What is Blame-Shifting?

[Updated as information is found; last update 09, Apr. 2011]

Blame-shifting is an emotionally abusive behaviour or tactic. These are some definitions or descriptions of blame-shifting:

1. Blame-Shifting: Abusers have difficulty taking responsibility for problems. They go as far as necessary to attribute blame for their circumstances to anyone else, even if it may sound somewhat conspiratorial. Similarly, they don’t accept ownership of their emotions. They typically express both negative and positive feelings with language like, “You make me so mad.” Blame may be attributed more subtly by starting with first-person language, as with, “I wouldn’t have to do this if you didn’t…”

2. An abuser has a great capacity for self-deception. He projects the blame for his relationship difficulties onto his partner. He wouldn’t get angry if only she would not nag him so much. He would not lie if she didn’t get upset.

3. An emotional abuser sets up a dynamic where the victim comes to believe that they are to blame and that they must work harder to fix the problems (such as improving the relationship.) This never works because the problem is not the victim; the abusive behavior is the problem. Nothing you do will change that. No matter how nice and accommodating you are, nothing that you do will change an emotionally abusive person’s behavior. In fact, many people get even more aggressive when you try to make it better, because they sense that you think it’s your fault, and this confirms their own beliefs!

4. Blame-shifting or “blaming the victim” is a form of context switching and crazymaking. When you are confronting them on something they did or attempting to set boundaries, they switch the whole focus back to you, and thus put you on the defensive. Now the focus is on you and they slither away. This gets you way off track and off balance right where they want you–derailed. Clever huh, unless you are on the receiving end of this CRAZY MAKING.

5. In order to discredit a victim, an abuser will often blame the victim for their own actions, even going so far as to say the victim is in fact the one who committed the abuse. This may cause the victim to feel defeated or like they are losing their mind. In a particularly weakened state, the victim may even believe they are at fault. Abusers often claim friends, family, mental health professionals, church leaders or other authorities are in agreement with them, which has the effect of isolating the victim and preventing the victim from getting help. Now the abuser has all the power and control over the victim and their relationship.

6. Blame-shifting is a way to escape taking responsibility for an act or even discussing it.

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