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SITE: Scapegoating–An Insidious Family Pattern of Blame and Shame on One Family Member
QUOTE: “The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions.” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower
NOTE: Being scapegoated is similar but not quite the same as the Toxic Family Role of Scapegoat. (See Post). In both cases the child is abused by everyone. The main difference is that the ROLE is something the child takes on in order to protect the family, while in Scapegoating an adult chooses which child is going to carry the burden of their psychological dysfunction so they don’t have to face it themselves.
ORIGINS: “The Scapegoat motif began centuries ago as a part of the sacrificial dynamic with a god or gods. Once a year in a ceremony, the members of a tribe or village would write down their sins on a ribbon tied around a goat’s neck. The goat was then burned as a sacrifice, or sent away into the wilderness. Either way, the Scapegoat carried off the ‘sins’ of the village with it, leaving them forgiven & cleansed.” (MORE…)
DEF: In a twisted version of this ancient religious practice, modern-day Scapegoating, a form of bullying, is a hostile social/psychological which —
— mis-credits cause & effect, where people move blame & responsibility away from themselves, towards a target person or group
— is an aggressive practice, where angry & hostile feelings are projected onto others, via inappropriate accusations
Another way of saying it is: Scapegoating is the practice of singling out someone for undeserved negative treatment – the active projection* of blame & guilt onto another person or group so the scapegoater can remain seemingly righteous, ‘good’ & guilt free. The victim may be an adult, sibling, child, employee, peer, ethnic or religious group or country. Also called Whipping boy, Fall guy, Patsy, Designated Patient, Sacrificial Lamb….
*Projection: (NOT Projecting) A defense mechanism – in which a person/group A’s unacceptable thoughts, needs & emotions are unconsciously assumed to belong only to person/group B, who is then accused of & punished for causing all of A’s problems. The A’s damaged ego says: “What I can’t stand about myself, I really hate in you (B) and have to attack you for it in order to deny that I have the same quality.”
As the world becomes ‘all one place’, people no longer have the luxury of ‘casting out’ what we aren’t willing to acknowledge, & there are few wilderness places left in the world even if we wanted to. So we turn on each other. The original purpose of this ritual is re-worked in the dysfunctional family ‘tribe‘ by heaping their collective sins on one of their members, then driving them away – if not literally – then by alienating them from everyone else’s affection.
— The rest of the tribe can then point to the chosen black-sheep & proudly proclaim that they are not like him/her, allowing the family to look very good to outsiders, in contrast to the ‘bad’ one. Thus the Scapegoat is sacrificed for ‘the good of the family’ – likely to be chosen unconsciously, but for specific reasons. (see Part 2).
● Often an insecure parent will be more aggressive with one of their offspring, to vent his/her own frustrations. The use of force against another person is always a form of scapegoating, & damages self-esteem in children. Elizabeth A. Kaspar tells us that aggressiveness can show up as being:
— rude & humiliating, (“What do you mean, you aren’t going to do it?”)
— self-righteous (“I am only insisting on this for your own good.”)
— manipulative (“If you refuse, / you’ll let everyone down”)
GOLDEN CHILD vs Scapegoat child is a common divisive ploy set up by a narcissistic parent. In sick families very often one child is favored as the ‘good’ one, and given special status by the parent who treats them as if he/she is perfect. (References here are to NPD mothers and daughters – BUT can be applied to any combination – See Article)
● For exp, the narcissistic mother identifies with the golden child, provides them with privileges, as long as they do/are exactly what she wants (be a carbon copy). The child’s payoff – at least in the family system – is to be compulsively protected & idealized by everyone, including the victim, who hides their resentment & envy.
To reciprocate & stay in the parent’s good graces, the favorite will defend the mother —
— and indirectly perpetuate the abuse by finding reasons to blame the scapegoat for the mother’s actions
— or directly take on the perpetrator’s role by physically abusing the scapegoat so the parent doesn’t have to do that herself. (MORE….)
● At the same time – another child is set up to be the victim (Sc), continually told they’re ‘bad’ – picked on, humiliated & abused. The scapegoat is forced to care for everyone else, but is not allowed any needs of their own. (See Part 3)
The golden child can do no wrong. The scapegoat can do no right. This creates divisions between them, the former having a great investment in the mother being wise and wonderful vs. the latter who hates her. That division is encouraged & perpetuated by the narcissist with lies, blatant unfairness & over-protection.
— A scapegoated woman said, “For years I resented my sister who my mother adored. I wished I had felt special to mom. Now I see how messed up my sister is and I’m glad I was not the chosen one of a very sick parent.”
● The good one, because of inappropriate pampering, believes they’re special & therefore entitled. But being the favorite backfires– because they develop their own pathology. The NPD parent forms a destructive enmeshment which engulfs the child, perhaps for life. He/She isn’t allowed to have their own identity or boundaries, stays emotionally immature, often is a puppet of this parent or parent-substitutes, such as an abusive spouse.
● The ‘bad one’ is ultimately the more fortunate – given this scenario. He/She is basically more independent, often driven to seek answers, & eventually may come to understand the nature of the NPD parent – allowing them to outgrow the role. They are the ones who can break free from their destructive family system to create a healthy life.
— In another case, the Favored son couldn’t cope with the abandonment when his battered wife of 18 yrs finally left him, so he shot himself in the head, while the Rejected & tortured son became a well-loved minister.
NEXT: ACoAs being Scapegoated (Part 2)