"It's crazy-making! No matter how wrong s/he is, it's always my fault. I'm to blame!"
That's what I hear from so many clients: everything is always their fault. That's because they are in relationships with chronically difficult people, aka Hijackals® (scroll down for a quick video: My partner is constantly blaming me!)
There's a reason: Hijackals cannot possibly entertain the idea of being wrong, or even, taken as mistaken. It's not that they don't mess up. It's that they cannot allow themselves to be less than perfect. Their egos are fragile, very fragile. Yes, I know, that seems difficult to believe because they are often so certain, so assertive, so aggressive. Yet, things that have happened to them in their young lives has made them feel easily shattered even with their offensive and defensive shells intact. Hard to believe, right?
Hijackals have been damaged in ways that cause them to be hyper-vigilant. They are not going to be caught off-guard, surprised, blamed, or wrong. To keep their sense of rightness in their internal worlds, that simply cannot happen. Therefore, you have to be the one at fault.
"Obviously, there are only two of us here, and there's nothing wrong with me, so, it must be you."
Yes, it's crooked thinking. It's frustrating. It's infuriating. And, it's inaccurate. That's where the crazy-making--and the unfairness--begins. And, there's no end to it!
Blame becomes a pre-occupation for Hijackals. Their immediate response is to reject and deflect it. That's means it's coming back your way. Even something as factual and innocuous as, "You said you would pick the kids up from Mom's by 5." is met with "It's not my fault. If it was so important to you for that to happen on time, you were perfectly capable of picking them up by re-arranging your schedule."
Nothing lands on them. They make sure of it because they cannot allow it. Allowing even the slightest blame to land on them is unthinkable. They sense mortal emotional danger in it. Their fears dominate them and cause that hyper-vigilance I mentioned.
Different types of Hijackals fear different things: the fear of abandonment, of feeling/being inferior, of being ignored, of being dominated. They CANNOT allow those things to happen. So, your comment of fact that has the possibility of them having made a mistake causes an immediate "Boomerang of Blame." It cannot be allowed to land on them, so it must be returned to you--and usually with some added force and pressure...and more than a little vitriol.
You can see how their theme song is "There Ain't No Flies On Us!" Although they are as human as everyone, and just as prone to being fly paper, they simply CANNOT allow anything to stick to them. They personalize everything, and with their deep fears, it cannot be tolerated. Therefore, it's your fault. It HAS to be!
Once you realize this, you can change your approach. I know, why does it always have to be you who changes? Well, you know it's not going to be your favorite Hijackal who changes, so you're unfortunately "It"!
Focus on the behavior you want them to have moving forward, rather than the behavior you are currently upset about. "When Mom has the kids, she really appreciates them being picked up on time. Let's be sure and do that so she'll continue to watch the kids sometimes." No blame. No losing face. No being wrong. Equals higher likelihood that the kids will be picked up on time next time as agreed.
Guaranteed? No, but it's a good start. You'll feel better, too, because you will not have unwittingly unleashed the Boomerang of Blame.
Fair? No. But, life with a Hijackal is seldom about fair. If you want to stay with one, you have to be strategic!
Disclaimer: All advice, insights and suggestions made here are not to be construed as counseling, psychological or legal advice. Any actions you undertake as a result of reading any article, book, ebook or blog post from Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, are entirely your own. Having worked with individuals and couples for more than twenty-five years, she offers her insights and opinions for your consideration only.