Blaming and scapegoating

People blaming each otherThe final mistaken assumption or mis-blink we can easily fall into during times of change is blaming or scapegoating.

When a situation turns out differently from the way we expected and we blame a person for something they only had partial or no control over we are mixing up the person, the event, and our feelings about the event: we are ‘scapegoating’ the individual.

Human beings have used scapegoating for thousands of years as a way to get rid of unpleasant feelings. It might make us feel better. But it is inappropriate and it doesn’t improve the situation.

This complex mis-blink often contains a mix of all the others:

  • value judgment (of the person)
  • An attachment (to the outcome that didn’t happen)
  • Extreme thinking (that the failure to get the outcome we wanted is somehow “the end of the world”)
  • An expectation (that it should have turned out differently from the way it did) or an assumption (that it was going to)
  • Mistaking our feelings for truth (imagining that because we feel upset it must be their fault — that somehow ‘They made us feel like this’), and finally
  • Dependency (for the actions that we didn’t take, that could have led to a different outcome)

All of this makes scapegoating a great way for us to escape taking responsibility for our feelings and our own lack of actions and to dump our emotions on to someone else instead.

And many broadcasters and politicians love to do this because it raises emotional engagement, reduces rational thinking, and makes people easier to manipulate. But it doesn’t improve the situation.

Better, instead, to learn to manage our emotions and make clear sense of what has happened: to centre and ground and make clear sense of what is real, what is imagined, and how to learn from what has happened.

Then we can identify the only three things that really matter: what we wanted to happen instead of what happened, how we will move forward now, and what we (individually and collectively) will do differently next time.

This is another way to use change to become stronger, antifragile.

How often do you hear people asking “Who is to blame?” — in the media or in your own life? How often does this approach actually lead to improved results? Would it be useful to try a different approach?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

You can sign up to daily posts here.

You can buy the book here and the workbook here.

(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)

Photo By Charles Nadeau via

Leave a Reply