How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Emotions and Blame
There are a number of emotions around blame. Some are felt by those who blame and some are felt by those who are blamed.
People who blame others feel emotions both about the blamed and about themselves.
A person who blames feels superior to the person who they are blaming. This is necessary for the person to take the position of judge and jury.
Feeling superior is also related to feelings of pride and a moral indignation that positions themselves as good and the other person as bad.
Disgust may well be followed by or combined with anger at the action and the perpetrator.
Anger is a particularly unthinking emotion that is designed to drive a person to attack in the face of danger. In blame, it can lead to unpleasant outbursts that seek to cause the other person to retreat and admit guilt.
Anger and righteous indignation can lead to hate, which has a greater individual focus. Anger can be diffuse, hate is directed at a person.
Hate is a longer-term emotion and leads to a sustained recurrence of anger and attack. It is based on the belief that the other person is wholly bad (which is an easy conclusion from blame).
Blamers sometimes fear that the blame may not stick on the person blamed and that it may rebound or be re-routed onto them.
They may also fear that the blamed person will fight back and will blame them in turn for the initial blame and that the social relationship with the other person breaks down as a result.
Sometimes, the blamer feels sorry for the person being blamed. They may realize that the person had diminished responsibility in some way or were victims of circumstance.
Pity is typically used for people already in inferior positions, such as children, or friends where there is already a good social bond.
Blamers also feel relief that they are not being blamed. When something goes wrong and it is not clear who is responsible, people can fear that the blame will fall on them, whether or not they are responsible.
People who are blamed are very likely to feel a number of emotions every bit as strongly as those who blame.
Guilt is the acceptance of having committed an act that is socially undesirable. If the person feels responsible then they may well be feeling guilty even before they are accused.
Shame is similar to guilt but is more about regret and a realization of the social impact of acts. A person who feels shame is likely to feel bad about what they have done.
When people are found guilty, that they are judged to have committed the act, the accuser seeks to make the perpetrator feel ashamed.
When people have been accused, whether they are guilty or not, they may well fear what punishment they may receive, particularly social exclusion.
If the person feels they are being falsely accused, and particularly if they feel they are being deliberately picked on, them they will probably feel a righteous anger at this unfair situation.
If they are guilty, they may also feel anger at the events that led them to the situation where perhaps they felt obliged to act in a way that led to blame.
Emotions are often strong drivers of how we behave and if you are involved in a blaming situation, do be careful. Look actively for emotions being displayed, especially how strongly they are being felt, and respond accordingly.
When people feel strongly, it can be a good idea to let them cool down if you want to talk rationally with them.