Think about something bad that happened to you recently. It can be something as minor as your last fight with your spouse or as big as losing your job. Now ask yourself: who was to blame for your misfortune?

How you answer that question might say more about you than you think. While bad things are often the result of outside forces, some of us are more inclined to play the “blame game” than others. When bad things happen to us, we automatically look for who is at fault.

Was your last fight with your spouse completely their fault? When you lost your job, was it because your boss was too harsh on a tiny mistake you made?

The first step to amending our blame-oriented behavior is to understand why we use it in the first place. Let’s take a look at some of the psychological motivations behind the blame game.

Why We Play the Blame Game

To Protect Ourselves. Misfortune already puts us in a vulnerable state. For example, you’ve just lost your job. Maybe at this moment, you don’t feel too great about yourself in general. Thinking about all of the things you could have done better is painful, and it’s easier to instead point fingers at your power-hungry boss or your incompetent coworkers.

To Hurt Others. From experience, we know that being blamed for something is painful. Many of us use blame as a weapon to hurt our partners or gain leverage in an argument.

To Save Ourselves The Trouble. If we are the cause of our own misfortunes, it can require some serious soul searching. Then we’ll need to attempt to modify our behavior and struggle to avoid returning to this painful situation we’re in right now. That’s a lot of work. It’s a lot easier to blame someone else, so we don’t have to change.

When we point fingers at other people, it saves us the pain, responsibility, and hard work of owning up to our own mistakes. But the blame game also robs us of crucial personal development—personal development that might keep us out of the same misfortune in the future.

Unfortunately, the more you play this game, the more you lose. If you find yourself frequently playing the blame game, especially in your relationship, seek help in Portland marriage counseling.