People smoke three packs a day for 45 years and die of lung cancer; their families blame the Tobacco companies. Your neighbour crashes his car into the traffic light while driving home drunk; his family blames his wicked friends. Our children behave badly and have no social manners; we blame the video games. Similarly, my son asked me the other day what it was like to be married; I told him to leave me alone. When he did, I asked him later why he was ignoring me. Blaming is defined as to say or think that someone did something wrong or is guilty of making something bad happen. According to a Christian legend, blaming someone when the mistake is actually ours really began in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and the serpent did not have a leg to stand on. Blaming also resembles a related phenomenon called scapegoating. According to an ancient custom, two goats were sacrificed on the Jewish Day of Atonement. One goat was killed, while the other goat collected all the sins of the people on its back and was set free. That second goat acquired a special name: “the scapegoat”. We blame others when we feel bad about something and want to get rid of that bad feeling. We also blame others to avoid feeling guilty, which is directly related to creating depression. We may blame others when we feel under attack; this is a ‘manic defence’ or a shield we use to defend ourselves. Finally, it is interesting how we blame others to defend ourselves when we are not at fault; but even if we are at fault, we blame others to deflect from being blamed. In either case, we are actually protecting ourselves (self-preservation) by pointing the finger of blame at others. The trouble with the blame game is that regardless of how you play it, you can never win. Therefore, before you react next time, individually or collectively, take a deep breath (or many) and identify the emotion that makes you project the blame to others. Then grasp it as an opportunity to learn by adopting the 50 percent rule – when something goes wrong, own your half of the responsibility It is said that when you blame others, you compromise your potential to transform and that it is an unconscious psychological defence to avoid change. All of us know people around us who always blame their circumstances for where they are in life. They do not obviously remember or reflect on the decisions they made, which brought them here. However, one major social benefit of blame is that it prepares people to behave according to the norms of the society. The fear of being caught and/or blamed, and the consequences that follow, is enough to secure compliance. In this way, blaming is used to send alarm signals to others; the ones who still resist, get into trouble (and jail). Only the lucky ones get to see a psychiatrist. Religious people attribute untoward events to God who is either testing their faith or punishing them for their sins. The Quran clearly mentions, “And whatever calamity befalls you, will be an outcome of whatever your hands have earned, although He pardons much.” [42:30). It means that regardless of the type or magnitude of things going wrong, we are not exempt from responsibility. However, blame game remains our national pastime which we use to compensate for our failures and escape feelings of remorse. Blaming one another does not vanquish tribulations but actually makes them worse. It is essentially self-deception, escaping accountability, and neglecting reformation. “Now that a calamity has befallen you after you had inflicted twice as much (on your foes), ask yourself, ‘How has this come about?’, Say: it has come from your own self.” (3:165). Current chaos in Pakistan is the result of a number of incompatible forces at work during the past decades. All state institutions (Legislature, Military, Judiciary, Civil Service) blame one another for the sorry state of affairs. People blame them and the religious extremists for all their woes. Media, as the pundit with a ring-side seat, blames all of them for their irresponsible behaviour while enjoying an endemic payback culture. We are also in denial when it comes to extremism and become paranoid whenever it gets highlighted. Even if a problem is someone else’s fault, the blame game is a waste of time and energy because it takes the focus away from solutions. It creates disquiet, and promotes a trust deficit. It is always helpful to remember that the one who cannot dance usually blames the tune. We need more light and less noise; more solvers and fewer blamers. The trouble with the blame game is that regardless of how you play it; you can never win. Therefore, before you react next time, individually or collectively, take a deep breath (or many) and identify the emotion that makes you project the blame to others. Then grasp it as an opportunity to learn by adopting the 50 percent rule – when something goes wrong, own your half of the responsibility. If someone hurts you, was it on purpose or just an accident? If you are not, do not expect others to be perfect. Mull over things in the right perspective. Imagine that events are an empty boat colliding against yours. Rather than blaming, appreciate that the boat was drifting. Is there anything you could have done to avoid the accident? Or just accept matters as they are, and keep paddling. The writer is a consultant psychiatrist and visiting professor Published in Daily Times, February 24th 2019.