feel more powerful and we feel more confident. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor E Frankl, describes how he survived his captivity in the concentration camp Auschwitz during WW2. He refused to identify with being a victim, which kept him stronger. He writes, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one’s way”.
It can be amazing when we begin to make changes in ourselves, how others around us can begin to change accordingly. For example, when we stop accepting bad behavior, often others stop treating us badly.
How do I stop blaming others and take responsibility?
Forgiveness can be a powerful first step in stopping a cycle of blame and beginning to feel less victimized. For example, if you are stuck in the past blaming your parents, or education, or whatever it may be, for your current limitations, doing some work around forgiveness will serve you well. It may help to work with a trained professional whilst you explore past grief and anger. Become curious about where you have any part to play in current circumstances and willingly accept any responsibility. This way, you can begin to look at any patterns you may want to change in the future, or change dynamics now by behaving in a different way. Claim your power. You are not responsible for the bad behavior of others, or often for the things that can happen in life. Neither are you powerless to do anything about it. You are not at the mercy of forces outside of yourself. You can control how you think and what you do.