Family Self

From Scapegoat to Escapegoat

It can be disconcerting when you realise your own family don’t have your best interests at heart.  They may do on a conscious level but subconsciously they need to keep you down to elevate themselves and maintain their own faultlessness.  Their caring comes from an unhealthy place because if they can maintain negative attention on you they don’t have to look at themselves.


If you are the scapegoat or identified patient in your dysfunctional family you will know the painful unfairness of the dynamic.  Speaking up or trying to educate the other family members will get you nowhere because everyone else in the family is invested in keeping you in your role. 


Essentially you are the whipping post and emotional dustbin for the disowned dysfunction, pain and anger in the family.  You will be expected to carry the shadow making you feel extreme guilt and shame because you take the lions share of the blame for everything. 


This role continues into your adult life because you doubt your own perceptions having been invalidated and told time and time again you are the problem.  You carry an enormous amount of toxic shame from your dysfunctional parent or parents.  You were probably belittled, ridiculed and humiliated, made to feel worthless and emotionally abandoned.  You are so accustomed to being blamed you take it on even when you are not to blame because you are resigned to the fact it must be your fault.


You attract people into your life who scapegoat you and the mistreatment continues because you mistake this dynamic as loving when actually it is psychologically abusive


This role was thrust on you by the perpetrator who didn’t like that you were vocal about the motivation behind their inappropriate and cruel behaviour.  Subsequently they projected their anger onto you, making you the bad one because you answered back in self defence.  Your higher self knows the truth however and this will eventually come out in the wash.


The scapegoat in any family tends to be intuitive, empathic, highly sensitive, honest, emotionally strong, talented and most likely the first to seek help.


However when you seek help or start to learn about psychology you will probably be told it is a load of old mumbo jumbo for weak people.  Your family might say they want you to get better but you will notice subconsciously they are invested in rescuing you and keeping you stuck. 


R D Laing stated the identified patient is seen as mad as a distraction for the other family members whose mental health is actually worse than that of the scapegoat.


The anti-psychiatry movement led by Rosenhan proved this in the psychological experiment where they admitted themselves to psychiatric wards saying they were hearing noises.  Once in the ward they intended to come clean about the experiment but found they were ignored and seen as mad by the staff who treated them as mentally unstable.  Eventually lawyers had to be called in to free these perfectly healthy subjects.


If you have been scapegoated as a cover up for the dysfunction of other family members, it’s unlikely they will suddenly own up to their negative behaviour because it is predominantly unconscious.  They will be highly invested in maintaining their flawless reputation even when it involves mistreating their own offspring.  If this is the case they will be actively telling you that their own interests are more important than yours.


Many scapegoats cut contact with their families, particularly if they are further attacked for highlighting the issue and sticking up for themselves.  Some are able to maintain a safe distance and learn to deflect the projected behaviour back to the perpetrator by learning and maintaining healthy boundaries and becoming more self differentiated.


As much as you want a healthy loving family, sometimes you just have to accept you can only control your part of the dynamic and decide if maintaining relations is worth it for you.  Always put your own wellbeing first.


Even though it is painful to be in this role, over time it becomes familiar and normal.  Your whole identity is built around being the outsider so to move away from it can seem like an enormous and impossible challenge.


Becoming self assured, self accepting & self responsible will help you move away from this unhealthy dynamic. You were born whole and will see your wholeness again when you commit to finding it.



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