Karen's Blogs

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How to Handle Being Blamed (Without Heading for the Cookie Jar)

Many people turn to food when they feel blamed, especially when they weren’t at fault. Because none of us are perfect, it pays to learn how to handle blame—to recognize what’s going on for the “blamer” and how to respond as the alleged “blamee.”

Some people were never held accountable for wrongdoing growing up and didn’t learn to tolerate the shame of making mistakes or failing in order to acknowledge and get past shame. The emotion is foreign and humiliating to them, so they want to shake it right off. Others were shamed so frequently (overtly or covertly) in their formative years that they became overwhelmed with it and had to shut it down in order to function. As adults, any kind of shame or shaming (even for the smallest transgression) feels unbearable.

In either case, many people lack the skill to willingly take in having erred, feel brief shame, let it go, and move on. They have a desperate need to be right and will rarely if ever admit to being wrong. Hence, they would much rather blame you (or anyone else) so they can remain comfortably blameless.

Think of interactions where blame is involved as similar to a game of hot potato. There are three options when someone throws a hot potato of blame your way and you’re not at fault. 1) Catch it and get burnt, while the person who’s at fault remains free of the pain of self-knowledge. Many dysregulated eaters automatically accept blame that doesn’t belong to them. 2) Catch the hot potato and hurl it right back. This act is appropriate when you really want to make the point that whatever happened was absolutely not your fault and you’re sick of being blamed when you’re innocent. However, sometimes tossing the hot potato back isn’t worth the effort, especially if your return throw is going to result in an endless blame game of catch. 3) When a hot potato of shame is wrongly hurled at you, let it drop to the ground by your feet and sit there. Just because it was thrown at you, doesn’t mean you must pick it up.

To end emotional eating, you’ll need to give up automatically catching the hot potato and catch it only when you are truly responsible for wrong-doing. In that case, allowing that everyone makes mistakes, you’ll want to catch the hot potato and cool it off with self-compassion. If you decide to toss it back, you’ll want to do that with compassion as well, without anger or a desire to wound and cause pain. Often the most effective response is to do nothing—neither catch nor pitch shame back, but to take yourself out of the blame game completely.

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