Let’s discuss a hurtful, distorted thinking style demonstrated by many abusers that exacerbates a survivor’s pain: blame-shifting. They feel no remorse for blaming others for their actions. This leaves their victims nursing a broken heart and attempting to cope with the dark, heavy sensations of guilt, shame, and regret.
Blame shifting, in my opinion, is a common cognitive distortion of abusers and pathological narcissists. I consider it a cognitive distortion because much of the time they truly believe those thoughts. Usually, cognitive distortions will lead a person toward negative emotions and feeling badly about themselves. However, the cognitive distortions of narcissists allow them to feel BETTER about themselves.
By blaming you, minimizing their actions, and making excuses they receive some pretty nice benefits. It lets them off the hook (in their mind) for lying, yelling, silent treatments, inaction, betrayal, deception, stealing, cheating, etc.
What’s behind their predictable blame shifting?
The brain is a fantastic organ – I’m often in awe of its functions. If there are problems with the chemistry, the connections within, or the abilities of certain regions, we will see that in the form of symptoms.
So it shouldn’t surprise you to find we have neuropathways associated with accountability, accepting blame, seeing our faults (insight), and defensiveness. For that small list I just offered – the neuropathways are different and are activated in very specific ways. The pathological narcissist will usually have problems with each of those functions. That means, they are not ‘trying’ to get out of trouble each time they are blame-shifting, but in fact their ability to process facts will lead them to an immature, cognitive distortion and belief: “It’s not my fault.” | “I’m not going to take responsibility for that!”
Facts will not matter. Evidence will not matter. You can even show them video of them engaged in an act that caused you extreme harm – at best you will get minimization (which is accepting your fact, but reframing it as ‘not so bad.‘)
What does matter is feeding the ego. This is why they do not and cannot grow emotionally. The pathological narcissist you met at 25 will likely be the same at 75 years old. Pathology does not go away. It does not let up. Neuropathways (from what we know at this time in neuroscience) cannot be ignited to work properly when it comes to the symptoms listed above.
What does that mean for their partners?
Because they can be no accountability, sense of responsibility, or contrition, most will be exposed to comments such as,
You’re so insecure! You can’t let go of the past. You pushed me away. You kept nagging! You’re paranoid! You lost your looks! You’re angry and aggressive! I didn’t do anything wrong … it was you! I think I did a great job!
Even if there is a bit of truth in what they said regarding your role in the demise of the relationship (e.g., insecurity, nagging) – you have to remember, they engage in behaviors that cause those reactions in others.
Someone who loves you would never want to contribute to your pain
Who wouldn’t feel insecure when the person you love pulls away, behaves with secrecy, or puts you down? Insecurity within these relationships do not simply appear without reason.
During your healing and recovery, any remnants of their voice in your head that blames you, should be given minimal weight. Most manipulators blame the people they violated.
A mature, empathic person would never contribute to the pain of their ex-mate by blaming him/her for their loss of interest and abuse.
All the best ♡
Rhonda Freeman, PhD