Why do People Blame, Criticize and Intimidate Me?

Antagonism is a term used to describe attention seeking in the form of blame, criticism and intimidation. Since the antagonist is seeking our attention, it is up to us to resolve the interaction effectively. This means that we must use our adult judgment to determine what the reality of the situation demands and then muster the courage to respond in the real world, instead of merely reacting.

One of purposes in antagonizing is to build yourself up by tearing others down. The most important resource we can have when confronted with antagonism is our self-respect, which is the feeling that we are a worthwhile human being in spite of our flaws and imperfections. If we do not respect ourselves, no one will respect us and the antagonist will treat us with contempt. However, if we respect ourselves, they might actually listen to what we have to say.

To maintain your self-respect in the face of antagonism is not easy. One thing we can do is engage in some silent self-talk:
“He/she is my partner, child, friend, coworker etc. If he/she had diabetes or some other major physical problem, I would not desert him/her. I would try to be understanding of their painful circumstance.”

“He/she is hurt and in pain. It is not a matter of guilt, fault, blame or responsibility. It is a matter of human imperfection, inconvenience, and disappointment. It is regrettable.”

“I am not ‘wrong,’ and he/she is not ‘right.’ He/she is afraid of being wrong because he/she would be guilty. We are all taught that those who are guilty are punished. He/she does not want to admit any imperfect. He/she blames me in order to prevent the potential of painful punishment. When I argue with him/her, he/she hears me saying it is his/her fault, then he/she is in the wrong, and that is too scary for him/her.”

Another way to maintain our self-respect is to manage our own anger. This antagonism hurt us and caused us pain. Our anger is legitimate and valid. The difference between him/her and us, is that we are choosing to manage our feelings like a grown up. We catch ourselves being put in the role of the inferior, vulnerable victim. We are not a “victim,” although it sure seems like it at the time. We can remind ourselves, “I am a worthwhile human being in spite of my faults and imperfections.”

We can reframe his/her criticisms and condemnations. Instead of taking them literally, as if they made sense, we can hear them as pain. Imperfect people sometimes cause each other pain. Hurt and pain come from human imperfection, inconvenience, and disappointment. It is regrettable.
We can say “I’m sorry” to each other and forgive each other. “I’m sorry” is not an admission of guilt, but a statement of regret. Regret is the wish that things were other than they are. To be human is to be imperfect, to be imperfect means we make mistakes and to make mistakes means we have regrets. Our imperfections are not crimes. We are not guilty criminals worthy of punishment. We can replace our fictitious guilt with the regret that we are not perfect, which only confirms our humanity.

There is no way to prevent imperfect human beings from being imperfect. We can take reasonable precautions, but beyond a certain point, our good intention to ‘prevent, plan and control’ becomes counter-productive. You, like all humans, have limitations and make mistakes. Acknowledging both our assets and struggles is a key to open the door of self-acceptance. By a acknowledging our regrets and mistakes, we can come to accept that we are unconditionally worthwhile and lovable in spite of them. Our regrets and mistakes do not make us less lovable people.

Antagonists do not have these skills, nor the mature attitudes out of which these behaviors arise. Our “crime” is not a crime at all. It is a human imperfection. We are not worthless, we are worthwhile in spite of it. He/she cannot forgive us, but we do not depend on him/her for forgiveness. We are grownups now. We can choose to forgive ourselves.

These are all things that self-respecting people can do in a crisis. This conflict gives us the opportunity to shift our gears from our old childish views to a mature, independent identity as a worthwhile human being in our own right.

Can antagonists tell whether we respect ourselves or not? Of course he/she can. His/her success at intimidating people depends on choosing suitable victims. He/she does not seek out people who are invulnerable to his/her scare tactics. They are a waste of his/her time, and he/she will not be able to accomplish his/her underlying goal of building him/herself up by tearing them down. Our best hope for success in coping with antagonists is to be a self-respecting human being.

Businesswomen arguing photo available from Shutterstock

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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