Hidden benefits of blaming keep you stuck

Angry-looking fox staring out at camera

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

You may blame others for an incident in your past. And you may still be feeling hurt and angry. You may not realise how the hidden benefits of blaming keep you stuck, and unable to move forward with your life.

Many people spend years holding major emotional pain from past events. However, blaming others only makes you feel unhappy or angry. And your life seems to stand still.

So why do so many of us keep blaming?

To maintain any behaviour, it must give some benefits. In other words, there must be some advantages that are caused by using blame, or else it takes away the need to do something you don’t want to do.

But this sounds crazy.

What possible benefit could you get from blaming others, especially when you truly believe they’ve wronged you?

Benefits are outside your awareness

Blaming causes a range of very obvious and unpleasant thoughts and emotions. All you’re aware of is hopelessness, sadness, anger or disappointment.

So the benefits or rewards aren’t obvious at first sight. That means the rather strange benefits of blaming remain hidden outside your conscious awareness.

Therefore, the advantages don’t surface often, and it they do, you tend to stamp them down straight away. That way, you don’t really notice them. They only really come to light if think you more deliberately about blaming.

This may be confronting 

This article may be confronting. And you may feel angry when you first read it. That’s OK.

Come back to it when you’re calmer. Read it again, and be honest with yourself.

Is there anything in it that reflects your experience? Can you take any insights from it?

If you can, keep a record of how blaming makes you feel, and what you’re thinking during and after an episode of blaming others. 

Write down all the thoughts you can identify, and see where they lead. See if they point you in a helpful, healthy direction, or if they maintain your anger, helplessness and disappointment. 

So what keeps blaming going?

For blaming to continue, it must produce thoughts or feelings that make you want to keep doing it. In other words, at some stage it must feel good in some way. And that’s true even if you’re not really aware of this happening.

Let’s look at the start of the blaming process.

1 Initial thoughts and feelings

Think of how you feel when you first start blaming someone. That is, at the start of a prolonged blaming episode. When you’re remembering all the things they did wrong.

In that moment, you may have a strong sense of self-justification. You tell yourself you’ve got the right to be angry.

What happened wasn’t fair.
It shouldn’t have happened.
They caused all the problems.
And you’ve been wrongly treated.

2 You believe you have the right to blame

So you feel you have the right to denounce the wrongdoer. You’re furious at having been made the victim, and at the way your life has been affected, especially if the transgressor hasn’t suffered.

So you accuse them with a sense of self-righteousness. You may even hope the wrongdoer gets what is coming to them.

3 You feel energised at first

So the first few seconds of blaming feels good. In a strange sort of way, it’s energising.

Therefore, that’s one hidden benefit of blaming. But how long does that energy last? Only a few seconds. And then what?

4 Negative thoughts and emotions pile in

A heap of other angry memories cascade into your head. You go over and over various slights or hurts from the past.

Each thought feeds on the last. As you replay them again and again, you get more agitated. Then you remember more and more upsetting scenarios. All rational or helpful thoughts disappear.

Now the negatives of blaming come to the fore. Before you know it, you’ve spent hours in this state. 

5 You’re exhausted and have achieved nothing

In the end, you’re exhausted, angry or hopeless.

But what have you achieved? You’ve just gone over and over the same ground in your thoughts, and come to the same old conclusions. 

And you feel terrible. That fleeting first sense of energy has disappeared. It’s been swamped by negative thoughts and emotions.

Does this emotional turmoil change anything? Have you improved any aspect of your life, or found a sense of fulfilment and peace?

6 Is your pain less than it was before?

Has anything at all improved after this session of blaming? Do you feel any less emotional pain than you did before you started? 

More importantly:

Does the transgressor magically apologise? Acknowledge your pain and hurt? Make amends?

No.

So nothing is solved, and the transgressor doesn’t own up or apologise. Blaming hasn’t had any positive impact on what happened at all. In fact, it makes you feel worse and worse over time. 

However for some reason, you’re stuck believing you should keep blaming the other person. 

We mentioned above one hidden benefit of blaming – the way the anger momentarily makes you feel more energised.

Now, lets see how the other hidden benefits of blaming start to operate.

Other benefits of blaming

1 Blaming explains why life is awful

If someone’s done you wrong, that partly explains your situation. It’s not your fault that life hasn’t gone to plan. You couldn’t control what others did to hurt or derail you.

So you have a ready-made excuse for not having forged ahead with your hopes and dreams. However, you may not consciously realise that you’re using this as an excuse. 

2 Blaming leads to helplessness

This may seem like a strange benefit at first. But blaming can remove the belief you can or need to take action of your own.

Blaming makes it seem as if you’re helpless. You don’t believe you have any choices left. You think you can’t move forward until the transgressor admits their fault, or repairs the damage. Or perhaps until someone kind and empathic notices your plight.

So you live in hope that someone else will change your life. You tread the same path over and over, waiting for them to act.

Unfortunately you don’t realise that this is unlikely to happen. So gradually you lose the power to control what happens to you. And you can’t seem to take back the initiative to change your life.

3 Blaming lets you off the hook

Perhaps you don’t know how to make your life better. Or a tiny part of you thinks you shouldn’t have to make it better. It wasn’t your fault that you ended up in this state.

It was their fault. Why should you have to fix it?

So here’s another hidden benefit of blaming. Blaming lets you avoid taking action, by again shifting your responsibility for making life better to someone else.

Summary of benefits

To summarise, the hidden benefits of blaming are:

Feeling a brief moment of being energised that soon subsides
Having ready-made reasons to explain why life is so bad
Having ready-made reasons to avoid taking responsibility for yourself, and moving forward with your life. 

Are the hidden benefits of blaming worth it?

Now as mentioned above, you’re not consciously aware of these thoughts. They’re hidden rather than active benefits of blaming.

But are they worth the negative emotions and thoughts they produce? For example, feeling resentful and angry and alone?

Unfortunately the hidden benefits of blaming keep you stuck in the same thoughts and emotions. Your situation never changes. You sit around hoping for something that won’t happen.

Is that what you really want to do? For how long?

Be courageous

Be courageous, and see if any of these hidden benefits of blaming apply to you. Then decide to quit blaming forever.

Every time you notice you’re starting, tell yourself to stop.  Remind yourself of the disadvantages of blaming. Then turn to a more helpful activity.

Because only you can make your life better. You’re the only one who can make the right choices for yourself, or take the necessary action to see them through.

Reclaim your life. Take action to avoid the hidden benefits of blaming.

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