5 Types of Narcissistic Blame Shifting
Blame-shifting is when a person does something wrong or inappropriate, and then dumps the blame on someone else to avoid taking responsibility for their own behavior.
Individuals with Cluster-B disorders regularly use blame-shifting to manipulate conflicts, because admitting fault is not an option to them (unless it’s a false apology used to lure you back in).
So what are some of the most common blame-shifting techniques?
1. Playing Victim
This is one of the most common ones. You might ask your partner to stop criticizing or ridiculing you. Since that situation paints you as a victim, they are quick to turn the tables (because they always need to be the biggest victim). So instead of addressing your legitimate concerns, they bring up (or make up) something completely unrelated from the past where they claim you hurt them. Before you know it, you’re the one apologizing to them.
2. Minimizing Your Feelings
If they hurt your feelings, you might calmly express that to them and ask them to stop. They will then laugh at, dismiss, or ridicule your feelings. “You’re too sensitive. You’re crazy. You’re hysterical. You have no sense of humor. Calm down!” The blame is no longer on them for misbehaving, but instead on you for reacting to their misbehavior. Ironically if you ever criticize a narcissist the way they regularly criticize you, they flip out. So it’s pretty bizarre when they blame you for having thin skin.
3. Arguing About the Argument
Every argument becomes a meta-discussion about the argument itself, rather than the point you’re actually trying to make. They pull you into pointless fights, mincing words and debating semantics in order to put you on the defense. Instead of discussing your legitimate concerns, they comment on your tone and accuse you of doing things they’re doing (playing the victim, gas-lighting, projecting). The blame is no longer on them, but instead the way you approached the argument.
4. Guilt Tripping & Pity Stories
If you’re prone to feeling sympathetic for others, chances are they’ll go for this one a lot. If you point out something hurtful they’ve done, they will start talking about their abusive childhood or an evil ex. Before you know it, you’re comforting them, even though they hurt your feelings. After all, how can you be mad at someone when they open up to you about something so traumatic? (Psst: That’s the point).
Everyone goes through trials and tribulations. But healthy individuals don’t use those experiences as excuses to harm others, and they certainly don’t bring up those pity stories to conveniently avoid taking responsibility for their behavior.
5. The Stink Bomb
This is the last resort, usually when they’ve been blatantly caught or called out for something they know they did wrong. (Remember, shame is an unacceptable sensation to people with Cluster-B disorders). And so they throw a completely unfounded, terrible accusation at you.
You thought you had a slam-dunk case. Proof. Evidence. Everything. And then they come back with this:
- Well, you abused me.
- You hit me
- You raped me
- You cheated on me
- You never loved me
- You’re mentally ill
- You’re stalking me
Suddenly your slam dunk case isn’t such a slam dunk anymore. Now you’re defending yourself against wild accusations that you never could have even dreamed of. Who could prepare for that?
And once again, that’s the whole point. The blame is now off of them, and now you’re the one in hot water.
What Can You Do?
When someone blame-shifts like this, there is an (understandable) temptation to explain yourself, defend your name, and prove your point. But the problem is, this is exactly what they want you to do. They blame-shift so you’ll react. They often accuse you of doing things that they themselves are doing, because it’s so infuriating that you just have to say something. But again, that’s the point.
By sucking you into these arguments, they are consuming your energy and watching you progressively self-destruct, so they can use your reactions to prove their own points. (“Wow, look how bitter and angry you are!”)
The term JADE stands for Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain. When it comes to Cluster-B disorders, don’t do those things. You will feel compelled to, but don’t. When you try to defend yourself against a false accusation, you legitimize it by even acknowledging it. The only way to respond to these tactics is to stand up and walk away.
Odds are, you are an overly reasonable person who is always trying to see things from everyone else’s perspective. You constantly worry that you’re being unfair (“Oh no, what if I actually am this terrible thing they’re accusing me of”), which makes you a prime target to people like this. Because unfortunately in all your worry and self-doubt about being unfair, you fail to see actually unfair situations.
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