Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Blame Game

Everything feels like a provocation. Something always creates a reaction. Or does it?  I recently talked about Blaming, but I want to get further into it with some other stuff I’ve found that I think provides a deeper understanding of where blame comes from for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.

The Blame Game
Dr. A.J. Mahari says that those with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to blame others for their problems and how they feel. Borderlines as a means of protecting themselves from the unrecognized and/or unconscious pain of the core wound of abandonment project their thoughts and feelings onto others. This makes everything seem to the borderline as if what is coming from or being done by him or her is actually coming from or being said or done by the loved one - the non-borderline. It can be confusing for those with BPD and crazy-making for loved ones of those with BPD. It leads to a relational dynamic that I refer to as the blame game - a game that nobody actually has a chance of winning. A game that hurts all involved in the dynamic of borderline relating that manifests in this borderline blame.

It is very typical for someone with BPD to honestly believe, while in the throes of a cognitively distorted thought process that everything they feel is someone else’s fault. So often, a person with BPD will take out their confusion and pain on those who try to care for them; on those who try to get close and try to stay close to them. What happens when someone tries to care or to be close for many with BPD is that once a certain line is crossed in closeness or familiarity the other person ceases to be who they are in the reality of the world of the borderline.

Borderline narcissism takes over. What is then experienced from the inside (usually unbeknownst to the borderline) is a very deep and intense transference. What the borderline feels deep inside (often this is a very large amount of pain) is projected out on to the close person (or caring person) who often then becomes a “parent figure” as a transference takes place – the closest loved one.

What this means is that instead of being in the here and now with someone who is trying to care about you and know you, if you have BPD, you somewhat dissociate from the here and now and re-play out an old relationship causing you to lose sight of both who the “other” is and who “you” are. This happens because many with BPD cannot meet their own needs and tend to look for others to do this for them. Needs and wants are often confused and left up to others. Borderlines are easily triggered when needs or wants aren’t met by people in their lives that have come to represent “object other”.

The borderline demands from the “object other”, who is being experienced as someone from their past. This other person, not knowing what is unfolding has no chance to be able to find the right response, or enough of any response that will please the borderline for long. The person with BPD then does the push-pull, in an effort to gain or maintain control. They feel out of control because they are re-experiencing painful feelings from their pasts. So unmet needs continue to escalate and the borderline gets angry – often to the point of rage, whether that rage is acted in or acted out – and demands more from the other person.
The other person, no doubt is confused, feeling attacked and like they can’t do anything “right” enough begins to pull away, in one form or another. This is the classic repeat of the borderline nightmare of abandonment.

But if you have BPD, and you haven’t worked through this you may not realize that you, yourself are causing your own re-abandonment. The abandonment is perceived abandonment. In reality they are not abandoning you they are taking care of themselves, which every human being has both the right and responsibility to do. 

The Blame Game: Person A feels blamed by the borderline. The borderline feels blamed and shamed and let down and abandoned by person A. Person A then feels attacked by the borderline. Person A may attack back. The borderline then feels like a helpless victim which will then precipitate either their further acting out or acting in. Acting out often means rage, punishment, and verbal abuse aimed at the loved one. Acting in by the person with BPD often means an inner-rage often not consciously connected to and punishing the loved one in the form of the silent treatment.

Person A then feels like they’re in a no-win situation. The borderline keeps upping the ante, demanding what he/she needs and wants in often less than direct and highly manipulative ways. At this point the borderline has regressed to a child-like state wherein, for them, they are the center of the universe (this is where the BPD narcissism comes in). This is their reality. The other person, person A, has no idea now what is going on. Loved ones need to learn how break free from what keeps them from living with healthier boundaries and find their own healing and recovery.

The blame game begins right here. The borderline blames the person A for (essentially whatever those close in childhood did to him/her) everything. Usually the borderline cannot see their role in this. (Not until a certain amount of healing has taken place.) Person A blames the borderline. Then both blame the borderline’s past. Others in their lives, jobs, therapists….etc may also be blamed. No one knows how to take responsibility here and usually at this point enmeshment is deep and intense. When any two people get enmeshed everything can seem foggy and unclear. From this clouded haze each party, like a blind bird flying in the wind seeks control in an effort to protect themselves and to try to regain some balance.

For person A in this scenario you cannot “win”. You are going to be blamed because often the borderline has lost total sight of you. (Or will for periods of time) You have become someone from their past that they could not trust.

The key to understanding what becomes the “blame game” is for the person with BPD to want to get better. To want to get better means be ready to face the pain. It is only when you face the pain that you will begin to gain a healthy perspective from which you can then think in less frequently-distorted ways to the point where you will be able to recognize when you are so triggered as to blur your past with someone in your present. The process of recovery from BPD requires that each person with BPD find ways to gain more awareness of what must be learned and accepted in order to take personal responsibility for in his or her life and for the regulation of his or her own triggered dysregulated emotions.

Personal responsibility is key here as well. You must take responsibility for your needs, your wants, your pain, your actions and you must learn that there is no excuse for abuse. Blaming anyone else, even someone who abused or hurt you in childhood is not going to help you heal now. It will not help you meet your needs. It will not help you learn how to maintain relationships. It will not help you to find yourself. It will only continue to support your staying stuck in borderline suffering due to what amounts to continuing to choose to abandon your pain.
Blame is a defense mechanism. The pain is real. The pain feels immediate. It can also feel very overwhelming. If you have BPD and you do not learn to catch the triggers and see the patterns and take responsibility you will continue to drive people who care about you away and do great emotional damage to yourself and to others in the process. Blaming others will only keep you stuck in the active throes of BPD and the suffering that means in your life.

Taking responsibility for yourself and your emotions now is the only way to end the blame game and get on and stay on the road to recovery. To unwind the clues that are no doubt there in your thinking before you get into this pattern over and over again it is important to discuss with your therapist what you feel and think just before you have “blow-ups” with others, or just before you lose your temper, or just before you begin to push and pull or manipulate, control or get physically intimidating and or abusive.

What happened in your past needs to be unwound today. Blaming anyone for the choices that you’ve made as to how to cope with your past up until now is not a healthy choice. It is often a very lonely and isolating choice to make.

It is important to stop blaming anyone or anything else. Look to yourself. The way you relate to others and the ways that you experience others are generated from your own past patterns of relational experience. Experience that for those with BPD included shame of abandonment. When you open up to understanding these patterns and the ways and reasons they trigger so much emotion that is difficult to regulate or cope with you will actively be engaging the process of recovery. When you can understand the blame game you will no longer have to go there. The result will be happier and healthier patterns of relating.

These are things I think are SO important. Personal Responsibility. Take responsibility for your own actions. Stop blaming other people. I know it’s hard. I know it hurts. But what is done is done. All there is now, is to move forward. Look to solutions. The past cannot be changed, so blaming the past only furthers to keep us stuck in a black hole of hurt and hindered healing. We do have a choice in how we choose to walk into our future.


  1. The past cannot be changed, so blaming the past only furthers to keep us stuck in a black hole of hurt and hindered healing. We do have a choice in how we choose to walk into our future.

    So very true. You have such great insight and ability to be able to articulate what for so many (including myself) is often beyond words.

  2. I know I can't trust my judgment when I'm in "emotional mind" as they love to call it in DBT. I don't know what's real and what's not real. I have lashed out on people before and they're like "Wtf?". They have no idea where it comes from. It's hard when I can't think clearly, my perception is so off the mark. It's true about taking personal responsibility. I still hate people though, so I don't care. I'm really dead tired of this whole BPD thing. Others who abandon me are lucky, at least they can get the hell away from me. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with myself.

  3. I hear you loud and clear. I am in this state. It's so important for me to hold onto the fact that there are people who love me even if I don't love myself. I'm tired, too. You are not alone.

    1. Having others love you without your ability to love yourself and then extend that love to others is being emotionally abusive and exploitative.

    2. For their own sake, I hope those people that love you get away. Those people who stick around with BPD people are probably caretakers or co-dependents.

    3. I find it funny that people that claim to be healthy empathic people have so little compassion for someone that suffers with mental health problems and refuse to acknowledge that the actions of many with mental health issues are not done on purpose to hurt those around them.I

      Is it worse when someone who knows their actions are hurtful like these two Anonymous responses, or when someone is hurtful as a subconscious reaction to fear?

    4. Labeling other people is part of the blame. Part of BPD is putting people, including ourselves, into categories, so they can be judged as good or bad. Other people have just as many facets, and if they are labeling themselves as "healthy empathetic people" then maybe they have issues that no one gives them any compassion for. They must have a deep seated need to be seen as "healthy" if they are labeling themselves that way. Who is labeling them? No person is perfect. If we don't want to be judged negatively, then why is it okay for us to judge others negatively? If someone is not a friend toward me, I don't try to MAKE them be a friend. If they actually do something harmful toward me, then it is my personal responsibility to myself to protect myself from them. If another person is harmful toward me, then I do not try to make them change, I distance myself from them so they can not continue to cause me harm. Judging them is the same as them judging me. If it's wrong when they do it, then it's wrong when I do it. Their behavior is their own responsibility, not mine. And my behavior is my own responsibility, not theirs. There is no need for cloudiness around this. If someone is a jerk, that's them. If I'm a jerk back, that's ME, not them.

    5. Actually, labelling can also help to relax about things: it's not about a vicious irresponsible person anymore, it;s about a person who has an illness. And that illness can be overcome, together.

    6. dont need to make someone pay back for what they have done to you, you just need to walk away, BUT thats what you should do to someone who isnt BPD. When someone has bpd, you should not get away, cause they will feel hurt, you should act and pretend nothing happened, but in a slightly way that they realize the attention is off. This has to be done in a very careful way, so you dont give them the reason, to walk away as revenge. They will soon realize that the attention they are getting has diminushed, and they will come back to you for attention. I learned that through lots of observation. Another thing, when they(bpd) blame YOU for being wrong(about minors stuff), you can do 3 things. 1- you just blame then back, in a CONVINCING but not agressive way, just showing you are disapointed, but not punishing them, they will then stop the blaming game, cause they lost. 2- you pretend nothing happened, like you would do with a little child, and just continue with your life, business, WITHOUT punishing or REACTING, they will slowly come to you for attention. 3- you could just laugh at them, but a little laugh only, and start making jokes to crave their attention and get them back in the normal state. What I would like to know is if that blaming game(for minor issues) is a pattern in almos all women, or in those with bpd.

  4. Do you think you could share a little about how you decided to address the pain and try to recover? There is someone in our life who we WISH would seek treatment, and I'm wondering what might get her there. Thanks.

  5. @Anon 10:36 ... Yes I will absolutely do this. I want to put a lot of thought into this so I'll probably post early next week. Thanks for the suggestions! Love it.

  6. Many thanks. Looking forward to reading it.

  7. Hi I ran across that blog the Blame Game and copyed it for myself. I read it a lot.
    IF I may ask you what did you see or do ect that wanted you to change see thing diffrently or seek help?
    Once someone is split on being Bad Black can they ever become split to Good White?
    Thank you much for all that you write!

  8. Hi Anon. This is the post I wrote a little while back to answer your first question.

    As for the second. I believe there is hope for it. Yes. Some days I feel not black at all. I even feel good. Admittedly I am not fully healed and I fall back to black, but it's a matter of continuing to work on it.

    Or did you mean when someone else is split into that category? Then, I think it is possible, though harder. Once someone is no longer in the all good category, hit that initial devaluation, I don't think they'll ever achieve that same place of high esteem, but they can transform from a negative place in the Borderlines eyes, to a healthier place that is neither all black, nor all white, but more realistic of what the actual relationship is. It does take time though. And a willingness to work towards it.

  9. I find your writing absolutely brilliant! It really helped me....thank you!

  10. I stumbled across your blog searching for information on BPD. A friend of mine has been diagnosed with BPD four years ago and has been treated but refuses to go to therapy or stay on her meds. This blog has described exactly what I have been going through with her for the past four years. For example, if a situation doesn't go her way, it is my fault and suddenly I am being treated like I am the cause of everything wrong in her life. She goes ballistic if plans are changed, accusing me of scheming in order to not have to be around her. I don't know what to do except to cut all ties. I wanted to remain friends and it has been rough the last four years trying to maintain any steady friendship, but this is next to impossible. According to her, I always let her down, I am always wrong, I pick arguments and I am a sorry excuse for a friend. Now I understand that it is part of the BPD, but it doesn't make it any easier to be around. I have tried to gradually back off, but that doesn't work. I have tried to set boundaries, but that sent her into a rage. I can't have other friends (I do by the way) because in her opinion I am then not being loyal. I can't win for losing and I am getting ready to cut all ties and just walk away. Whenever we argue, she takes to Facebook and rants and raves and posts Bible verses to prove how much she is right. The last time we argued was because she wouldn't accept that it is okay for people to have differing view points and still be friends, like she was looking to pick an argument. I'm tired of it...

  11. What is happening in a BPD mind when they give someone who has been good to them the silent treatment.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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