Blame and Responsibility
These two things drive a huge amount of the content people process in therapy. It is an incredibly difficult subject for almost every living person, but the lack of accurately attributing blame and responsibility often feels like the keystone in a mentally ill person’s psychology.
I would like to note here that not only am I not trained or educated in psychology, I’m not even poorly read in this area. I know practically nothing about any actual theories, studies, research, major players, or significant findings. I am the utmost of laymen in this arena. All I know is what I have personally experienced and seen firsthand. That experience isn’t insignificant, but don’t take anything I say as gospel, don’t even take it as accurate. This is all personal experience.
The reason blame and responsibility are difficult for people, all people, is because it requires a person to be objective, throw their bias in a box, and be self-critical. Another reason is that after an objective analysis, the most logical conclusion very often is that everyone is somewhat to blame and somewhat responsible. And that can be very unsatisfying.
The reason this is such an issue for people with mental illness is that the filters on reality are often distorted well beyond person bias, making this task much more difficult; even impossible for some.
For my personal experience, these things often end up in one of these two scenarios: All of the blame is on me, and all of the responsibility is on everyone else, or both are all on me.
I tend to internalize things, and I think this is typical of depression.
So, if I were to evaluate a common obsession of mine, success and accomplishment, I would most commonly think about it in these two ways:
- I have not and will never achieve success or accomplish anything of note because I am lazy and uninventive.
- I have not and will never achieve success because I was not supported or shown a proper path and given the tools I need to accomplish those things and I was handed a mental illness that is simply too large a hurdle to overcome.
Almost always am I focused on that first instance; like I said, I generally internalize everything. But there are some truths in both of those statements, and there is some bullshit too, right? Some people would say I already have accomplished things and have reached certain level of success. Some people would say that there is some necessary luck involved with that. Some people would say that I am lazy and mentally ill and I do need to overcome those things. Some people would say that even if I wasn’t lazy or mentally ill I would still be a failure.
It is really easy to blame yourself too much. It is really easy to blame yourself too little.
It is really hard to take enough responsibility. It is really easy to say it should’ve been anyone else’s.
The reason this is important is twofold.
First, lack of understanding of who deserves what blame and what responsibility can deepen anxiety and depression, strain relationships and color your perception. Suicide is most often completely irrational, right? But suicidal people generally come to that decision rationally.
When you have constructed a world where everything is your own fault and you are incapable of solving anything, suicide begins to make perfect sense.
Second, one of the most powerful tools of therapy is to reassess situations from your life and learn not only what was true then, but how to see the truth in the future.
Understanding where to assign blame and responsibility is really important. Not burying yourself with blame can be critical to depression and anxiety, but also taking proper responsibility is necessary for maintaining relationships and self improvement.