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”.

Sound familiar?

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! 

One person is chosen to bear the brunt of any psychological discomfort experienced by the family as a whole.—
Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC. 

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,”Swenon 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.

Peace.

Resources:

lynnenamka.com
goodtherapy.org/blog/blameless-burden-scapegoating-in-dysfunctional-families-013-0174

 

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5 Replies to “Are you the scapegoat in your family?”

  1. Thank you for writing this, Laura. As I was reading it I couldn’t help wonder if maybe that is partly what has been holding me back in life. My parents would deny any part in it. Maybe that’s a sign?

    1. Yes. They will deny. It is in the toxic-type personality to do that. I have written some blog posts on Gaslighting. But in order to become our authentic selves, we cannot deny what happened – whether it’s physical, mental or sexual abuse. It happened. And as long we deny it, we make ourselves sick. If you can, pick up a copy of My Courage to Tell. It is on Amazon in Kindle/Print formats. And if you are in Canada, you can order it through Chapters/Indigo.

  2. Wow, this was a powerful read which really got my thinking. I think I am a “goat”. Thank you for sharing, it’s really gave me something to look at in being my authentic self. Loved it!

  3. In hindsight I realize my father prepared me for failure, by making me the escape goat. As the eldest child I was responsible for the younger siblings. Heavy load for a kid, but it protected the younger ones from his redicule. As it turns out, his plan did not work. It took lots of time , help, and introspection to get beyond all that. Still a daily effort, but now that chore is behind me. A gratifying sight in the rear view mirror.

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