The Blameless Burden: Scapegoating in Dysfunctional Families

Person in gray skirt suit stands under spotlight, head bowed, in red-toned roomIn biblical lore, Aaron selected a goat on behalf of the entire tribe, cast upon it the sins of all members, and then banished it alone to the wild. The members of the tribe were then at great ease, having been freed from their cast-off sins—whatever those sins may have been.

Everyone felt better, though they had neither identified their specific sins nor atoned for them. They had simply agreed to hang them on the goat. If this spurious logic was obvious to anyone, it was not discussed. Why question an agreed-upon means of making everyone feel better?

Now about that goat. It was selected from the herd and sent forth into the wilderness for reasons having to do with the sins of others. The goat had done nothing to merit banishment. But once the ashes were cold on the rituals of dispatching it, the goat found itself alone in the wilderness, isolated from its herd, in unknown territory, suddenly forced to fend for itself. It faced dangers from predators; difficulty finding food, sustenance, and shelter; and it lived the constantly woeful insecurity of a herd animal without a herd.

This is the story of the scapegoat.

In dysfunctional families, for reasons similar to those Aaron devised, there can also be a designated person selected for the role of scapegoat. In a family system, the selection process is less overt than Aaron’s. It is done more by consensual and habitual shunning that becomes an unspoken code of behavior: one person is chosen to bear the brunt of any psychological discomfort experienced by the family as a whole. It is justified by repeating the stories that create and then reinforce the image of the scapegoat as being a person who is worthy of disdain and disparagement.

Like the strong goat Aaron selected, the target of family scapegoating is also often the strongest and healthiest member of the family. At first blush, this may sound counterintuitive. But think about it a little more. In Aaron’s case, there would be no group pleasure derived from banishing a weak animal who might easily die anyway, because that would not gratify the needs of the tribe to send off their sins on a robust vehicle, a strong goat who was up to the task of bearing the burden. So it is in families: the targeted individual is often the most accomplished. She—and for the purposes of narrative cohesion, our scapegoat is a female here—must be strong enough to withstand the weight of the shunning voices which might easily and quickly topple a weaker person. The scapegoating would fail if the weight of the sins killed the goat before it could even get chased out of town. Catharsis is the goal. The goat needs to be strong enough to suffer in order that the tribe members do not.

Just as the goat was blameless despite being sent to its lonely death, so is the human scapegoat innocent of all charges. She may not be a perfect human being, but she is no different from anyone else in her range of faults. It is not her character or her actions that have directly caused her banishment. It is the way her character and her actions, and often her accomplishments, have been experienced by the dysfunctional family members, who for their own unexamined reasons need to dispel this person from the family realm in order to avoid looking into their own consciences. They need to punish the scapegoat for provoking by her very existence the discomfort family members are feeling that is actually a result of their own unresolved issues.

If you are being scapegoated in your family, please seek professional help. You are not likely to be able to intervene in a dysfunctional system that treats one of its own members in this way. You may continue to experience the futile attempts at explaining yourself. You may fail to understand the way you are being treated. You may begin to doubt your own version of your life story. The price is too high.

Can a human scapegoat die like the goat of yore? Maybe. If not physically, certainly emotionally. It is difficult for the scapegoat to believe that her family would treat her in this unconscionable manner if she were not guilty of some grave sin. She wracks her brain and her heart to understand, but she cannot. The reasons she is given for being mistreated seem shallow, petty, and incomplete. It is difficult for her to believe these small transgressions could warrant such heavy condemnation.

She begins to doubt her own version of reality, since consensus in her own family supports a narrative different from her own about who she is and what she does or has done. She learns that if she tries to sort this out, she will be accused of “playing the victim” or being selfish, or being a “drama queen.” She is able to hold to her knowledge that this assessment and treatment are not right, until one day, utterly discouraged, she gives up. The full weight of the banishment settles upon her. She is alone. She doesn’t try to understand or explain anything anymore. She has moved into accepting a fate that makes no sense to her.

Good mental health at this point suggests she make her peace with leaving behind the family that fails her so completely. And if she is strong and well-supported with friends, she may be able to do this. She will pay a lifelong price for sins she did not commit, however, because it is difficult and painful to extract oneself from one’s family. It is counter to the most basic of human needs for home, shelter, affiliation. It is a cruel and inexcusable undertaking for a family to scapegoat a member.

If you look at the research regarding the fate of individuals who have been relentlessly bullied, you can draw conclusions about what happens to scapegoated family members, for scapegoating is bullying with focused and long-term intensity. Some bullied children go on to become bullies themselves. Some develop social skills to divert and challenge bullying, though the scars of having been bullied may insert themselves into their lives in many ways for many years to come. Others, however, do not survive, driven to suicide.

If you are being scapegoated in your family, please seek professional help. You are not likely to be able to intervene in a dysfunctional system that treats one of its own members in this way. You may continue to experience the futile attempts at explaining yourself. You may fail to understand the way you are being treated. You may begin to doubt your own version of your life story. The price is too high. Please find a counselor who can help you unravel the fictions that subvert the truth about your life and about who you are. Good counseling support can help free you from the binding ties of pain, guilt, and shame that you did not create and which are not justified.

You were not born to bear the sins of others any more than Aaron’s goat was born for such a fate.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Leo

    Leo

    January 30th, 2017 at 8:50 AM

    Yeah I know many families who all have that designated scapegoat
    mine included

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:12 AM

    I’m sorry to hear it, Leo. I hope you have good support from friends and others. I send my best wishes to you.

  • Diana K B

    Diana K B

    November 21st, 2017 at 1:00 AM

    is it possible to become a scapegoat as soon as you become a part of a family?

  • Diane

    Diane

    January 1st, 2019 at 4:52 PM

    Sarah.., how do you find a counselor or help that’s truly competent? I’ve seen many counselors for this who claimed to be experts in this area as well as in the areas of abuse and trauma. However after many months and even years each one finally admits that counseling programs don’t teach/train them on what to do, so they try to wing it! These folks empathize but really are clueless as to how to treat these issues as some type of abuse is also part of the problem. Of course they don’t refund your money…. I’m just tired of being taken advantage of by professionals who lack competency but refuse to admit their own limitations until they realize it’s pretty obvious…, then like clockwork I get the sob story about them not being properly trained by their college or university.

  • Lily

    Lily

    March 23rd, 2019 at 8:49 AM

    What if your “friends” (and relationships) suddenly starts questioning you as if you were the one to cause problems? I’ve been blindsided by this before many times and yes, they witnessed the bullying/mobbing. Then what? Do you keep trying to convince others no matter how emotionally hurtful it is for you?

  • Emily

    Emily

    May 26th, 2019 at 4:12 PM

    I’m sorry to horn in here. I couldn’t get a click on comments.
    What do you do if maybe you did do some things you had to own up and take your lumps for. But usually the consequence is paid, right? And then everyone gets on with it? This article is my family (sibling) revisited. Hate to see me soaring, happy or lay my head and rest. Always have to be pushed by who am I comments, told to.be a shame and hang my head, told everyone I meet is too good for me and told I’m worthless. I’ve been abandoned and neglected until I’ve estranged my perfect and uppity holyer than thou sibling. I guess that’s what you do.
    Thank-you for the article. My psychologist told me to stay away from condescending verbally abusive people and so did you.
    It makes sense.
    Lonely, but sensible and bettrr.

  • eli t

    eli t

    August 25th, 2019 at 1:44 PM

    Yes Diane, that is possible to become a scapegoat when entering a new family! I have sadly that experience myself!

  • April

    April

    July 6th, 2017 at 2:32 AM

    I haven’t been able to sleep tonight with seemingly unrelated flashbacks regarding community harassment after my childhood removal by CPS and my divorce. I just so happened to come across this article that validated and explained these experiences and their relationship to each other–I was scapegoated. Thank you for helping me see this phenomenon and my own role in them subjectively.

  • SpeakOutInFaith

    SpeakOutInFaith

    July 9th, 2017 at 12:33 AM

    You may have a generational curse in operation where the sins of the father are visited on the sons to the 3rd & 4th generation. You have to break the curse to get free of the demonic stronghold. Google it and you will find prayers to pray to break the curse(s).

  • Greg

    Greg

    July 28th, 2018 at 8:07 AM

    Good grief. This kind of religious fanaticism is the last thing hurting people need to hear. Pouring salt on a wound.

  • lynn

    lynn

    February 27th, 2019 at 6:16 AM

    There aren’t prayers to break generational ‘curses’ because that’s a nonexistent thing. There are family traits that get passed down – as with physiology there are mental, emotional and even spiritual ones. Focusing on your own health, acknowledging the scapegoating (blaming, shaming, shunning) and talking with a pro who is well informed on N family systems is the best idea. I have personal and professional experience in this area — the only religious help is in God. Asking God for help to heal, seeking his love, however that looks to you, is what works (again, personal experience).

  • Noel

    Noel

    May 2nd, 2019 at 11:55 AM

    Another term for Scapegoat is found in the derivation of the word “pharmacy” and “pharmaceutical” by way of the etymology of theses words in old Greek–Pharmakos. Hence we are given thereby to see that the scapegoat serves an extremely valuable function, that of absorbing the displaced aggression of other members of the primate group and hierarchy. In these systems, the higher ranking members deal with their frustration by way of displacing their aggression downward through the social hierarchy, and as famed Stanford primatologist Robert Sapolsky has noted this pattern can be regularly observed by way of a routine the invariably leads to instances of unprovoked, aggravated assault being committed upon young, vulnerable chimps etc.. The failure to note the parallel denotes our failure to apply the nearest relevant animal model to the problem and this failure of analysis among “mental health” professionals likewise reflects a deliberate and flagrant omission of content from their own professional training. This is only one among a long series of grotesque and insidious “errors” of understanding that pertain to this most pivotal of issues–scapegoating. Recall, it was the very organizing principle of the scientific dictatorship we know as The Third Reich that in turn saw the Jews and Gypsies etc. having to bite the bullet by way of the famed “Holocaust” of that era. Hence the omission of this topic from general concern, from the very curriculum of even the most relevant areas of academic discourse–all of psychology and the textbooks relating to “behavioral health” etc..–can not but understood as an act of the Will. That is to say, the Will at the Helm of civilization itself. There can be no other explanation to suit the data, a fact which all wish to avoid per the usual expression of neurotic/psychotic denial that prevails. Because the Will is none other than the leadership principle of The Reich itself, that controls all that we do, see, hear and think, completely. Likewise unmentioned in the text above per this pattern of failed discourse in relation to the topic of the scapegoat concerns the matter of health. And again we see the relevant research and discourse subjugated, suppressed and marginalized so as to keep the dirty secrets of mass mind control hidden in plain view by way of the creation of two sub-specialties that no behavioral health specialist of any kind pays attention to at all–psychoneuroendocrinology and psychoneuroimmunology. From these suppressed lines of discourse we learn that those scapegoated in family systems experience “toxic stress” which results in a lifetime of chronic afflictions and a lifespan that is often reduced by several decades. This causes the brain to swell–“encephalitis”–which creates insomnia which in turn degrades the capacity to cope, which causes more stress, more loss of function and so on, until the person is destroyed via the activation of this feed-back loop. But who cares? It’s all so very obvious that we do not care at all. Because if we did then such obvious intellectual transgressions of the Hierarchy vis a vis this most important of topics relating to the esoteric knowledge of the “pharmakos” as I have just noted (and so many others that all of us completely un-caring and willfully stupid zombie-drones refuse to discuss in any forum) would not require discussion. And instead of using this topic merely as a means of pushing people into “therapy” we’d seek to understand its significance in proper context. For just as the victim and family scapegoat is made to succumb to all manner of chronic afflictions so as to die young, and quite often at the hands of prison guards backed by “behavioral health specialists” who are nothing but programmed killers engaging in the service of the Reich. We use the euphemistic language of “warehousing the mentally ill” so as to cover up the “crime against humanity” being committed in plain view–that of deliberately mis-diagnosing and mis-labeling those afflicted with encephalitis as “mentally ill” (a completely undefined medical term) so as to then place them in extermination camps where they can be prayed upon by hyper violent guards and gangs. We love killing and we hate life and the problem here is that we are brainwashed and perverted of character to the point where there is barely semblance of rational coherence in relation to any discussion to be heard about any and all problems that we face. We are utterly beyond hope in this regard, most particularly because any sane person who attempts to address any matter of deep civic concern such as this–domestic violence as a public health issue etc.–immediately finds themselves being swarmed upon by most every “educated” and “professionally licensed” person in the vicinity, all of whom will launch into the conversational mode of slander and ridicule so as to protect themselves from the danger presented by the ugly truth about who they are, what they do for a living, and the disgusting death worship and utter BS that completely fills their hearts and minds. “He’s off his meds” they’ll scream knowing full well that this is a veiled death threat of being unalawfully detained, chemically assaulted and killed in custody. “He’s a conspiracy theorist!” they’ll cry out in yet more blood thirsty glee, this despite the fact that none of them can even define the term. And so on. Because all educated people with professional licenses are nothing but conscripted morons in a society run by Luciferian sadists all of whom are likewise conscripted either directly or directly into the hierarchies of Freemasonry and alike. Obviously. In this respect psychotherapists are the worst. Because they no expertise at all, provide a standard of care without proof of efficacy of any kind. They fail to note that immunology failure and encephalitis, thus deliberately killing their “clients”. Not that anyone cares at all. Because being normal is about getting paid and making stupid excuses for the BS and blood bath associated with the activities of one’s professional cadre. We apologize, we deny. We abduct, torture, enslave, extort, defraud and slaughter the innocent for a paycheck. And any who dare raise the standard of discussion above that of an 8 year old risks incurring the wrath of the blood thirsty hoard of fraudulent scholars, always and ever with the medical and juridical machine wielded like knife at the throat of any who dares to speak like a caring and mature adult. There are no mature psychotherapists. There are no mature white collar professionals. All is under the control of the hierarchy of the G-Man and the G-Wiz. It’s all “Skull and Bones” and death, death, and more death. Those who succeed in getting away with displacing their aggression thereby succeed in warding of the collapse of immunological function visited upon the scapegoat. Unless the scapegoat succeeds him or herself in recruiting another scapegoat, it’s that scapegoat in the hierarchy that gets sick first, and dies young. Hence the entire program here is about a kind of immunologically based form of vampirism, and nothing less. Hence it is a topic relegated to the domain of knowledge pertinent to the imposition of social control upon the slave, and thus must be omitted from the knowledge base of the masses–all of us low life garbage programmed for death. All societies cast in the mode of The Holly Roman Empire are based on lying, on the Faustian bargain, and thus upon a basis of bullshit known as hypocrisy. All feature the same normed profile of pathological narcissism, endemic sadism and developmental arrest. And all feature the same profile of this rampaging hoard of professional caste killers running their mouths off with textbook BS while touting themselves on one hand as Gods whose expertise can not be questioned, and God’s gift to the “meek” as likewise the benign intent of their motivation is likewise to be regarded as a matter not to be questioned…or else. Nothing but a society of punishment mongering sadists and masochistic weirdos such as is demonstrated by the utter and complete childishness and incompetence expressed in this forum. Is there any hope? Nope. None at all. We’re willfully stupid because we have been programmed to kill ourselves off on cue. That’s why clinical psychology is such a sham, and why the above treatment of the topic is so empty and devoid of actual information. Because if the true discourse of psychology were divulged, then we’d all have to look in the mirror. And then we’d all know who we really are and what we’ve been doing all along. We’d then have to kill ourselves rather than cope with the shame and guilt. As my name is “Gillett(e), the Best a man can get”, I know well the meaning of the word “Gill-Tee” Because we are of the Gil-ma, the so called Fish King and thus the lineage of the Master Architect of the hierarchy of the G-man of Freemasonry. We own your minds. We own your hearts. You will kill yourself when my family says that it’s time. You have no “Will” of your own. We destroyed your will and replaced it with the “Will” that “I am” of William the Conqueror and the Reich. You have no ability to resist the desire to slaughter your own children, any more than you have the ability to resist the need to slaughter yourselves, always and ever as my family has programmed you to do. that is to say, at the drop of a hat. Right on cue. That’s why none of you can cope with any discussion that requires engagement of the mind. Nothing but Romper Room in every internet forum, with PhD grads cranking out the dumbest discourse of all, and all by design. Because the Master Architect undertaking his “Great Work” reigns supreme. You can not resist his “Will”, you no capacity to do so. You will hunt, stalk, savage and slaughter any would-be hero. And as such, you have no worth as a life form save perhaps as food, as objects of ritual sacrifice and as fertilizer. It’s time then for you all to be slaughter your dumb retarded evil little selves. I can hear the Master calling. He’s says that it’s time for me to sit back and watch you all rip each other to shit. He is the father of my lineage, Gill-Tee as charged. Guilty as the Guild that programs the white collar hoard of childish death and student debt. Because the Gilman being the fish king rules over the Schools of fish which is our educational system. You are nothing but slimy, stupid, smelly, filthy fish to be killed. Enjoy the smell of your ass while it lasts. Because you will kill each other, on cue. King Camp Gillett said so. He’s our grand Patriarch. His Gillette runs across your gullet in a salute to the Guillotine–Gillette’s closest of shaves. Off with your heads then, as that is what you all wish for. As any who dare speak truth to you all incurs the wrath of your hatred, it’s best this way. That you all slaughter your asses into piles. On cue. Thank you doing so. Noel Gillett-Fowler of the Union 76 that owns all of you and your very souls as well.

  • Amanda

    Amanda

    May 12th, 2019 at 3:38 PM

    What a great and timely article. Thank you. My in laws treat me this way. I’m so relieved to read your article.

  • CW

    CW

    October 3rd, 2019 at 12:38 PM

    My in-laws did/do this to me. For 14 years, starting with my husband shortly before we were married. Don’t see it for what it is right away because who’s perfect? Like your article pointed out. But with these people, it’s like comparing serial killers to kids stealing candy bars; being the scapegoat are the kids stealing the candy bars! lol!
    My mother in law daughter in law bashes. all of them; current ones, ex-ones, etc..
    And I married her youngest son late in life. Came on the scene when both he and I were in our mid-forties. So all this baggage they already had going on but somehow it was all my fault all these years ago from hundreds of miles away! smh.
    There’s a culture clash issue as well that makes things even more complicated. They’re all from a small town of 2,000; and I’m from a city of 8 million, now living amongst the string of small cities and town. Great area, nice to retire in, but much difficulty in trying to socialize with some of these people.

  • Lynette

    Lynette

    January 30th, 2017 at 10:15 AM

    I think that most of the time when one wants to avoid taking any sort of responsibility he or she will generally look for someone on whom they can thrust the blame. This is human nature, not a particularly pretty trait but such is life. We are always looking for a way to make ourselves look better and to make someone else look at fault for what mistakes and errors have been made.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:15 AM

    It’s true that it is often tempting to avoid responsibility and blame others for our own problems. However, in the case of scapegoating, there is a difference: scapegoating is a continuous familial pattern that isolates one member from the other members of the family, and holds that one individual blameworthy. This is a malignant pattern that can lead to serious problems for the scapegoat, while the other family members collude in the delusion that they are blameless.

  • Jessica T

    Jessica T

    February 13th, 2017 at 11:29 PM

    Exactly. Very different from just blaming various others for your mistakes. Reading this has probably saved me from suicide. Just knowing this happens, without justification, means more than I can say.

  • Christine

    Christine

    July 7th, 2017 at 10:32 AM

    True, I was used as the scapegoat for my family and still am, since I stopped visiting my dad and mom, dad is alcoholic since I was born and still is, he and I disagreed over trump after he brought up the subject, he likes him I do not, so my father told me to” go home” !

  • Pamela

    Pamela

    July 8th, 2017 at 12:22 AM

    You are so very correct. My much older brother (and sisters) scapegoated me. My mother doted on him, making him the golden child. I came along midlife and was much younger, so I was really scapegoated, as I was female and just a helpless kid. I then married 2 husbands that were much like my older brother (we tend to recreate the familiar ). After years, I finally got the answers and validation I needed to leave the marriage (from Sandra L. Brown’s books-one being “Women Who Love Psychopaths)”. Sadly, pathological disorders can be genetic and all 3 of my adult kids backed my X., joining in scapegoating me and they all still do now. Thankfully, people like you write information that brings this to light for our understanding and validation. Thank you so much-I really felt great validation from your article and saved it to help validate me when I get a brush with pathological scapegoating.,

  • Peggy D.

    Peggy D.

    October 7th, 2017 at 6:52 AM

    Call me the drama queen, & the b****., as my family has. For taking care of & loving my elderly mother so much I wanted to stay & the hospital with her day & night. The out of state members could not do that & I was ok with that, did not even ask. However they showed up & took over then ban me from being at my mothers bedside. Cursing at me & saying mean untruth statement. It bothered me for awhile. But now I just visit my Mother when I wish & she is always happy to see me, she ask for me every time anyone comes to visit her.
    I have great friends, golf, listen to music & church. I forgave them all for they know not what they do. However I will not be part of there lives. I moved on and help others who need & appreciate me. The label scapegoat is fitting. I will pray for my Mother & visit her. I will pray for my 7 sibs. Thankful for this story.

  • Wendy T

    Wendy T

    January 15th, 2018 at 9:12 AM

    Yes/ the dad isolated me big time from mother, set up jealousy between sisters, and eventually forced sisters to circle round the patterns. I was isolated, outcast, and no sister sees it as intentionally controlled by dad.

  • Stephanie

    Stephanie

    February 22nd, 2018 at 9:08 AM

    I’m being scapegoated in my family! It’s always been this way but recently it has been shown in public. And I can actually see it now as iv always felt it before and couldn’t prove it to anyone as they all profess to be Christians. They actually kept me from my own daughters funeral.

  • Stephanie

    Stephanie

    February 22nd, 2018 at 9:22 AM

    Do people ever make it out alive? I know that right now it’s hard for me but I don’t feel like I want to harm myself I feel like I’m wrestling with God? Does any of this ever clear up?

  • amanda

    amanda

    August 19th, 2018 at 2:38 PM

    Fantastic article. What an eye opener. Thank you

  • Anna A.

    Anna A.

    February 20th, 2019 at 3:41 AM

    Hi Sarah, thank you for your article. I am a classic Scapegoat and have finally (after much to-ing and fro-ing, trying to explain what is happening within the family) realised that I cannot change the family dynamic. I can’t emphasis, how at 59, I look back and see how devastating and damaging the position of Scapegoat has been on me and my life. I am still struggling how to manage it. I have had therapy on and off but like a previous comment, it is hard to find one who truly understands the trauma of SC and what it entails. I have often come away feeling worse or that I am exaggerating or making it up. Just reaffirms the damage already put in place by the family.
    I would love to know how to find a therapist who truly understands the SC and can help me manage, at least give me some hope of living a less burdensome rest of my life. I am truly sick of being the SC.

    Thanks!
    Anna

  • Robin

    Robin

    July 7th, 2017 at 2:27 PM

    I dont believe that at all. I don’t think healthy, rational, psychologically sound people automatically look around for someone to nail to avoid looking bad, or avoid admitting a mistake. Thinking this is just life is what’s wrong the world today…

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    July 7th, 2017 at 5:05 PM

    Hello, Robin- that’s precisely the point. We are not speaking here of what you are calling “healthy, rational, psychologically sound people” when we talk about scapegoating in dysfunctional families

  • Sheen

    Sheen

    February 22nd, 2018 at 9:03 PM

    Although it is true that sometimes humans blame others for their own mistakes narcissist’s tactics include lies and speculations. For instance, my dad stole money from mom’s closet and then put the blame on me. That same month, my mom lost one of her gold earrings in the shower, but she accused me of stealing it. I was accused of breaking their washing machine after it stopped working. I was accused of breaking my mom’s Alice in Wonderland décor despite the fact that it turned out to be broken right in the bag she carried herself. I was declared harbinger of bad luck and negative energy for not agreeing to family’s poor decisions and then being right. They blamed me for my obese mom’s heart disease. Sorry, too many to count.

  • Carla

    Carla

    January 30th, 2017 at 2:35 PM

    I got so tired of everyone in my family telling me to stop being so dramatic about everything and to stop over reacting. I finally just had to lay it on the line with them and be like look, this is who I am. You either accept me for who I am or you cut ties with me because I for darn sure am not intending to change who I am to please someone else.

    They still love me and I guess they have all chosen to accept me for who I am.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:16 AM

    Hello, Carla – good for you! It took courage for you to do this, and I am very happy for you that your family understands you. Kudos!

  • Elisa

    Elisa

    July 24th, 2017 at 7:41 PM

    When I did this my family turned on me like a pack of hyenas.
    It was so bad that even my woefully inept parents took notice and started (almost) defending me.
    I am NEVER allowed to behave in any way similar to the rest of them -who are ENTITLED. (sarcasm)

    I find my self utterly fed up with it all. I also find my self largely turned off by their personalities. Most of all by the rapidity with which they attack someone and have no poise or mercy to show.

    Such people are so fundamentally emotionally unhealthy. …It is again a funny joke that I got to have the anxiety disorder and, of course, then get to bear then the shame of being mentally ill -when in fact the entire family are mentally ill.

    I am working on creating at last independence from these losers who have dogged me for years.
    It is hard because there is precious little support. I hardly have any friends -this is partly because of my own inherent nature (quiet, prefers less socializing, and also prone to some social anxiety) but is also the legacy from being bullied and shamed by hypocrits.
    It’s ironic, that the very one who has struggled for years to be employed, or not underemployed, has few social supports, who was bullied and developed crippling anxiety, is then put upon further -taken advantage of again and again. And it’s all done in a hidden way – partly because it is just easy to take advantage of this person (easy to do and easy to hide that you are doing it).

    I can’t, for instance, discuss options for how I would live independently. I am almost 40 years old now…
    My own mother will undermine my confidence if I dare to share with her any plans for living alone.
    My brother and my sister, who were never burdened with my level of sensitivity (and the propensity for anxiety and some level of difficulty functioning that it brings) were given assistance to be independent. My parents do the opposite: they hinder me even more.

    THAT is what I have to deal with in my “family”. On top of being told that I deserve such abuse.

    I sometimes feel such IMMENSE rage and frustration. So much of my battles have been about feeling confidence within my self – when I have been trained to believe in my “inherent incompetence” (by losers who felt that way about themselves).
    I know I can at long long last stand on my own – find for my self a place for me (and my cat), even with little money. …It is laughable that in actual fact I have a GREAT deal of independence.

    It is funny that in actual fact, I would assert that I have MORE independence than probably the average person. Perhaps, easily, even.
    But that a lot, even possibly most, people would NEVER imagine this as the truth. Well it is the truth.
    I have had to fight brainwashing and toxic lies about who I am from the inside out and I’ve had to do this fighting almost ENTIRELY ALONE.
    That’s why I am stronger than most people think, and probably stronger than a lot of people -and I’d say, I am most likely to be stronger than as$holes who would look down on me for being nearly 40 and still be trying to ‘move out of home’.
    …When I do have my own place, or even just a share house, I will be so happy. When it is finally my own place, after all these years of poverty and disadvantage, I will be in bliss. I also look forward to making my father even more surplus to my life than he currently is – just for having put me down and destroyed my self confidence like he did. Though in truth it’s really just because he is such a loser who has never believed in himself that he did his best to try to make me feel that way.

  • Lizzette

    Lizzette

    January 18th, 2019 at 11:58 AM

    I came to France to follow my divorced with 2 teen children boyfriend. I already had to leave once because of constant criticism and agressions from both, then one 9f them. Now that he learned a lesson and stoped, his older sister takes turn pretending I don’t exist and precicely that: isolating me from the family. I have a hard time trying to make my bf understand, I am tired and sick all the time now. I can say this has made me suffer more than any other expérience in my life. But, is scapegoating my case or not? Please help.

  • Cynthia H.

    Cynthia H.

    September 12th, 2017 at 1:17 AM

    I am 55 years old now and have always heard that too, “you’re so dramatic.” Its taken me a long time to accept that telling me that allowed my family to dismiss my feelings. My daughter will say now, “but you’re strong,” also a way to dismiss how I feel. It was hard to finally realize this is what my family has done for my whole life – it’s incomprehensible how cruel it is. But at least I no longer feel I am to blame for the rampant, contagious toxicity of my family, and I’ve finally quit saying “I’m sorry,” while no one ever apologizes to me for anything. I finally accepted that its statistically impossible for one person to always be wrong, and their feelings are always “dramatic.”

  • Daryl M

    Daryl M

    May 25th, 2019 at 7:18 AM

    I understand how much you have suffered. I’m 74 and this article answered my many decades of not understanding *why?*

  • Rose

    Rose

    January 31st, 2017 at 8:16 AM

    No one person can handle being treated like this nor should one have to. I think that it is pretty ignorant anyway to think that just because you put it on another that it is no longer your worry or responsibility.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:18 AM

    Hello, Rose – Thank you for your comment. I would agree with you. However, families often collude in false narratives specifically in order to avoid taking responsibility. This is not a conscious decision, which makes it all the more difficult to identify and resolve.

  • Christine Teresa Rogers

    Christine Teresa Rogers

    July 7th, 2017 at 10:40 AM

    True Sara

  • Elisa

    Elisa

    July 24th, 2017 at 7:53 PM

    I agree.
    It also WILL cause damage unless the individual targeted has the skill or access to help in dealing with unconscious beliefs and how to change them . ….No small task.
    Believe me.
    So, even in their LIE, they know the truth of why it is done.
    ….Even more sour to taste, is how the world at large will often continue the treatment. Continuing on where one’s “loving” family left off. And so, a person can encounter struggle after struggle and be taken advantage of repeatedly.
    Some people, a section of the population, will right you off BECAUSE your family did. And they won’t bother with a second thought about it. Such is the level of their depth of awareness and appreciation of what it is actually like to be at a disadvantage.
    The smart ones, though, know that some percentage of people who ‘lose’ are in fact the good guys. But a lot of the population will just side with the bully because it is easier than having to think, or look within.

  • Kelly

    Kelly

    April 30th, 2018 at 6:17 PM

    I am curious: how was it ever resolved? I think what I would like to know, is what happens in the dysfunctional family when the one scapegoated for decades finally leaves for good? I threw in the towel a dozen years ago, after my father died and my siblings unleashed on me relentless abuse. I know that they’ve continued to gossip about me, and I keep trying to “close all the windows,” so that no one I know will repeat their ugly gossip to me. That has proven impossible so far. So they still hurt me by maligning not just me, but my children, to extended family I’ve not seen in years, old acquaintances and so on.

    What I’m really curious about is what goes on within the group that did the scapegoating. They certainly are not healed of their pathological ways. Do they implode? Pick a new one? Or will they likely keep up a campaign against me forever?

    It has been just horrible. I have really suffered because of their cruelty. Thank you so much for this article. You’ve really helped validate me by laying it out as clearly as you have.

  • Catherine T.

    Catherine T.

    May 27th, 2018 at 7:17 PM

    Kelly, what you described is exactly what has happened to me, and is still happening. The only difference being the floodgates of hatred were unleashed after my mother died, led by my “Christian” sister married to a pastor. And I had no idea all these years she was an “enemy” as she presented herself as a “friend.” I am still horror-struck at the cruelty shown by my siblings who have destroyed my reputation from the inside out, all apparently led by my mother before she died. And to think I had NO IDEA of what was going on all these years as I tried to stay away from them just to “keep the peace” and keep my tormentors at bay. Standing up to them and insisting that they accept the FACTS as TRUTH, instead of their gossip and lies, means NOTHING TO THEM. A pack of mean-spirited bullies who don’t deserve the ground they walk on, much less to be anywhere near the realm I live in. Now if I could just make myself believe that, instead of clinging to fairytales that one day peace would reign and we would all be “friends.” What a fool I am.

  • Patricia

    Patricia

    October 6th, 2018 at 4:23 AM

    Sarah, Kelly and Catherine, same mobbing happened to me. It’s shocking to suddenly realise as well as having to deal with your own grief, the dawning that your past feels like an illusion and like a light bulb being turned on at the same time. It makes me question my own sanity. Thank you Sarah for helping all of us.

  • mark

    mark

    March 6th, 2019 at 11:37 PM

    Yes, because it is an established pattern of which the scapegoating family has no real awareness, professional help for the person affected has got to be your priority. I’ve got nowhere trying to coax my family into group therapy. Even if I point out I’m aware I’ve got faults of my own and would welcome the opportunity for an independent counselor to help me address my issues as well! The victim cannot work with their own dysfunctional family in this way, that is the whole point of the root of the distress. Any communication provides them with another opportunity to denigrate, bully and minify you, your good intentions, your love offered, your forgiveness, your generosity, your intelligence, your skills, your abilities, your successes, most importantly they do not want your understanding of what might be going on and that it is unhealthy. Least of all, would they allow possible scrutiny by an ‘independent outsider’, who is the biggest threat of all to shine a spotlight on their dysfunctional behaviour. Do what you need for yourself.

  • morgan t

    morgan t

    January 31st, 2017 at 2:04 PM

    If the family is fully functional to begin with then you wouldn’t have to worry about something like this happening.
    I am sure that from time to time you might look to blame another person but it is not going to be a home where you are constantly ganging up on just one person.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:22 AM

    Hello, Morgn – thank you for your comment. I agree! If families are healthy, scapegoating does not occur because it is not necessary. Everyone learns to take personal responsibility, and family members love each other and work to the benefit of all. I wish all families were like this!

  • Michelle

    Michelle

    July 9th, 2017 at 8:13 AM

    I found this article to be highly informative and beneficial for my life. It described my life situation. thank you!!

  • Anue N,

    Anue N,

    January 31st, 2017 at 4:44 PM

    Grandparent estrangement/alienation is not natural or healthy no matter which generation is the perpetrator.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:24 AM

    I agree, Anue. It is heartbreaking.

  • Aleberre

    Aleberre

    February 20th, 2019 at 8:00 PM

    I want to agree, but I couldn’t bear my son looking at me the same way my mother does. I’ve been hated and mistrusted in my family since I spoke out about sexual abuse I sustained (between the ages 6-12) from my step-dad. I’ve been the family ‘liar’ ever since. I kept on trying to make up for this, as though I could fix things or change things. If I hadn’t become a mother myself and really understood that I would never put my own child through anything so heartless and horrific, I would still be trying to please my mother now. So I keep separate from my mother now and she does not see my son. And she likes to tell everyone how evil I am. She’s very sweet and lovely from the outside. I kept the peace until I saw that her interactions with my son were threatening the love and peace I’d cultivated in my own small family. I can’t bear it. I don’t think I am evil for not wanting this and I don’t think I’m evil anymore for not being able to change how she feels about me or how she talks about me. It hurts when everybody says things like ‘she’s your mother!’ or make statements like this one here. I can’t defend myself because I know that dragging my mother through the mud won’t solve anything and won’t make anybody feel better. I don’t want to destroy her support networks. I am so tired of being blamed that I no longer talk to anyone who knows both of us. I want my mother to be okay, but I want my son to be okay even more.

  • Grace

    Grace

    March 2nd, 2019 at 12:18 PM

    Aleberry, bless you for protecting your son. There is also nothing wrong with protecting yourself. Your mother knows why you are keeping your distance and she has not changed her behavior or shown any sign of contrition. She has made her choice. So no matter what anyone else says, you are not to blame. If someone is being abusive and will not stop, the victim is not obligated to continue the relationship. What some call alienation can merely be self-protection on the part of the victim, because the abuser will simply not stop abusing. Unfortunately, the abuser is often the one whose story is spread abroad, and its not usually the truth.

  • Carol

    Carol

    January 31st, 2017 at 5:17 PM

    Family scapegoat here. Mother, grandmother, daughter and sister. I have been scapegoated in my family of origin and the family I created. It’s a heavy burden to bear.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:27 AM

    Hello, Carol, It is a heavy burden to bear, I agree. I hope you find solace in good friendships for support. I send my best regards to you.

  • Dianne

    Dianne

    February 5th, 2017 at 3:15 PM

    Scapegoat here. I’m finally in no contact with my dysfunctional family. It’s so amazing that you literally do nothing to be hated by them. My mother is a narcissist. So this is common on families with narcs and aspd. In fact. That’s the ONLY dynamic that causes this. Bring awareness to narcissism personality disorder. Seems the world tries to hide this disorder and how common it is. Have several in my family. Screw them all. Sick people they evil. Very self loathing and they just wanna destroy anyone who isn’t sick like them. Well. I’m sorry you were born cursed with narcissism. I wasn’t so get the hell away from me. They ar all screwballs. There’s no cure. Go no contact. Having no family is better than dealing with a narc family.

  • Joan

    Joan

    September 24th, 2017 at 1:33 PM

    I couldn’t help but notice this story some months ago: It is about a man in Canada who, by my interpretation, was a an Intergenerational Family Scapegoat. Started when he was shunned by his family while he was young, since he would not stay in their religious group. Then, as an adult, he faced further shunning and alienation from his spouses/partners. He was ruined by them financially. He lost his children to Attachment-based Parental Alienation. How much can one person take, especially when they don’t deserve any of this? Jeramey A., according to this story, was a tragic suicide. I keep him in my thoughts.
    Did I miss it here, or has anyone mentioned that dysfunctional people/families who scapegoat to this degree are almost always on the spectrum of Borderline/Narcissistic Personality Disorder? They are. Alienation in general is a real heavy-duty trait of pathological Narcissists. In mild versions, it will be the silent treatment. In more severe versions, it will become Attachment-based Parental Alienation or a Narcissistic Smear Campaign, in which they accuse their victims of false allegations — generally of child abuse OR sexual abuse ORe mental illness (when there is none). The point is for the Narcissist to destroy the reputation of their victim. Any of these false allegations would do the trick nicely. Oh, and my advice is, if you find yourself in a pattern of being the victim of this kind of stuff in life – DO NOT trust anyone, harsh as that seems. Even the so-called professionals can be pathological Narcissists, and they have all that power to crush you if they so desire. I have seen it happen. Isn’t it sad not to be able to trust? Yes, it surely is. But until you can build-up your own sense of self and knock these vultures for a loop, you need to protect YOU!

  • Heidi

    Heidi

    October 10th, 2017 at 3:28 AM

    Perfect statements. Right on the money. I am the scapegoat. These narcissists are vampires. No contact for me. Have the satisfaction of watching their lives implode while I enjoy seeing my children find success and happiness and stay in close contact with me. Me? Everything has been a struggle. When a dysfunctional family scapegoats a victim, the damage is incalculable. And, you are right. These mental health people like to keep you sick. I found one good one, a marriage and family counselor. Real help.

  • Lulu

    Lulu

    December 7th, 2017 at 5:12 PM

    Have been the scapegoat since very young. It’s so true that a narcissistic mother can kick the bullying off and encourage it. I went no contact got loads of counselling and I love my peace from the bully nutter siblings. Narcissist clone sister has alienated people from me still loves to think up new smear campaigns and tries to turn people love against me. She’s particularly sick and vindictive. Has no friends and is pathogically jealous of me. I stick near people who know me and value me. Leaving the scapegoaters to rage about me behind the scenes. I sometimes look at it as a badge of honour now. Because I know I’m mentally the sanest and that drives the nuts even more nuts. They are very nasty bullies and going full no contact with them I think is the only solution.

  • Lynn J. W.

    Lynn J. W.

    January 31st, 2017 at 7:20 PM

    I’m a therapist and see this in my practice all the time with patients, and experienced it with someone near and dear to me. It truly is devastating. I find it more prevalent in families who have been raised in an environment where communicating any negative feelings is forbidden. The anger and hostility that ensues is buried but comes out in vicious, passive aggressive ways. It’s absolutely awful and there isn’t a good way to handle it, because the offenders will gaslight and deny any culpability.

  • annie mac

    annie mac

    January 31st, 2017 at 11:05 PM

    The dysfunctional family will always deny and condemn the innocent ones…that just shows us how ill and disordered they are living in a life of dental.

  • Heidi

    Heidi

    October 10th, 2017 at 3:36 AM

    They are not so much disordered as they are plain bad. Liars, murderers and thieves. They murder by mouth, Might as well be a bullet. Sit back, stick to your guns and keep high goals even IF you are not emotionally able to reach them due to previous abuse. Truth eventually will out. Look to the final outcome-that’s Biblical, too. Makes it a little bit lighter.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:31 AM

    Hello, Lynn – thank you for your comment and for sharing a view into your practice. I agree – scapegoating is devastating. The passive agression and gaslighting are the ingredients that make it so difficult for the scapegoat to defend him/herself, because the family members will deny everything. It is vicious. I’m working on an article about gaslighting at the moment for this very reason. It will appear here on GoodTherapy.org in the near future.

  • June G

    June G

    June 17th, 2017 at 8:13 PM

    I have been living this very painful life due to several large family estates and my brothers who stole them from me and used large amounts of the money to buy off my kids after we put them through college. I am the most educated, popular in school, and successful kids and marriage, but so many evil, illegal things have been done, it’s caused a lot of heartbreak. I have a therapist and am considering reporting them for legal action. Its the worst case I’ve ever seen.

  • Elisa

    Elisa

    July 24th, 2017 at 8:21 PM

    I’m not sure of Annie’s situation in her family, but I know in my family it is a shared sin -the original one, I mean. But that ONE individual is made to bear it.
    It is so exhausting to have to deal with.
    I came to the conclusion in recent years to PHYSICALLY remove my self from such toxic personalities. …I am sadly, still summoning both the financial and emotional resources to do so (something which I am -OF COURSE- doing almost entirely alone and with very little resources as per usual…)
    One very big, pivotal realization for me has been to at last GET, deep down emotionally, the notion that: “No one deserves abuse”.
    Being in any abusive relationship, I think, brainwashes you along the lines of believing that the onus is on you and you alone to change the situation (ergo, the scapegoating). You can even be pretty clear logically that this is bull shit, and it is a SHARED problem and not just yours -but unless you can DE-HEARTWASH, rather than DE-BRAINWASH, you are still going to be acting on unconscious brainwashing. …I say “de-heartwash” (clumsy term, I know) but I mean by it to show how so much is unconscious, what a person believes and acts on.
    It is incredibly frustrating to be doing your best to do right, for years even, only to find out that you have been rehashing the same BS the whole time. …For me, I did my best to not become a VICTIM, only to find that I had succumbed to the age-old victim trap.

    I WAS brainwashed into taking on more burden than was mine.
    This is why there is such necessity to finally remove my self from these, by definition, TOXIC people. I am tired of having to fight not only my own weakness but THEIRS’ also. ..It is like having to get rid of your own baggage, only to have those around you dump theirs’ onto you. And never getting a break: BECAUSE they always dump their shit onto you.
    And, deep down they know they are abusing you. They know, deep down that they are full of shit. Once thier minds quieten down and they get any kind of ‘observer’ sense of what they are taking part in.

    I am just SO TIRED of all of this. …I have been battling this sort of stuff for too long. I even made some awesome breakthroughs, only to fall into it all again.
    All the while, I watch others get on with their lives. People who don’t have my decency or strength, quite frankly. …So much BULL SHIT flies in this world. It can be so very fucking unfair.
    And one can get so sick of working towards a spiritual goal, of being rewarded somehow in the future. All the while, watching shitty people get a relatively easy time in life, and enjoying wealth and good times.

    In any case, I cottoned on to how I had been brainwashed into taking on burdens that were/are not mine. ..And it never ceases to shock me, almost makes me laugh sardonically, how these same individuals who are abusive towards a person, only desist from such abuse to treat you respectfully, when you quit buying into their bull shit that you are worth less than them/ are more flawed or at fault. …THEIR bull shit!!!
    …And yet ONLY when you quit listening to their horrible views do THEY give you respect!!!!??? W T F !!!!?????
    These, nonetheless HIGHLY AGGRESSIVE, people clearly HAVE NO CLUE WHATSOEVER ABOUT WHO THEY ARE OR WHAT THEY ARE DOING!!!!
    Their negative labels and put downs are all just a bluff -a desparate tactic to deflect attention away from their own vulnerability.
    It’s all like one big poker game. …I knew this a long time ago, though. The hardest part I think is acquiring the emotional resilience and strength of attention/mind, to wheedle out all of the little bits of negative brainwashing or, just plain lack of clarity/awareness that gives room then to self doubt (or these awful abusive poker games …a whole lot of bluff yes, but it still creates misery if you can’t get unstuck from it all).

  • Colg

    Colg

    July 8th, 2017 at 9:13 AM

    My fam is this way to me. And yes conversation was never a significant tool in my family.
    And of course should have been the most valued tool of all.
    And yes if you were the scapegoat in your original family, and unless you are able to get away from them, get an education and handle on what happened in you family of origin, (which rarely happens) then you will carry the stigma for your whole freaking life so unfortunately. Probably be a loner type person thinking no one understands you, etc, etc. Been there, still there. Hideous existence indeed.
    Psychic mediums seem to be some of the people I value most these days. No judgement with them.
    Learning about the after life is another very freeing tool for me.
    Looking forward to and not being afraid of death is so much a part of a healthy life, since so much fear is built around death in our earthy lives.
    All we do here comes with us to the next life after life.
    Therefore none of our accomplishments go to waste.
    That’s huge for me.
    Hope I have helped some one with my earth life outline. Thanks for scapegoat article.

  • Heidi

    Heidi

    October 10th, 2017 at 3:40 AM

    Take a look at your family, Yes, you, and I, have lost big time. But……truth is, I don’t want to belong to these people. I am a victim, yes, but still, it is my choice to stay away.

  • Heidi

    Heidi

    October 10th, 2017 at 3:31 AM

    Privacy? On Facebook? You must be kidding! Beware of predators there, too. A victim is always kind of a victim. Like Shenandoah and like Paladin.

  • Heidi

    Heidi

    October 10th, 2017 at 3:37 AM

    Tell the truth about them? In an offhand way? Would that help?

  • Anna

    Anna

    March 2nd, 2019 at 2:08 PM

    Lynn, what you say resonates so closely with what has happened to me. I am third of six children, mother alcoholic and father used to physically assault her. I was the one who did most to help my mum when she was drunk, beaten up and very distressed. What is strange is that I was the one she labelled as ‘the bad one’. The label stuck and for the rest of my 59 years I have been dismissed, alienated, excluded, lied about by my siblings. Every time I protest their devastating actions, I am told I am delusional and mentally unwell. I am exhausted by it all and non contact is the only way to retain my sanity. To go back to your point, we all had to suppress emotions in the family unit as my mother and fathers relationship was volatile and dangerous. I understand very clearly what has happened and wish I could find a therapist who truly understood the devastation of being the family scapegoat. It is both comforting and heartbreaking to see how many have been affected by this family dynamic. I would bet that many a suicide can be traced back to being the family scapegoat. You have to be very strong to survive this horrible predicament. I am single, have two 20 year old children (twins) who are also discounted because I was the mother, so you can see how the effects are carried on. The pain of being cast out of your siblings lives is and has been indescribable. The wider family can also become contaminated with things they have heard about you and the untruths which you are powerless to defend. I don’t believe there is any ‘fix’. The plus for being the SG is that you have the opportunity of truly cutting the negative familial ties and become truly integrated with who you are. (if that makes sense!). Understanding more and more about the SC, it is like reading the story of my life.

  • annie mac

    annie mac

    January 31st, 2017 at 11:02 PM

    Ive been ostracised for over 20 years being the scapegoat of the family. I have lived with shame and have lived with confusion and wondered over and over in my mind….have I missed something ? Had I unknowingly been an axe murderer and a serial killer? A drug lord feeding innocent children with elicit drugs? The list goes on and on, but I haven’t had a brush with the law, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs – Im a lawful citizen, a good person, people like me EXCEPT my family! I am left out of all family functions even though Ive never tried to prevent my own children from seeing their own extended family on my side. In fact my in laws were more loving and supportive than my own family. I live with such emotional pain, and sometimes it would be easier if I had been some crazed human deserving of such treatment, that I could understand. I do however, know that I am the healthy family member, emotionally and the only one who is not a narcissist….I am a truth seeker, a whistle blower, and THAT IS MY CRIME. It has caused me to want to take my life on two occasions recently and I still feel so much shame, and pain even though, I understand I am the scapegoat for the reason of bringing the truth to the table.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:11 AM

    Hello, Annie, Thank you for your story. It takes great courage to do what you are doing. You show wisdom in understanding that it is often the scapegoat who is the only one who speaks the truth in a family like this. Best wishes to you.

  • Catherine T.

    Catherine T.

    March 22nd, 2019 at 8:08 AM

    “the scapegoat who is the only one who speaks the truth in a family like this.” AMEN! That’s it, in a nutshell. I will try to take a tiny bit of comfort in a sea of pain and confusion from this one statement. TRUTH & REALITY COUNT, no matter what “they” say.

  • Gillian

    Gillian

    March 7th, 2017 at 9:58 PM

    I am so grateful for finding this information. Yes I too am the family scapegoat. It is so very hard growing up in a family desperately wanting love and acceptance and consequently trying too hard to earn it in some way. My two sisters have gaslighted lied and abused me for my whole life, I am now 61 and whilst it is comforting to read the answers to questions that have plagued me eg why am I so unlovable ? What did I do to deserve being treated with such cruelty ? There must be something wrong with me. I was abandoned and abused even when I was enduring cancer treatment, chemotherapy. So was my elderly father at the same time. An extreme version of “kick you while you’re down”. My mother is at the root of all of this primarily. None of us were truly loved as children, you were rewarded temporarily if you were the prettiest or the most outgoing or the smartest. I swore that I would never subject my children to such emotional cruelty and I hopefully have achieved that to a large degree. But I am more interested in why I was chosen as the scapegoat, through reading this I can now see why, who would have thought that it is for your kind nature and genuine love of others ! But it makes a lot of sense now. I always lived with a vague feeling of being envied (for what I could never work out as one was much more beautiful than me and the other very outgoing in nature and married a wealthy man who indulged her every whim. I, on the other hand was happy in my relationship and enjoyed being a Mum to my 4 children living a pretty frugal existence at times. It didn’t take much to incur their wrath – go on a holiday, learn to paint and God forbid start selling the occasional painting, actually be satisfied with my home and car etc. It had to be quashed in one quick blow, either in acts of put downs, subtle and blatant or acts of one-upmanship.
    My father was also exploited and bullied when he became old and frail.
    After he passed away I decided that it was time to cut contact. I was still bullied and abused by phone, letters etc. Now there is an attempt through social media ! What do I do to get rid of these people who have sucked me dry and spat me out multiple times only for me to forgive and go back for more.
    I can no longer do this as I am so tired and worn. But at 61 I will not give up, I fought cancer, it has made me more resilient in some ways. Thank you for your article and for listening. Good luck to all out there dealing with being a scapegoat. My advice ? Don’t leave it as long as I have before putting yourself and your sanity first and foremost.

  • Donna T.

    Donna T.

    July 5th, 2017 at 6:29 AM

    Thank you for sharing. ❤ In the last few years, I’m finding out all this behavior has names. I may not have known the appropriate terms…but I know all the emotions. I’m so sorry they won’t leave you alone. It’s not what we want to do, but the blocking feature does help. I hope you are able to live out the rest of your life doing ALL the things that you are passionate about, all the things that make you who are and also that you are able to find peace…peace of mind. You deserve it! 💛💛💛

  • Shirley

    Shirley

    October 1st, 2017 at 6:26 PM

    Hi there Gillian,
    I am glad to read how you were able to survive this being scapegoated. It takes alot out of me and my son, but reading about others is very helpful and needed:) I want to onow if you just went no contact with those who were mistreating you? If so how long have you done so. I am just starting this and am so hurt, i do not want or need their contact. Though, they have tricked and turned my daughter against me now:( So i just cant seem to get away from the haters:( This is all I can think of to do. I see they are master manipulators and liars:( So i cant get involved, even to defend myself to others in the family:( I believe moving away might be a next thing to do, they even troll me on FB.

  • Heidi

    Heidi

    October 10th, 2017 at 3:44 AM

    You didn’t let things go. You were struggling toward freedom. Great job!

  • Lorna T

    Lorna T

    January 15th, 2018 at 3:20 AM

    Well said Annie – my mantra is “Believe the one seeking the truth, not the one who thinks they have found it” Andre Gide xx

  • Catherine T.

    Catherine T.

    May 27th, 2018 at 7:30 PM

    annie mac, I have said exactly the same thing myself: I must have been a “axe-murderer” and belong in jail for life or dead, the way my family talks about me. And I have never done anything wrong! Except TELL THE TRUTH. And for this bunch, that is akin to a death sentence, never to be forgiven. So I continue to suffer but not in silence. One day God willing, I must find peace. Dear God please show me The Way.

  • C Diane

    C Diane

    February 4th, 2017 at 3:09 AM

    Thank you for sharing this. Please pray for my family. Dysfunction has been in my family for many generations. My mom was manic bipolar and put me through alot of pain all as she was in and out of my life through out my childhood she caused alot of pain.To stop from getting I grew cold and resentful towards her. My mom told me once that someday I would know what it was like and one day one of my kids would be cold towards me. I wish I could have been more compassionate and forgiving towards my mom. I wasn’t very pleasant the last time I saw her not knowing it would be the last time I saw her my mom, just like her dad, her twin sister my aunt, had ended their lives years before her, she ended hers too and committed suiside on 3-11-11.
    I am a single mother of 3. My daughter and I had a horrible argument right before she left for college. We both said mean things to eachother that I regret so much. It has now been over a year since I have seen her. She refuses to speak to me. I have repeatably apologized and reached out to her, but her resentment seems to grow even more towards me. I miss her so much. My heart is so broken. I am losing hope that I will ever see or be able to mend things. 💔😟

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 8th, 2017 at 11:47 AM

    Thank you for sharing your painful story. I wonder whether you’d consider working with a therapist to help reframe your relationship with your daughter. it might offer you support in finding a new way to communicate with each other. I send warm regards to you.

  • Russette W.

    Russette W.

    February 4th, 2017 at 11:02 AM

    I was scapegoated by my mentally ill husband and my children. It was devastating. Therapy helped, and the abuse stopped due to mental health intervention and my husband taking responsibility for his behavior and changing it. Over time, my kids realized what was going on, and we all moved past it. That was years ago, and life is much better now, but the scars are forever. I will never be the same open hearted person I was, but I’m stronger and kinder for having survived it.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 8th, 2017 at 11:48 AM

    Thank you, Russette, for your comment. It is a measure of your fortitude to see the turnaround you have achieved in your life.

  • Sanda

    Sanda

    February 4th, 2017 at 8:27 PM

    Yes i am a scapegoat for my family 😞 i dont even want to explain what I’ve been through and i never thought this is what it was called until now. Thanks!

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 8th, 2017 at 11:49 AM

    I’m glad you found this helpful, Sanda. Best wishes to you as you move forward.

  • Karmen

    Karmen

    February 6th, 2017 at 2:05 AM

    This is a really good article. I was scapegoated, and I had spent my whole life believing there was something wrong with me (as they had always made me believe), until one day I realised it was them, they were the problem. I finally left the family home 2 months ago, changed my phone number, they don’t know where I work or where I live. I don’t have any friends so I’m doing everything alone. It’s not easy but all I want is some peace of mind, and it’s starting to get better now, slowly but surely. Better alone than in bad company.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 8th, 2017 at 11:50 AM

    Hello, Karmen – best wishes to you in your new life – I commend you for taking such good care of yourself.

  • Rebekah

    Rebekah

    February 6th, 2017 at 5:17 AM

    I was the Scapegoat from grade five until I finished school and I am still the family Scapegoat. At school, people could bully me and get away with it – because I have a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome I was deemed “retarded” by the staff so it didn’t matter what was done to me; even if a staff member saw something happen (such as a time I was shoved down the stairs and broke my ankle, the person who pushed me said “go f***ing die you retard”) nothing would be done, apparently the bullies never did anything wrong and it would always be my fault – the bullies could say I did or said something and even if I didn’t (most of the time I didn’t do or say anything) I would be in trouble. I was suspended from school several times and given detentions – for example, a bully could say I hit them (I have never physically assaulted someone; the worst I ever did was tell someone to shut the f*** up) and because I am “retarded” the staff member would believe the bully and I would be in trouble.
    My mother is now forcing me to go to Human Rights because a college I attended never provided me with a copy of notes from classes (that is the only “special need” I have since I am not fast when it comes to copying notes from a teacher’s lecture). I don’t want to since I was in the college for a short period of time then attended a different college and graduated with honours – I received a 96% average in the Administrative Specialist program. I tell mom that because I was in the first college (the one that did not provide notes) for a very short period of time (four months), I don’t see a point, especially since this happened in 2012! She flips out every single time I say I don’t want anything to do with this Human Rights issue – she is the one who filed the complaint, not me. I also point out that she tells me to “let it go” when it comes to being treated like s*** for eight years in school (grade five until I graduated grade twelve) and why can’t we file a Human Rights complaint regarding the fact that while I was in school the staff always allowed people to beat me up, verbally abuse me, and write nasty things about me – isn’t it against human rights to allow this type of treatment? Every time I mention that she shuts up; she knows that what I went through (since it was for eight years) has contributed to me developing Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She, along with family members from her side, constantly remind me of things I did that were “bad” in the past (such as pouring my aunt’s perfume down the bathroom sink when I was nine years old – when they would bring that up they would scowl and call me deceitful and dishonest, but they can’t say that I did anything wrong while I was in school because they know I never did anything wrong there), as well as justify every time they treat me like s***. I have believed for a very long time I was always at fault but realized I wasn’t – this comes from reading numerous articles on Scapegoating – I now know I have the role of Scapegoat, at both home and when I was in school. I know we all have a role in life and if someone told me that was my role when I was younger (therefore that would be why I was always wrong and everyone else was always right, since they could do and say whatever they wanted to me and get away with it), I still would not like the role but would have accepted it as the reason why people could do whatever they wanted to me – just like a janitor having to clean up messes; the janitor probably doesn’t want to clean up someone’s puke on the floor but that is part of their job, just like being treated like s*** is part of my job as the Scapegoat. If I could move out of my mother’s house I would, but unfortunately, I don’t have the money or friends to help me, so I am stuck with this, my payment is being treated like s*** constantly.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 8th, 2017 at 11:53 AM

    Rebekah, being singled out due to Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger Syndrome) adds another layer of distress for you in the role of scapegoat in your family. I hope you can find some support either at school or in your community.

  • Rebekah

    Rebekah

    February 16th, 2017 at 12:35 AM

    The thing is, there is no way for me to get help. Schools didn’t do anything; in fact, they used my disorder as a reason to let bullies away with bullying me yet if I stood up for myself (such as telling a bully to shut up) I would be in trouble. I have even been suspended or given detention for things I never did – the bully could say I did something and who would the school believe? The bully. Yet if the bully did something to me and I reported it nothing would be done because all the bully would do is deny it and the school would believe the bully. Even though I denied the false accusations, I was never believed because of my disability. And trying to get help from my community is pointless. There is a mental health clinic that I have tried but they brush it off and treat it like I am overreacting (this clinic has a bad reputation for treating people like this – there have been news reports on this clinic). I don’t have any friends to turn to (I am too “retarded” for anyone to like) and family members think that I am bad – they will bring up past mistakes I have made yet if I bring up anything someone else has done (such as say or post nasty things about me) I am told to “let it go”. How can I get help if there is no help? It seems if you have a disability, you’re doomed – no help is available and you’re automatically labelled “the bad one” – if you make a mistake, it is held against you for life (yet if you are angry with someone for a mistake they made, and the mistake they made is more serious than the one you made, you are at fault and accused of being a vengeful person because you won’t “let it go” – this happened to me in school, a teacher said this, but how could I when the same thing was happening to me every single day? The teacher said I have trouble letting things go while I was in the school, not when I left! Would you be able to let something go if the exact same thing was happening day after day while you were in a place – being called names, rumors being spread about you, and being physically assaulted?). I told a family member last night that I have realized that my role in life is Scapegoat and they flipped out – this is the same family member who is forcing me to go through this Human Rights crap and if we have to go to court and face those people, I am going to be sick. Because I don’t want to do it, I am at fault and apparently it will smear my name even further – the family member started this to begin with when they went against my wishes and filed the Human Rights complaint! I bet if I originally suggested that I wanted to file a Human Rights complaint I would be scolded and told to “let it go”. I pointed out that if the college had just treated me like crap, accused me of doing things I never did, and/or people were bullying me and allowed the bullying to take place but punish me if I stood up for myself in any way, no Human Rights complaint would be filed. I think the family member knows that I am right so that is why they tell me off when I mention this. Also, an ex-friend who called my house last night because I e-mailed them to tell them how they made me feel – they claimed I threatened them when I never, I only pointed out that they hurt me when they defended a guy who called me down to dirt and said “people should be careful of me” because of some bad mistakes I made in the past. I compared myself to the fictional character Carrie White, since we were both treated very similarly – I made a post about this on another website and people are shocked at how much I have gone through and have said that while they too have been bullied, they have not had it as intense as I did (and still do). The link to the article is imdb.com/title/tt1939659/board/nest/253484769?ref_=tt_bd_1. Because I compared myself to Carrie White, the person claimed I threatened them because Carrie killed everyone in the end – I would not do this, I stated in my post to this person that I was like her because the ways we were both treated by students and family, and neither of us have any friends. My family member stood up for the person who called, saying that the person did nothing wrong and could have called the police instead and charged me with threatening them – I decided to find out if I could be charged but found out I couldn’t since I did not threaten them and the name does not mean a threat at all, it was agreed that the only reason I used the name was because of the similarities between Carrie and myself. In the end, I pointed out that we all have a role in life and my role is the Scapegoat and I am right that this is my role. The family member accused me of being negative and has not apologized for treating me like crap or making me feel rotten, they always try to justify their actions by mentioning things they have done to help me – I guess if you help someone it gives you a free ticket to treat them like crap.

  • Patricia

    Patricia

    October 6th, 2018 at 4:14 AM

    I’m 51 and am a family scapegoat, I have basically very little to no contact with most of my family and extended family. I worry about my niece who as aspergers, her mother is one of my scapegoaters, I never got to know my niece because of this. As I have basically no contact with my family, I in my heart hope she isn’t the next family scapegoat.

  • John

    John

    April 18th, 2017 at 5:02 PM

    I too have aspergers and had to endure the lifelong family scapegoat role. It sometimes feels there is noone who understands the depth of frustration and emotional pain this causes. My advice: 1.) find a way to move out and distance yourself from your abusers. Limit contact with them. This takes time, but you will feel better. 2.) understand that you are a good person and your abusers are mentally ill. 3.) find a local support group, or seek counseling.

  • Rebekah

    Rebekah

    April 26th, 2017 at 4:35 PM

    Unfortunately, I live with this person and can’t limit my contact with them since we are both home constantly – I have no friends to hang out with and getting a job is pretty much impossible; where I live if they find out you have a disability they won’t hire you. There are no local support groups to go to; if I said I wanted to leave the house for any reason and was gone for any length of time I would be in trouble, especially if the family member found out that I was going to a place that involved people like me meeting. Seeking counselling is also out of the question since as soon as the counsellors hear that I have a disability, they shut me down and won’t listen. That’s how sh#tty the health care system is where I live – basically, THERE IS NO HEALTH CARE SYSTEM! I do know that the family member is the one who is ill; they are nasty to people when they drink (they are the functional alcoholic) and they drink a lot, almost everyday and apparently it’s my fault they drink (they told me that if I didn’t give them so much stress they probably wouldn’t drink). I don’t try to bring stress; there is stuff that has happened that I handled myself and if I told them about it then they would have a good reason to drink. Because of the way I have been treated by society in general I try to avoid going anywhere unless I absolutely have to – this is thanks to all of the years I have had of being bullied and am still bullied sometimes at 27 years old.

    Did you have issues like this?

  • Deb

    Deb

    February 6th, 2017 at 5:52 PM

    Society and the helping professions further hurt people in this situation by diagnosing them with a mental illness. This then givws the family more ammunition and validation that it is not their fault and its something wrong with the scapegoat.

  • Dianne

    Dianne

    February 7th, 2017 at 6:08 AM

    I agree. Imo, any educational degree in which one will practice therapy and counseling should know about narcissist personality disorder and cluster B disorders. That’s what this article is about. Cluster B disorders with NPD. Narcissists abuse their children causing lifelong damage to the children. setting them up for further abuse. If you are not educated in cluster B and NPD disorder you shouldn’t be a psychologist. NPD is a huge problem in society and the world and nothing is being done about it.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 8th, 2017 at 12:03 PM

    Hello, Deb – One focus of psychotherapy is to offer supportive counseling to those in distress, and it is helpful to the extent that a person is able to communicate the reality of her situation to her therapist. Sometimes, individuals in emotionally abusive environments struggle to do this because the abuse robs them of the ability to see their abusers clearly. It can be a difficult series of knots to untangle and it can take time. It would not be a therapist’s intention to side with abusers against a person who is being scapegoated, since a major goal of our education and training is to assist a person develop a clear and accurate self-image. However, if you believe that your therapist does not seem to understand you when you are making good faith efforts to communicate, working with him/her might not be a good therapeutic match for you. Finding another therapist is always a good idea when the match doesn’t feel right.

  • Elisa

    Elisa

    July 24th, 2017 at 8:46 PM

    HEAR! HEAR!!
    Completely agree. …Often society, at large, only continues on where your abusive family left off.
    This in fact happened to me. …I developed an anxiety disorder from having been scapegoated in a workplace, and my father (and most of my family) colluded with this and possibly did the most damage as a result.
    Then I received abuse from a so-called sibling, being wrongly labeled with more severe forms of mental illness (she took whatever molehills she could see and made them out to be mountains) so that she could get away with more outright abuse -since much more stigma exists for those with psychotic illness than does for those with anxiety illness.
    Now that my life has turned around – because I finally found some supportive people, and then graduated from that to at last realizing how messed up my family are and, in turn, how I had ingested their toxic beliefs about my self. …Well, whaddya know-??!!! …The anxiety died down considerably.
    And of course, this same cruel person who spread lies that I was psychotic or pre-psychotic (never mind absence of ever getting any diagnosis) now wants to be friends!
    I was put through unbearable osctracization and even more intense pain than I had already been through -and I had been through a serious, suicidal depression as well as years of not being able to work because of horrible anxiety … and the person who put me through it, not only NEVER apologized but also acts as if nothing happened.
    These sorts of personalities NEVER stop until they have either destroyed you or you wake up and FIRMLY realize what LYING, EMPATHY DEFICIENT SOULLESS LOSERS they are.

  • Olivia

    Olivia

    February 7th, 2017 at 4:40 PM

    It is great relief to see others going through this and that I am not crazy. I have been going through this with my mother and sisters now for a couple of years now. I saw an excellent counselor the year before last however, our insurance changed and I am now seeing someone different. This is my second year and I just don’t know if things are right. How do I know if I’m with a good counselor who understands? The first person I was with, I walked out feeling empowered and good about myself. This guy, not so much. I walk out questioning who I am and why am I even here to start with? Unbelievable. Not sure what to do. Any advice is helpful. Thank you everyone! We all need to stick together! We will make it!

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 8th, 2017 at 12:07 PM

    Hello, Olivia – it is always your prerogative to seek another therapist if you feel that the therapeutic liaison with your current counselor is not beneficial to you. I realize it can be daunting to move from one therapist to another, but the goal is to find someone who understands you well enough to offer you meaningful support in your process of understanding and overcoming distress in your life. It is very personal. The therapist directory on GoodTherapy.org might be a good place to start if you are considering making such a change. Best regards to you.

  • Mrs K

    Mrs K

    February 14th, 2017 at 8:50 AM

    This article really struck a chord with me. I am about to start IPT (interpersonal psychotherapy ) and am hoping this with give me answers and closure.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 25th, 2017 at 7:22 AM

    Hello, Mrs K – I send you good wishes for your work.

  • Deb

    Deb

    February 19th, 2017 at 12:13 AM

    Hi Sarah,
    You’re article has described my situation exactly. I don’t have support from extended family either. I have cut off from my entire family because of it and I feel so alone and heartbroken. Suicide is something I consider a lot. One of the biggest needs I have is to have people around me, to live with others, have protection and support, just a family should be. Finding this is turning out to be impossible but I need it so badly. I don’t know what to do. Psychologists won’t get that close – like a family member. So I’m stumped and my heart is bleeding.

    Deb

  • Dianne

    Dianne

    February 19th, 2017 at 4:22 PM

    Research narcissistic personality disorder. It’s genetic. Runs in families. I came to realize both my parents had the disorder and it took me 50 years. One of my siblings is an overt narc and my mother has aspd and is a covert NPD. I cut off all contact. Have to in order to stop their abusive behavior. Npds do not seek therapy and that’s why the problem does not go away. Remove yourself from a toxic family.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 25th, 2017 at 7:24 AM

    Hello, Deb – Unfortunately, feeling isolated the way you describe is not an uncommon result of the scapegoating process. Is it possible for you to join a group of some kind that is related to a keen interest of yours? Finding community is very important, as you move forward in replacing the negative family connections that have hurt you with positive bonds and new friends. I send you good wishes and want you to know you are not alone.

  • Clare

    Clare

    February 27th, 2017 at 8:07 PM

    Thank you for this article. It describes exactly my situation – the heartbreak and despair. the anger and injustice and confusion, I have been completely ostracized by my siblings for 15 years, and I do not know why, except that I was told it was to punish me for something (I am not told what it is). In the meantime our elderly mother died – although I was her main carer, I was cut out of her funeral arrangements, which was terrible, and many many other hurts. There is no contact at all. It is a very hard road indeed, and I agree with what you say about the inhumanity of it. I have no family whatsoever, as even my nieces and nephews ignore my existence. I sometimes read that family members who act in this way do so unconsciously, but my brother and sister know exactly what they are doing, and did it deliberately. I feel there is no excuse for treating another human being in such a way. Thank you for the understanding of the pain that comes across in your article. I found it validating for my attempts to survive.

  • Dianne

    Dianne

    February 27th, 2017 at 8:47 PM

    Similar to my situation. They do know what they are doing. Basically you are being punished and cut off because you prob refuse to play in their dysfunctional cesspool of behavior. They cannot admit to themselves they are broken or defective and anyone who is not dysfunctional like they are they will accuse of being the bad one in the family. in their warped distorted reality you are bad for not wanting to be disordered like they are. They are jealous of you. Hold your head high and do not let them bring you down to their level. This is more common than you think. My family are narcissists and I pointed out their dysfunction so I’m bad. Lol. Ok. Let them live in their cesspool. I want no part of it. They don’t change and they can’t become functional. Without seeking therapy. And they won’t do that. Guess who seeks therapy? Me. To learn how to cope with their dysfunction. I’ve walked awAy from my family in order to survive. No other way to do it. I can’t write their story and ending. Only mine. And I want to live a life free if their abuse. So I moved on. Stay strong. You are strong for not towing the line of dysfunction.

  • Philippa

    Philippa

    July 5th, 2017 at 2:34 AM

    So many inspiring people here. I’ve also chosen the path towards greater mental health and to be free from the dysfunction of my so called ‘family’ who are apparently desperate to have me back despite me being such a bad seed? I would have thought if I’m so bad and cause so much trouble for them that they’d be HAPPY that I’ve left, but no, they’d be happier to have me back to take on the role they forced me into without even asking me…that of scapegoat. Apparently I’M the asshole for refusing to do this and giving them the space to look at and own their own shit! How terrible of me. I stupidly answered an email from my younger brother recently and that was a huge mistake. I’m still healing from the gaslighting attack he threw at me (while I was homeless and needed comfort and love). Instead I got told (while he was gaslighting me on past memories I confronted him with) that I’ve ALWAYS been the one who has gaslighted them all and whatever I say he just twists the entire memory around or changes it all together so I’m left trying to recall when that happened (It usually didn’t at all). I worked out after that I’d fallen for another manipulation by him and I could feel how much he hates me now. I did nothing but love him so much. He was my little brother, but now he’s just another sociopathic coward that doesn’t want to look at his own problems, so it’s on me again.
    They leave us with no other choice but to leave, literally. No one wants to leave their family. It’s the most painful and impossible decision to ever make, but they left me with no other choice if I’m to actually enjoy my life free not insanity!

  • Stacey

    Stacey

    March 8th, 2017 at 5:23 AM

    Thanks for this article. This has helped clarify some things my psych has said to me. I’ve had no contact with one sister for two years and slowly reenaged with my mum and one other sister in the past 6-12 months. My third and oldest sister is also estranged. I’m the scapegoat. My sister and my husband had a secret friendship where he rang her for 3-4 hours every second night. 7 text messages a day. 20 text messages on Christmas eve. I’m the one to blame, apparently, for their deception. For their lies. For my reactions to their continued contact which i discovered in the following 12 months after the initial discovery of their very supportive friendship. I realize now I’ve often been the scapegoat to deflect from their own behavior. I’ve always been honest about who i am and what I’ve done. And i apologise. But everyone else in the family deflects and shifts blame and never apologises. I’m still trying to work out if i have enough strength to reconnect with the other two sisters or just to let it go. It’s taken me a long time to realise that my reactions were fairly normal given the circumstances. That it’s ok to take a break from people sometimes, for your own health and safety. I went to Christmas at my family of origin’s gathering this last year. My husband’s friend/my sister took off before i even got out the car. Her 3 daughters were left there by themselves for 12 hours on Christmas day. I’ve come to realise…that says it all. I’m slowly rebuilding my energy and packing away some things into this empty shell that I’d become. Thank you for helping me achieve some more clarity

  • Adriana

    Adriana

    March 12th, 2017 at 3:09 PM

    I know firsthand society does not fully appreciate the depths to which such a family will go to not face their sins. Mine, upon my discovering that the years of physical suffering I was enduring after the endless abuse was the result of a ruptured birth defect that would forever change my life without surgery. That was the first time my mother told me SHE HERSELF would kill me in my hospital bed (instead of sending my father to do her bidding for the first time), because she wouldn’t lose him to a ‘child he never wanted in the first place’. She then proceeded to tell everyone she could that my condition was a lie to try to ‘hurt her’, leaving me no one to turn to post-op after a very traumatic surgery (removing the base of my skull and 2 vertebraes). She even cursed out my pastor on the phone for attempting to talk to her. He arranged to have people help me but my soul was so shattered I could barely breath. I simply wanted to die from it all, but I desperately wanted my family whole and felt someone would have to step back and see the carnage that always led to her tiny feet, but it never happened. The family’s only stay-at-home mother had children who became more abusive as they went on (I’m the oldest and only non-violent family member). Parents are to get better with each child; our did not but the children were blamed ALWAYS. It is a dangerous behavior that should NEVER be tolerated in a family. Serial killers can only kill your body but they cannot take your family away from you. Dangerous mothers can rip the very soul out of a family if they are not properly addressed.
    If you have a dangerous family LEAVE. You are in more danger than you could know and they will never shed a tear for you as desperately hard as you want them to. They were broken long before you arrived into their lives.

  • Evan M.

    Evan M.

    March 17th, 2017 at 12:28 PM

    As I come to the end of my life and the brutally sad realization that all I endured and suffered for was meaningless but intentional so that our mother could get away with such vile treatment of her own children, even as we each broke under the weight of it worse than the child before – I MUST KNOW – WHY DID MY SIBLINGS TURN AGAINST THE ONLY PERSON WHO ACTUALLY PUT MY BODY BETWEEN OUR PARENTS TO DEFLECT THEIR INTENDED VICTIM-OF-THE-DAY FROM BEING BEATEN ‘UNTIL THEY STOPPED CRYING’, YET I WAS SENT INTO THE COLD WITH THEIR BLESSING?!?!?!?! WHY DID SUCH A CRUEL THING HAPPEN TO ME AFTER ALL I’VE SUFFERED AND LOST FOR THEIR SAKES? HOW COULD THEY STAND BEHIND THE ONES TEARING THEIR FLESH APART LEAVING THEM ALL TO EVENTUALLY HAVE MULTIPLE CHILDREN BY THE TIME THEY WERE OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL AND IN TROUBLE IN SCHOOL AND THE LAW?!?!??!? WHY WOULD THEY TURN THEIR BACKS ON ME AND NOT THE ONES HURTING THEM FOR OUR MOTHER’S LIES?!?!?!?!?!?

  • Mallory P.

    Mallory P.

    March 23rd, 2017 at 8:06 AM

    As I have read, it seems people feel justified to make someone the scapegoat if they do things for the scapegoat. I am wondering, is it normal for these people to flip out if the scapegoat shows any feelings at all (such as upset, frustration, etc.)? If I ever show upset (such as crying) or frustration (saying I give up with something) the person that regularly treats me like dirt will flip out. I guess it’s an unspoken rule “thou shalt not speak thy mind.”

  • Y

    Y

    July 3rd, 2017 at 11:38 PM

    Thanks for this article. I’m working to extract myself from a highly dysfunctional family system at 28. It’s taken me a lot of time and a lot of pain to start to understand and trust my experience. My family put ALL of their shit on me from a really early age. Thankfully, I’m strong, but they destroyed my first 30 years to the point where I internalized huge self-hatred and began isolating myself socially really early on. I loved them fiercely and didn’t know better. Even now, the habit of directing their violence towards myself is still strong. And how unfair that I have to clean up a mess I didn’t make? On the other hand, I can’t help but think that I came to do this work for them because they have had so much trauma in every single generation going back at least 4. I’m a warrior soul. Not just anyone could have done this work. But now, hungry and struggling to meet my needs, alone and with few friends, I’m breaking away.

  • Katrina

    Katrina

    July 4th, 2017 at 8:34 PM

    The thing about suggesting therapy is that all I have done is tell my story. The hour is up and then I am left to think about it until next week. Therapy helps if you need to reframe something and see it a different way. It doesn’t help very much when you see it all to clearly but there is nothing you can do about it. Regarding having a support group of friends – that is many times difficult. Many people will judge you and wonder what “the other side” of the story is… There is also a shame in being ostracized from your own family and you feel like you cannot belong fully anywhere. I have not found any answers and as I get older, I am not as strong anymore to hold up under it…

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    July 5th, 2017 at 8:47 AM

    Hello, Katrina – I can understand how overwhelming it might feel. Counseling can help you discern a plan, even though it may seem initially tgat you are stuck without options. Also, if your friends are judging you negatively, that might contribute to your feeling stuck. Loving friends would offer you support and help you feel confident. I send my best regards to you.

  • tracy

    tracy

    July 11th, 2017 at 10:53 AM

    Katrina, I have tried to work with several therapists, since I was in high school. It took me a few years to trust one enough to make any real progress — in my 40s. Don’t give up. Stick with one you at least feel comfortable with, even if all you do is tell your story. Sometimes it takes telling that story a hundred times, before you really feel the truth of it. And feeling it truly is knowing you’ve finally reached the festering wound — and knowing you’re ready to clean the evil they dumped on you out of your heart (and soul). You have endured; you are strong — use that strength and endurance to heal yourself. I believe in you.

  • Kim

    Kim

    July 11th, 2017 at 11:48 AM

    You said that perfectly. I can’t imagine ever being able to “get beyond it” or “let it go,” and because of that I can’t imagine ever feeling whole or well. My emotions play such a huge part in the way I feel physically, too. It makes me angry that I can’t let something go that I didn’t create, have no control over, and don’t deserve. I wish I could just let it be. I want to be able to wake up one morning and not have my first thought be, “Why do the people I love the most in this world not love me back?” I don’t see how any amount of counseling can ever answer these questions or even teach a person how to live without answers. It’s just so cruel and unfair. I would never wish this pain on anyone, so how can people who are supposed to love me choose to cause me such pain? Sometimes I wish I had done something to deserve it. I think then I could heal, because I could forgive myself or make amends with them. The way it is, there is nothing to forgive or make amends for so how can you deal with or make peace with something you can’t even identify. I have apologized for every transgression I can possibly imagine, and I continue to try to mend relationships to no avail. In my mind, I want to continue to try because I don’t want them to think I gave up on them. I want them to know they mean enough to me to keep trying. If I walk away, I’m doing what they did. Giving up on them (although for a reason) like they gave up on me (for no reason whatsoever), and that’s not who I am. Doesn’t everyone want that kind of unconditional love in their lives?? Obviously not, but WHY not?

  • Tink

    Tink

    July 11th, 2017 at 1:13 PM

    Kim,
    There are people that lack empathy. These psychopathic, narcissistic people live to destroy. They do not care about love.-they care about power. It’s nothing lacking in you. It is NOT you-it’s them. For answers research Sandra L. Brown’s work. It will set you free,

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    July 31st, 2017 at 6:36 AM

    Hello, Kim – I can feel the pain in your words. I understand that there seems to be no way out. We keep ourselves bound, however, the longer we continue to ask “why” when there is no clear answer. I encourage you to seek supportive counseling from a skilled therapist who can help you find a way to live free of this burden. I send my best regards to you.

  • Emma

    Emma

    July 5th, 2017 at 3:02 AM

    Great article – I am currently experiencing being the scapegoat over the last 6 months and since marrying my husband 2 weeks ago his ex wife and children have upped their wicked games and the hostility. I have a great therapist for support but I feel for my husband.

  • jackie

    jackie

    July 5th, 2017 at 5:04 AM

    I think it is interesting if I tell my story straight from the heart I would be accused of lying and making that stuff up.

  • jackie

    jackie

    July 5th, 2017 at 5:11 AM

    I think it’s interesting if I SPEAK from the heart I am accused of making it up. These people want nothing to do with reality. Everything has to be their way, the way they see it.

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    July 5th, 2017 at 8:41 AM

    Hello, Jackie – that’s one of the reasons that it feels so crazy-making to be involved with individuals who gaslight others.

  • Carolyn R.

    Carolyn R.

    July 5th, 2017 at 5:17 AM

    Interesting article. One problem I see with it is that it is giving some people the satisfaction of crying foul and claiming to be the scapegoat when it is their own actions towards others that are causing the problems. The person in our family who would claim to be the victim is actually victimizing the entire family.

  • Sarah S.

    Sarah S.

    July 5th, 2017 at 8:39 AM

    Hello, Carolyn – as you rightly point out, claiming to be the victim while being the person who causes the distress is not gaslighting.

  • Narcissa

    Narcissa

    July 5th, 2017 at 8:44 AM

    That may be the case in your family but 99% of the occasions the victims are usually silenced and every time they try to speak their minds they’re told it is their own actions that make others uncomfortable.

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    July 5th, 2017 at 9:34 AM

    Yes – that is the goal of gaslighting.

  • Elizabeth L.

    Elizabeth L.

    July 5th, 2017 at 10:18 AM

    Thanks for writing this. I’d never heard of the family scapegoat until my therapist mentioned it after an episode of spectacular gaslighting during a family holiday. I am (was, as a teen) a whistleblower, but I’d felt alienated from the rest of the family before that–even before the abuse. Everything I’ve read indicates that it’s pointless to try and earn their love and respect. I gave up trying, and it feels good!

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    July 5th, 2017 at 12:28 PM

    Hello, Elizabeth – you make a good point: it is very difficult to turn a family around once a pattern of scapegoating has been established because change threatens every member. I send my best regards to you.

  • Chinchilla

    Chinchilla

    July 5th, 2017 at 3:29 PM

    Thank you so much for giving this thing a name!! This is how I have been treated since my dad and my sister started building their alliance against me since I was 7, while my mother was watching my treatment throughout my adolescence and it is still going on. I thought I had Asperger’s or some other autistic disease, since I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong. But I grew stronger and I’ve spent less and less time with my family the last years. It’s sad to be a part of a family that treats you like crap and demeans you in every possible situation. It does something to you and sets you up for experiencing similar situation in your life, because of negative interpretations of events that may not be as one have experienced before. I’m better and stronger now. I’m working on myself and on being able to connect with people and I want to lead a full life without people conatminating me for being my true, honest self. Again, thank you for giving a name to this. :)

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    July 5th, 2017 at 4:50 PM

    Hello, Chinchilla,
    Thank you for writing such a positive note. I’m glad my writing touched you. It took great strength to do what you did. It is encouraging to hear your success story. All the best to you.

  • Henk

    Henk

    July 6th, 2017 at 2:19 AM

    Thank you for a very good article. This was my life. Only God can heal those scars .

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    July 12th, 2017 at 11:25 AM

    Hello, Henk – I’m glad you found this article helpful. Thank you for taking the time to say so.

  • Tam

    Tam

    July 7th, 2017 at 3:40 PM

    It’s happened to me a couple of times with my family. Once when I confronted my grandfather’s incest(I was pushed out of the family because noone was strong enough to confront it)….and again when my grandmother was dying, I asked for help caring for her and was called a martyr and actually almost physically attacked. My grandma died and now I’m just not included in any familial get togethers. Is fine by me, I realize they are just weak people who just aren’t very nice (basically). It’s alot to work through but coming out the other side of it, I realize I don’t really care for the types of people they are….politically, everything. So, it’s better to be excluded in the end….and they can go on with their lives lighter (since they feel they loaded their crap on my shoulders). I’d sooo much rather be me than them. Cheers!

  • Morgan

    Morgan

    July 8th, 2017 at 4:45 AM

    Married into a family with 5 sisters, my ex was the only boy. I thought I was going to love being a part of a large, tight knit family. I endured 28 years of being shunned. We’d go to a family function and I would end up with all the nieces and nephews because the adults wouldn’t have much to say or even try to interact with me. The entire family went on a cruise and MY family was the only family that wasn’t aware or invited. It was heartbreaking to endure. Each of my 4 children were born and no one came to celebrate with us. My oldest was hospitalized multiple times for severe asthma, no one helped, no one cared to visit or bother to see if she was okay. After 28 years we divorced—and I’ve never seen or heard from any of them since.

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    July 12th, 2017 at 11:24 AM

    Hello, Morgan – how difficult that must have been for you! I send my best regards for your continued healing. The scapegoat is not to blame.

  • Shirley

    Shirley

    July 8th, 2017 at 11:50 PM

    I am the scapegoat too. Due to father, brother and his wife and their 4 children, as well as some my cousins.
    I am seeing a counselor, and am going to talk about this scapegoating, but i am very sad of the isolation my two children and i experience due to their
    Dysfuntional behaviors. Creating isolation for me and my two lovely children is so unacceptable. I have a few health challenges and Having no family support is such a burden. I have God who helps me by giving me Peace and his protection. I am just realizing there is no real reason to do this to
    A family member, I hope to emulate love and acceptance to others and do not want to be accepted by the dysfunctioning ones, as I would then
    be considered as one of “them”.
    God makes it clear this behavior is not loving and he will be the judge for all our souls. I pray for all scapegoats to have the Love and Comfort and Peacevto stand strong and become the light to those in darkness!!!

  • Kim

    Kim

    July 9th, 2017 at 4:20 PM

    Bless you for writing this!! I burst into tears upon reading it, and now i understand. I’ve been trying to figure out for years what it is about me that is so unlovable and easy to cast aside, questioning my own worth. After all, if your family can’t love you, who will? Your article saved me.

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    July 12th, 2017 at 11:23 AM

    Hello, Kim – I’m glad you found my writing helpful to you, though I am sad to hear of your distress. I send you my best regareds.

  • v

    v

    August 15th, 2017 at 2:29 PM

    has anyone experience in the dynamic the mother being the scapegoat? My husband is the narcissist and the I can only guess his mother was because I believe I am. He never says much about his mother who passed away several years ago. He speaks highly of his dad, dad went to ballgames, mother did not. Dad was very outgoing and talked to everyone, mom smoked and soon became diabetic. He says she didn’t take care of herself. I can see how all this is coming to pass with us. I feel I’m the scapegoat, I’m the one that does nothing right, doesn’t matter that I tried to do something nice, it backfires. His 11 year old daughter is the enabler because he makes her because I refuse. I refuse while I’m trying to get everyone into bed, he gets into bed and expects me to come in there and turn our the light and tuck him in so that job has become his daughter. My 4 year old is the golden child right now because she say what he needs to hear and she can get away with it even during his raging which is always directed at me. I’m needing to know what will happen to the 11 year step daughter if I leave. Will it be better or worse for her? He has gone after her a couple of times for taking up for me and i make him focus back on me. will things be better for them if I leave? I have been in turmoil about this for months. Please advise.

  • Edie

    Edie

    August 18th, 2017 at 7:21 AM

    Thank you for describing and validating my life experience. As the adopted only child of long estranged parents, it has been a lonely painful road that those close to me don’t always appreciate. It’s getting harder and harder to trust anyone, and yet this is the thing I most need to do.

  • Maureen

    Maureen

    September 25th, 2017 at 5:15 PM

    Edie, I am adopted also. Was wondering if I would come across another adoptee in this thread. By definition, we are banished from our Family of Origin….into who knows what. In this case, into the role of (Second) Family Scapegoat. A very difficult and lonely path indeed. Blessings to you on your journey.

  • Gina

    Gina

    August 18th, 2017 at 7:09 PM

    Thank you for such a well written article. I especially enjoyed the Bible analogy. My mother was the instigator of ostracizing family members which included at varying times our father, my sister or myself. Now that both parents are dead, my two siblings are following my mother’s lead. Thankfully, I left home at 18 and after on-again, off-again therapy for a number of years, I am delighted to say, that I am “Aaron” which means that I do not have to deal with the crazy dysfunctionalism of my childhood family. I have my own mentally healthy family and dear, dear friends of more than 30 years who have always been by my side. For the other “Aarons” out there, remember this quote from Robin Wasserman: “Popularity gives you power over people who care about popularity. Ostracism gives you power over only those who fear being ostracized.” I say, embrace the ostracism so you can have a healthy life!

  • Patrick

    Patrick

    September 3rd, 2017 at 4:50 PM

    Thanks. I needed this.

  • Fatma

    Fatma

    September 6th, 2017 at 3:23 AM

    I have been scapegoated all my life; initially my mother was the culprit but my father and my two brothers joined in the scapegoating behaviour. Since I have moved country, she has drawn my two adult daughters into the circle, and I find myself alone.

  • Dorothy

    Dorothy

    September 7th, 2017 at 12:55 PM

    WOW. Feel like I just read about my own story. Went through every step, doubt, asking what I DID wrong ect, ect. Have finally at 53 went my own way, moved, cut off contact and forged new friend. some who treat me as family.

  • Fancy

    Fancy

    September 12th, 2017 at 9:51 AM

    My story is a little different in that I was not aware of being the scapegoat as a child. My parents were simply abusive to all of us. I think my mother was secretly abused by my father, and she kept it hidden. Her rage from this came out in how she treated her children. When she got older and we were grown, she became a Christian. I confronted her on the abuse. She was truly sorry and I respected that. She became a much sweeter person and we developed a good relationship.
    My father, however, turned to white-knuckled denial when I confronted him on his abuse. He only admitted to one incident, where he had me pinned on the floor as an 11-year old child; and had left my face very bruised and swollen. His admission came in the form of, “You were abusing me with your screaming.” Sounds almost funny doesn’t it? My mother often had to intervene or defend me from him.
    I had distant yet decent relationships with my sister and brothers. I was the first one in the family to start saying “I love you” and giving hugs. I wanted to be a positive influence in the family and draw us closer together and get some of the crap out in the open.
    When my mother had her head injury when they were up in years, the whole dynamic of the family changed. I became the power of attorney for health and their caregiver. My father showed blatant disrespect for my work. I called him a jerk one day and he physically attacked me. It was all I could do to defend myself from his blows. When it was done (my mother had to call him off again), he had marks on him and I did not. I had vowed previously that if he ever hit me again, I would call the police. When the police arrived my father was still raging and he even charged at me in the presence of the police officer. The police officer had to get between him and myself, with his back to me. However, because he had marks and I didn’t, they arrested me. I had a talk with the police officer in the car about the physical abuse and he wrote to the judge and told him that he did not think I should be prosecuted.
    After this, my father started doing everything he could to destroy my reputation. Everything and anything was a big deal to call all the family and everyone he knew about. My sister started picking up on his line of talk and brow-beating me. When I told her to step out of the middle, she refused.
    I moved out of state to get away from his abuse, but it continued. He still found things to publicly berate me about. Again, anything and everything.
    When he finally passed away in 2013, all I felt was relief. I thought the abuse had finally ended. Unfortunately, my sister was named executor and assumed the position of matriarch of the family. Her administration of the Trust was abusive in my opinion. They divided the tangible property and left me out. My sister then took me to court in opposition to the will and the trust. She blamed me and convinced my brothers that I was to blame. Her attorney had to make up lies to even get it into court. This was very hard on me because my income is not that high. The judge explained to her, my attorney explained to her and I explained to her that was she was doing was not legally kosher. Yet, somehow, she remained convinced that she was doing the right thing, I was in the wrong and she was the victim. She, of course, convinced my brothers of this also. I reached out to my brothers during the court battle to try to fill them in. One brother blocked me, the other brother did not read everything I wrote and simply sided with her whether it made sense or not.
    I do not speak with the three of them anymore. I told my sister not to contact me except to get counseling. She has been silent since. My brothers just were pummeled by Hurricane Irma where they lived. I did not pick up the phone to see how they were.
    And that is where it stands today. Any thoughts or suggestions?

  • Joan

    Joan

    September 24th, 2017 at 1:59 PM

    Fancy, from my reading of what you described, I would assume that your father had Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and so do at least some of your siblings. Others might be enablers, going along for the ride because it is easier. What you lived through was Narcissistic Abuse. These people are the devil in human form sometimes. And the lies and false allegations? That is known as the Narcissistic Smear Campaign. On Amazon, look up the books of H.G. Tudor and read whatever excerpts are available online if you don’t buy outright. NPD is chilling stuff, unfortunately. See the website, “Narcissistic Life.” Lots of info. on the internet about pathological Narcissism. It is SO very destructive, but oddly enough, it isn’t that well-known in society, though at least 1% of the population has this disorder. It is related to Borderline Personality Disorder, but harder to treat. In everyday language, when people mention Narcissists, it usually means someone with an overblown ego rather than with the actual Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is a mental illness in the DSM. Read “Reinventing Your Life” by Jeffrey Young. Know that pathological Narcissists go after good, caretaking, self-sacrificing people as their victims. That means you should read the Codependent literature (although I like the term “Self-Love Deficiency Disorder” by R. Rosenberg better). You need to start caring more about yourself than about them. Self-compassion is the key to escaping all of this. People who are Narc. victims are often too good for their own good. We need to protect and respect that spark of God in ourselves, as well as in other people. Best wishes. Been there.

  • Fancy

    Fancy

    September 26th, 2017 at 9:58 AM

    Thanks Joan! I had been suspicious that my father was a Narcissist for quite some time. What surprises me, is how my sister has acted. I used to think she was the sweetest person on the planet. But I guess that money was more important to her. I am having a hard time getting my brain wrapped around the huge change in personality. She legally still owes us money, she took more than what she was legally entitled to. I am pondering if I want to go after the money via court; which would probably subject me to more triangulation and flying monkeys. I am looking up the book on H.G. Tudor and plan on buying some. Thanks again!

  • Fancy

    Fancy

    September 12th, 2017 at 6:07 PM

    I also wanted to say that this is one of the best articles I have seen on the subject. I am also appreciative of the other bloggers, their stories, and your response to them. It has all been healing.

  • Maureen

    Maureen

    September 25th, 2017 at 5:44 PM

    I’m glad this thread is still active, considering the article is from January. Thank you for posting it. I’ve been reading what I can on scapegoating, NPD, and other elements of dysfunctional families. Although I’ve spent years ‘working on my issues’, I’ve hit an icy patch and feel somewhat out of control in terms of unexpressed pain, with no one who cares. Perhaps it’s menopause and hormones being spurious, showing me what still needs to be resolved.
    I’m an adopted oldest ‘child’ who was raised in a dysfunctional, emotionally volatile, abusive, alcoholic (mother), narcissistic (father to some degree) home. And even typing these words makes me feel guilty, coming from the classic “What happens in this house, stays in this house” environment. Even though neighbors knew (yet did nothing).
    I was the Truth Teller, caretaker, family meeting caller, therapist, stay-at-home-child-to-take-care-of-siblings-while-mother-was-drunk one, religious one, mystic one, empathetic one, recipient-of-verbal-physical-emotional-abuse-from-father one, good student / “smart” one (for which I received scorn vs. praise), etc. etc. You get the idea. I loved my parents, despite the horrendous turmoil I grew up with. They both died in their 60s. And I was woefully unprepared, emotionally. I found my birthmother. She died 2 years or so later. (So really, I lost 2 mothers.)
    My adoptive siblings have continued to treat me as the family scapegoat. I’m now getting the ‘silent treatment’. I’ve never done drugs or been an alcoholic, and yet seem to be treated as though I might as well be. I have health issues and am aging (alone), and have been told that they do not want to be “obligated” to me (apparently in any sense, not just financially) “just because” of (my/our adopted status as siblings). (My sister is their natural child.) Even when I have gone to family events, no one ever asks me how I am, what I’m doing/feeling/thinking, etc. My feelings do not matter….because of course they never did in this type of dysfunctional family environment.
    I have maternal half sisters who I met but are not interested in pursuing a relationship (and could go on but I fear I have said too much already), and two paternal half brothers who know I exist but don’t seem interested in pursuing a relationship either. I have no spouse/children and need to focus on my own life purpose / mission. Animals are my true companions in this lifetime. At this point, I’ve had too many unhealthy ‘romantic’ relationships to bother pursuing them at this point. (Men with NPD and other fun stops along the spectrum.)
    It’s hard living in a culture that promotes “family is forever” type rhetoric when that is simply not the case for so many of us.
    I’d really like to “get through my own issues” (lol) so I can get to a point where I’m poised to help others.

  • Bill

    Bill

    September 26th, 2017 at 4:13 PM

    The most effective way to silence our guilty conscience is to convince ourselves and others that those we have sinned against are indeed depraved creatures, deserving every punishment, even extermination. We cannot pity those we have wronged, nor can we be indifferent toward them. We must hate and persecute them or else leave the door open to self-contempt.
    ~ Eric Hoffer

  • Laura

    Laura

    September 27th, 2017 at 9:08 PM

    I’m just wondering if anyone knows of an online support group for scapegoats? Sometimes I just need to be heard and told I’m not crazy. Leaning on my young adult children, as awesome and understanding as they are, is just counterintuitive.

  • Laura

    Laura

    September 27th, 2017 at 9:19 PM

    ps im actually in a position right now to get back at them and going haywire. I’ve mastered the whole no-contact thing, raised some great kids, found my self respect, etc.. but there are no guidelines, no precedents for the situation im in right now. :/

  • Maureen

    Maureen

    September 27th, 2017 at 11:12 PM

    If you are on Facebook, I see there is a public Narcissistic Family Support Group page, with instructions for signing up for the Private group. facebook.com/NarcissisticFamilySupportGroup/

  • Laura

    Laura

    September 28th, 2017 at 12:19 PM

    holy cow! jackpot :) thank-you :)

  • Laura

    Laura

    September 28th, 2017 at 12:40 PM

    scratch that.. thing is i don’t feel comfortable declaring/diagnosing members of my birth family, or anyone for that matter, as a narcissist. All I know is that they have verbally and emotionally bullied me my whole life. That they consistently and repeatedly insult me, accuse me of ficticious crimes against humanity… and have a blast doing it. I can’t just walk away this time.. not until I know its permanent. I’m too old. I have grandchildren to protect.

  • Laura

    Laura

    September 28th, 2017 at 12:57 PM

    ps I have tons of positive yet painful experience to share in return. I live a charmed and happy life now with a family I created including awesome and understanding adult children and fantastic gorgeous young grandchildren. The only foo members i cared about have passed away and the rest are like an annoying gnat and I am chasing the damn thing with a bat, when all i need is a neatly timed fly swatter..

  • Fancy

    Fancy

    September 29th, 2017 at 5:27 AM

    Laura, I find myself alone and with kitties too. In my 50’s now so I don’t have that many dates anymore. I really appreciate what you wrote to me, I found you to be well-informed and it was healing to me. Thanks!

  • Peter

    Peter

    September 28th, 2017 at 2:26 PM

    Laura I feel ya

  • Fancy

    Fancy

    September 29th, 2017 at 3:47 PM

    Ok, Questions for the Community:
    Is this a Covert Narcissist?
    I used to think my sister was the sweetest person in the world. However, after my father scapegoated and smear campaigned me as an adult, my sister picked up on his line of action, assumed the position of golden child and also joined him in scapegoating me (this happened after my mother’s head injury; my mother used to keep my father at bay). I am now re-thinking what she is really about. Here are the symptoms I see:
    1. Extreme stubbornness. As trustee of my parents trust, she wasted umpteen thousands of trust dollars in court to force me to sign a release that is not legal to make a requirement in Michigan.
    2. Victim mentality. Even though she was the one filing a frivolous court action against me, she convinced my brothers that I was the bad and she was the victim.
    3. Blame shifting. See #2.
    4. Unwarranted punitive behaviors. Left me out of the division of tangible property. I am not sure what she was punishing me for, but it felt like punishment.
    5. Lying. Filed lies to get the trust into court. It never needed to go to court.
    6. Impossible to admit fault. I find her handling of my parent’s trust horrendous. I explained to her that she was breaking the law, I had an attorney write her a letter, the judge explained it to her, the mediator explained it to her, yet she still holds to the stance that she was flawless in her administration.
    7. Lack of empathy. She knows I have struggled financially, yet has done great damage to me financially.
    8. Double standards. She would broadcast every email conversation I had with her during the administration of the trust, under the auspices that she “needs to keep our brothers informed,” yet she would meet with them, discuss the trust and leave me out of the conversation.
    9. Arrogance and sensitivity to criticism. She started quizzing me about my finances at my father’s request. When I told her to step out of the situation, she refused. I then stated that she was not qualified to come in and manage my finances, she has a high school diploma (I have three degrees and a substantial amount of financial training). This apparently was very hurtful to her and she brought it up in a counselor’s office years later. (She has never given me any money. I did live with my parents for a while to pay down student loans, which is when my father started demeaning me.)
    10. Passive aggressive. After I asked her to make my mother’s funeral a little later because I had to finish some work, she scheduled my mothers funeral on my busiest day of work. My mother was embalmed and I live 850 miles away, it could have easily been delayed.
    11. OCD/extreme perfectionism. She spends hours making sure coat hangers are evenly spaced in her closets.
    12. Very bitter and jealous even though she is a millionaire.
    13. I never see her laugh. I never remember her laughing.
    14. She shut down the family gift exchange, yet buys lots of expensive gifts for people in golf clubs and neighbors in expensive homes.

    Questions:
    1. Does this person sound like a covert narcissist to you, or is there something else going on?
    2. My sister still owes me money from my inheritance. This would be easy to prove in court. However, it would require me filing a contempt action. This would be embarrassing to her. Any suggestions on how to proceed with getting the remainder of my money? She is denying she owes it.

  • Peter

    Peter

    October 1st, 2017 at 7:56 AM

    I think narcissism is off base.
    I think such people (my ex being of their ranks) are empty and self-loathing. Having abdicated the power of their very souls. Having chosen their own black hearts, in the torment of abject emptiness and spiritual squalor. Having created their own hell on earth in the process.
    Misery loves company.

  • Fancy

    Fancy

    October 8th, 2017 at 12:57 PM

    Peter, do you mean that based on my description, that the person does not sound like a covert narcissist?

  • Laura K

    Laura K

    September 29th, 2017 at 9:54 PM

    Maybe I should set up a facebook group for scapegoats? I’m not comfortable with this level of personal grief just being out there for all to, ya know, mock and pick apart and find fault in absurd ways, but I am dying to share how I, right now, have my 5 siblings, over a barrel and foaming at the mouth.. like a dream come true :) This situation just fell into my lap, and I’m running like hell with it.. :)

  • Maureen

    Maureen

    September 30th, 2017 at 1:55 PM

    Laura K., I just did a FB search. Seems there are already several groups – “Scapegoat Children of Narcissist Parents”; “The Scapegoat Child”; “Scapegoats and Victims of Narcissistic Personality Disorder”….and a small group of 5 under just “Scapegoats”. Seems scapegoats are bucking their way into the mainstream national dialog. ;-)

  • Laura

    Laura

    October 3rd, 2017 at 11:27 AM

    I made a fb group for family scapegoat support. I’m stilll working on my first post. My situation seems to be settling down now after weeks of furious back and forth via text messages. I’m fairly certain its a rare, uplifting story that other family scapegoats would benefit from. And a good way to start off a support group. I do know that I will probably always carry a “me vs them” mentality and that there is no real cure for that. I believe that utmost privacy, support and shared experience can heal in spectacular ways
    l

  • Dawn

    Dawn

    October 14th, 2017 at 6:58 PM

    I’ve been scapegoated so much, you could milk me and have enough to make a 5 pound wheel of cheese!

    Seriously though, I grew up in a very dysfunctional place. Both of my parents abused substances. I suspect my father is a narcissist. We lived below the poverty line. I know what it’s like to be in constant fear and lack. I know what it’s like to not have enough to eat. When my parents weren’t neglecting me, they were abusing me. In every way possible. And if that wasn’t enough, I was relentlessly bullied by my peers, physically and otherwise. Did I mention that I’m a woman? It was so hard to understand why the rule “you don’t hit girls” didn’t seem to apply to me.

    My parents blamed me for their abusive, destructive behavior. All the beatings I got, all the things broken over my head, all the explicatives heaped on me, it was always my fault. I grew up believing that there was something inherently wrong with me. I just figured I was evil incarnate, even though there was no evidence of that. In elementary school, I was a straight-A student. I took care of wounded animals. I did my best to protect my sister from my parents and the neighborhood. I strove to make the best of it; to make a joke or to find the silver lining.

    Around 5th grade, it became too much. I began to seriously contemplate suicide. I made plans that I ached to carry out, but for the grace of God, I did not. My teens years are a hazy streak of substance abuse, promiscuity, and abusive relationships. I dropped out of high school twice. Went to rehab twice.

    Somehow, I turned things around. I got my GED and put myself through college. My 20’s became a second childhood, of sorts. I had a good job and I learned to take good care of me. I had some therapy, but also self-care and lots of self-indulgent travel! It was glorious. I met and married a man. Had a family. I have two beautiful kids, who will never be exposed to the corrupt and evil people who maliciously wounded me a child. They have the benefit of two loving, attentive parents who would never intentionally harm them; who work hard to be good parents and provide a good life for them.

    Breaking free of my family of origin was painful, but it was the best thing I have ever done for myself. I see now that one of the reasons they draped their sins on me was because I could bear the weight of it. Nowadays, I see that as a huge life advantage. I am capable of so much. Nothing can knock me, absolutely nothing. If my evil parent’s physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse couldn’t kill me , then anything short of malignant cancer or a Mack truck just won’t be able to do it.

    I’m here to say that you don’t have to have extraordinary fortitude to survive being a scapegoat. Because if you’ve been scapegoated, you probably already are extraordinary! I’m here to say that you can cut ties with toxic people, if that’s what’s best for you. You might find that your life will be more than just OK when you do. I also want to say that you deserve a good life and to be treated well, especially if your were scapegoated for sins that had absolutely nothing to do with you. Maybe especially because of that. It’s OK to seek healing. It’s OK to put rock-solid boudaries up between you and whoever dares to hurt you like that. Your life can be what YOU want and need it to be.

    Today, my life is far from easy. It’s full of challenges, just like everyone else’s. But, one thing that I’m very proud of is that my life is full of joy! I have satisfying relationships. I’m reaching for my dreams and aspirations. I’m always working hard to build a good life, and I love it! It’s so lovely to be supported by my loved ones, and to support them too. I hold all my fellow scapegoats in my heart. You aren’t alone in your pain, and I’m rooting for you! You can recover and heal from being a scapegoat, even from the harshest of circumstances. I wish all of you my very best!

  • Michelle

    Michelle

    November 13th, 2017 at 9:41 AM

    The first thing I can vividly remember is being at the hospital with my brother & mom. I was about 3 & he was 1. He had a hernia operation & I reached out to comfort him, he was so scared!! I touched his arm through the crib & when I saw the on our mom’s face, she looked like a demon. So full of hate. She would leave us by ourselves for days while our dad worked 2 jobs to pay for her alcoholism & the things that go with it. By the time I was 8, I had 2 brothers & a sister that I took care of. I made them food, gave them baths, ect. Mom was too busy with her “friends”….I realized the amount of hate she had for me when she came after me with a razor saying she was going to cut my breasts off because she hated “them”. Seriously? All the lies she told & still is…

  • Diana K B

    Diana K B

    November 21st, 2017 at 1:31 AM

    I was a 64 year old widow when I married a second time. I married B who had just got a divorce. He has an adult son who has been divorced himself and remarried who hated me before he ever met me. He has accused me of terrible things that are just not true. He is also a control freak. He will walk into a room where I’ve been talking and say “Was there anything said I should know about”? He told B that he had to choose between him and me. For three years it’s been a constant thing. Him doing and saying things about me and to me that are unbelievable. Like the time they all thought I had an “Agenda” and they were going to all end up in a “Lifetime Movie” Then there was the time that he told everyone I had only been married for 9 months when my husband suddenly and mysteriously died. I was married for 30 years and my husband died of COPD which he had suffered from for 10 years because he had been a 4 pack a day smoker. now he has turned four other family members against me and now we have gotten a phone call telling us we are no longer welcome to attend any family gatherings because no one likes me. I’ve never had a problem like this before and I don’t know what to do or even how to feel.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    November 21st, 2017 at 9:06 AM

    Thank you for your comment, Diana. While GoodTherapy.org is not a replacement for professional advice, we can tell you that a therapist may be able to work with you in figuring out how to cope with this trying experience and decide how you want to engage with it. If you’d like to find a therapist near you, you can search GoodTherapy.org’s directory of mental health professionals here:
    https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html

  • Fancy

    Fancy

    November 21st, 2017 at 10:31 AM

    Diana K B, It sounds like your son-in-law has some strong narcissistic tendencies, and may even be a full-blown narcissist. He is smear campaigning you, probably because he views you as a threat somehow. I am so sorry and know how hard that can be. I was smear campaigned by my father. I don’t know how to undo the damage. I am reading a book by H G Tudor on Smear Campaign, and have not finished it yet. ***HUGS***

  • Teens

    Teens

    December 29th, 2017 at 8:55 AM

    Dear Diane KB,

    I wonder if you have heard of the website of Melanie Tonia Evans? She claims to be a narcissistic abuse recovery expert, and while I am not so convinced about the expert part, she does have some wonderful insights to offer, I found her free resources and especially her YouTube videos to be very helpful. Her stuff is a bit “out there” at times but I find it comforting, and as someone who is currently disabled with no prospects of employment or living alone (try being a disabled woman in a developing country in Asia where there is no concept of Disability pay or Social Security or even part time work. Or safety for women who live alone. If your body is not in working condition, it is considered better to be dead in this part of the world because it is impossible to live alone and support oneself as a disabled woman).

    Did I also mention that after a lifetime of being scapegoated and severely emotionally verbally abused by my Family of Origin (Narcissistic / BPD/ Compulsive mother, Narcisstic Stepfather, Grandmother and Grandfather and assorted nuts in the extended family who are pretty dysfunctional), I am back to living with them out of sheer desperation because I have no other way to live? Yeah, I know, my life is a total party! I’ve come to realise my purpose in this life to be a total source of love and approval to myself, because my utterly dysfunctional and mentally ill family will not change. They are incapable of self introspection and therefore do not accept responsibility for their behaviour. My invisible disabilities (which means can’t drive, can’t sit for long, cant work a full time job which is the only kind available over here, can’t dance, wear heels or travel in public transport on potholed roads in my country that are excruciating for my body to tolerate, can just about cook scrambled eggs on toast before my body reaches its limits) are further compounded by a pretty awful case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Food Allergies, Chemical Sensitivities, Myometritis and killer menstrual cramps, and Gastric issues from all the painkillers I’ve needed to survive the worst days. I was also bedridden for over half a decade and spent close to a decade in chronic pain. A lot of which I can trace back yo a childhood of emotional trauma and abuse that destroyed my ability to emotionally regulate, flooding my body with terrible stress hormones constantly for years before it broke down. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m alive!

    I don’t tell you this to bring you down. But to tell you that even with all of this CRAP and some serious scapegoating (just happened today and I am physically unable to even walk out of the house where my FOO is laughing and enjoying themselves), I am still here. And Melanie’s articles helped me find a purpose in the insane dynamics of my family and what I need to do. Please try her free stuff, (though I Did not get the desired results from her purchased protocol, her free materials and you tube videos helped me a lot!) .Also read up on CPTSD, Emotional Flashbacks, especially stuff by Peter Levine. Sounds like you need to do a little bit of “Inner work” to become impervious to your son-in-law who sounds like a major narcissist. Trust me it’s possible even though it’s slow work. I’m already able to handle my family’s scapegoating better than before, and I am hoping to heal enough physically to get the hell out some day. It’s not easy, I deal with suicidal urges often (which is natural considering this is a miserable way to have to live), but I now see I am stronger than I believed or was told I was by my Family of Origin. As are all of us! Your only job (IMHO) is to become so full of self love and self approval that nothing fazes you – even the prospect of your SO choosing his son over you. Once that happens, you will find that your son-in-law will leave you alone and target someone else. Narcissistic never target people without inner wounds that they can manipulate – they can sense who amongst us has something that needs “fortifying” within us. It’s not fair to us to have to do this but it sure beats feeling like a helpless victim. Hope this helps! I wish you well, T.

  • Teens

    Teens

    December 29th, 2017 at 9:02 AM

    Sorry Diana, I also suffer from Brain Fog and missed the part about you being a widow – my condolences. You SIL is still a run of the mill Narcissist who is targeting you, they can seen unpredictable but once you understand their “type” (Google will help!) they can be easy to figure out. Don’t give up! He is more empty than you realise, and you are more full of light than you know – T

  • Rosie W

    Rosie W

    December 31st, 2017 at 5:22 PM

    I feel that I was the family scapegoat although my family background doesn’t fit the profile in that my parents were kind, but overwhelmed, parenting 9 kids. They were not abusive or narcissistic. Is it possible to be scapegoated in the absence of narcissistic parents? If so, how can this be explained? For the last several years, I’ve endured continuous scapegoating -ridicule, blame, smear campaigns etc, much of it instigated by a sister who brought other siblings on board to gang up on me. I’ve gone No Contact but she has influenced others in my community and managed to spread rumours and cast doubt on my reputation. I’ve read that the scapegoat complex originates with narcissistic parenting in childhood. Not so in my case, but it still feels very much like scapegoating. I would be grateful if Sarah or anyone else could shed some light on this for me. Thanks! R

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    December 31st, 2017 at 7:10 PM

    Hello, Rosie – it is not necessarily the parents who create the scapegoat; siblings can do it, too. You might be interested in reading my most recent article tha touches on this subject. It is called, “When There is No Away: The Grief of Sibling Bullying.” You can find it in the GoodTherapy.org blog. I hope you find it helpful.

  • Rosie W

    Rosie W

    January 1st, 2018 at 11:02 AM

    Thanks Sarah. That’s very helpful. Also, although family scapegoating always seem to be associated with childhood in any literature I’ve explored on the topic, my own experience has been that it can spike in adulthood – especially when the scapegoat decides to go No Contact. Thanks again. – R

  • ElizabethLC

    ElizabethLC

    January 14th, 2018 at 9:55 PM

    I was/am the scapegoat of my family. This has been going on since my early childhood. My mom and brother scapegoated me, in order to exonerate my mother for allowing my brother and I to be abused. By blaming the abuse on me, my mom exonerated herself and my brother didn’t put the blame on her. By putting the blame on me, my brother could be more comfortable with our mother and not have to hold our only parent accountable. My brother never met his father and I didn’t meet my father until I was 17. (I never bonded with him and spent very little time with him because he lived too far away.) So, mom was our only real parent. My brother was ’the golden child’ and I was the scapegoat! My brother was enmeshed with my mother until her death.
    *We did have a series of abusive stepfathers. The abuse by the stepfather of our early childhood is the abuse that I am blamed for.
    And, the last stepfather had 3 children and eventually they were pulled into the abusive scapegoating of me. My stepfather didn’t like me, so my mom shunned me and brought them all into the scapegoating scenario. My brother and the stepsister became equal golden children and I remained the scapegoat. The 2 stepbrothers also scapegoated me.
    It was a hellacious experience for 4 decades. And, though I was never able to lose the scapegoat role, I never stopped fighting it. After my mom and their dad died, I really let them know what I thought of them; the bunch of scumbags!
    I don’t recommend fighting the situation or staying in the family at all, if they are determined to scapegoat you. From my experience, I believe that it just caused more harm to myself psychologically and did not do me much good. I did manage to keep them miserable by refusing to stay removed from the family, and possibly that gave me some satisfaction, but it wasn’t worth it.

  • Wendy T

    Wendy T

    January 15th, 2018 at 9:09 AM

    Thank you for pointing out it is often the strongest one who becomes the scapegoat because she was strong enough to bear the sins. You wouldn’t want a weak goat, one who would die before the banishment or who would not survive being cast out. In some ways, reminds me of sacrificing the most beautiful virgin or the privilege of killing or eating the most ferocious wolf. I had felt there was something wrong with me, something weak and pitiable, that drew the blame onto me – more like “they shoot horses, don’t they?” Or put it out of its suffering- when you see a partially crushed bug, you just want to crush it the rest of the way. But I have been ferocious of looking life in the face, whether inside me, in relationships, in habits and patterns. I’ve insisted on looking at myself as agent, and learned to say “their responsibility, their cruelty” or my poor choice, lack of understanding, and the HUGE difference in what others do TO you as a child and what you choose. Thank you for calling it the abusive family’s choice to blame the strong one, perhaps ultimately the one who would escape!

  • Marie a

    Marie a

    January 16th, 2018 at 3:21 AM

    Yes I’ve been scapegoated my whole life. I’m the scapegoat while my sis is the golden child. I’d rather be physically beaten then go thru the mental abuse I’ve been thru. Even in my older years things haven’t changed. Only gotten worse very recently. I ask God why all the time. Why me?! I can’t comtinue living like this anymore. I have been envied name called and told I was the crazy one. Have no friends due to being isolated and probably ptsd. Have major problems trusting people because every male relationship ive had has gotten worse over time. Last man I was with messed with my mind so bad but told everyone I was the one playing mind games. It is unimaginable the pain n damage I’ve been through. Yet I’m still here. Why???!! 😢

  • Pamela

    Pamela

    January 16th, 2018 at 10:47 PM

    Pathological families, friends, co-workers, etc. bond together with the common goal of bringing down the strong, kind, caring, loving, empathetic ones that rise above the dysfunctional pit. Learn their MO, their goal and understand it’s not us or our problem. They project, gaslight, use ‘crazy making,’, withhold love and acceptance, accuse, bully, blame, tell everyone we’re the crazy ones , (while they act calm (because they lack empathy and can’t actually feel or care) and we’re upset) and on and on. They have ‘flying monkeys’ (followers that do their bidding). They think they have power in numbers to being us down, fear not..,get the professional knowledge and material needed to expose their behavior. Think clinical and stop reacting. These are not our people! Once we start bringing the behavior into the professional light- they start scurrying like rats to a dark hole. There will be rage…oh yes…they will rage. There’s only one way to survive: No contact.

  • Helen

    Helen

    April 9th, 2019 at 11:41 AM

    Pamela, I just love your words and feel empowered by them rather than the battered wreck I feel most days. For me no contact has been the only solution….any attempt to put my feelings or truth across results in more personal attacks on me. Where can I arm myself with the information to protect myself and increase my general resilience?? Helen

  • Pamela

    Pamela

    January 16th, 2018 at 11:38 AM

    Marie a,
    To understand what’s happened and happening to you, please get some PROPER help (counselors trained in understanding pathological abuse) and information. You are being scapegoated, gaslighted, projected upon and other pathological behavior dumped on you. To fully understand why and how- start with the book, “Women Who Love Psychopaths” by Sandra L. Brown and her information and Institute. People who attract pathological people have certain “supertraits’ ( empathy, kindness, loyalty etc) that pathological people can read like sharks to blood. Yes, very likely you have PTS from all the pathological abuse-most of us do. A helpful quick little book available for $1.00 on Amazon Kindle called “A Primer On Evil” by T. Park (overlook the few grammatical errors because the basics are helpful) is worth the buck.

  • MaryAnne

    MaryAnne

    January 16th, 2018 at 7:10 PM

    OMG, thank you from the bottom of my heart for this article. I left home immediately after college because I could do nothing right. Moved to a big city, continued my education, made friends and made a life for myself. Got tons of therapy and the entire time continued to be scapegoated by my family. When I married 26 years ago I was completely shunned by my family for many years. I had a successful professional life, many friends and a nurturing, wonderful husband. Eighteen months ago we moved back to my hometown. Nothing but chaos and drama has ensued. My family freaking hates me here for the life I have lived without their support. The past holidays were the most painful I have ever spent as they intentionally inflicted emotional pain and shunned me once again. I returned from meeting with my sponsor from a 12 Step program tonight and found this article. OMG! So much makes sense now. I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off my chest! Your article explains SO freaking much! I have felt like I was the problem for years. I have always done well without my family. They only drag me down even when I have tried to do everything humanly possible to please them. I have been bordering on suicidal. Your article speaks truth. I call for counseling in the morning. I love me. They don’t. I am not the narcissist, ego-driven bitch they say I am. No one in my family would even consider counseling to look at themselves and our family problems. And that is reality right now. Thank you for writing this and throwing me a life raft!

  • Jake

    Jake

    January 28th, 2018 at 8:05 AM

    It must be fate that I’m reading this year-old article now, of all times. Now that I’m staring down the barrel of a family wedding that I really, REALLY don’t want to go anywhere near.

    Last time I went to one of these things (at the same complex, no less!) I was stupidly clutching to the hope that amid the throng of strangers and future distant in-laws, I might actually meet my own future Mrs. Only to find out that the whole pool of guests had been contaminated with these roumers of me being a “loser” before I’d even shown up. One such stranger even had the gall to tell me point blank I was a loser. Rude shock, much?

    Even if there had been a good egg there, I had no chance.

    And you are so right, there just doesn’t seem to be any way of fixing it. I’ve come to realize that most people are just bombs of misery. You know how on TV/movies the really smart bombmakers make these bombs that just can’t be rendered harmless no matter what the cops do? The bombmaker has rigged it so that every possible remedy the cops can think of will cause it to detonate. People are like that. No matter what you try to stop them inflicting their negativity on the world, all you will succeed in doing is setting off another blast of that negativity; just causing everybody within earshot of them to feel unhappy that there are people like you in their world.

    Maybe there is some specific set of words that will actually disarm people like this. But whatever they are, they must be far too obscure for me to just stumble upon with a clumsy “brute force” strategy (which is currantly all I have). Frankly, I need someone to tell me plain and simple what these people want to hear, so I can make them happy and hopefully shut off that gushing negativity that not only sullies the world of the people who have to hear it, but that also spoils any opportunity I might have of meeting someone I can be happy with.

    This article urges people in these sorts of dillemas to go to therapy, but I’ve done that dance and found that it does far, far more dammage then good. I want to avoid repeating that nightmate at all costs. Besides, if there really isn’t anything the “scapegoat” themself can say to remedy the situation, as the article implies, what good can a therapist do, unless they are willing to confront the offending family members themself and go to bat for the patient? Or unless they are willing to help the patient find a new family?

    Is there any sort of general tipsheet available for dealing with these kinds of situations? I realize that proper remedies ideally need to be tailored to the individual situations, but I just can’t get trapped in another therapy situation.

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    January 28th, 2018 at 7:13 PM

    Hello, Jake – It sounds as if you’ve had negagtive experience with counseling if you view it as damaging and as a trap, and I’m sorry to hear it. I know that when I work with individuals on the topic of scapegoating, we focus on coming to terms with the reality of the situation, exploring options for moving forward, and finding ways to release anger and resentment. Sometimes, that means leaving one’s family behind in order to live in peace. Generally, this process is liberating.

  • Pamela

    Pamela

    January 28th, 2018 at 8:19 PM

    Excellent comment and advice, Sarah. I’ve had negative experiences too. Many counselors are untrained in understanding scapegoating, gaslighting, psychopathy, narcissism and even projection.

  • Pamela

    Pamela

    January 28th, 2018 at 8:21 PM

    *…and the trauma and PTS most of us have.

  • Ashley

    Ashley

    January 30th, 2018 at 1:16 PM

    From the research I have done, I am definitely the Scapegoat in my family. Anything I do wrong is scorned and will be brought up again and again, even years later, yet if someone does something to me and I bring it up, even if it’s only a little while after it happened, I will be told how I was wrong and the person that hurt me didn’t do anything wrong or didn’t mean it, yet if I do what the person did to me it is my fault and I will be scolded for it/told off even if I didn’t mean it. I will be accused of not letting things go and because I have social challenges due to a brain injury I had since birth (a cyst covers the entire right side of my brain; I’m not in a wheelchair and completed academic school successfully as well as graduated with a 96% average in an Office Administration program in college – I am looking for a job and will soon be returning to college to upgrade to Medical Office Administration so I can apply for a job within the Health Care System as I have been not having any luck finding a job so far) that is always a reason my mother uses, claiming that I always misunderstand things because of the cyst on my brain – that it impedes my understanding of social situations. That may be true, to an extent, but I have done enough research to know when I am right about a situation but no matter how much I defend myself and point out that I am right I am shut down and told that I am wrong. This is Scapegoating and I have come to accept it. I live with a Narcissistic Mother; she has all of the traits according to the research I have done – she claims that because she does a lot for me (which is true) I shouldn’t be offended if she says something and asks me what would she have to gain by saying something hurtful to me (such as I cause grief because of past mistakes I made when I was younger or I am “too sensitive” if I defend myself in any way or disagree with her about ANYTHING). She always finds fault in me by bringing up mistakes or pointing out something that she claims I’m wrong about when I actually know I’m right about it – I learned to just go along with her and agree that yes, I’m wrong – I learned you can’t win any arguments with her, I’m always wrong and if I say that I’m wrong about that too! She makes me feel anxious and I end up taking Clonazepam or Ativan when I have it to calm myself down, but she never knows that I take anything – that’s the only way I can handle her. I don’t drink because I’m epileptic and she is a drinker, she once claimed that if I didn’t bring so much stress into her life she wouldn’t drink as much. She thinks that I have grown up and improved a lot; that’s not true, the truth is I learned to just play along and agree with everything she says – when I defend myself she flips out and I will be told off, reprimanded, and told that I am wrong. I still defend myself sometimes and even though it’s not in a mean way she will ALWAYS flip out and make me out to be the bad one – she will not take any responsibility for her actions.

    If I had friends to move in with or the money, I would move out. Mom has money put away for me in a Savings Fund but I can’t access it until I’m 60 years old and I hate being negative but I know I won’t make much money in my job so it seems I am stuck living with her until one of us dies. I guess my “payment” for living with her is to be her punching bag or Scapegoat; last year I kept track of the number of days each month she made me a Scapegoat (I put a check mark on a Calendar I had on each date that this happened – it was a total of 106 days out of the year. I am doing the same this year and so far, I have spent 13 days being her Scapegoat.) I am lucky that she is gone most weekends (she is seeing someone) but I notice that she will always treat me like crap at least the two days before she goes away – perhaps this is to make up for when she is gone, since she won’t be able to treat me like dirt for a few days because she is gone.

    Does anyone else have this issue (someone will treat them like dirt just before one of them goes away for a period of time)? Like I said, if I had friends or the money, I would leave. I have social anxiety due to extreme bullying when I was younger and the treatment I receive from my mom doesn’t help at all. Because of the social anxiety (and the fact that I have social challenges due to the brain injury I had since birth) I have difficulty socializing with people. If you have ever seen the movie Carrie or read the novel, my life is basically Carrie White’s, the bullying is almost identical too, except I didn’t freak out about having my period nor did I announce it to anyone.
    Yes, my mom may be a support for me in a lot of ways, but does that give her a right to Scapegoat me every chance she gets? She seems to do this all of the time. I know if I did what she did to me, I would be scorned. Yet she is somehow always justified in the way she treats me.
    She even dated a man who, at one point, drew a picture of me with my head cut off (she found it first and I then found it by accident when I was looking for something). She didn’t break up with him when he did that; she claimed she couldn’t prove it was him even though she said he did it in the first place since he wrote my name on the picture and some other things (he drew a picture of someone with their head cut off and a sword besides it – I am not good at drawing, I tried drawing the sword once but couldn’t do it so I know I didn’t do it – she tried to blame me for the drawing at one point but I showed that I didn’t do it – why would I draw a picture of someone with their head cut off then write my name underneath it? The guy she was seeing didn’t even spell my name right. And he also made fun of the things I liked, she heard him making fun of me (he would do it in front of her and say it loud enough for her to hear) but claimed that I never told her about it so she didn’t know about it – so apparently it’s my fault that she stayed with a man that made me feel like ****. Maybe it’s just me, but if I was dating someone who drew a picture of my kid (and I don’t have any kids) with their head cut off, I would break up with the person and I would not claim it’s the kid’s fault that I didn’t break up with them nor would I say that the kid didn’t come to me when they were upset with the person or that I never saw any evidence the person was mean when there was – such as the drawing and making fun of things the kid liked. She is no longer seeing the man but they didn’t break up because of me. Yet it’s my fault that I was miserable when she was with him – because apparently I didn’t speak up. Once again, she is Scapegoating me. I think the reason she had me to begin with is so she could have her own personal punching bag/Scapegoat and she takes advantage of the fact that I have a brain injury by claiming because of that I misunderstand a lot of the social communication that happens between us – apparently I am wrong about anything that I may find offensive that she does or says since nothing she does or says is offensive! In other words, she’s perfect even though she didn’t say that to me.

    People bullied me in school and the staff allowed it (even when they saw it) and mom never once did anything about it, yet she claimed that when I was in trouble she always defended me and would always be at the school because I was always in trouble. That wasn’t true – yes there were things I did that were inappropriate but that wasn’t very often, and it wasn’t severe. I mentioned that a lot of the time I was in trouble I didn’t do anything wrong; the bullies would either lie or there would be a misunderstanding. She won’t listen to that. She mentions that I don’t let things go if I bring something up yet she brings things up all the time, even things that happened eleven years ago! I guess there are different rules for Scapegoats. The scary part is I make a goat sound sometimes (she doesn’t know this) when she is really making me a Scapegoat (I do this in private). I can replicate the sound perfectly – I guess that is a “talent” that a scapegoat can have!

  • Pamela

    Pamela

    February 22nd, 2018 at 11:03 AM

    This comment is to Stephanie:
    Absolutely we can make it out! I did-I’m a survivor after a lifetime of being abused by narcissistic family members and husbands. Please, go to saferelationshipsmagazine .com -Sandra L. Brown’s Institute. It’s help for survivors of someone else pathology.

  • Pamela

    Pamela

    February 22nd, 2018 at 11:08 AM

    *someone else’s pathology. Sorry for any grammatical errors-this site does not play well with my iPad.

  • Filbert

    Filbert

    March 30th, 2018 at 11:03 AM

    While not wishing to come across in the wrong light, I would like to understand how the myth of the dysfunctional family “roles”, in this case, the “scapegoat”, came to be accepted as anything but storytelling? Not that storytelling does not serve a role in many cultures, I question the lack of critique by some in the psychotherapeutic community who continue to tell this story and conflate it with a reality that goes beyond an author writing about their pet theory. So my question to the author, respectfully posed, is, can you provide any published literature found in peer-reviewed sources that supports the veracity of the underlying contention here, please?

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    March 31st, 2018 at 7:00 PM

    There is no myth of dysfunctional family roles – they are real and observable. There is a great deal of research available on the topic of scapegoating. You can start your own search by going to research.net and entering “scapegoat” in the search bar, for example. I wrote this particular article for the Good Therapy blog, which is not a site for peer-reviewed research papers.

  • Johanna I.

    Johanna I.

    July 17th, 2018 at 7:24 PM

    I love this article. I completely relate. I have also always been the scapegoat. It started more recently when my moms sister got involved in my relationship with my mother. I told her to mind her own business. She has now made everything my fault and gets into issues that are none of her business and tells everyone it is because of me. Then my sister she has always put me down since the beginning of time. She is the worst of them. Anytime we get an argument she plays victim and then calls all the relatives about how bad I was. But I did even do anything. It is her unrelenting rage and then I leave…… I am done! My mother is old and I know she is not going to last very long but she is big problem as well because of her sister who she listens to. I felt guilty at first because I should be there for my mother and I want to be but I cant take it anymore. I just believe these are the choices that are made, and I just can
    t take any put down and someone blaming me for something I did not do. The abuse stops here right now and my son has not experienced any of this kind of toxic behavior so I am better off .
    I do not understand it at times. They are just very sick people and the farther I am away the better. I have a son and we are making a new family with boundaries and respect. The way it should be,

  • Catherine

    Catherine

    July 18th, 2018 at 10:36 AM

    Johanna, you are definitely doing the right thing by “making boundaries” and cutting off contact. I did that for myself, but did NOT do it for my son… I thought “well, maybe at least he could have a decent relationship with FAMILY.” Huge mistake. All they did was tell him their constant lies, shame and humiliate him so he would “know what I was really like” and I was paying for his plane tickets to family reunions the whole time! He is now very angry at me, blaming me for how he has been treated by so-called family members. Allowing and encouraging contact with any of them was the biggest mistake of my life. I haven’t even seen some of them for more than 50 years and they are still going after me! Their children and grandchildren have all “heard all about me” and “no one wants anything to do with me” since I am “such a terrible person.” Yet nothing could be further from the truth. I have done NOTHING to any of them but speak the truth about my father molesting me, in an effort to protect my niece who was going to stay with them unsupervised. That made me an ENEMY OF THE STATE, with the charge led by my own mother. It hurts so much sometimes I think I am just going to die, yet here I still am.

    If only I had stayed away for good when I left home at age 16, perhaps my life would have been very, very different. But I made the mistake of thinking “surely I could make peace and we could be the happy and loving family” I saw so many others having.

    Mental illness goes far and doesn’t go away. I believe it is passed down through the generations, looking at both sides of my own family. This includes addictions to alcohol, prescription drugs, depression, OCD, Borderline, Narcissism and Rage-Aholics. We’ve got ’em all and the best thing I can do is now that I am almost 70 years old is CUT THE CORD FOR GOOD and leave them to their own devices, and find peace on my own.
    Sad but true and NOT being constantly attacked in exchange for occasional loneliness is a price well-worth paying.

  • Ivy

    Ivy

    April 13th, 2018 at 9:14 PM

    “Blameless Burden . . . .’ is a brilliant, insightful article that addresses and explains the crux of my family life and how I have been scapegoated beyond belief and from several directions. This nightmare surfaced gradually over the years and climaxed with the estrangement between me and my eldest son, for whom, with his younger brother, I lived and breathed motherhood and their nurturing. I lived for and loved my family, as I am an only child whose parents divorced when I entered first grade. I am just now understanding my decades-old nightmare, and thanks to your expertise and sensitivity, I realize I do not deserve pariah status, although my younger son has been more supportive. I am published writer-photographer and know my life is worth more than tears, hand-wringing and wondering how I could be so despised and criticized. Now, I know it’s not me–it’s them. Still, I am disappointed that I allowed nearly a half-century of growing abuse, even as I battled cancer twice and am facing it again. I do know that my work will survive and speak for me when I am gone. I am so grateful for your knowledge and for the way you gently but clearly illumine my mind. I am Indebted to you forever, Sarah Swenson, as your post for all intent frees me from significant self-castigation over being scapegoated by my family, while at least one member has vast mental issues that have gone unchecked and untreated for most of his life.

  • Sarah Swenson

    Sarah Swenson

    April 16th, 2018 at 8:19 AM

    Hello, Ivy – thank you for your kind and heartfelt note. It is an honor to learn that my writing has touchd you so deeply. Warm regards and best wishes to you. -Sarah

  • Tina

    Tina

    April 27th, 2018 at 3:51 PM

    Unfortunately, most dysfunctional families that scapegoat have a narcissist(s) in them, like mine. Worse, is when you don’t realize it until you have children of your own, which makes it so much more difficult to find a way to break free. What bothers me though, is the thought that there’s nothing that can be done about the narcissist and they seem to be becoming more and more common. This puts our society in a very dangerous place. I am 50 yo female who unfortunately found out too late exactly how dysfunctional a family came be while seeming perfectly normal to the world. I lost my home last year and me and my sons were forced to live with my mother. The dysfunction has escalated and I’ve been physically beaten by my 30 yo son and twice by my 48 yo brother and each time caught me off guard because it was not a situation where I had provoked or was in an argument at the time with them. It wasn’t just a punch either. A few weeks ago my father died and while at the funeral home making arrangements, I had a disagreement with a half-sister, as we were arguing my brother came up and punched me in the head/face and the violently drug me by my hair out of the room and down two flights of stairs, while everyone just stood and watched. I screamed for help and for someone to call the police, but nobody did ….. they would all stick together if I did report it and my mother would kick me out of her house. I hope that nobody every finds themselves in a situation like I am in, where you have no options and feel the hope slipping away. Don’t keep thinking things will get better because they won’t, they get bad and when you wait until they do, it may be too late.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    April 28th, 2018 at 10:26 AM

    Dear Tina,

    Thank you for your comment. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about domestic abuse at http://www.thehotline.org/ and additional information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Tina

    Tina

    July 29th, 2018 at 7:55 PM

    Thank you

  • EDWARD D.

    EDWARD D.

    April 28th, 2018 at 9:24 PM

    The scapegoat is what figuritivly unifies the mob because they are united in shunning the one they always blame as deserveing to be shunned because he . . . They share false accusations amongst themselves and they will not listen to an honest redeaming defense of the scapegoat because these hate groups of people are intent to viscous, hateful, mosters that find joy in their narcissistic group self. They take a life by creating the scapegoat and are equal to murders in character assassination. The scapegoat is in worse condition if he thinks blood is thicker than water and that his good deeds will be acknowledged by this hate group.

  • K

    K

    July 30th, 2018 at 9:17 AM

    I think you’ve got it partly right. They do band together in shunning the one member (often the truth teller, whistle blower, the one who does not go along with the dysfunction and abuse, etc).

    But the reason the mob does this is because if they can blame the scapegoat (for most if not all their issues), then they do not have to accept responsibility, do not have to try to improve anything within the group. The scapegoat is not just sent out to ‘wander,’ but to be gossiped about for yeas, even decades, as the one who caused all the problems.

    It won’t work, of course, because the mob is composed of personality disordered individuals who are not prone to self-examination, so their dysfunctional lifestyle continues.

    It amazed me that years after I began No Contact, I was still being blamed, even for things that happened after I was gone

    They are that delusional.

  • EDWARD

    EDWARD

    July 30th, 2018 at 5:25 PM

    Same here. Once I started marrage and family counseling my covert narcissistic wife filed for divorce. I continued and counseling by myself in the counselor was really helping me a lot. One day I flippantly said I love you as I was leaving her office. that’s what I always used to say when I left walked left out the door and left my wife to go somewhere. the counselor must have taken it the wrong way because the next week she really confronted me about it because during the week between me saying I love you and the next sessions my wife tried to sabotage the counciling relationship by telling my counselor that she shouldn’t be counseling me because I was a threat threat because I was attracted to the counselor.. She even had the pastor of the church and another counselor call my counselor and tell her that I was a threat and that she should not council me. so after all that I walked into my counselor’s office the next week and she slammed me with all this. I was like in shock. So my counselor had me see the psychiatrist and he asked me if I had thoughts or would do anything to hurt her . I said no. This all happened because, after I flippantly said I love you to the counselor, i said to my son, “What if me and xxxxxx (the counselor) get married someday?” My intent was to use this as an example to assure him that he would still be welcome in my life after his mother divorced me and If i married someone else. I only use the counselor and example! So after my wife turned my son against me and the counselor. sent me to a psychiatrist office. He basically asked me if would hurt the counselor or we’re thinking about hurting her. I told him no and that I would protect her. I told him no but that I liked they’re very much. He asked me if I knew that you can’t reciprocate. I said yes I know that. I’m not expecting her to. After all that I continued with that same counselor for the next 5 years. We had a good relationship. She helped me a lot. She filled a 5 year space in my life that was empty. I had a master’s degree in counseling and I was married for 30 years this when this happened.

  • v

    v

    May 1st, 2018 at 6:57 AM

    I work with one and this is this exactly the way it works. The narcissist queen bee on the floor spreads her hate of one or two on the floor and everyone up here joins her. It is like being in high school. I’ve asked to be moved to another department, the answer is no. They didn’t want me to leave because turnover was pretty big for a bit but I think they would be fine with me leaving soon. I deal with it with husband at home and one that works beside me here.

  • Malfoy

    Malfoy

    May 1st, 2018 at 9:13 AM

    V,
    I worked with a Narcissistic woman for a couple weeks. She was terrible and loved making me feel inferior every time we were left alone. Coincidentally, she would never say/do anything bad to me when other people were around. After suffering from her for a couple days I went to talk to the manager and guess what happened? I was fired two days later: all my co-workers believed her lies, never did anything to change her ways, and thought I was delusional.

    So my advice is, if you’re working with Narcissists, is to get out. I know it sounds terrible, and it’s not fair at all, but it’s the only way. They make you look crazy, they have a bunch of (very loyal) flying monkeys around them that do the job for them, and there is no way you can win. Just start job hunting, find a place where you can work peacefully, and go there.

  • Lo

    Lo

    May 20th, 2018 at 11:37 PM

    My scapegoating experience ranges from being abused because at the age of 4 I was molested in a neighbor’s car and sodomized with tools to having my parents take my teenage sons’ sides to the point of trying to get them to divorce me in court. Today, my sister carries the scapegoat torch — sweet Christian that she is!! and has told my son the “TRUTH” about me (which I have no idea what it was that she said) and now after an 11 year relationship don’t have a grandson anymore! Praise God for that I might have ruined him.

  • B

    B

    June 18th, 2018 at 8:51 AM

    “There’s a Holiday Inn down the street,” my eldist sister told me when I asked if I might visit for Christmas.
    “I’m not trying to ruin this holiday!” My twin sister exclaimed when she stood me in New York City, and blamed me for the miscommunication.
    Use your capacity for love, compassion, and for bringing happiness to the world for yourself.
    They are jealous of you for it.

  • Catherine T

    Catherine T

    October 13th, 2018 at 11:03 AM

    Patricia wrote: “Sarah, Kelly and Catherine, same mobbing happened to me. It’s shocking to suddenly realize as well as having to deal with your own grief, the dawning that your past feels like an illusion and like a light bulb being turned on at the same time.”

    Thank you! But I haven’t had the ‘light bulb” moment yet; just the knowledge that my mother, even on her death bed, set my sisters against me and had been doing this to me my whole life. It’s horrible, and now I am completely alone. One sister used to call my own son to “tell him what I’m really like” and I don’t know what she said, but it helped turn him against me as well. He blames me for all the shame and abused heaped on him and myself by my so-called “family.” It’s hard to stay alive when you realized the terrible effect this has had on your life and your loved ones all your life. It’s hard to live this way. Impossible, almost.

  • lynda

    lynda

    October 25th, 2018 at 2:04 AM

    Thank you so much for this article – I now have more understanding of what happened in our disfuctional family and how badly it affected me

  • Tisha

    Tisha

    December 28th, 2018 at 4:27 AM

    I am going through an aggressive divorce with an alcoholic ex spouse and there are child safety issues. The cost will be over 100,000. I can not imagine a more stressful event outside of serious illness. During this time, I asked for family support and friendship sometimes, but never tried to burden anyone. I did not call or ask for calls daily or weekly, and sometimes did not hear from or see family members for months. I say this to note that I was not calling people nightly at midnight sobbing for hours, or interrupting their lives in any major way.. My sisters chose to “ghost” me and when I sometimes asked for support and friendship said usually said no, or said I was making them feel guilty. My parents sometimes visited and this was helpful, but when I would try to better our communication or ask for help when feeling down, I was yelled at by both mother and father. My mother called me abusive one when I was crying and asking for her support, and wondering why I was being treated this way, My sister has been recently targeting me, and splitting the family against me. She and my mother appear to be colluding. This Christmas, she invited everyone to her house for both the eve and the day, Our family always invites all members of our core family and we have never excluded any member. This time, when discussing the plans with her at 3 pm on Christmas Eve, she told me they were hosting me only until 9 am on Christmas Day, while the rest of the family was invited for the whole day. When I explained she had invited me, this all of our family holiday, I had a young son who would be disappointed, I would be completely alone on Christmas, asked why she was splitting the family, she un invited me to Christmas Eve as well. As this was done at the last minute, the rest of the family was caught in the crossfire. My mother did not want this option, I know she absolutely wanted us all together, but because she can not go against my sister (perhaps fearing her retaliation, perhaps not to lose the golden child), she yelled at me and said it was “between you and your sister”. She offered to come see me on the Christmas Day herself, but I asked her why they would have to sneak off to see me and my child would not get to see his family, when she and my father could just say “we do not exclude family members, the plan was made and it is last minute and we will not allow one person to be alone”. Basically I told them all they should be ashamed of themselves and I was cutting them off. My four year old son did not see any family members for the eve who he had been so excited to see, and I sat alone in the car eating take out from a Chinese restaurant which was the only one open in the area on Christmas Day. No one called us, or has since. This is a family who would never let anyone they knew of be alone on Christmas. My family are all in helping professions and as kind as you can imagine to those outside of the family,

  • Malfoy

    Malfoy

    December 28th, 2018 at 10:25 AM

    Hey Tisha, think of it this way. You’re seeing it for yourself who is beneficial for you in your life and who isn’t. That’s a huge step. Of course that doesn’t mean that you should cut all contact with everyone, if you can salvage a relationship it’s worth the try, but make no mistake: your emotional health is what matters and you’re not a burden for asking for help or support. Everybody does that.
    So keep in mind that finding out the truth about those around you is a blessing, not a curse. Take it as such! :)

  • Catherine

    Catherine

    December 28th, 2018 at 11:27 PM

    Tisha, I’m going through a separation and divorce after 40 years of this relationship, and I have been “ghosted” by long-term friends and so-called family as well. Our American culture does not allow or support any of us when it comes to grieving, and rejects any who show sadness, grief, or remorse. It’s a terrible thing and a huge hole in our culture which no one seems to recognize. As far as your family goes, I come from the same evil tree so be GLAD they are “cutting you off,” no matter what cost to you or your son right now. I tried for YEARS to get them to accept my son, and all they did was poison him against me. If I had known this is what they were doing, would I have spent the hundreds of dollars on plane tickets for him to visit them at family reunions, or encouraged him to go? Not in a million years. People that do what you are describing, and what I have lived through myself, are evil to the core. Devils, really. Read about Narcissists and Borderline Personality disorders, and you’ve got my family members to a “T.” They will never change, for even if they could change, they don’t want to. They need someone to be their target, and the “black sheep” and carry their sins away. Don’t let it be YOU. And hard as this is, it’s the only way I have found to keep my own sanity and life in hand. I would be dead if I had stayed around them, regardless of how many years I have longed for the love and support of “family.” They aren’t capable and all they know how to do is give pain, grief and suffering. Let them pour it on each other instead of anointing you with their misdeeds.

    Find *somewhere* and *someone* and a *group* that not only needs your input and attention, but wants it, and will appreciate the positive things you have to offer. I have volunteered with many groups and they have all been a blessing in disguise, and shown me the difference between “normal” people and the “evil” ones I was born into. No more virus catching mean people like you describe are allowed in my world; not ever again. God bless and I ask God to forgive them, because it’s not my job. They will have to face the consequences when they meet their own Maker, not I. I am responsible only for myself and I wish you and your son all the goodness possible in this world. God bless!

  • Mery

    Mery

    January 1st, 2019 at 5:36 AM

    Catherine, Nice post! As a fellow scapegoat, I thank you for helping me with your positivity. I like to volunteer myself. Since I have been dubbed an ‘outcast’, my New Year’s resolution is to embrace other ‘outcasts’ through volunteer work and help eliminate their loneliness or other wants. We are all given things to overcome. Doing good helps us overcome. Those who scapegoat others are evil; I agree. They don’t even think the scapegoat is important enough to consider worth feeling bad about – that’s how outsize their flawed egos are. Their problem. I see it repeating over again in my life, too. You are not alone.

  • Robbin

    Robbin

    December 29th, 2018 at 5:32 PM

    I am wondering if as anyone has a a good therapist who deals specifically with scapegoating in families and thereafter has dealt with similar patterns of bullying in the workplace? Also, I’m aware it’s very difficult to find people/support that understands the degree that this affects one’s life and subsequent life patterns. Yet, I see a lot of comments above of people in likely a larger area that understand it to some degree. Is there a way to build healthy supportive friendships these forums or via therapist treatment structures so we don’t feel so alone and isolated in this ongoing situation? If anyone is a scapegoating-educated therapist who would consider either or both, please let me know. I have done a lot of internal emotional work regarding this over the years, but still see patterns of bullying and isolation caused by original family scapegoating psychology. I see the unhealthy behavior in others now a lot easier than I used to, but would like to stop being a target again and again. I am a strong woman, and I don’t want to call for any unhealthy people who haven’t yet been able to do good internal emotional work. I am looking for healthy support structures involving healthy people who are completely aware of th e family scapegoating and what it can really do to a good person’s life. I’m thinking a good counselor might be able to create proper “healthy” support friendship-like matches amongst people they counsel. Overall with this scapegoating, we lose family and a sense of healthy supportive attachments. There should be a way for those of us dealing with this specific life-long matter, to support one another in healthy ways and get thru it with healthy bonds.

  • Sarah Swenson LMHC

    Sarah Swenson LMHC

    January 9th, 2019 at 8:57 AM

    In the two years since I wrote this article in January of 2017, I have continuously received emails from individuals whose lives have been interrupted by scapegoating. The number of comments here as well demonstrates that this problem is significant for many. I am honored that my writing is meaningful, and I would like to re-iterate the importance of taking your pain seriously enough to seek professional counseling support. In the new year, this can be your greatest gift to yourself. I send warm wishes to everyone facing scapegoating as you navigate your path toward healing.

  • Diane

    Diane

    January 10th, 2019 at 2:17 PM

    Sarah,
    Thank you so much for your article on scapegoating. I’ve tried to find qualified counselors who claim they’ve had the training.., the experience…, and the skill to treat this area. They are even able to provide examples of client outcomes. They have 20-25+ years experience, so I figured I’ve done my due diligence as much as I can and have found a professional who understands. Unfortunately, I soon discover this isn’t the case and there are some very unscrupulous counselors out there who have “great reputations,” but it’s in other areas. I’ve had counselors even plagiarize their client outcomes from others books or articles. How do you find a competent counselor with integrity? It’s very frustrating when you’re trying to do something for yourself, only to be taken advantage of financially, time-wise, suffering further emotional pain/abuse from an incompetent, professional counselor,….

    Thanks!

  • Catherine T.

    Catherine T.

    January 10th, 2019 at 4:41 PM

    I’ve given up on counselors, therapists and “healers,” who all seems to blame me for “not forgiving” my abuser. I am sick of their lies and machinations and then to charge me $100+ an hour for a bunch of spiel you can read anywhere on the internet. A website like this one has given me more help than any paid “therapist” ever has. Very depressing, and talk about adding salt to the wounds!

  • Helen

    Helen

    April 9th, 2019 at 1:15 PM

    Hi Sarah, I found this article whilst looking at ‘Learning to Trust Again After Gaslighting’. Recently divorced after 30years of marriage in which I was totally manipulated, but also in denial, I was referred to a Domestic Abuse Service. Unfortunately I have taken on the role of victim and feel irreparably damaged, but am striving to heal. I have removed myself from my entire family, fitting your description of a family scapegoat, whilst the true root of disharmony is my mother from childhood and my ex husband. I am alienated from my adult children, the eldest because she blames me for tolerating the husband’s behaviour and my younger 2 children apparently believing and perpetuating his gaslighting of me. No contact with my children is heartbreaking, but when I tried to reach out it was like I was speaking a different language and the response too negative to continue. This is my brick wall to recovery.

  • Mery

    Mery

    January 11th, 2019 at 11:10 AM

    Go to a Pastoral Counseling Center and get a Marriage and Family Therapist – slidng scale fees and they are particularly trained to understand family systems – scapegoating etc. What other counselors think of as the need to raise your subconscious in order to make you understand what you are feeling, the M&FT get it immediately. They believe you are up against it and help you out. Also, because the notion somebody could scapegoat and make it a lifelong torture for an innocent victim, is really hard for us to understand. We are gentle people and wouldn’t do this kind of thing. Read Dr. F. Scott Peck’s book entitle “People of the Lie”. He believes us, too. And, he also found it hard, as a treating psychiatrist, to deal with the scapegoaters and those who shunned others. Better days are coming! Cheers!

  • Hypollita

    Hypollita

    January 19th, 2019 at 2:48 AM

    Thanks, Sarah. I never thought someone would be able to put to words what I have been suffering from all these years. The putdowns, the magnification of small blunders, the inability to applaud for the successes, the pinning me down for the reality check when I expose truths sand lies. The only parent who had my back is gone now. She knew it all and tried to soften the blow when she was here. My son has been my helper, my confidante and my “I love you, Mum, no matter what”. Get-togethers held without me because “She is truly the worst!” I am on mending road. Thank Jesus for His Footprints on the sand I could barely walk on.

  • Treasa

    Treasa

    January 19th, 2019 at 10:38 AM

    Spot on!

  • RICHARD

    RICHARD

    January 19th, 2019 at 3:01 PM

    I was the scapegoat in my family. The part that resonated with me was that they pick the strongest in the family to take on their sins. I was physically stronger than my siblings, and my intelligence is greater than theirs. I was the only one in the family that was beaten regularly, and I was the target of much emotional abuse from all my family of origin.
    I have worked for decades to recover from this abuse, and I have finally found my self esteem that was robbed from me, and I have found one who loves me, and I have learned to reciprocate love back.

  • Catherine

    Catherine

    January 19th, 2019 at 10:23 PM

    Thank you Richard. Tears for the abuse you suffered and tears of joy for the fact you survived. Bravo! !

  • Donna

    Donna

    January 19th, 2019 at 7:44 PM

    It is frustrating to try to find a qualified, competent counselor. Sarah can you recommend someone in the Myrtle Beach, SC area that has training and experience. There’s only one listed through this site, and she’s being supervised. She lacks much on the experience plus her supervisor is not experienced with abuse and trauma. I’ve seen therapists who claimed they had training but really didn’t…, only later admitted they “misspoke,” “perhaps exaggerated,” “overstated,” etc their experiences. I’ve had counselors actually plagierize examples from other counselor’s published articles/books. These are the Christian counselors I’m referring to. I could say more…, but you get the pattern…. How do you find a competent counselor or has the training, skill, experience and integrity? Thanks!

  • Clare

    Clare

    March 21st, 2019 at 10:06 AM

    I’m so so sorry to all of you who’ve dealt with being the scapegoat for years. I’m in my third year and it is unrelenting. To have a spouse turn on you (mental illness I’m sure) and weaponise our children against me is the most painful thing thus far in my life. Happening at age 52, being blocked from ones home, family, church, and then to have all of the family made to believe that you are the monster is more than any one person can take. We do begin to question reality at times. Being that we are the strong ones with the level headed functional mind, is the only reason we can carry this burden and as is in my case, an Almighty, loving, and peaceful God who carries them daily. Love all of you! Love yourselves because you are loved. Don’t let the mentally ill cause you to doubt! Educate others and stop the abusers! Peace.

  • Jill

    Jill

    May 27th, 2019 at 3:47 PM

    I am the scapegoat in my family. My mother is a narcissist, completely manipulative, pathological liar, and the ultimate victim in all situations. I went no-contact finally after 45 years of suffering. With the help of a healer who uses the principles of quantum physics to shift and release emotionally traumatic energy trapped in the body.

  • Paula

    Paula

    June 14th, 2019 at 11:03 AM

    I have been the “scapegoat” for many years, and it all started when my son got married. His wife’s family had a history of issues for years, were in counseling from elementary school. Mother bi-polar,, one brother some kind of mental breakdown – following with treatment – causing divorce. However they are very controlling in having their way with holidays etc, and reject us. It seems DIL has been able, as the years have gone on, to rally everyone to her way of thinking. No amount of talking does any good. I’ve even said, I’ll take all the blame even though I know it’s not mine, get on my knees, apologize, – if you’ll just give a clean slate to start again. With the one DIL and son there have been a number of estrangements since 2005, and in 2015, all children estranged with a letter from the son married to the DIL in charge. My precious husband was diagnosed with gastric cancer 11 months later – a fate that keeps me wondering if all the stress for years contributed. He died 18 months later. I could survive this if I had him, but I don’t. I was in the superb where my other son lives the other day meeting some HS classmates for lunch (from class of 1967 – so I’m 70). My son has been redoing a house there near the campus of a university in that superb. I drove by to see If I could catch him there. They had just moved in. I didn’t know. His wife and daughters were on the porch. I haven’t seen my granddaughters since my husband’s memorial 10/26/2017, and they were so excited to see me. Lots of hugs, kisses, I love you, Their mother was standing right there and heard everything. I never said a word about what the girls might hear about me – but I did say there is and always will be love in my heart for you all my life, I think of you everyday, about being in school, playing ball- and my love is following you everywhere you go. The oldest – who will be 9 years old this month, was 5 when the 2015 estrangement started. But did see her some during my husband’s illness – not much. When I told her about my love, she said “there is nothing they can say that will make me stop loving you.”. I just don’t know how to reason this out, or it it’s even possible. I sent a text to my son and told him how great it was to see the girls. Actually as soon as the oldest ran off the porch and hugged me, she grabbed her mother’s phone, called my son and said “Nana’s here”. She was over the moon. My son replied to my text say the girls were excited and they were open to some communication but limited it to faceTime only. After all I’ve been through I don’t know what to do. I feel everything is a walking on eggshells situation. I faceTime, but if there is one thing I do they find worthy to criticize, I will be shut out again. I don’t even want to attempt reconciliation with my daughter and SIL. It’s her 4th husband. He’s much older than her and right off said grandparents are a once a year deal We’d been used to driving 12 hours round trip every couple of months to see that granddaughter. Four times after we left, my daughter called me about something he’d said I did, which was so twisted that it was lie. Examples: Once she was gone while we were there. He said my daughter’s smoking was causing them real marital problems. Needless to say since they’d just gotten married, and it was her 4th, I responded in surprise — “You mean like something as serious as divorce” (wondering why he was even talking to me about this). After we left, he told my daughter that “her parents were just waiting and hoping for the time they got a divorce”. She called me on the phone while we were driving home. I told her my story of how the conversation went. He was there and I had her get him on speaker and confronted him, and he admitted the conversation went as I said but that what he thought I was hoping. She was no longer mad at me after that. Another time as we were packing the car, he was telling me he had rented a cabin for 3 weeks for him, my daughter and all his kids and my granddaughter to come and go for the 3 weeks (was only an hour away), and fish, ski whatever. I said that sounds fun. Then on the road home I got a call about rejecting his invitation to come to the lake with them. He never invited me to come to the lake. Another time he got mad because I talked to my granddaughter’s dad and his new wife, looking at their baby when we went to my granddaughter’s events all day – horseback riding, then a softball game. I said he was in our family 13 years and you don’t quit caring about someone, and besides that, I feel my granddaughter (used her name) should see us all getting along. It takes a lot of pressure off of her. So I refuse to attempt reconciliation as I will no expose myself to that kind of manipulation, abuse and sabotage again. But if I tell the others why I won’t they side with – but they don’t even really know him. He’s old enough to be a father to my sons. They don’t ever see each other. Before the full estrangement of 2015, my DIL’s never had anything to do with my daughter. They could all be here at the house. The DIL’s would go out for coffee, or shopping and never invite her to go. Now that they want her and her manipulative husband in on the scheme, they do have them down for a short Christmas. And my daughter drive 10 hours one way to get there as she has hungered for so long to be included. I could go on and on and on. My son who has now offered the faceTime since he’s seen how his daughters have missed me still had a very cold attitude. He was my child with the biggest heart growing up. Being pulled into this mess has changed him. He says coming from where we have been (total estrangement) I should be excited to be offered faceTime. I’m excited about any contact with any of my grandchildren, and it thrilled that they’ve yet to fool a 9 year old into thinking their way, and she said it on her own. But I fear I’ll crack an eggshell and start all over. The driving force DIL, has a lot of influence on the DIL whose daughters I saw and who have offered facebook. She’ll be working behind the scenes to sabotage this. I was so close to this son growing up. He was my youngest – my surprise baby. Now I feel such resentment and even may hate from him. I want to send him these articles about scapegoating to see if he relates, but I’m concerned it will backfire on me. We (my husband and I) went to counseling just after the estrangement was called in 2015 (and there were some horrible things done to me during the time they initiated that process). I mentioned scapegoating to the counselor we saw for 8 months. He seemed reluctant to put a label on anything, yet did see the “force’ from the other DIL, and that she seems to drive the process. I think her mother was treated this way when they grew up, and the dad fostered it. But he died, soon after my son married, they are wealthy, and now mom holds the purse strings. So they cooperate there. The whole process makes me sick to my stomach – literally – everyday. I’ve already had an aggressive cancer that came after 2 years of my daughter’s divorce and aggressive court custody battles. I’m a Christian, and I’d so much rather be in heaven right now. I had suicidal thoughts in 2015 when they initiated the estrangement. I miss my husband so much. We were soulmates. I think I could have a happier life with a companion. My husband told me about two weeks before he died that if he was going to live, and his kids weren’t going to come, weren’t going to bring his grandchildren, he’d try to find a life he enjoyed, and that’s what he wanted for me when he was gone.. But really how do you find as good a man as I had for a husband – absolutely the best – and then tell them about the mess in your family. Would anyone be able to respect me or have faith in me? It’s so hard.

  • Lillian

    Lillian

    June 27th, 2019 at 10:29 PM

    Hello my name.is lilly and I am the escape goat of the family and it’s wrong and.it hurts but I’ll get over it God is good he don’t like ugly a d.thats what they.are

  • Rebecca

    Rebecca

    June 30th, 2019 at 3:13 AM

    Hi there im unclear about who the scapegoat is in my family! Ive just come across how with my mum constantly yelling and screaming that it is a form of intimidation and bullying and i need to stand up for myself and tell her that she has bullied us all our lives (im 40!) and it has to stop. She blames me for her life being ‘like a ightmare’ and from birth i have given her pain. So at first when i read this i thought, hmmm maybe i am the scapegoat for her! But then i realised, as she does this at lower levels to everyone else in the family (including my dad who has never stayed home for more than a month for the past 30yrs!) i started to think that because we all get together at times and complain about how she treats us so badly, that maybe she is the scapegoat? Because when i do confront her she says ‘you all blame me always’. So- are we all scapegoats in a way?

  • tiny

    tiny

    July 16th, 2019 at 1:13 AM

    Yeah. I was marked the scapegoat, everyone only came when they were homeless, losing their apartment, or refusing to take care of themselves. They expect more from me than themselves. I was okay with this, until I started hearing them bash me and make fun of me, calling me unapproachable, yet I let them live with me. They all like to talk bad about me and mock me trying to go to school and pursue a better life for me and my kids. They claim I have no respect or treat anyone humanely and never helped me when I really needed it.

  • Lily

    Lily

    July 16th, 2019 at 2:42 PM

    Tiny, it was very kind of you to provide assistance to your family members, and it was cruel that they returned your kindness with such abuse. I wonder if they might be jealous of you. When they say you have no respect, they actually seem to be describing themselves. People who mock others for trying to have a better life are definitely not respectful. Have you been able to set some limits on the amount of “help” you are now willing to give them?

  • tiny

    tiny

    July 18th, 2019 at 2:42 AM

    I won’t give anyone money or my time now. I gave boundaries and the efforts I made were mocked and my loved ones ( husband and kids) hurt >years<, and I was accused of shutting myself away, when I let myself trust, they broke it. I would talk to them why I am against the dangerous stuff they were doing, yet they claim I am judging them from my pedal-stool or I am the one at fault not them, or I am just an unforgiving person. So I am only making time for people who can truly see me as I am, and taking this time to aim for my dreams. I have been attacked so many times inside and out, I talked with behavior health, so many problems but I let it go, because I didn't do anything to them…nothing I need to be sorry for. ( if you do, does not mean they own you – just say your truly sorry and live on) I am living one day at a time, not what coulda been. sorry if this was weird.

  • Lily

    Lily

    July 19th, 2019 at 7:28 PM

    Tiny, It’s not surprising that when you tried to set a boundary, they didn’t respect it…since they didn’t ever respect you before, but if they’d rather keep being abusive than respect your boundaries, the choice to disengage from them was the only rational one. I’m happy for you that you are using your time and money for those who respect you and wish you well. You are so right, although we all wish the past had been different, that’s not in our control. Wishing you well as you pursue your dreams.

  • Suzanne

    Suzanne

    August 18th, 2019 at 9:56 AM

    I’m finding comfort in your words above. Thank you.

  • Roz

    Roz

    September 29th, 2019 at 7:38 PM

    Great article! Reading this and other info/books, listening to YouTube videos, having some therapy, remembering and reflecting all have helped with my healing. Also being clear on why I was chosen, those parts of my personality that made me a target, are what have helped me heal also. Independent thinking, strength, courage to speak the truth , empathy and sensitivity, these may have made me the target for scapegoating, but on seeing how my siblings have faired now as adults from growing up in our dysfunctional family with a Narcisstic father. I Am grateful that I have those traits . Sometimes the Golden child’s life as an adult is anything but golden, and I feel for my brother and sisters who were so terrified that they were just happy it wasn’t them who got singled out most of the time. I believe that more than ever the world needs people with the traits that made them scapegoats in the first place. A scapegoat who has healed and gone on to thrive will always remember what it feels like to be on the outside, and to feel fundamentally flawed in some way. Your healing can help and inspire others, we are, and always have been worthy of love, we just need to realize this. Sharing experiences on sites like these is one way we can help and validate each other . I am finding that I have attracted some friends and partners who have narcissistic tendencies in varying degrees. (Not surprisingly) The more I stand up fo myself and hold firm to my boundaries the more these tendencies are being revealed in these relationships. I am willingly letting go of some of these relationships to make room for healthier ones. This process has not been easy, and reminds me of my childhood anxiety when speaking up knowing I would pay for it later, with blaming, gaslighting shaming etc.
    I am finally willing to lose any relationship that is in any way abusive. It has taken me a long time and a lot of learning and healing to get to this point.

  • cheryl

    cheryl

    September 30th, 2019 at 9:47 AM

    OMG! Well said!!! Exactly how I am, how I feel. Wish I could get this across to my family but it won’t.
    However knowing my truth is really all I need.

  • Roz

    Roz

    October 5th, 2019 at 2:32 PM

    Yes exactly Cheryl! I have a post it on my computer screen that says “Hold on to your truth!”

  • Lily

    Lily

    September 30th, 2019 at 10:30 AM

    Roz, I appreciate your wise thoughts. You make an excellent point: traits that made us a target also can help us heal and benefit others. I hadn’t thought of it quite that way before. I see that my adult siblings also lack these positive traits. In their quest to stay in the narcissist’s good graces and pretend that things are “normal”, they have given up the truth. I can also relate to your discovery that when you start to set boundaries with abusive people, they let you know who they really are. It’s truly a litmus test. It was hard to let these relationships go, but the wonderful new people who have come into my life since I began doing this, accept boundaries and don’t manipulate others. Thank you again for sharing your insights.

  • Roz

    Roz

    October 5th, 2019 at 2:41 PM

    Thanks Lily! A “litmus” test as you say is a very good description, and it really does let you know who they are. Your experience of new friends who are respectful of your healthy boundaries coming in to your life is very encouraging to me, as I am still going through this and have just had to let a friendship of 20 years go.

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