This guest article from PsychCentral was written by John Leadem, MSW/LCSW and Elaine Leadem, MSW/LCSW
The art of blaming situations, people, and events for the quality of our own lives is a skill we acquire as a child. Children however, do not start out lying and blaming others. In fact, children generally begin by blaming themselves for the poor behavior of others. A child will eventually learn to lie because it eases the pain of what he or she has done, or what he or she is experiencing. (Lying is therefore a mood changing behavior and can become habit forming.)
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For example, a child will break something and generally feel bad even though they might not look that way to others when the incident is first discovered. The broken object is now of less value. Even worse, the child may also feel like he or she are of less personal value as well, because he or she had failed to properly care for the object that is now broken.
This experience is painful enough for a child to endure without the hurtful consequences often imposed by adults. The toy is no longer the same and the child feels bad that they were unable to take care of it in the way that he or she had imagined they could. It can get even worse when others who have no knowledge of how the toy has broken discover the losses. If the child who broke the toy is emotionally shut down or fragmented, he or she will fail to take responsibility for the broken object and the blame game will begin. It is most likely that others will want to assign the responsibility to someone.
Assigning responsibility usually comes in form of blame and generally is accompanied by shame. You can see this for yourself in the following case example:
Mom: John, do not run when you are carrying that piggy bank!
John: Thinks to himself – what the heck, I can do it – I can do anything!
Sound: C R A S H
Mom: John!!!! How could you? Your grandmother just brought you that piggy bank. You should be ashamed of yourself. You are going to be the death of me!
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John: It dropped. I did not do it. I don’t care about some dumb piggy bank anyway. Where is the candy? I am hungry! There is never any food in this house.
A child says, “It broke” and an adult, provided he or she has become an adult, says, “I broke it.” The child is failing to take responsibility. The adult is accepting responsibility. If however, we as adults continue to shirk responsibility for our own lives, our own feelings, and our own behaviors, we will inevitably need to assign the responsibility to someone. We look outside of ourselves. We blame.