Gaslighting, threats, self-deception, and blame shifting. These are the most popular tactics used by abusive people and today we’ll focus on the art of playing the blame game.
What is blame shifting?
It is an emotionally abusive tactic or behavior used by abusers where they attribute their own feelings, undesired thoughts, and motives to the victim (another person).
In other words, it is an abusive tactic where abusers blame others for their actions, problems, and their own state of mind.
It is a type of self-defense mechanism popular among narcissists and controlling individuals.
Instead of accepting consequences for their own actions and coping with their feelings, they choose to blame others for it.
The desire to escape taking responsibility for problems turns them into blame shifters. They use specific language and dirty tactics to convince the victim that they are to blame.
Such abusive behavior is a direct attack on the victim’s well-being. Learning about red flags and types of blame shifting will help you recognize abusive behavior on time.
Why do narcissists and controlling people have a tendency to blame-shift?
This is probably the first question that comes to mind when you think of blame shifters and their dirty tactics. Why do they do it? Do they think that you will not notice it?
They do it for lots of reasons and the most common ones are the following:
To avoid taking responsibility for their words and actions
They are aware of all the hurtful things they have said/done to the victim and by blaming them, they are avoiding taking full responsibility for it.
They use sentences like: You make me really mad. I would never have done it if you hadn’t… With words such as these, they force the victim to believe that whatever happened is their fault.
And in the majority of cases, the victim starts believing that it is true. Victim-blaming has this effect on people.
They start thinking that everything is their fault and that they need to change themselves but in reality, the only problem is the abuser’s behavior.
That is why the victims often become more self-aware and worried about their next move. They start walking on eggshells, being anxious about repeating the same “mistake” and pissing off the abuser.
To maintain/establish dominance
Every abuser knows that the easiest way to maintain or establish dominance over someone is by making them feel less-worthy and depriving them of self-confidence.
By blaming others, they are sending them a message: You will never be good enough, no matter how hard you try.
Because of that, the victims become convinced that they will never be good enough and they start thinking they deserve to be treated like that or better said, mistreated.
And that is how an abuser succeeds in establishing and maintaining dominance over the other person. Such toxic relationships might last for years without the victim knowing what exactly is going on.
See also: Controlling Behavior: Signs, Causes, And How To Deal With It
To preserve their sense of superiority
Narcissists and controlling people NEED to be always right. If you’re in a relationship with such a person, no matter what you say to them, it will be turned against you.
They do this as a method of self-preservation and to protect their sense of superiority. No matter what you do or say, their methods and thinking will always be better than yours.
Being superior to someone makes it easier to manipulate them and that is exactly how the art of blame shifting works.
The one who feels that they are to blame is the one who ends up being subordinate in a relationship and in general.
To keep doing bad things without feeling sorry for it
Another reason why narcissists and controlling people have a tendency to blame shift is because they need an alibi to keep doing bad things without needing to explain themselves or feel sorry about it.
They even convince themselves that the victim is to blame so that they don’t feel guilty for accusing them. This helps them continue with the same mistreatment of the victim.
Of course, the victim is not aware of any of it and that is how they indirectly give the green light to the abuser to continue mistreating them.
How Blame Shifting Works
Blame shifting is an emotionally abusive tactic that works on the principle that the abuser knows all your weaknesses and uses them against you.
They target your insecurities, your tendency to please others, and your overall mindset.
They learn exactly where to hit you with words so that they can shift blame onto you and make you apologize even though you haven’t done anything wrong.
Their goal is to CONVINCE you that you’re the one to blame.
They know how to influence you into thinking that you need to start working on your behavior because if you don’t, they will continue doing bad things because of you.
Their goal is to make you believe that you’re the main cause of their bad behavior toward you.
Abusers solely focus on your words and actions so that they can develop a strategy where they will use your insecurities to blame you.
Most victims were emotionally neglected during childhood thus experiencing a lack of love, support, and protection. That is why they don’t see all those warning signs as such but as something that is normal.
When you grow up in an unstable environment, your sense of reality becomes twisted. Your confidence levels and self-worth significantly decrease which makes you an easy target for abusers.
Because of that, many victims spend years in an abusive relationship because they think the problem lies with them and not the abuser.
Victims often become convinced that they are actually abusers and they work hard to please the real abuser.
I was once in a relationship with such a man.
When I first met him, I had no idea that he belonged to the crew of emotional abusers. I mean, I couldn’t know until something happened.
To be exact, a few minor incidents happened and I realized that he was trying to put the blame on me only to defend his self-image. I realized that I was the scapegoat in our relationship.
He would always say things like: Admit that you did something wrong and If you didn’t do it, I wouldn’t have to say/do this/that.
I would think for a moment about his words and I would instantly start blaming myself for all those things that had happened. I would tell myself: I’m not good enough. I need to work on myself. I need to become better.
The reason why he succeeded in convincing me that I was the one to blame is because I’m an empath and I really care about other people’s feelings. And he knew that very well.
Empathy was my weak link and his narcissistic tendencies would probably have destroyed me had I not opened my eyes and realized that all that time he was the one to blame. He was the one who needed to work on himself.
5 Most Common Blame Shifting Techniques Used By Narcissists
Downplaying your feelings
This is probably one of the most popular narcissistic techniques. From my friends’ recent experiences, I can see that it is still trending. This abusive technique works like this:
Let’s say that they hurt you one way or another and you tell them how you are feeling about it. Instead of accepting it and sympathizing, an abuser would laugh at you and belittle your feelings.
They would say something like: You’re overly sensitive. You’re overreacting. You’re imagining things. You’re insane. You lack a sense of humor.
By saying all this, they are putting the blame on you for your reaction and not for something they did.
They are no longer the problem and the center of attention, instead, they make you feel as though you are the problem for overreacting or being overly sensitive.
Now the whole focus is on you and not their bad behavior which is exactly their main goal.
If you ask them to stop mocking you or treating you badly, they instantly start playing victim. They refer to past events claiming you hurt them back then, making themselves the victim.
This technique is also used to shift focus away from them and onto the victim. By accusing you of hurting them in the past, they are changing the subject and indirectly forcing you to apologize.
They are so skillful at this blaming game that you don’t even realize what’s really happening. From being an abuser, they turn themselves into the biggest victim and they make you apologize and feel sorry for them.
So, you end up apologizing, not knowing why or how, but you do because it feels like the right thing to do (especially if you’re an empath like myself).
See also: 13 Weird Things Narcissists Do To Manipulate Their Victims
The truth is that many abusers grew up in an unstable environment where their emotional needs weren’t met and they were neglected. That’s their favorite tool for making you feel sorry for them.
If they hurt you and you raise how you feel about it, they say something about their traumatic childhood, an abusive ex, or something similar. They do this just to justify their actions and make you sympathize with them.
So, what do you do? As the victim, you start sympathizing with them, hugging them, and consoling them even though they are the ones who should do that in the first place because they hurt YOU, remember?
They use pity stories to create an image of themselves as being fragile and hurt beings who have no control over their actions.
They make you believe that they aren’t doing anything intentionally but that their past events are to blame for their abusive behavior.
These past events soon become an excuse for them to do whatever they want to you while you’re showering them with understanding, solace, and nice words.
Putting you on the defensive
There are many ways in which an abuser puts the victim on the defensive and arguing about the argument is one of the most common.
They don’t focus on what’s being discussed but rather on the way you’re discussing it with them.
They criticize your tone of voice, accuse you of projecting, gaslighting, blame shifting, and minimizing, and so on.
The focus is no longer on their behavior which is the subject of your discussion. Instead, the focus is on you and your style of arguing.
That is when you start apologizing for the tone of your voice, for “blaming them” and such. They accuse you of things that are not true and have nothing to do with the overall argument.
By putting you on the defensive, they successfully and with ease shift blame onto you.
The stench bomb
When they are running short of excuses and blaming techniques, abusers decide to throw the stench bomb; to accuse you of terrible things you know you didn’t do.
While you’re focused on what they did to you and struggling to find words to explain how you’re feeling, they are busy thinking of accusing you of things.
When you know exactly what you’re going to tell them, they intercept you by saying something like the following: You are the one who abused me. I know you lied to me. You’re a psychopath and a stalker. You never cared about me. You played me.
They turn the argument around to accuse you of narcissistic abuse. You are caught off guard and you no longer know what you wanted to tell them in the first place.
All you can focus on is trying to defend yourself and convince them that they are not telling the truth. Again, they get what they wanted: Now the blame is yours and not theirs.
If You’re A Victim Of Blame Shifting, Here’s What You Need To Do!
If you or someone you know are dealing with blame shifters, you will probably become tempted to start justifying your actions and explaining yourself to the abuser. Well, that’s exactly what you SHOULDN’T do. Why?
Because that’s their main goal. It’s what THEY want you to do. If you start defending yourself, it means they won and they will know it, too.
Explaining yourself to the abuser for things you didn’t do means that you are acknowledging them.
In other words, it means they successfully shifted the blame onto you and now the whole focus is on you and not them.
By luring you into this trap, they are draining your energy, ruining your mental health, and depriving you of your self-worth and confidence.
The more you explain yourself, the more you destroy yourself which makes it easier for them to keep manipulating you in the future.
Whatever you do or say to them, an abuser will use it against you.
There isn’t a single way to prove to them that you are right and they are wrong. Your every word, reaction, and facial expression will be used against you and you will be blamed for it.
We’re talking about an endless chain of self-destruction, a limbo, labyrinth, or whatever you want to call it. So, what should you do?
NOTHING. You shouldn’t fight back, explain yourself, or contradict them. The only thing you should do is walk away. No matter how hard it is for you to do that, you shouldn’t think twice about it.
Just keep in mind that you cannot help them and you cannot prove to them that they are wrong. Their main goal is to always blame you for the things they do.
That means they will not stop doing those things and they will not stop blaming you if you don’t put an end to it and stop being on the receiving end of the abuse.
60 Blame Shifting Quotes
1. “It’s time to care; it’s time to take responsibility; it’s time to lead; it’s time for a change; it’s time to be true to our greatest self; it’s time to stop blaming others.” – Steve Maraboli
2. “Focus on fixing the problem, never focus on the blame. Problems are only resolved when solutions are sought.” – Catherine Pulsifer
3. “Stop the blame game. Stop! Stop looking out the window and look in the mirror!” – Eric Thomas
4. “Blame-shifting is a natural human reaction. It happens on the smallest to the largest scale.” – HG Tudor
5. “An important decision I made was to resist playing the Blame Game. The day I realized that I am in charge of how I will approach problems in my life, that things will turn out better or worse because of me and nobody else, that was the day I knew I would be a happier and healthier person. And that was the day I knew I could truly build a life that matters.” – Steve Goodier
6. “When we assign blame we are pointing the finger to who or what is responsible for a fault or for a wrongdoing. We are trying to make others accountable. Blaming does not solve a problem it usually only makes people defensive.” – Catherine Pulsifer
7. “Blame is fascinating – it shapes our lives. It can be a benign way of positioning ourselves, a gentle joust or banter, or it can be poisonous, hurtful or devastating for its victims. It can tear apart marriages and fracture work relationships; it can disable major social programmes; it can inflict damage on powerful corporations; it can bring down governments; it can start wars and justify genocides.” – Stephen Fineman
8. “Blame is the demonstrated lack of self-respect choosing to deposit one’s negative actions onto others to reinforce one’s view of being good, fair, and approved.” – Byron R. Pulsifer
9. “If you are looking to inspire people then blaming is the last thing you want to do. To inspire others, focus your attention on the solution, not the blame. No good comes from blame, good comes from finding a way to correct the situation.” – Kate Summers
10. “Blame doesn’t empower you. It keeps you stuck in a place you don’t want to be because you don’t want to make the temporary, but painful decision, to be responsible for the outcome of your own life’s happiness.” – Shannon L. Alder
11. “Fruit of passive-aggressive people. These people resist demands by indirect tactics. They will not take responsibility for their own choices; instead, they turn around and blame someone else for making them do it. Or they will agree to do things that they don’t really want to do, and then gripe about the person behind her back.” – Henry Cloud
12. “When you gain real insight into the human universe, you lose the capacity to blame.” – Abhijit Naskar
13. “Wherever you find a problem, you will usually find the finger-pointing of blame. Society is addicted to playing the victim.” – Stephen R. Covey
14. “When you keep blaming others for every mistake you make in life one day you’ll look back and realize you’re the mistake all along.” – Abdulazeez Henry Musa
15. “However, anger usually involves the externalizing of blame. When we become angry, we usually consider the source of our anger to be outside ourselves.” – Raymond A. DiGiuseppe
16. “When discouraged some people will give up, give in or give out far too early. They blame their problems on difficult situations, unreasonable people or their own inabilities. When discouraged other people will push back that first impulse to quit, push down their initial fear, push through feelings of helplessness and push ahead. They’re less likely to find something to blame and more likely to find a way through.” – Steve Goodier
17. “The blame game is a waste of time. Any time you’re busy fixing blame, you’re wasting energy and not fixing the problem.” – Rick Warren
18. “If you feel the need to make someone feel less assured of themselves or have to call another person out, you may gain a false sense of superiority.” – Kristin Michelle Elizabeth
19. “I reckon that blaming people fixes nothing. You’re the only person who is going to sort you out. No-one else really can – or really cares, enough. That’s what Nepalis know – better than anyone. That’s our Western disease. Don’t take responsibility. Take on a lawyer.” – Jane Wilson-Howarth
20. “All too often we have been pulled away from being honest with ourselves and drawn into a game of blaming others for bad situations. Just how crazy has our society become with playing ‘the blame game’.” – Joseph E. McGuire
21. “Until you stop blaming others for your unhappy life and take responsibility for it, your will remain the same. The choice is yours.” – Christine E. Szymanski
22. “Criticism is not a bad thing. It can help you strengthen your marriage, if it is done correctly. But, some wives criticize their partners to have a reason to blame them or to justify their actions. This type of criticism can affect the confidence and trust of your husband towards you.” – Franchesca May
23. “Blaming others is an act of refusing to take responsibility. When a person can’t accept the fact or the reality, they blame another person or the situation instead of taking accountability.” – Dee Dee Artner
24. “All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won’t succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy.” – Wayne Dyer
25. “Stop blaming and start aiming.” – Rob Liano
26. “Blaming is a dead-end street that doesn’t help anyone. But until we risk telling the truth to ourselves about how we really feel, nothing in our lives can change or improve.” – Christiane Northrup
27. “Blaming others is excusing yourself.” – Robin Sharma
28. “It’s always easy to blame someone else or outside forces for our actions… Yet we don’t have the right to blame other people or circumstances for our behavior.” – Joyce Meyer
29. “Guilt can be an unrelenting source of pain. It keeps us stuck in the past and prevents us from moving forward. We might hold a belief that we should feel guilty and condemn ourselves – not once, but over and over. Or, guilt may simmer in our unconscious. Either way, this kind of guilt is insidious and self-destructive and can sabotage our goals and relationships. It lowers our self-esteem and makes us easy targets for blame and manipulation.” – Darlene Lancer
30. “The misattribution of blame is one reason we make the same mistakes over and over again. We learn so little from experience because we often blame the wrong cause.” – Joseph T. Hallinan
See also: 9 Reasons Why Your Narcissistic Boyfriend Always Puts The Blame On You
31. “As a consequence of what we do wrong or what others do wrong to us, blame and criticism will be attributed. Sometimes this blame might seem just but other times it does not. However, no matter how just it might appear, blame never undoes what is done.” – Geof Warren
32. “It’s easy to blame others for your situation. It’s much more productive to search your own past and find what caused your faults.” – Unknown
33. “You’ll never get ahead by blaming your problems on other people.” – Willie Nelson
34. “When people are lame, they love to blame.” – Robert Kiyosaki
35. “Never blame another person for your personal choices – you are still the one who must live out the consequences of your choices.” – Caroline Myss
36. “You made your choices to get where you are now in life, stop blaming others for your misfortune and choose wisely next time.” – Leon Brown
37. “When you blame and criticize others, you are avoiding some truth about yourself.” – Deepak Chopra
38. “When you check your own mind properly, you stop blaming others for your problems.” – Thubten Yeshe
39. “When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” – Robert Anthony
40. “Some people love being victims because they love being able to blame someone else. Accountability is too much for them. They don’t like being responsible for who they have become or where they are in life.” – Unknown
41. “The superior man blames himself. The inferior man blames others.” – Don Shula
42. “Stop blaming other people and circumstances for killing your dreams. The truth is; we tend to talk ourselves out of acting upon our dreams.” – Steve Maraboli
43. “You are responsible for your life. You can’t keep blaming somebody else for your dysfunction. Life is really about moving on.” – Oprah Winfrey
44. “Great leaders don’t rush to blame. They instinctively look for solutions.” – Nina Easton
45. “A bad mood is often the reason for blaming others; but very often blaming others causes bad feelings in us: the more we blame others, the worse we feel.” – Leo Tolstoy
46. “Take charge of your own attitude. Don’t blame anyone else. You control you.” – Unknown
47. “The dream doesn’t lie in victimization or blame; it lies in hard work, determination and a good education.” – Alphonso Jackson
48. “Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.” – Joseph Campbell
49. “It’s always easy to blame others. You can spend your entire life blaming the world, but your success and failures are entirely your own responsibility.” – Paulo Coelho
50. “Blame is just a lazy person’s way of making sense of chaos.” – Douglas Coupland
51. “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.” – George Bernard Shaw
52. “You can either blame everybody else or you can take a look at yourself and determine where you can improve.” – Robert Kiyosaki
53. “You will never become who you want to be if you keep blaming everyone else for who you are now.” – John Spence
54. “Take responsibility for your last bad decision, and then let it go. Don’t blame others or make excuses for yourself.” – Deepak Chopra
55. “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” – John Burroughs
56. “Fair play is primarily not blaming others for anything that is wrong with us.” – Eric Hoffer
57. “People are afraid, and when people are afraid, when their pie is shrinking, they look for somebody to hate. They look for somebody to blame. And a real leader speaks to anxiety and to fear and allays those fears, assuages anxiety.” – Henry Louis Gates
58. “Life changing repentance begins where blame shifting ends.” – Timothy Keller
59. “It is better for you to take responsibility for your life as it is, instead of blaming others, or circumstances, for your predicament. As your eyes open, you’ll see that your state of health, happiness, and every circumstance of your life has been, in large part, arranged by you – consciously or unconsciously.” – Dan Millman
60. “Don’t try to blame the pain on anyone. Blaming others won’t erase the pain.” – Hyde
If you or someone you know are a victim of blame shifting, keep in mind that it is not how it should be and you deserve to be in a healthy relationship. Here’s one of the best relationship advice:
Remember that you should never explain yourself or defend yourself when the abuser attacks you because that’s exactly what they want you to do.
Instead, you need to stand up for yourself and walk away bravely in silence (and seek professional help if necessary) because everything you say to them will be used against you.
See also: 7 Ways To Protect Yourself From Emotional Abuse