Why do we love looking for someone to blame?
Serious problems or difficult life situations can cause distress – a condition in which the load on a person is too great and he is unable to cope with it. The reasons can be anything from losing a job or breaking up a relationship to threatening events in the world.
In order to adapt and reduce the degree of emotional stress, people apply different cognitive strategies. And looking for someone to blame is one of them.
The popularity of this method can be explained by the peculiarities of the brain. In The Biology of Good and Evil, neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky explains that when we think about our actions, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is activated. It is associated with emotional experiences.
When it comes to other people, the insula and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, responsible for logical reasoning, come into play.
We do not know what others think and feel, so we judge them in terms of dry facts.
This feature leads to cognitive bias, the fundamental attribution error. Its essence is that our bad deeds and failures we explain the influence of circumstances, and others – their personal characteristics. “He didn’t pass the test because he was dumb, and I didn’t pass the test because I didn’t get enough sleep.”
This mistake makes blaming others even easier, because you can attribute a sea of negative qualities to them, recognize people as inherently bad, scold and hate.
Why Finding the Blame Isn’t the Best Strategy
First of all, blaming other people makes it difficult to resolve conflicts and feel comfortable. Such an approach multiplies hatred, narrows the focus of attention and does not allow to consider the problem from different angles.
For example, by recognizing an employee as unpleasant, you will not try to find a common language with him. Why make an effort if he is just such a person, and therefore, in principle, cannot change?
In addition, the personal condition is deteriorating. In scientific works notethat blaming and other maladaptive ways of coping with stress reduce emotional well-being, cause anxiety and depression, and exacerbate communication problems.
How to replace the search for the guilty
In one study identifiedthat, in addition to blaming others, there are eight more cognitive strategies for coping with stress.
Some of them are maladaptive – those that do not help to cope with a stressful state. These include rumination – a kind of “chewing gum” of thoughts and feelings dedicated to the problem, which is spinning endlessly in the head.
Also among the bad ways are self-blame and catastrophizing, which only emphasize the horror of the experience.
Such strategies interfere with coping with stress and increase the risk of slipping into depression. And here are good ways that, on the contrary, increase the chances of adapting and restoring peace of mind:
- Adoption – an attempt to come to terms with the situation. This strategy is considered positive, because only by accepting what happened as a fact, it will be possible to proceed with rational actions.
- Focus on planning thoughts about what to do to cope with the negative event. Thinking through concrete steps helps to get rid of anxiety, gives more optimism and improves self-esteem.
- Positive reorientation – replacing thoughts about bad thoughts with thoughts about pleasant events and situations. This helps to disengage from the negative and can be useful in circumstances where the solution to the problem is beyond your control. It’s better if it’s action-oriented behavior. For example, instead of remembering how good you once were, you should go for a walk, meet friends or take up some kind of hobby.
- Putting into perspective – assessment of the severity of the event or its comparison with other situations. This strategy includes many ways. For example, you can check real statistics, shift the focus to facts instead of fears, remember how you successfully overcame similar problems in the past, and what is good about the present.
The next time you feel like blaming someone else for your misfortune, try replacing this strategy with one of the ones listed above. A productive approach will not make you hate people for nothing and will help you get out of the emotional hole.