Tag Archives: scapegoating

Being The Family Scapegoat

Being the scapegoat in a narcissistic family is an incredibly difficult & painful role. 

Naturally it starts with the abuse from a narcissistic parent, usually an overt one.  This parent is quick with a cruel word, invalidation, mocking or even fury.  This parent may even say they treat their child as they do out of love or they blame their child for making them treat the child as they do.

The other parent is often a covert narcissist.  Compared to the raging, screaming & berating of the overt narcissistic parent, the covert narcissistic parent seems safe & possibly even loving.  Eventually though, that mask slips.  It usually happens as the child is growing up & starting to want some independence.  Covert narcissistic parents also often confide in their children about very inappropriate topics, such as their marital problems.  Overts do this too, but coverts seem to do it more often.  That parent may tell that child that they need protection from the overt narcissistic parent rather than protecting their child, as a functional parent would do. 

Eventually, this child realizes something is wrong with their parents’ behavior.  Maybe they learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder or maybe not yet.  Either way, the child starts to set boundaries with their parents for the first time in their life.  This is where the real trouble often begins.

Aside from the obvious horrors of the abuse from their narcissistic parents, they suddenly are faced with even more horrors.  Many reach out to other family members for help, & rather than get the help they need, are shunned, mocked, called awful names like liars, spoiled brats, drama queens or kings, ungrateful & more.  Those who the child expects to help & support them often end up betraying that child & adding more pain.

When narcissistic parents find out their child has revealed the kind of parent they are, they usually release some sort of smear campaign.  Some insult their child, others accuse their child of being mentally ill or addicted to drugs.  Some opt to do the same but from a position of looking concerned.  They may say things like, “I’m worried about her.  She hasn’t been the same since she started hanging around with that guy.  I think he’s making her say these things about me, or maybe she’s on drugs!”  This is even worse, because it makes the child look bad while making the parent appear loving & concerned.  Either way, this child loses loved ones & feels completely alone.

The life of a scapegoat is incredibly hard!  Yet even so, there is hope!

After surviving such horrors, a person develops the ability to handle stress well.  Compared to narcissistic abuse, most crises seem pretty tame. 

After losing friends & family who believe a narcissistic parent’s lies, a person becomes very independent & self-reliant.  In this situation when you are left alone, you can learn you have skills & abilities that you never realized you had.

Losing people in one’s life often makes people turn to God, & that is never a bad thing!  That is the one relationship that will never disappoint or hurt you.  He also can help you to heal from all the damage done by the abusive people in your life.  And, as an added bonus, He can guide the right people into your life.    

If you’re the scapegoat in your narcissistic family, if you recently have been abandoned by foolish people who chose to side with your parents rather than help or support you, then please know it will get better!  You will find new, good, loving people who would never treat you as badly as your family has & who will love you unconditionally.  You will survive this pain & heal.  One day you will look back at all that has happened in your role as your family’s scapegoat & be shocked at how much happier & healthier you are without these people in your life.

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

When Someone Refers To Someone Else As An Outsider Or Outcast

When you meet someone new & get to know that person, at some point your families will come up in conversation.  A red flag you need to be aware of may suddenly show up when you begin to discuss your families.  The particular red flag I’m referring to is when someone refers to another person in their family as if they are a big problem in the family, & they have no problem labeling the person based on that assumption.  They may call them an outsider, the black sheep or even the problem child.

The reason this is a red flag is because it shows the person discussing their relative this way is a part of an “us against them” mentality.  Clearly, that “problem child” is a huge problem within his or her own family.  This is a sign of a person being scapegoated.  And, scapegoating is a sign of an abusive family.

I saw this in action when I first got involved with my husband.  His family very much has an “us versus them” mentality.  Those of us who joined the family were clearly outsiders.  The only ones welcomed into the inner sanctum were ones who came from a very wealthy family or who did the bidding of the in-law family.  Think the Borg from Star Trek The Next Generation.  “You will be assimilated.  Resistance is futile.”  Those of us who weren’t willing to assimilate into the family & focus all of our attention on the in-laws, aka the Collective, were clearly outsiders & treated as such.

The family in these situations acts as if they are the good people, burdened by this person’s terrible behavior, trouble causing & lack of worthiness to be a part of their precious family.  The outsider, in short, is to blame for any & all problems within the family, & a source of great embarrassment, which is the definition of a scapegoat in a narcissistic family.

Treating people this way is very common not just among in-laws, but within biological families as well.  It’s happened to me as well as many of my readers who I’ve spoken with.  By scapegoating one person, this allows a group of people to avoid any responsibility for problems within their group.  Clearly they did nothing wrong!  It was that awful scapegoat who is to blame for all the ills in the family.

By shifting all blame to the scapegoat, this also allows the group to maintain the image they wish to portray –  the big happy family, the perfect family, better than others, etc.

Possibly the biggest advantage for those who scapegoat someone is by doing this, they are able to maintain their denial.  Denial they have done anything wrong, denial their family isn’t perfect, denial that the toxic person in the family isn’t really the toxic one.

These are such incredibly unhealthy behaviors!  Functional people don’t blame innocent people.  They accept responsibility for their behavior & expect others to do the same.  Functional people also respect that everyone is an individual & don’t get angry when someone believes, thinks or acts differently than them.

There is one final thing you need to be aware of on this topic.  Not every person who mentions someone in their family as an outsider is dysfunctional.  You can tell the difference between a functional & dysfunctional person discussing the outsider in their family.  A functional person doesn’t speak of their family’s outsider in a bad light.  They think of the person in question as very different than the rest of the family, but they don’t paint that person in a negative light.  They may even admire the differences in that person.  In any case, they have no problem with this “outsider’s” differences.

If someone you just met discusses an outsider in their family, pay attention to how they discuss this person.  It can show you whether or not this is an emotionally healthy, functional person.

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health, Narcissism

When People Minimize Or Dismiss Good Things About Scapegoats

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!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism