Of all my work, I find the most difficult concept to teach is “no blaming.” I have often seen that those who initially nod in agreement later will be the ones to assert that it doesn’t apply to them or their circumstances. In the following “No-Blame Contract”, I attempt to cover all the bases and respond to all the arguments I have heard to justify blaming. Some people simply cannot comprehend life without blaming. They have always thought in terms of innocence and blame. They have not yet grasped or been shown the notion of personal responsibility and self-reflection as a tool to redirect the course of their lives toward healthier and happier results. Self-reflection is what other people need to do. Furthermore, when I try to interrupt the blame process, I sometimes find that I become the target. It’s a difficult concept to teach. I believe if I lay this out in this way, I may have a shot at proving to my beloved students that I am not singling them out, and I do understand the problem.
Many of us have never witnessed self-reflection or learned how to determine whom to trust. Since all of us are designed to be self-invested, no one else can be expected or trusted to always think in terms of our needs as opposed to theirs. Even the healthiest, kindest person is ultimately going to act in a thoughtless way toward us sooner or later. So, how can we identify whom to trust? It is not by how well they think in terms of our needs. It is by how well they self-reflect when we share our feelings of injury, perhaps, just with an “Ouch.” We can best define how trustworthy we are by how well we self-reflect when someone indicates they have been hurt by us. Blame and self-reflection are incompatible.
Some people were raised in environments in which their parents judged them and blamed them. Others were raised witnessing their parents judge and blame others. Thus, some of us grew up in environments where healthy interaction skills were not practiced. We grew up where responsibility for how we were doing and how we felt was always on others, usually parents in power who were blaming us or even parents who inoculated us from responsibility by rescuing us at every turn. We may have grown up believing that accepting personal responsibility meant accepting blame. Many of us have spent our whole childhood and adult lives ducking blame. Many become professional victims in the process. Others become judgmental narcissists. Thus, we enter into our adult lives on the offense to avoid blame. We believe that if we are not to blame, the other guy obviously is.
When one has lived a lifetime thinking “either/or” thoughts, it is not possible to simply introduce a new blameless way of thinking, especially one that can be digested with a simple reading. There have been times when I have tried to bust this blame-based thinking, and my student has interpreted my intervention as an attempt to deprive them of all their rights to reason on their own behalf and protect themselves. You might think that, surely, I simply do not understand you, your circumstances, or how bad or unusual is your problem. I don’t get that you have been dealt a blow to the solar plexus not unlike betrayal, something I obviously do not understand and have not experienced, myself. Otherwise, I would not seek to deprive you of your right to blame.
For this reason, I suggest that whoever embraces this contract would do well to read it and re-read it again and again. I believe each reading will help to unravel a little more. A blamer will ultimately enter into a state of confusion, and fortunately on the other side, if they keep reading will be a profound realization. If one can stay humble and endure this disorientation long enough, reading often as possible, qualitative change may follow. It will be as if the mind turned over. Previous categories will begin to dissolve, while others make enough sense to take over. Sometimes this happens in one moment. Sometimes it is slow and certain. Either way, the pay off is there for those who pursue. The personality will make a profound shift leading to a rebirth of sorts, a la William James (Varieties of Religious Experience).
A relationship skills workshop is a good environment for wiring in new experiences and new skills, but the theory needs to be embraced for the turnover to take place. If you choose to work on blaming, please do not simply read and sign this contract. Sign it, commit to it, and then take the hours, days, weeks and perhaps months studying it until you make it your own. Finally, leave your ego under your pillow. Be willing to be a “nobody” or a “nothing” for at least six months. Stop defending yourself as much as possible. The truth is there is nothing to defend. At your core, you are divine. It is only your beliefs, projections and coping skills that cause you trouble, and they can be replaced if you let yourself unlearn and relearn.
In order to make the change from blamer to personally responsible party, one must be humble and in a state of surrender. In this state, one self-reflects. In this state, one owns their own truths and their own motives. In this state, one can see the drive to avenge one’s own childhood pain upon another. When we are humble, we can cry for our own wounds, especially for our childhood wounds, so that we can heal and move on. Simply put, in order to heal from this blaming disorder, one will have to choose to give up power for a while. This will necessitate a careful consideration of your relationships. You cannot afford to have any relationships with someone who is a blamer, unless they, too, are doing the work to change. Some have elected to relate to no one else for six months other than their co-workers, therapist and their relationship skills workshop. In order to turn this blaming thing around you will have to surrender to a humble state, giving up claims to power and pride, giving up 12 o’clock, as I call it, and seeking the egoless state of 6 o’clock, which includes faith and surrender, thus inviting transformation.
Now, the autopsy can begin. The student can look back over the ways they were treated as children and how the perhaps cruel or neglectful ways of their parents have become their own imprinted coping mechanisms. The student can then look at the adult years of all his or her inflammatory actions that provoked further tragedy. Students safely ponder other ways they could have handled things. They can remember how people responded to their blaming and then they can remember when they were in a similar situation, responding likewise to feeling blamed. With each memory you can see alternative ways you could have coped; thus, you begin the process of rewiring. Seeing begets change.
The following is a tool for great change, but it must be fully embraced, as the concepts within, however plainly written, are Greek to the uninitiated. If you are humble and seriously looking over the mistakes you have made in your past relationships, you are entitled to be treated with total reverence by your therapist or your listener. If this does not happen, you may need to request it, because you and I both know that this is delicate work and you will be feeling fragile. But you must also know that when you slip into 12 o’clock, or into blame-consciousness, the respect you had earned will disappear, and you may even be treated as an enemy until you fall back to that precious, humble state of learning, re-building and re-creating yourself.
God speed. -- Dr Faye Snyder
the dignity of coping
When people take responsibility for choices that backfire, they have dignity, honor and health. Taking responsibility for one’s choices and consequences empowers one to grow. Almost all successful and great people take responsibility for their choices. Listening to one take responsibility is uplifting and engenders great regard verses shame. There is a story about a Zen monk who was also a cook. One day a renowned Zen master was to visit, and the local master requested that the cook make haste to prepare a meal. The monk scurried with a knife to the garden and quickly hacked off a head of lettuce and some vegetables to prepare a salad. At the meal, the great master lifted the head of a snake from his bowl, asking, “What is this?” The monk quickly grabbed the morsel and swallowed it, replying, “Oh, thank you, Master.”
I have nearly always found that if I became humble when I am wrong, if I sought to solve problems when I erred, if I simply said, “Woops,” I was safe and respected. In very few cases I have encountered someone who wanted to target me when I was humble and owning my mistake, apparently gaining some satisfaction rubbing it in or enjoying the dominance. I have always used that as a most successful tool to detect those with whom I would not be safe in a relationship.
However, at one time I thought, “If I take responsibility for my choices, I will be blamed.” I have also thought, “If I cop to this, I will look bad, and they will use it against me.” Yet, responsibility is not about blame. “Blaming”--verses responsibility--has an unforgiving property. It projects that there is no hope in the blamer to repair the blamed. It means that the blamed is irredeemable, unforgiven, forever deserving of mistrust or deserving of punishment, if not shunning. The drive to judge or blame is a drive to scar, to retaliate, even to destroy the blamed person, if not to set them back so far that self-reflection would be a waste of their time. When one blames, both parties get worse.
When working to heal in therapy there is a period where the patient is empowered by their therapist to blame their parents (in empty chair work, unsent letters, dialogue). I believe it is the only time in one’s adult life that blaming is appropriate, because it leads to purging childhood injuries, without which the adult child becomes a scapegoater.
the issue of blaming in therapy and healthy parenting
When one is blaming, those who are called upon to listen to the blamer feel like hostages getting burned by a blowtorch. It is not uncommon for blaming and judging to drive healthy people away or to even enrage them. Rather, it is abnormal for a healthy person to not become inflamed at blaming and judging behavior.
Nevertheless, many therapists are trained to remain unmoved by blaming and judging behavior. Unfortunately, many of them build up resentment toward the client because it is an almost inhuman task. It has its positives and negatives as a treatment style. In my opinion, it is not helpful for the client to miss critical feedback for blaming, even though most therapist fear the wrath of their borderline or narcissistic blaming clients. In this case, the client does not get any reality testing or moral feedback on how bad blaming and judging is for the sender and the receiver alike. The therapist is just one more person in the client’s life to enable the blaming behavior. For sure, this approach is easier than confrontation.
While healthy parents might show a child their righteous indignation, if their child moved into judging and blaming behavior, the traditional therapist does not do the same. She is not committed to correcting the patient’s ill-learned childhood lessons, even though righteous indignation or an expression of repugnance is a natural consequence of blaming and judging. Rather, she has been trained that eventually the patient will figure it out himself, that blaming is immature at best, destructive at worst.
Causal therapists, on the other hand, allow themselves to respond fully. They opt for natural consequences and do not try to make themselves a blank slate. They strive to guide by being themselves. They are also able to forgive instantly and move on. They will consistently try to interrupt judging, blaming, “shoulding” or advice giving by whatever means necessary. At PaRC we call it an “arrest”. We will interfere so as to stop the patient from blaming another. So, the sooner the patient relinquishes blaming or judging and moves into expressing their hurt feelings, the sooner their therapist can become empathetic again.
the uncalculated effect of blaming
Sometimes people who blame think they’re just getting their feelings out. Blaming does not get any feelings out at all. Blaming is not a feeling; it’s a thought or a judgment. “That bitch betrayed her marriage vows, and she’s a god-damned liar,” is a judgment, not a feeling. Expressing this opinion does not reduce the pain, nor does it get feelings out. It has no value. Judging has no value. Blaming has no value. What would have helped them feel better or heal would be to express their pain from having been betrayed and then search their memory for lessons and clues that would have predicted such a betrayal. Then, they could make an assessment as to whether or not they would choose to have a future relationship with someone who behaves this way.
Blaming begets more blaming. It may feel good or even like a relief, but it actually works itself into a frenzy rather than calms itself down. It heals nothing. Only self-reflection and taking responsibility can heal that which can be healed and redeem whoever can be redeemed. Blamed persons are usually too defensive to self-reflect, and since the blamer is not blameless, the blamed person will become the blamer, and the vicious circle continues.
traits of a blamer
In blaming or judging, one does enjoy the temporary illusion of superiority, the high of self-righteousness, the transient relief of revenge and the anesthesia of devaluing another. If only we could see ourselves as others see us. Blamers are the lowest on the social ladder. It affords us no status at all, yet some blamers assume a self-righteous pose. Kind people tolerate blamers only for a while out of compassion. Blamers have to do the work to give it up if they want to preserve worthwhile relationships. Otherwise, they are doomed to repeatedly attract and bond with those who also blame, each retaliating in kind, or they lose relationships with non-blamers bitterly and repeatedly.
Blamers have a problem with cause-and-effect thinking. They don’t realize when they started it, which is usually the case. They can’t seem to see themselves as others see them or how they created their own dilemma. This problem impairs their entire quality of life, because as long as they see themselves as victims and don’t realize they create the way people treat them, they limit their opportunities and successes. They live as if there were a glass ceiling above them, so they cannot grow up or get ahead. Blamers see cause and effect in terms of how they react when other people treat them badly. Blamers don’t see, own, or want to realize what they did to create the reaction against them. All offensive events in their mind begin with the one they perceive as being against them. They seem incapable of looking at what they did just before that to inflame the other person. Thus, they are always the victims, even when they are, in fact, the retaliators, who just behaved in an ugly 12 o’clock way.
Blamers are thin skinned. Perhaps someone else precipitated the event in question. Maybe it was thoughtlessness on the part of the other, maybe even selfishness. Has the blamer never been thoughtless, herself? Perhaps it was a misunderstanding. Perhaps it had nothing to do with them. Perhaps it was a person behaving out of their own pathology and their own childhood, but blamers take these all personally. Then, they move to 12 o’clock, because they believe that in order to protect themselves, they have to take power over the other by blaming and judging them louder and harder. Conversely, a healthy person would stay calm and humble, at least at first, asking a few clarifying questions and trying to adapt or compromise. An unhealthy person doesn’t seek clarification as much as they seek the offense. When blamers assume power to protect themselves, they become the perpetrators. Blamers don’t realize that they are the perpetrators; they became it when they sought to retaliate. They almost always think it’s someone else. However, one way to identify the perpetrator is by recognizing who is blaming and assaulting by judging, as well as recognizing who is at 12 o’clock. While most perpetrators think they are protecting themselves, they are, in fact, unconsciously scapegoating for their past.
People who were not so injured in childhood are not so charged. People who are thin skinned and whose only known defense in life is blaming rather than being blamed will inflame otherwise agreeable people in short order. Some people are so thin-skinned that if a person is not warm and accepting at all times, they experience rejection. Empty from childhood and hypervigilant from its traumas and rejections, they anticipate that there is another assault coming at any moment. They use arrogance, if not blaming, as a shield. This will always make them wrong, because even if they are right in content, they will be wrong in process by blaming or demeaning. In a self-fulfilling prophecy they create the antagonism they anticipate. Then they point to the hostility that they created as evidence and justification, unaware that their expectations and double standard created the other person’s attitude.
Some blamers don’t assume power to protect themselves; they assume innocence and seek rescue. As a listener, therapist or mother, I probably can’t fix the other party for them, but even if I could, it would be a temporary solution at best. People simply cannot go through life constantly expecting someone else to fix their adversaries for them. It’s like giving fish to the poor rather than teaching them how to fish. Blamers need to learn to respond to situations creatively and productively. For example, if they are being stalked, I’m going to ask them how you created it, and how they are trying to get out of it. I will teach them how to extricate themselves from those relationships without inflaming an already pathological personality. I will not join them in discussing what is wrong with the stalker. Insults and name-calling will not help blamers escape their plight; the solution must come from within.
Sometimes, blamers don’t really want to heal or correct anyone. They simply want revenge. Not only that, but they want righteous revenge. They want to harm another person, with reassurance from others that the person deserves it, and that to harm them is actually the right thing to do. The trouble with revenge is that it leads to more revenge, while self-reflection solves problems and usually allows both or all parties to heal their childhood victimization.
Sometimes people think they are just seeking support when they are blaming. Instead they are seeking agreement at the expense of the morals, values and emotional health of their listeners. They use blaming to find comfort, a process that enables and perpetuates blaming. Unhealthy listeners may oblige out of friendship or loyalty, because they too think that one person alone is to blame. So, a “true” friend or “true” therapist may take sides with the blamer or, at least, not “judge” the blaming. This is dangerous company for a healing person. Each of us is responsible for the quality of the feedback we seek. Loyal or bad feedback entrenches and enables our pathology.
Some blamers think that if people are intolerant of blaming, it is because they do not understand the repugnance of the sinner or the horror of the sin. They might think that if I am opposed to blaming, I have taken sides with the enemy, given comfort to the culprit, or even blindly idealized the adversary.
Blamers sometimes have a primitive and unconscious fantasy that if only the listener, the therapist or the group understood well enough why the blame is on the other party, then they would not just ally themselves with the blamer, they would also fix the problem, if taking sides doesn’t solve it. For a therapist, both parties in the couple may try to get the therapist to take their side, so the therapist will “fix the other party.” It’s a takeoff from the childhood endeavor to get mommy to intervene. If mommy were any good, she would have asked, “What was your part?” When I am working with one member of a couple, I will only address their part. When I work with the other member of the couple, I stay with their part. I will never collude with anyone about what is wrong with someone else, unless an intervention is needed.
causal interventions to blaming
Studies have shown that when most people trip, they think, “What is that thing doing in my path?” But if someone else trips, they may think, “They are clumsy” or “They may be on drugs.” We tend to think of ourselves as misunderstood, but think we perceive other people clearly. We are more faultless, and they are more blameworthy. However, each of us is responsible for everything that happens to us, or at least how we cope with it. Blamers think other people are acting badly, and they are not.
Anyone who tries to seek relief by changing or correcting others will only escalate their own suffering. Unfortunately, blamers may behave this way because they grew up being blamed. This is the rub. To blamers, taking responsibility for their part in an escalating issue would feel like revisiting childhood traumas. Perhaps their parents cruelly blamed them, or maybe they learned to blame in homes where one parent blamed the other, and the child was forced to take sides. Maybe they were never held responsible and are shocked that someone would do so. Blamers may have had weak parents who argued with their children. Children become reinforced for arguing and become blamers in the process. In any event, blamers have to transcend this pattern in order to heal. They have to realize that everyone is not their father or their mother. They have to realize that to join the world of healthy people with all the perks that entails, they must give up defending and blaming and self-reflect instead.
I tolerate no blaming in either party, and instead, wistfully await the natural consequences that each person elicits. I know that each party will reap their own karma, if they continue to act out. I forever hope that blamers will finally stop and self-reflect, ending the resistance. Sometimes, I erupt out of intolerance to blaming, especially if the client presumes to instruct me. This is a healthy and normal visceral response to blaming, even though it is a response that blamers may loathe or think is beneath a therapist. What a blamer seeks is a comforting response for blaming, as if that comfort is evidence they are understood and righteous. I want blamers to know that comfort will come if they stay in their hurt feelings, not in their mental judgments.
Often I try to show blamers their part, to get them to start self-reflecting and stop blaming, and sometimes they decide I am not safe. Sometimes, when blamers hear my feedback, they explode, thinking they are being blamed rather than handed an opportunity for personal insight. I have encountered students who seem to enter what appears to be the ultimate, intolerable mind warp, as I ask them to self-reflect on their own actions and whether they seem to play a role in creating such events. The mind warp seems to be that they are being treated like the assaulter, when, in their mind, they are clearly the assaulted, only retaliating. The blamer may experience feedback as a betrayal, if the blamer doesn’t understand yet that everyone has their part and all anyone can do constructively in a situation is to look at their own part. When they don’t want to look at their part, they are stuck and blind and have become the offender. They and their offender are the same.
Some think that an objection to blaming is blaming itself. This is a kind of double-think. Plainly said, it is not blaming to criticize blaming; it is mirroring. Sometimes defensive blamers think their listeners have one standard for their enemy and another for them, because, certainly, if their listeners could see the bad guy clearly, they would take their side against him. Maybe, they think, any objection to blaming tolerates the behavior of the enemy. This is just a lack of insight into the dynamic of blaming behavior.
it is better to navigate bad behavior than to take it personally
I know how messed up people are in the world. They have to be because the parenting is so bad. It is our video game of perils and traps. We were born into this game, and it is our job to navigate the landscape without blaming the landscape. Ultimately, we can navigate out of the most dangerous pitfalls into the ones that induce growth, if we make good choices. If we stop and make friends with a dragon, because that dragon is worth a lot of points, then we are responsible for choosing that relationship. We are responsible for assessing those with whom we choose to partner up, and further, we are responsible for our part in how that relationship goes. We are never justified in behaving badly, not even when the other party did it first.
Richard Ramirez told me in an interview once, speaking about himself in the third person, that The Night Stalker once came upon a woman who was seated in her den. She looked up and saw him. She said, “Oh my God. Who did this to you?” He sat down and spoke with her for 20 minutes and then got up and left her there, safe. I am saying that there is no person who is so villainous that if you treat them well, they won’t give you their best. If there are exceptions to this rule, then there is still no virtue in living our lives in anticipation of those exceptions. As soon as we begin to treat someone badly, the odds are set that they will give us their worst. Knowing that, if we still treat them badly, we are looking for the fight we get.
If you are in a divorce, don’t play dirty because she started to play dirty. Try to turn it around. Try lion taming, as I think of it, like the woman who tamed The Night Stalker. At best, I can advise you to see what you can do in the future to head off such situations by helping you see how you participated in creating this one. The deepest healing and growth can only come from a quiet, defenseless self-reflection in which you take the time to visualize how you acted and what you provoked in the other person that would have been intolerable to them, just as it would have been to you. It is fruitless to focus on what the other person should have been like. The goal of mental health is to be able to navigate through all circumstances with all types of people in a healthy way, possibly steering your course to a healthier terrain, but it is never to change all the people with whom you interact, so they will treat you better, certainly not by blame, force, or threat.
Blamers often think that there shouldn’t be any consequences for their blaming, and if someone sets a bar that rules them out, it is wrong. There should be unconditional marriages and even friendships. They should get to act however they want to act, and blame other people for how they act, especially if those other people have a problem with their blaming. Blamers, however, still think that if you address their blaming, you have become a blamer, too. They will seek evidence that you are wrong for criticizing their blaming, and, as a matter of fact, you are the one to blame. At the point you ask for evidence of your wrong actions, they will get very vague but protest that you found any fault with them. They are so fragile inside and so mean outside.
Blamers often think that if they blame hard enough the blamee will get it and become remorseful. This is a popular parenting style, too. Blame children or shame them enough, and they will change. It’s also a popular war philosophy. Blame the other country, insult them, and take them to their knees, and they will learn. But blamees don’t become remorseful while they are being blamed. They retaliate the same as the blamer. Blamers and blamees are the same. Neither can stand to be blamed. Both may blame without a clue that they each exhibit the characteristics that they most despise. They are the enemy and the victim, simultaneously. They are each other.
Blaming is used to make the point that “there was nothing I could have done better, because what was done to me deprived me of all my choices.” Blaming is one of the traits of a professional victim. People who have the largest chip on their shoulders and who act the scariest are the biggest victims, even though they think that by puffing up, they are refusing to be a victim. Victims retaliate rather than self-reflect, solve problems and grow. Victims find other victims for the ‘blaming and retaliation dance.’
Blamers sometimes argue that if they give up blaming, they would have to walk around unconditionally accepting all the bad behavior in the world. They think they will be unable to defend themselves and that they won’t get to offer their disdain for wrong actions. Yet, they are responsible for their choices. If they choose only healthy people with whom to relate, that is, people who self-reflect on their mistakes, they will not need to blame anyone. The hitch is that healthy people won’t want to associate with blamers, only with people who also self-reflect.
If you have made your way to PaRC, and you are asserting that we are not good enough here, then I propose to you that you have been confronted for blaming, but I submit that you are running out of land and people, if this community is not good enough. I have been around, and I find that those who are working on themselves here are truly dedicated. I rather dare you to find a better place to interact and get guidance. If you do, let me know, because I have always wanted to be able to offer people choices, not just PARC. Here, you will find people who have signed on to use healthy interaction skills and to stand corrected when they don’t. I don’t know of a safer place. Here, you take responsibility for your choices, your skills, and if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who does not take responsibility for his choices and his skills, then you ask them to get on board more than once. If they decline, you need to move on. Moving on is part of taking responsibility for your choices.
how blamers create relationships
Typically, blamers or judgers only have two criteria to evaluate candidates for a future relationship: they see that the other person either likes them or doesn’t. These two choices lead to a dance of mutual admiration or mutual dislike. The other person either holds up a warm fuzzy mirror or a cold honest one; this becomes the criteria for deciding if a person is “good” or “bad.” In other words, if the other person reflects back that the blamer is enjoyable or likeable, that person is “good.” That’s it. If the mirror is good, the person is good. Thus, when that person eventually acts rejecting, disagreeable or self-invested, they feel betrayed. They don’t get that events and interactions change peoples’ perspectives on relationships. It takes work to maintain a relationship. It takes healthy interaction. However, some families have such a loyalty ethic that it doesn’t take work. It is required in these families that everyone who belongs is accepted unconditionally. These families are in trouble, however, because a lack of standards always leads to disaster.
Since blamers or judgers choose whom they will love by how admiring is the mirror, they don’t choose people of quality. How someone makes them feel can be their entire value system and their blinders too. Integrity and self-reflection are not qualities they seek, even though such qualities offer the most safety and the least blame in a relationship. Ultimately, blamers choose people they will later have to blame, if they don’t choose people who will later reject them for blaming behavior. For that choice, they hold themselves blameless. A healthy person might ask themselves, “Why didn’t I see sooner?” “How did I choose a relationship with a person who doesn’t self-reflect?” “How did I come to value this person who now devalues me so for my independent choices?” “How could I be hurt by a mean person’s opinion of me?” “What did I do to provoke them?” A healing person knows that wisdom comes when they own their willingness to sell out integrity for that warm, fuzzy mirror. “When the mirror adored me, I didn’t judge the quality of the mirror. Now, that same mirror is my karma for having lacked discretion, discrimination and integrity.”
A healthy person could not be consistently admiring of anyone, including another healthy person, so ultimately, when the blamer gets a negative mirror, they conclude that they were manipulated, misled, conned or tricked. Blamers believe that warm mirrors should never change, even when their negative behaviors are introduced into a relationship. The way that the other person feels about the blamer should remain steady, or the other person is a fraud, they think. By the same token, loyalty is a critical quality, because loyalty means that even if the blamer makes mistakes, there should be no consequences. Blamers are hypocritical thinkers. They cannot handle consequences for their mistakes, but they dish out ruthless consequences for the mistakes others make “against” them.
Professional victims cannot seem to own how they have created the disasters in their lives by the relationships they’ve chosen, the choices they’ve made and the way they treat people, inflaming decent and even supportive people along the way. Other times they may be hurt that people seem to prefer non-combative, supportive people for company over their explosive manner, as if there was something unjust about how people choose with whom they feel most comfortable. Blamers sometimes think we are all supposed to offer loyalty and the same amount of opportunities or love no matter how they act, even though they, themselves, cannot give such unconditional love. Blamers don’t get why some people receive more love and regard than others. I have heard several people accuse PaRC of being a cult because they couldn’t achieve acceptance, not because of their pathology, but because they refused to work on it. They don’t get why some people receive more recognition or opportunities than they do. It is the non-blamers who get the most love and regard. They are able to live that way, because they had healthy and nurturing childhoods or because they did the work to transcend the drive to blame. Anyone, blamers included, prefers safe and self-reflecting company to judgmental company. Further, those who are more easily despised, such as their enemies and themselves, are damaged from childhood and need to do the work to heal. Blaming gets replaced with insight when one heals. To get there, one has to choose against blaming and then seriously start reflecting on their drive to blame. They need to decide that they are mistaken to blame. They have to solicit help to rid their lives of blaming.
finding good-enough people
How loveable one is has to do with the qualities they cultivate in themselves. Blamers think that love is unfairly distributed, which is true for infants and children. A person who takes pride in how scary he is when he’s threatened should not be surprised that healthy people want to steer clear of him. If he put that much energy into taking responsibility for all his experiences, especially his mistakes, others would prefer him. Healthy and safe people love those who would rather grow than take revenge. Healthy people may offer compassion, and they are often kind enough to support a blamer in pain for a while, hoping the blamer will pull out of it. However, no healthy person will stay indefinitely in a relationship with a blamer.
Healthy people frequently give feedback, usually honest feedback. They may say, “As long as you drink, I can’t stay in your life and watch you self-destruct,” or “When you insult me so, I feel hurt and I want to get away from you.” “When you speak with so much judgment, I want to avoid you.” “When you demean me or boss me around, I want to leave you.” “When I am the only one self-reflecting, I want to give up on the relationship.” A healthy person will let you know how they feel when your actions and words are thoughtless or designed to be hurtful. They will tell you if they dislike your moral choices, arrogance or judgmental behavior. They will set boundaries for themselves and maintain them, even if it hurts your feelings. Healthy people will themselves accept criticism to grow on, and they will make choices that are correct, even when it really hurts to do the right thing. Once a healthy person sees that they are in a relationship with a blaming (and non-self-reflecting) person, they will have no regrets leaving, while, ironically, a blaming person will lament the loss of a person who fails to self-correct. As a matter of fact, many, if not most, therapists acknowledge that they have to refer judgmental narcissist and blaming borderline patients to other therapists who can handle their judging and blaming. They are considered the most difficult clients with which to work. They are the most draining for a therapist.
Blamers and judgers may hate people who give them a true mirror of how they seem to others. They may hate people who offer them this gift of truth, at great expense to the relationship because once they refuse the feedback, the relationship may be doomed. They may consider the person who is investing in them enough to bravely offer honest feedback as rude, cruel or elitist. Blamers would rather stay ignorant of how they are perceived and what people are thinking about them. Yet, to know how we are perceived and what people think about us is the greatest opportunity we could have to self-correct. Without that information, we can never improve our social relatedness. But blamers pretend that if they don’t know what people are thinking about them, then people aren’t thinking anything bad about them. They may even think they can argue someone out of their observations and thoughts. What would change the healthy person’s thoughts, however, would be a change in the blamer’s choices and actions. In order to grow, we have to come to love the mirror, no matter how painful it is for our egos. Actually, the mirror is easiest on us when we give up our egos, and giving up our egos is easiest when we finally realize that we are not our behavior. Behaviors are simply the coping mechanisms that we learned in childhood, and, at the time, they were brilliant adaptations. Now those coping mechanisms are obsolete. Behavior can be easily changed, and none of it is who we really are, anyway. Once we accept the challenge, surrender, and relinquish blaming, we are no longer blamers. Imagine that.
--S. Faye Snyder, PsyD, MFC #29816
I agree to be responsible for my own actions and choices. I understand that by so doing, I will sometimes have to make choices that go against my feelings. I understand that making choices that are difficult in the short run will enhance the quality of my life in the long run. I intend to recognize the red flags that inform me that I am in a situation that I need to leave or clarify. I intend to recognize the ramifications of my choices.
If someone chooses not to be in a relationship with me, I shall accept that choice with grace. I understand that how much I deserve relationships with good people has to do with how I behave in life. If people don’t like me, that is their choice and my consequence. I have to make myself a person with whom people want to spend time. I don’t get to be in relationships just because I want them. When I make mistakes, I don’t get to claim ignorance. It is my job to see and learn what I did to cause their reaction to me. It is also my responsibility to assess and choose well who I take into my life.
I understand that I am responsible for the quality of my close relationships, friendships, partnerships and romantic choices. I will ask my friends and loved ones to be ethical toward others and me, as I will be ethical toward others and them. If I know someone who is willing to betray another, cheat another, or to keep a secret that needs to be aired, I will ask that friend to correct his or her actions. If the corrections are not made, I understand that I am putting myself at risk by staying in the relationship. I am responsible for remaining in an ongoing dysfunctional relationship where the warnings were clear and easy to read. If I fail to heed the warnings that come to me, I am the fool, no matter how passionate and loving my intentions. Further, I don’t get to blame the person with whom I chose to stay in a relationship, since their actions were a pattern known to me from the beginning. With whom I choose to relate is always my responsibility. If I seek relationships from the large population of unreliable people, that is my doing. If I exit a relationship in such a way as to leave a person feeling more rejected, more injured, or more insulted than need be, then I am responsible for extra consequences at the end of that relationship.
I understand that if I am in a relationship that for some significant reason I cannot leave, I am responsible for my part in making that relationship work. At no time, no matter how badly they treat me, am I entitled in this theory to resort to arrogance, blaming or judging. I may assess the parties involved in order to figure out the most calming way to communicate with them. I commit to treating all people with respect, to seeking clarity and understanding, and to not taking their bad behavior personally, except for that behavior which I provoked. On the other hand, I accept that there is a multitude of people in this world trying to get even for their childhood and that how badly they treat me is not necessarily about me. I simply need to avoid relationships with these people, unless they are working on themselves. How I respond is about me. I do not intend to escalate any bad situations, but I intend to learn ways to de-escalate all situations. I will always assume that there is something I am doing to inflame any situation. Thus, I will always be seeking to self-reflect and self-correct in difficult situations from which there seems no escape.
I will do the right thing when it is in front of me to do, no matter how difficult. I will make the right choices and speak consciously with relationship skills. I will do my part to seek clarity, understanding and conciliation. I will avoid retribution, blame and judgment.
If I have elected to have a child, I commit to being a True Parent. That is, I will stay home with the child, or insure that the child’s other parent stays home, for the first five years of life. I will sell what I need to in order to stay home. I will reduce my lifestyle to near poverty, if necessary, to insure that my child enjoys a secure attachment in the first five years of life. I will not fight over the custody of my child, unless it is to insure a continuous attachment. I will not seek to change the primary caregiver of my child, unless the primary caregiver has already harmed my child’s ability to attach. If I have failed my child, I will take responsibility for how he or she is turning out and make the necessary corrections as soon as possible.
I am not promising to be perfect, nor do I expect others to be perfect. I am committing to self-reflect as soon as I am able when things are going badly. I am agreeing that if I begin to judge or blame, my therapist is expected to try to stop me. I am making it my goal to accept others as they are, to accept my own imperfections, while learning to self-correct in order to make my life more rewarding.
I will take responsibility for the quality of my life. Thus, when I make bad choices, I accept the results gracefully. I shall work to correct my mistakes and to make amends where appropriate. I don’t blame others because I have in my power the ability to assess those with whom I choose to relate. I--and I alone--am responsible for the quality of my life.
By signing this agreement I invite and agree to corrective feedback. If I fall into a moment of retaliation without self-reflection, I can expect to be reminded that I signed this contract and agreed to do this work. My lower self is ignoring my higher self. I need to talk about how I feel not what I think.
Name ___________________ Date ____________