Most of us who have experienced narcissistic abuse know about the scapegoat. Scapegoats are often labeled the problem child, spoiled, selfish, disrespectful, rebellious, trouble maker, outcast & more. They are blamed for all problems in the family, even when they have nothing to do with those problems.
One other very common way scapegoats are abused is by minimizing or dismissing anything good about the scapegoat. If you’re the scapegoat, no doubt you have been in this situation. You were excited about getting a promotion at work, winning a contest, or even getting pregnant. In the joy of the moment, you told someone in your family who immediately changed the subject, totally ignored you or compared your situation unfavorably to someone else in a similar one.
Here is one example from my life. Before becoming an author, I did some editing work. I got a job for a local author & was excited. Foolishly, I mentioned the new job to my mother since I didn’t know about narcissism at this time. She changed the subject quickly. A short time later when we were talking she said she was thinking of getting into editing. After all, it’s easy work. Obviously anyone can do it.
It isn’t only accomplishments that are minimized or dismissed. It also can be a talent. If the family scapegoat is a talented cook, others will not praise any food he or she makes, offer suggestions they can do to make the dish better next time or compare the dish unfavorably to someone else’s version of the same dish.
Appearance is another sore spot for those who abuse the family scapegoat. If that scapegoat is attractive in any way, the family will be sure to let that person know how ugly they think the scapegoat is. They will criticize anything & everything about the person’s appearance. If the scapegoat is sensitive about something, that something will be the main source of the family’s criticism. I’ve noticed when the scapegoat is female, weight is often the main source of criticism, no matter the actual figure of the scapegoat.
Along these lines, scapegoating family members also can’t handle when the scapegoat is praised or complemented in their presence. If this happens, the scapegoat WILL be treated especially poorly for quite some time after the complement. I went through this with my mother & her mother, my grandmother. Any time I received a complement in their presence, I cringed because I knew for the remainder of that visit at the very least, they were going to say the most hurtful things they could think of to say to me.
The reasons that scapegoating family members are this way depend on the individuals. Obviously they could be narcissists. Narcissists can’t handle anyone appearing better than them in any way, but especially someone they have deemed so unworthy as the lowly scapegoat.
Another possible reason is any person who engages in scapegoating behavior has absolutely no healthy coping skills. This is why they have a scapegoat in the first place. They refuse to face the truth. They prefer to blame all problems on one convenient target instead. That way, they can be angry at the scapegoat instead of doing the much harder work of handling things in a healthy way.
To make blaming the scapegoat acceptable, they must have a specific image of the scapegoat in mind. It is perfectly acceptable in their minds to scapegoat someone they believe is stupid, a bad person, incompetent & even ugly. To keep that narrative alive, they reject anything good about the scapegoat. As an added bonus, doing so also damages the scapegoat’s self-esteem, which makes him or hear easier to control.
If you’re in this position, please recognize what is going on. What these people are saying or how they are treating you has nothing to do with you. They are trying to make you feel badly so they can make themselves feel better either by gaining narcissistic supply or proving to themselves that you deserve anything said or done to you. They clearly have problems & that is no reflection on you!