It is such a theme, I see in my work and even in my personal life with people who are unable to face the truth about something in their lives, normally something about themselves they don’t want to look at.
We all have a self-protective mechanism and most people don’t like constructive criticism. We don’t like to hear negative things about ourselves, our behavior, or actions. To have such things brought to our attention shows us where our blind spots are. It is much easier to see the toothpick in our neighbors eye then the plank in our own. Because when we focus on the imperfections of others, it takes the attention off ourselves and we get to feel superior, better than and even faultless.
Although we see this coping mechanism frequently in society, it is most prevalent in people with personality disorders. Personality disordered people are highly sensitive to criticism and can’t fathom the possibility they might be wrong. Narcissists, for example, are known for never being wrong about anything and never being able to take responsibility for their actions or behaviors. They are serial blamers, projecting their own issues onto others and then blaming and even punishing others for “what they did wrong.” This leaves the person being blamed, baffled, questioning and often even doubting themselves. I often hear from clients, “he always accuses me of doing exactly what he is doing.”
It is common with difficult personalities they will stir up trouble and cause drama but accuse others of always creating drama and stirring up trouble. The person being accused, once again, is baffled because they know their own heart and intentions. They may be peace loving people who do everything within their power to “get alone” with their accuser, and still find themselves sitting in the blame/punishment chair.
The reason people, personality disordered or otherwise resort to projection and blame, is they are blind to the truth. The truth is too big for them to swallow. It hurts too much to feel. The truth causes such discomfort in them that they avoid it at all cost.
In my life I have been accused of causing drama by someone who was constantly stirring up trouble. I have been accused of being in denial, by someone who was in denial. I was accused of being a narcissist by someone who was behaving narcissistically. It is a crazy making dynamic, to say the least. But if someone is not ready or willing to face the truth, there is nothing we, the accused, can do about it. We have to be willing to be the “blamed” and walk away from our accuser, who will not listen to reason. The “blamer” is usually not interested in conflict resolution or healing with the person they are accusing. They are interested in having a scapegoat to take the blame for their unresolved issues. So, any attempt on the person being blamed, to resolve the issue, is met with disdain and likely more accusations.
The blamers often perceive themselves as victims. People are always doing them wrong. The deeper truth is they are always doing other people wrong but can’t see it or take responsibility for it. Their need to be seen “as good” is so strong they need to get everyone they can to side with them and recognize them as “the victim” in any given situation. The real victim is often treated very badly not only by the accuser but the accusers “minions” who have been fed a pack of lies at the victim’s expense.
Sometimes the truth is a hard pill to swallow, but it really does set us free in the end. When we face the truth in our own lives, we live in integrity and are much more pleasant people to be around. Those who are constantly living a lie, spend their life energy defending that lie or trying to keep their stories straight. In the end, it can be a very lonely life, not that the liars don’t have people around them, but they are constantly manipulating the people around them to see things the way they need them to see things. Their relationships are not built on truth, but on lies and manipulation. They live in fear of being found out or exposed.
When we are willing to take responsibility for what is ours to take responsibility for, we build bridges rather than burn them. We build trust with people rather than destroy trust. We foster love and acceptance rather than hatred and rejection.
Although personality disordered people are never likely to face the truth of their own destruction, those with more self-awareness can embrace truth as a way to turn their lives around. They can reflect on their own core wounds and fears, and be willing to admit when they are wrong. Accountability is the ultimate bridge between self and others.