Blame and Scapegoating

The article I referenced in my last post was really helpful for me because it helped me realized just how conditioned I am to accept blame/blame myself for things.     As well as how it’s a “flea” to feel like there even always has to be blame.  Sometimes, no one is to blame.  Or it’s just not very useful to get into blame.  It just makes more sense to fix the problem and move on.   Growing up with a parent who likely has a Personality Disorder,  everyone got sucked into the Blame Game.  The really twisted part is it prevented us from actually resolving the issue or problem at hand!  I still sometimes have to remind myself that yes, I can change a situation.  For example, with the holidays and my aunt who is prone to meltdowns, I have the power to leave.  I don’t have to feel trapped any more.

Being so conditioned to take blame can affect how I react to normal, everyday events.    I’m all too willing to take blame for things, even things which aren’t my fault.  At work, there was an issue with one of the databases we use.  It was giving a message that we had used up all of our downloads.  I had recently used it, so my first impulse was to think I’d done something wrong and email one of the departmental supervisors.  But I caught myself in this cycle.  I reminded myself that I may not have done anything wrong.  So I should wait and see what the follow up was with the vendor which the supervisor referred to in the email. Sure enough, it turned out to be a glitch on the vendor’s end which had nothing to do with my recent use of it.  In the past, I would have emailed saying it might have something to do with my usage.  Which would have been a problem even when the issue was resolved because:

1) the supervisor might walk away with the perception that I’d caused the problem even though I didn’t

2) I’d basically be applying for the scapegoat slot.  Someone who’s willing to take blame for things which aren’t his or her fault will find that there are no shortage of  people willing to place blame on him or her.

Old habits die hard, but at least I’m recognizing this and doing something about it.

The odd thing is I’m not like this when it comes to credit.  If one of my colleagues finds something in the research I’m doing, I always share credit with the person.  I also have a hard time taking/accepting credit when I get praise for a job well done.  My supervisors  like to keep track of individual and/or department praise and ask us to forward it to them.  Often they will follow up with praise of their own, such as “great job [my real name]!”  It’s still a little uncomfortable for me to accept that.  I do feel more comfortable when it’s something where I can share the credit and reply back with something along the lines of “well, it was great teamwork” or something like that.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to be far more harshly judgmental of myself than others.    I had a substantial amount of vacation time accumulated towards the end of last year.  Past policy was we could carry some over, get paid out for some.    But the policy had changed.  It has to be over a certain amount to be paid out, so more is being carried over.  I wasn’t aware of that.   I had planned to use up some time towards the end of the year.    We’re short staffed and my supervisors encouraged me to take the pay out, as they weren’t aware either of the change.  One supervisor checked with HR, but there was some sort of  miscommunication.  Basically, I thought I was getting an extra paycheck from the vacation time, but I wasn’t.  I found out when I didn’t get that paycheck, which I had factored into finances.  My first thought was to blame myself.  “I’m an idiot, I should have talked directly to HR myself”, etc.  And for a moment, I even shifted into blaming the supervisor who talked to HR.  But I stopped myself because she would never purposely do anything to cause me a problem or inconvenience.  I realized it was a misunderstanding.   So I wasn’t angry or blaming.   I let her know about the policy change, but I waited until I wasn’t so stressed about it  to ensure it wouldn’t adversely affect our working relationship.  And I know going forward, if there’s every this type of issue again to check directly with HR to make absolutely certain there are no misunderstandings.

In the past, I would have felt the need to blame either her or me or perhaps both of us.  Likely, I would have addressed the issue while stressed and that would have caused tension and conflict between me and my supervisor.  Instead, I realized there was no bad or ill intent and focused on the issue at hand, which was resolving the financial impact of the anticipated paycheck which never materialized.    Oh & since I carried over 2+  weeks of vacation time, in addition to the time I get this year, I’ve joked that I’m going to pretend I’m French and take August off 🙂

I realized afterwards, that I went easier on her than I did myself.   Which makes me realize I should go easier on myself.  I have the right to receive the same understanding and compassion I’m willing to give to others.

2 thoughts on “Blame and Scapegoating

  1. Great post! Loved your detailed descriptions and your clever joke about pretending to be French:)

    Sounds like you and I grew up in a very similar household. You know, the one where you’re taught to be ready to blame someone else for even the smallest problem instead of calmly assessing the situation, gathering up the facts, and working together to make life better for everybody concerned.

    I’ll never understand why my parents prefer to turn tiny relationship issues into monumental, chaotic problems. Thank God, you and I, and hopefully more and more people, rejoice in learning how to improve our people skills, so we all can benefit.

    While raising my now 25 yr old son, I was relieved and thrilled to discover how much easier it was to solve any problem if I simply stayed calm, asked my son what he thought and felt, told him my concerns and THEN implemented a plan of action. My 75 yr old parents, on the other hand, still pretend away the fact that small problems, left unattended or mismanaged, domino into BIG PROBLEMS. Now they have the BIGGEST PROBLEM any parent can have with their adult child…No Contact. Zilch. Nada.

    I rightfully blame my self-centered parents for destroying any hope I had left of having a loving respectful relationship with them and have chosen to stay away, so I can repair the damage they did to my mental, emotional and spiritual health. I’m overjoyed to have a good relationship with my son and don’t take him for granted one minute:) I was, and always will be, willing to put in the hard work to earn his respect and build a loving, healthy mom/son relationship. I never pat myself on the back saying, look at all I sacrificed for you, son. I only wish I had given him *more*.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts and learning how you tackle other day to day problems. You’re very perceptive and determined to build a strong inner self. Enjoy your extra time off. You more than earned it:)


    1. Glad you found it helpful! I agree, blame itself and the accompanying drama can become a bigger problem than the initial problem if we don’t take a deep breath and figure out what’s going on, how to address it, etc. I’m glad you were able to provide a different role model for your son despite your own parenting role models.

      Sorry to hear estrangement was the only option left, but I know with my own choice to go that route with my mother, it’s not one any of us choose lightly or easily. I hope it brings peace to your life, I know it has to mine, even when it’s difficult.

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