If you have a narcissist in your life, you likely have learned they are never to blame and the fault lies with everyone but them. Narcissists lack accountability in their actions and use blame-shifting to get the focus off themselves. Through the blame-shifting, they never learn how to take accountability, and this maintains the unhealthy way of responding to conflicts and disagreements.
When a narcissist does something wrong they do not have the ability to accept the wrongdoing. Their inner voice is already so critical so to avoid further injury to their unstable sense of self, they project blame onto others. In people who don’t have narcissistic personality traits, they are able to acknowledge a wrongdoing, admit fault, and make changes. To acknowledge fault and accept blame brings a sense of calming and feels good because you have righted a wrong you felt in yourself. To the person with narcissistic personality traits, to accept responsibility doesn’t feel good or provide resolution. It brings up more hurt and negative feelings. As a result, the better option for the narcissist is to project blame. The fastest way out of the negative feelings they are experiencing is to put the blame on someone else.
If the narcissist finds themselves in a position where they can’t project the blame onto someone else, they feel vulnerable. Vulnerability is an uncomfortable feeling for them that can lead to narcissistic injury, and then narcissistic rage. The narcissistic injury destroys their sense of superiority and grandiosity as their self-esteem and self-worth is being threatened. Their response is rage.
The rage can be through aggressive behaviors, such as yelling, or passive-aggressive behaviors that includes silent treatment or stonewalling. The intended goal is to shut down all communication and restore a sense of internal stability in themselves. They want to turn the focus away from them so that there is no requirement to take blame, even in those situations where escaping blame is difficult.
In addition to narcissistic rage, the narcissist might also use more pervasive blame-shifting tactics such as gaslighting. Through gaslighting, the narcissist’s intended goal is to make you appear to be the crazy one, and to have you believe that you are, in fact, crazy. Gaslighting is a form of control and manipulation where the narcissist designs your reality around what they want you to believe. When the narcissist can gain the upper hand with gaslighting then it leaves their partner always questioning their own reality, which makes it easier for the narcissist to place blame on them when situations come up.
When a narcissist blame-shifts, they don’t have to take accountability. However, by not taking accountability for things that are actually their fault, there is no incentive to change. The narcissist will continue to engage in the same unhealthy behaviors, which prolongs this pattern. This is where the projection of blame can not only be damaging to the relationship, but also in the expectation of change in the narcissist.
Narcissists’ unstable sense of self doesn’t allow them to work on themselves and the lack of empathy prevents them from seeing how their actions affect others. Emotionally healthy people can consider others in their actions, and the narcissist cannot. While a narcissist can change, the first step is wanting to change and this is often the roadblock to initiating change in the narcissist. As the emotionally healthy partner in a relationship, the change is more likely to come from you so don’t wait around for the narcissist to be something different, that they are incapable of becoming. Take the control back and work on things you can control in the relationship by not allowing the narcissist to continue to blame-shift onto you.
At Mindset Therapy we provide mental health services in Texas and Washington from trained professionals, via telepsychology, which allows you to attend the appointment from the location most convenient for you. Visit Mindset Therapy at https://www.mindsettherapyonline.com/ to learn more about the services offered and make an appointment. Also visit our YouTube page, Mindset Therapy, PLLC, for the Mental Health Minute series that provides quick pieces of information for common mental health issues.