Table of contents:
- If you find yourself in the role of the scapegoat in your own family, you may be suffering from a variety of problems in life. You have symptoms of mental illness, such as relationship problems, impostor syndrome, general anxiety, depression, addiction, codependency, and even trauma symptoms. What you don’t realize, however, is that this is all about being trapped in the role of an “identified patient” in your family of origin
- Are you the scapegoat?
- Scapegoating is a form of abuse
- Healing from the destructive role of the scapegoat
Video: Invisible Scapegoat Wounds - Society
If you find yourself in the role of the scapegoat in your own family, you may be suffering from a variety of problems in life. You have symptoms of mental illness, such as relationship problems, impostor syndrome, general anxiety, depression, addiction, codependency, and even trauma symptoms. What you don’t realize, however, is that this is all about being trapped in the role of an “identified patient” in your family of origin
Are you the scapegoat?
The creation of a scapegoat in a dysfunctional family system is influenced by unconscious processes. The family shifts its collective psychological difficulties to one of the members. This process of projecting, shaming and blaming serves to divert attention from the mental and emotional concerns of the rest of the family. For this, the one who finds himself in the role of the scapegoat is placed in the role of the “identified patient” (Bateson, 1972).
I don’t mean to say that all acts of blaming and shaming a child are unconscious - rather, the unconscious is the projection process underlying the creation of the scapegoat.
Many people who have grown up as scapegoats do not realize in adulthood that they were abused as children. Even a therapist or counselor can overlook signs of symptoms associated with being in this most destructive role in a dysfunctional family.
Specifically: adults who seek help from a specialist psychologist may face the fact that the pain and suffering they experience in depth are minimized or even devalued (for example, “But this is your family, of course they love you”; “Family ties are so important, things can't be that bad ";" It's best to forgive, keeping in touch with your family is essential for your mental well-being "). As a result, the fear of the adult, accustomed to the role of the scapegoat, only intensifies that he himself is somehow deeply responsible for the fact that he has a strained (or no) relationship with his family.
Scapegoating is a form of abuse
Scapegoating is a form of abuse that is often subtle and invisible to others - even family members. A parent who chooses someone to play the role of a scapegoat (usually the “power holder” in the family system, controlling the family narrative) often has a special “story” about the rejected child ready, which he shares with anyone who wants to listen: in this story, the narrator himself appears “good”, and the child assigned to the role of the scapegoat is “difficult,” “problematic,” or even “bad” and “defective.”
The scapegoat mechanism is based on denial, falsehood and distortion of reality (also called gaslighting). It is especially insidious because it is fueled by differences in power, where the scapegoat parent is credible and the appointee's opinion is ignored.
A child (or a child turned adult) is often hailed as a liar and / or mentally or emotionally unhealthy - this story is invented and promoted by the parent himself at the expense of his own child. In such cases, the harm caused to the child's psyche can hardly be overestimated.
Read also: Are you the scapegoat for your family? 10-item questionnaire
Due to the harm caused to the developing personality, the child during the growth period may experience problems with defining his own desires and needs, he will have difficulties in forming secure attachments with the main figures throughout his life. As an adult, someone who has been subjected to this type of abuse may lack persistence in pursuing goals and fulfilling their dreams, and have trouble developing long-term, trusting attachments to others. Such a person may develop the feeling that they have no right to exist, feel or authentically express their true nature in the presence of others. At the heart of this will be a deep self-contempt rooted in toxic shame.
Devastating consequences for the family scapegoat
Children selected for this role usually have special problems throughout childhood, and these problems will haunt them into adulthood. Because their reality and experience were a threat to the parent who assigned (or continues to assign) them to this role, their sense of self did not receive the genuine and necessary support during childhood; accordingly, in adulthood, they are likely to have difficulty trusting their own perceptions.
As a result of being in the role of the scapegoat, a person's understanding of who he is changes at the very depths. Therefore, in adulthood, he will often feel a lack of connection with others, separation from everyone, hopelessness and even passive and chronic suicidal tendencies. Many adults who have been the scapegoat feel that there is something wrong with them, although it is not clear what exactly. They are often afraid to talk about their pain and confusion with others, which leads to further isolation and a tendency towards depression.
These people often have problems with trusting others and find it difficult to form meaningful, secure attachments - including romantic / intimate ones. Because the scapegoat's "story" often follows the child into adulthood and may continue even after the parent's death (through a dominant sibling or other relative), it may seem like there is no other way out than to limit or cut off contact with all members of the family.
In many cases, the individual who finds himself in the role of the scapegoat blames himself for his difficulties, does not believe that someone can help him, even if he tries to share inner confusion and pain. The feeling of grief from their lack of rights can be especially acute if a person in this state has no other choice but to limit or cut off contact with family members. It may be a brave and determined attempt to maintain your own mental and emotional health, but few people around you will be able to understand the reason for such a seemingly reckless decision, much less support it.
Healing from the destructive role of the scapegoat
It is never too late to discover and claim who you really are without distorting the shameful family narrative that portrays you as "bad" or "defective."
To "claim rights" means to restore, return, recover, return, rebuild, remember, give yourself support, oppose, soften, save. If you are the family's scapegoat, you will need to do all of these things in order to be healed. You need to start with the desire to free yourself from the scapegoat story and become the author of your own life, not to be trapped in this story, created by the head of the family in power.
Aside from getting rid of the scapegoat story, one of the most powerful healing tools available to adults who have had these problems as children is to share the truth with others. You might, for example, write your life story and have it read by a psychologist or coach who understands the destructive nature of the scapegoat role in the family. Or, you can join a forum where you can freely share your thoughts and be heard by other participants, as well as listen to the stories of others who find themselves in a similar situation.
- By Rebecca Mandeville, MA, Family Therapist
- Translator: Kiril Melamud