Resilience is the ability to adapt and learn from any situation you encounter. Often it is described as the ability to thrive despite the barriers life throws at you. There are many ways of increasing one’s resilience (for example: here, here, and here are previous posts that address this). One common temptation that we all have to reduce tension, which prevents us from developing resilience, is the tendency to blame or find a scapegoat. Scapegoating makes us feel good because it removes the tension we feel that is caused by realizing that we need to make changes to what we are doing. Taking responsibility for our actions or our contributions to a situation often feels vulnerable. Blaming others makes us feel safe in the short term, but in fact it only perpetuates the lack of learning and growth. You cannot learn from a situation and develop resilience by avoiding the discomfort.
Resilience is strengthened when we openly explore what we can learn from difficult situations in our lives. Blaming others gives us an easy excuse to remove ourselves from that process. Scapegoating feels good in the moment; it temporarily relieves tension, like scratching an itch. And like scratching an itch, scapegoating leads to increased vulnerability. Resilience, on the other hand, requires experiencing the hardship, learning from it, and becoming stronger as a result. Much like the way applying ointment to an itch may take a while to stop the itching, it will leave you in better shape at the end.
Shawn Healy, PhD