When Tony walked into my office he looked as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, his head was held low, shoulders hunched, face drawn and his mouth had given up the fight to smile.  Tony had low self-esteem and appeared a genuinely nice guy, he thought before he spoke and was very careful not to cause offence.  Despite his efforts, when we talked he recounted to me all the things he kept doing wrong and how he always seemed to hurt those close to him.  After a few sessions we began to talk about his relationships and in particular his long-term partner Rita.

Rita often spoke to Tony about the relationships she had that had all ended because of the other persons issues, past boyfriends had not been ready to settle, had been too sensitive to her behaviour or just too psychologically damaged to understand how great she was.  Tony did not recall Rita having taken responsibility for any part of the relationship problems she had expereinced, and he felt sorry for her having been treated so badly by the men in her life. 

 Rita’s children from a previous relationship also treated her poorly and she could not understand how all three had turned out either mad, bad and/or naughty, as she was such a good parent.  Tony found her a little quick to judge her children and sometimes he saw that they were reacting to her with anger only because she was being unfair and unreasonable, but if he brought the issue up they would simply argue and so he kept quiet. 

Tony talked about how he felt nervous and anxious a lot these days, and how he was becoming unsure of his ability to tackle even normal everyday tasks such as cooking and driving.  Rita had pointed out all of the mistakes he was making, and she now did a lot of tasks for him so that he didn’t hurt himself or have an accident, she was there to help after all.    

Initially Tony had questioned Rita’s underlying insistence that he was incompetent and even got quite heated when they argued.  Rita however, showed him how unstable he was emotionally by pointing out his sensitivity and his tendency to get too frustrated, angry and even out of control when she was only trying to help.  Tony kept hurting Rita because of his constant need to challenge her behaviour, he kept misinterpreting her motives, thinking that she was being critical, making him feel incompetent and bringing him down which of course was all in his head.


If you are or have ever been at the end of the blamer parent or partners wrath the following patterns will probably be very familiar to you:


  • The blamer feels a deep need to be right

  • They are rarely able to accept responsibility for their behaviour

  • They will rarely acknowledge their part in causing offence

  • They are rarely able to accept that they could have hurt someone else, as in their eyes this would mean that they must be a bad person.  The blamer believes himself or herself to be a good person and good people never make mistakes and/or hurt people.

  • The blamer’s behaviour is always expressed as being for your own good.

  • The blamer suggests that you are incompetent in many ways, and if spotted and challenged the blamer will always be able to tell you that they are only trying to help you.  They are bringing you down for your own good after all!

  • When disappointed or challenged to a point where the blamer can no longer defend their own behaviour, their true nature comes out into the open.  No longer disguised as helpful or accidental, venomous criticism and blame is spouted with force and magnitude as they take on a defensive stance.  A verbal attack will display all the pent up aggression that has been hidden under a calm exterior, and will be seen for what it is, an unreasonable, unfair and illogical series of accusations that enables the blamer to continue seeing himself or herself as a victim.

  • They will accuse their victim of all of the above behaviours demonstrating projection on a vast scale.



 Let me reverse the car for you out of that awkward spot, you don’t want to hit something do you?  On the surface this is an offer of help.  At a deep structure level the above sentence automatically assumes that the target is incompetent at driving and navigating an awkward spot and, is likely to hit something.  When offers of help are given like this on a regular basis the target may internalise the information that they are frequently incompetent.  On a long-term basis if the victim allows the blamer to help them again and again they will begin to feel more and more helpless.



The target of this type of repeated offer of help may feel defensive and respond in an angry or frustrated tone ‘ I’m fine I can do it thanks’.  Another response would be to meta-comment on the implicit implication of incompetence by responding that they are perfectly competent and resent the implication of incompetence.


Implying incompetence in the way discussed above is fairly common, and may not be meant as a criticism.  However, a person who made an innocent comment, when questioned will generally acknowledge the negative implication and/or apologize.  For the blamer however the refusal of help will be paramount in their minds and quickly the person at the end of the implied incompetence will become the attacker in the blamers mind.




  • I was only trying to help you; most people would appreciate the help.  Now not only is the targets concern of implied incompetence being dismissed but suddenly they are ungrateful and unappreciative of the help offered.  The blamer becomes the victim and the target the attacker.


  • Wow I was only trying to help you why are you getting so angry with me.  This is often said in a very calm and condescending manner and again the blamer acts offended by a refusal of his/her help, and dismisses the targets awareness of the implied incompetence.  Here the blamer once again places themselves as the victim on the end of an uncalled for and inappropriate (in the blamers mind) angry attack.  This again moves the target away from the initial implied incompetence statement disguised as an offer of help, and moves the blamer into a position where they can take victim status.  The blamer is often aware that they cannot justify their position or logically debate that there was no implication of incompetence, and so they avoid this part of the situation and instead attack their targets emotional response.


  • You are overreacting, you're so angry can’t you calm down, you're losing it.   The blamer sits calmly usually with a smile or a concerned look on his/her face.  By this time the original request for the blamer to desist in behaving in a way that undermines their target has been dismissed as inconsequential, and the targets emotional response becomes the main issue for the blamer.  The blamer will find any way to make their ‘accuser’ wrong, it is frequent for them to attack the way in which their target challenges them, often exaggerating the extent of the emotion conveyed.  There is nothing the blamer likes more than being able to tell their target they are overreacting or losing it, whilst they remain calm and composed.  Their goal of course is to have their target feel that they are the mad or bad ones, so that they stop challenging the blamer's behaviour and let them continue to undermine at will.

Throughout these responses also bear in mind that the blamer is acting as if his/her feelings have been hurt and is requesting or sometimes demanding that the target take care of his/ her feelings, but the whole situation has been caused because of the blamers initial disregard of his/her targets feelings.

The person at the end of the blamer's game must hide all anger and frustration, and speak calmly in the face of intolerable denials and illogical argument to placate the blamer.  The only way to maintain a relationship with the blamer is to succumb to the cruel emotional manipulation, to ignore the blamer's illogical and damaging behaviours and to become a victim yourself.  

For a child who has a blamer parent they have little choice in the matter and must learn to succumb, act or be seen as the bad or mad one, and will regularly find themselves in an extremely difficult position.  The blamer does not want a person with high self-esteem or one who has enough confidence to question their behaviour, because they themselves have severe low self-esteem issues.  The blamer needs to keep control and destroy their loved ones confidence and self-esteem because they have little self-respect and really do not believe that they are competent or loveable themselves.  They need to be with a person who feels so awful that they will stay with them no matter what happens, and will not threaten rejection of the blamer.  

The blamer is really a sorrowful character but the danger for anyone who is caught up in his or her game must never be underestimated.  The adult person who does stay with a blamer may also need to take responsibility for their own part in the situation, as a game requries the consent and commitment of two players for it to continue......

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