One person is chosen to bear the brunt of any psychological discomfort experienced by the family as a whole.
—Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC
Are you the scapegoat in your family?
So, this blog post is long overdue. I have often tweeted about scapegoating, but I think it warrants a blog post since so many people that I’ve connected with are fellow “goats”.
The story comes from the Bible. In the Old Testament, Leviticus 16 there is a goat that was mortally sacrificed, and another that was cast to the wilderness. This goat was to carry all the sins of his tribe. The goat was chosen to carry away the “sins of man” so it would release all the tribe members of their guilt.
All the members of the tribe were glad. They had cast all of their burdens onto the goat.
So, everyone felt better!!!
Noone had to compensate for their sins. They had simply agreed to throw them onto the goat. And there you have it. The “scapegoat”.
Well if it does, this is what dysfunctional families do. They will pick a “scapegoat” similar to this old story. The scapegoat is left isolated from the “tribe” fending for itself. Alone and finding it difficult to survive.
Why might you be the “scapegoat” in your family? Well, you are the normal one!
And guess what? If you are the “chosen goat”, then you probably are the strongest and healthiest (mentally). You—being the chosen “goat”—are chosen because you are the one that fights for justice. You are the one that is independent and empathetic. Usually, the scapegoat is the most accomplished in toxic families.
“The goat must be strong enough to suffer in order that the tribe members do not,” Swenson says.
Interesting! This is what my therapist told me early on in my sessions. Usually, there is a “normal” one in amoungst the dysfunctional family. When she told me this, I remember thinking that it sounded bizarre.
But when a parent cannot take responsibility, they will put the blame on the child. It is called “projection”. Meaning if they can put the responsibility onto the child, they don’t need to take responsibility for their behaviour.
“In scapegoating, feelings of guilt, aggression, blame and suffering are transferred away from a person or group so as to fulfill an unconscious drive to resolve or avoid such bad feelings. It takes a while but later on, the adult child who has been abused by family members recognizes the problems they’ve had come from disturbed parents. They get into therapy and work things out,” says Lynne Namka, Ed..
So, initially, the scapegoat—being highly sensitive, strong-willed, kind-hearted and caring—will take on the blame. They will think it is them. But as stated above, they start to wake up to the gaslighting — and realize they were a victim of a dysfunctional family environment. Does it hurt? Yes. Immensely.
Becoming your authentic self
We “scapegoats” need to become our authentic selves! We may be living the lie for so long, but eventually, we wake up. We can reach out and get help with a qualified therapist. We can learn to recognize the dysfunction that happened as children and educate ourselves.
My message to anyone reading this is: there is nothing wrong with you. What needs to happen, is we need to stop the cycle and pattern. We need to know we are worthy and loved and set strong boundaries.
I wrote my book to help others see the patterns. If you are a child of a dysfunctional parent and do not conform to their needs, they will cut you off. My Courage to Tell is written about my journey to awakening.
So, what do you do if you are the “scapegoat”? Read books on the subject. There are plenty. Find a good therapist that specializes in narcissistic behaviours and emotional abuse.
You are not alone. And you can heal. Give yourself permission.