A woman described an incident that happened when she was thirteen. Her family had gone for an evening drive. The car radio was on, and the girl, who was an avid fan of the home team, was listening intently. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, her team was at bat and behind by three runs. There were two outs, the bases were loaded, and the batter had two strikes on him when her father pulled into their driveway and turned the radio off. The girl got out of the car, ran into the house and turned another radio on to hear the end of the game. Moments later, she ran out of the house to joyfully announce, "Grand slam! We won!"
Her father turned to her and said, "I'll give you a grand slam! Your little brother came up as I was closing the garage door, and it hit him on the head. Why weren't you watching him?"
The woman said she felt terrible, not only at that time, but whenever she thought about the incident. "For years, I blamed myself because my brother got hurt," she said. "Then one day it occurred to me that both my parent were there at the time. I was a kid. No one had told me to look after him. If they had, I never would have run into the house. I suddenly realized that I wasn't to blame for what happened!"
She went on to say, "As an adult, I realized that my father was understandably upset at the time, and he lashed out at me because I was there. As a rule, he wasn't a blamer. I made plenty of mistakes as a kid, and he pointed them out and explained what I should have done, but he didn't blame me. Perhaps that's why that one incident stood out to me all those years."
That story impressed me. If wrongfully being blamed for something once could affect her for so many years, what must it be like to be blamed for lots of things as a child? When a parent is a blamer, and they make a mistake or a bad decision, they shrug it off, saying things like, "If you hadn't..." or "Look what you made me do!" If there's no one handy to blame, they'll say things like, "I have the worst luck!" Nothing is ever their fault. The child or whoever's nearby becomes the blamee.
Another version of this "game" involves a "martyr." Such a person will remind you of "All the things I've done for you" when they're asking you for something. You aren't allowed to say,"No." If you grow up with a blamer or a martyr for a parent, you're constantly saddled with guilt. It's no surprise that blamees often end up blaming themselves for anything that goes wrong, even if they're only in the vicinity. They carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and often end up depressed.
What do you do when you realize you have been a blamee? You need to step back and look at each individual situation objectively. Did you really deserve the blame for what went wrong? Did you actually and deliberately make it happen? Or were you told that it was your fault, and you automatically believed that? Look objectively at the person who said you were to blame. Does that person accept blame when it's deserved, or is the blame always shifted to someone else?
It's next to impossible to change another person; the only person you can change is yourself. You can learn to stop accepting blame or blaming yourself when it isn't deserved. If this has been a long-standing problem for you, it will take time and practice, practice, practice.
One other thing to remember is that because children tend to model their behavior after their parents' behavior, some blamees grow up to become blamers. Don't let this happen to you.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.