Over the past couple of years, my therapist and I have been grappling with my inability to assign blame to others for the harm they have caused me. Without getting too deep, this is mainly related to my parents. What has become clear is I am able to identify and assign responsibility, but not blame.
So what’s the difference? Surely, if someone has responsibility for a certain task, and something goes wrong with that task, they then can be assigned the blame for that mishap? You’d think so, but unfortunately that’s not how my brain works.
Let’s start with looking at the definitions of responsibility and blame, from the Oxford Dictionary.
Responsibility (noun) a duty to deal with or take care of somebody/something, so that you may be blamed if something goes wrong
Blame (verb) to think or say that somebody/something is responsible for something bad
As you can see, the definitions explicitly link responsibility and blame. Why, then, do I struggle to do the same?
Well, in my convoluted mind, whilst I can hold someone responsible for something, assigning blame moves into victim territory. And I refuse to consider myself a victim.
In my therapy, this relates to my parents. I hold them responsible for the things they did or didn’t do during my upbringing, because as parents it was their responsibility to parent. But to blame them for things they did wrong, which have led to the psychological trauma I experience, abrogates my personal responsibility for my own situation and makes me a victim of their actions. I don’t like thinking of myself in this way.
To me, blame also does not always take into account mitigating circumstances in the life of the responsible person. Going back to my parents, I cannot bring myself to blame them for the mistakes they made, as perhaps their mistakes were the result of someone not taking responsibility in their lives. To blame them for something that may have been beyond their awareness or control would be cruel.
Of course, my therapist would tell me I’m just making excuses for their bad behaviour. He’s right. I’ll take the blame for that.