Can blaming others ever be good for your mental health?

Photo: Adi Goldstein

Many people tend to blame others for their issues. Prime candidates are parents, partners, friends, bosses, and kids. Perhaps these examples sound familiar?

  • “The reason I don’t have a social life is that my husband is an introvert. If he were more outgoing, I could really get out more.”
  • “My kids are so difficult, it is impossible to have people over the house. They just run wild and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself.”
  • “If my dad hadn’t cheated on my mom, I would have a healthy view of relationships now and I wouldn’t keep going for these jerks that treat me poorly.”

It is very tempting to blame others for things going wrong in your life, even personal habits you dislike or your own dysfunctional thought patterns.

However, if you rely on blaming others for your own current emotional and mental issues, you are doing yourself a disservice in a multitude of ways. Here’s why blaming others can sabotage your ability to be happy.

1. Blame keeps you in a negative headspace

Focusing on what others are doing “wrong” keeps you in a negative, pessimistic frame of mind. Instead of looking for solutions, you are lingering on problems. Instead of recognizing what people are doing well, you are looking at their flaws.

In the first example above, the woman is blaming her husband for her own lack of a social life, which makes her see him in a fairly negative and uncharitable way. You can see how this would contribute to feelings of depression and marital discord. If she blames her husband openly for his introversion, he likely will feel attacked and attack her back, which will lead to marital issues both short and long term.

2.Blame stops you from looking at your own contribution to issues

As long as others are “the problem,” you don’t have to do the challenging, but ultimately rewarding, work of examining your own behavior. Your thought patterns and expectations influence the things in your life that you wish were different.

For instance, the parent in the second example above could be exploring ways to work with her kids on improving their behavior, or exploring why it may be familiar or easy for her to limit her socializing. As long as she characterizes the kids as the problem, though, she doesn’t need to do any of this deeper introspection, which would likely be very useful in moving her out of this stuck place.

3.Blame keeps you tethered to the past

Instead of looking for ways that you can work on negative behavior patterns, blame allows you to stay mired in the past.

In the last example above, thinking about your dad’s impact on how your relationship functions may be useful. But continuing to actively blame him may prevent you from digging deep into what’s causing your unfulfilling intimate relationships.

It helps to talk through blame

Of course, this in no way means you should ignore or minimize the ways that others impact you. It is extraordinarily useful to discuss your relationships — past and present — with a therapist, or to introspect about them on your own.

However, it is essential to move from a “blame” stance to an “understanding” stance, which can give you the mental and emotional space you need to get out of old patterns and move forward in more flexible and liberating ways.

This article originally appeared on Talkspace.