In therapy I have found there are two main groups of people. There are the ‘it’s all my fault’ people who are brilliant at making everything that goes wrong somehow their fault. I once had someone apologize for the weather and admitted they felt responsible for it not being nicer out. This type of person falls under the passive category, which means they tend to be so overly nice to others they are mean to themselves. At the other end of things, the other group I see are the ‘it’s all your fault’, which consists of the more aggressive end of thinking. People in this category can be impossible to deal with in conflict because they refuse to accept they did anything wrong. Ultimately, if there’s a conflict, we have done something to contribute to it and need to see that we are 50% of the problem.
If I were to do a scale for this (scales are my favourite) it’d be the following:
All your fault (-10) ———— 50% my fault & 50% yours (0) ———— All my fault (+10)
If you don’t understand this scale, I apologize; I must be communicating it wrong… see what I did there? I fully blamed myself, which is dumb because clearly if you don’t get this it’s all your fault (again, I’m teasing). What’s confusing to me is when you get the passive aggressive person who uses the ‘it’s all my fault’ as a way to attack and underhandedly say ‘it’s all your fault’. This is the person who plays the victim as an attack: (example person) “Well fine! You’re right! It’s all my fault.” Notice the exclamation marks? It’s not a gentle: “I can’t believe I could do this to you; I’m so sorry.” Instead, it’s like, “Fine! I’ll jump off this cliff so you can be happy!” This is a full on victim attack that can be loud or really cold. This kind of behavior is confusing because it’s contradictory: I’m attacking you by attacking myself. A physical example of this would be someone cutting themselves and then saying to the person: “This is your fault.” See how nasty that is? And yet, verbally this is what we do when we scream or coldly say, “Fine. Just leave me to suffer. You clearly don’t care.” This attacking victim will likely use a guilt trip as a way to get their way. This is by far the worst type of person to deal with because it makes you torn between carrying unnecessary guilt and wanting to slap the so called victim. These people are incredibly frustrating because there is no reasoning with them. It’s like they just want you to feel like garbage when really that is collateral damage for them getting their way. Depending on the person doing it, this is either “I’m punishing you for not giving me my way because I am in some way more important,” or it’s “I’m suffering so you’re going to suffer with me.” Here’s a logical tip: Avoid these people as best you can or if you can’t, keep them at an emotional distance because they are toxic, and they have no idea how toxic they are, which is what makes them even more dangerous. Even worse, if you try to tell them they’re hurting you, even by sharing this post with them, they will use it as a way to attack you and make you feel like garbage.
Even though the basic person who is an ‘it’s all my fault’ or an ‘it’s all your fault’ is better than the attacking victim, they are still, how you say, annoying. If someone is an ‘it’s all your fault’ person who is hurling all the blame at you, they are annoying but at least you can fight back and you can feel some sense of empowerment in your anger to the injustice. In this instance, your relationship is damaged because of the fight, but at least there’s a chance you can feel vindicated through your anger. If the other person is the ‘it’s all my fault’ person, they take all the blame, an action that makes them self absorbed in a self deprecating way, it likely just leaves you feeling guilt. The ‘it’s all my fault’ people aren’t trying to make you feel guilt like the attacking victim, after all it’s all about them not being good enough, but you can’t help but feel sad or guilty in some way when someone is beating themselves up. Even worse, if you say this, the ‘it’s all my fault’ people will beat themselves up even more for hurting you with their guilt, which in turn makes you feel worse and the cycle continues. The biggest risk of this is if the ‘it’s all my fault’ person ends up with the ‘it’s all your fault’ person because this causes a very unhealthy and damaging relationship. It functions, but it’s soul crushing without any resolution because nothing changes.
Accepting that everything is 50% your fault and 50% my fault is important because it acknowledges that you are not weak; you have power in all situations, but you’re also not fully in control and need to accept the other side also needs change. This became apparent when I first started dating my wife. When I would pick her up she was always an hour late; that was fun. Even if I got to her house an hour late, she wouldn’t start getting ready until I showed up. Her parents would talk to me while I waited, but I was a workaholic who didn’t have an hour to hang out with my own parents or friends so this was far from an ideal set up. When my then-girlfriend was finally ready I’d be snarky with her, which in turn hurt her and ruined the night. Who’s to blame for the bad night? Both of us. Ultimately, I needed to accept that I was half the problem. How was I half the problem a normal person will wonder? I chose to go out with her; that’s on me. Fortunately, I soon realized this hour waiting for her was a great time to do homework. I soon valued this hour and would be annoyed if she took less than the usual hour to be ready… she didn’t like that. By taking 50% ownership of this problem I was able to make it work.
Thus, we need to accept everything is 50% my fault and 50% yours. When I was cheated on, it was 50-50 (I chose to be with her and allowed our relationship to be in that spot). When I cheated, it was 50-50 (I allowed temptation to grow). When I didn’t do well on an exam, it was 50-50 (I should have prepared better and the material either taught better, the exam questions or marking done better, and/or the teacher should’ve inspired me more). Even when someone is beat up, it is 50-50 because the bully is 50% the problem for being a turd while I’m 50% the problem because I didn’t take proper steps to protect myself like not be alone and/or learn self defense. By accepting that we are ½ the problem, it means we have the means to make it better. We don’t have to be as scared because there’s always something we can do to change our situation.
Please note: There are exceptions to almost every rule. In this case children who are abused by an authority figure are not responsible for this trauma and healing will have to be directed in a different way as they were failed by the people who were supposed to protect and teach them.
This week may you start to see that it’s never all your fault or the other person’s fault.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people