Blaming Abusive Parents Versus Holding Them Accountable

Life isn’t easy for adults who were abused by their parents.  The judgment of other people, often those who don’t know much if anything about the situation can be particularly painful.

Society as a whole says things like blood is thicker than water, forgive & forget, you only get one mother or father, they tried their best, & other such drivel.  Basically, this makes victims feel like holding their abusive parents accountable for their behavior is unfairly blaming them.  This is so wrong!

Blaming someone & holding them accountable are very different things!

Blame assigns responsibility for something done.  It is very critical & basically, the exact opposite of praise.  Blame is accusatory, & unwilling to listen to or consider anything other than the perception of the person doing the blaming.  It also implies shame, saying someone who did something is intrinsically bad.  Consider how narcissists speak as an example.  They blame others for making them act badly, for upsetting them & pretty much anything.  It also puts the person doing the blaming in a superior position, even if only in their mind.  Suddenly they become “good” & the other person becomes “bad.”

Holding someone accountable is different.  It states responsibility without the shame factor that is implied in blame.  It also means that you are responsible for your actions & you also are liable for them.  The person being held accountable is responsible for their actions, & can give satisfactory reasons for them.  Both people in this equation are equal, no one is “good or bad,” “superior or inferior”, unlike when blame is present.

I have spoken with a LOT of victims of child abuse as well as being one myself, which has taught me a tremendous amount about how adult victims of child abuse think.  One constant I have noticed is the lack of blame most victims have for their parents.  They don’t hate them, or feel superior to them somehow.  They would like to know why their parents treated them as they did. 

They also grew up believing that they were responsible for their parents somehow.  Abusive parents, in particular narcissistic ones, often engage in parentalizing behaviors, expecting their children to care for their needs instead of them caring for their children’s needs.  Or, the abusive parents looked to their children to fix some problems in their lives, such as their failing marriage.  These abusive behaviors led these children to feel as if they were betraying their parents if they blamed them for anything.  They excused the abuse or assumed responsibility for it themselves.

Once these children grew up & recognized their parents were abusive, they often still have trouble blaming their parents.  Instead, they hold their parents accountable, which is much more rational than blame anyway. 

Holding one’s abusive parents accountable for the abuse is perfectly reasonable.  It allows someone to have empathy for the struggles the abusive parent had that fueled their abusive ways while also allows this person to realize that setting boundaries or even removing such a parent from their life is sensible & reasonable.  This is what I did with my parents.  I recognized their dysfunction & why they were as they were.  My heart went out to them but since they weren’t willing to change their toxic ways, I had to set boundaries to protect my mental health. 

Narcissists clearly don’t handle blame or even holding them accountable well, in particular when this comes from their child, but their response isn’t your responsibility.  By holding them accountable in a reasonable way rather than angrily blaming them, any emotional reaction they have is their responsibility, not yours. 

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

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