A good friend in the “Bongo Girls” coffee group coined a fabulous term in a group coffee session…”Shame Blamers”. (Thank you Kari Estrin at

I am not totally sure what she meant, but I am going to write a blog on what I think it is.

In today’s world there are many people who employ a complicated myriad of dysfunctional coping…all at once.  What is happening here is a combination of Projective Identification, which I will discuss next, the offending party not owning their own part in a problem and also, that person using shame tactics to manipulate the offended party into taking all the responsibility for problems in a relationship.

First, let me describe what Projective Identification is.  It is a “tag you are it” kind of game.  It goes like this.  Person #1 commits an offense toward Person #2.  When confronted, Person #1 attempts to “save face” by admitting no wrong and “turning the tables” to deflect onto something Person #2 can be blamed for in an altercation.  Person #2 can opt IN to accepting the deflection and thus, gets led down this toxic road, or he/she can stick with the point which is to hold Person #1 to accountability for the action.

People who initiate this game usually have weaker ego strength and a lot of inward shame and low self-esteem. Ego strength is an inward, emotional strength that enables a person to accept responsibility without going into a total shame spiral and sinking into almost a suicidal despair and depression. It is the ability to say to oneself “I know I did wrong but I am still lovable”.  It is the ability to see a grey area instead of just seeing self and others as “all good” or “all bad”.  When one holds this type of coping, self and others fall on one side or the other as opposed to being a mix of good and bad qualities and all people being “a work in progress”. It also involves maturity to work through problems by forgiving self and others and letting resentments go.

In the way the game goes, Person #2 is usually someone who is easily manipulated emotionally and is willing to accept the deflection and focus on themselves primarily in an attempt to heal the relationship or to avoid the emotional withdrawal pains of discontinuing this kind of toxic interaction. In the way the conversation goes, Person #1 owns nothing and thus, gives person #2 “nothing to work with” in terms of an equal resolution.  If person #2 wants to stay in the relationship, he/she has to settle for this uneven kind of resolution and ignore a need for validation of his/her own feelings.

This is not the way true and full problem resolution is supposed to go.  Please see future blogs addressing proper problem resolution.