Disordered characters are forever blaming their misbehavior on someone or something else, and skilled manipulators can make you think that somehow it’s your fault that they did whatever they did to hurt you. Confront them on how hurtful it was that they cheated on you and they will blame your lack of attentiveness, your failure to be avaiable and responsive whenever they felt in the mood, etc. Confront them on their lack of rapport with their children and they will berate you for turning the children against them. They’ll always claim that some person or circumstance made them do what they did instead of accepting responsibility for a making a bad choice about how they responded.
Sometimes counselors have called this tactic projecting the blame. Projection is another one of those automatic mental behaviors traditionally thought of as an ego defense mechanism. The rationale behind that notion is that sometimes individuals unconsciously “project” onto others motivations, intentions, or actions that they they are far too unnerved over or feel such overwhelming guilt about that they can’t acknowledge them as their own. But disordered characters know what they are doing. They are fully conscious about the what others would see as the wrongfulness of their behavior and they’re perfectly comfortable with the behavior nonetheless. They don’t have enough guilt or shame about they’re doing to change course. So, when they attempt to justify their position by casting themselves as the victim of someone else’s wrongdoing, they simultaneously evade responsibility as well as manipulate others into thinking that they’re really a good guy who had no choice but to respond the way they did. It’s an effective tactic to manage the impression of others. The tactic goes hand in hand with the tactic of portraying oneself as a victim. It’s an effective tactic that gets others to pay attention to everyone or everything else except the disordered character himself and his harmful behavior patterns as the sources of a problem. I’ve been posting a series of articles for the Psychology, Philosophy and Real Life blog about individuals with a character disorder and how they differ from other personality types. I’ve also posted on other manipulation tactics such as rationalizing and lying.
Externalizing the blame (i.e. blaming others and circumstances for personal shortcomings) is a particularly insidious manipulation tactic and responsibility-aviodance habit. A person who won’t acknowledge his or her bad choices and repeatedly blames others for his failures will never correct his erroneous thinking, attitudes, or problem behavior. Whenever you hear an excuse, you know the disturbed character has no intentions of changing his ways. And whenever you confront someone on their bad behavior, don’t be tricked into thinking it’s somehow your’s or someone else’s fault that they did what they did. I’ve written on how to avoid being taken in by this tactic in my book In Sheep’s Clothing.