Q. Can being blamed for something cause a person’s brain to downshift?

A. My brain’s opinion is that being blamed for something could trigger downshifting. The descriptor I use in presentations related to downshifting is this:

In situations that involve trauma, crisis, fear, or any type of threat (anything that triggers a sense of helplessness) the brain tends to direct its attention and energy automatically toward lower brain areas attempting to access functions it believes will promote safety.

Being blamed for something, especially in a “scapegoat” situation, could fall into the arena of fear or any type of threat. In such situations, there is a sense that in some way or another the person did not meet expectations (e.g., failed to do something that should have been done, did something that should not have been done).

In that type of situation, hopefully the individual being blamed understands the natural brain phenomenon of downshifting, and as soon as he/she realizes the brain is downshifted, implements a pre-planned strategy to get upshifted.

Once upshifted, it is important to evaluate the situation carefully and accept responsibility for his/her part—and, equally important—avoid taking responsibility for anything for which the person could not really be responsible. Taking inappropriate responsibility is as dysfunctional as failing to take appropriate responsibility for your actions. Then, figure out what you could do differently another time in order to realize a positive outcome.