Too Much Self-Blame Does No-one Any Good
When people tell me their problems and we try to work out how things came to be this way, it usually boils down to the client feeling that their problems are a matter of personal failing. They are usually willing to take full responsibility for these problems, even when the real allocation of responsibility is at best unclear. While this might seem noble, too much self-blame has consequences that we need to be aware of.
Taking responsibility and maturity
Taking responsibility for the problems that you cause is an act of maturity. It indicates that you are willing to bear the consequences of what you have done; you willingly face these consequences square on. Society respects such bravery.
We are too willing to blame ourselves
Unfortunately, we are often too willing to take responsibility as it is sometimes easier to blame ourselves than to blame another. Even if you have been strongly affected by things that have happened to you in childhood you might still feel the need to protect those that are truly responsible from any portion of the blame. Our weak and frail elders seem so different from the self-absorbed adults that did so much damage at the time; even when we do identify another person at fault, we can be understandably protective of that person.
Taking too much responsibility dilutes justice
Justice is a process that attempts to fairly allocate responsibility. Our misguided efforts to take more responsibility than we really should ultimately takes us further away from justice and encourages unwarranted blame – in this case, blame of ourselves. Further, it absolves the other from having to be maturely responsible. When we blame ourselves for things that we haven’t done, the distortion only makes things worse; and the problems harder to solve.
Part of the process of therapy is trying to working out who did what to whom and why. Once this is clearer, we can work out what, if anything, we wish to do about it and how to live with it.
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– Tim Hill
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