What the Hell is Scapegoating?

Scapegoating. What the Hell is it? I was aware of its pain as a child, especially as a teenager, except there was no way to describe it. I still trusted Mom and Dad did everything they could for me, but that was not the case. They unconsciously projected their own childhood woes and each of their own subsequent fears, envy, shame, guilt, anger, etc. onto Yours Truly.

How? Well, I am writing my story in book form, but I found this excellent description of intense scapegoating that really articulates its cruel damage. My abuse was not as extreme as the author’s, but I experienced all the negative results: depression, low, and I mean LOW self-esteem, anticipated failures, inability to effectively communicate or deal with emotions such as anger and sadness, PTSD, and a host of other not-so-glorious characteristics you would never wish upon anyone. I am just learning to recognize and process these wounds as an adult. When I see a skinny teen with pimples, wearing all black, hunched back-that was me at one point in time-I just want to give them a hug. And hope.

Education was the bucket that lifted me from the well of doom. With education came travel. With travel came a worldview. With a worldview came perspective. With perspective came opportunity. With opportunity came strength. With strength came marriage. On and on.

The following blog post by Bev Payne is an excellent description. After reading it I hope you never judge that outcast looking teen. You have no idea what they’re going through. They have potential-they just don’t know it. I didn’t.

Spread love.

7 thoughts on “What the Hell is Scapegoating?

  1. I am 48 and I always knew my sister was favored and that I could never seem to do nothing right. My parents would light up like Christmas trees when my sister came to town and they ran their entire schedule around her visits. They expected me and my family to do the same thing. We were supposed to live to accommodate my sister’s visits and our own schedule was never taken into account. If we could not make an event my mother would become enraged and badger us that we “must” come. I used to put it down to my sister living out of state and I lived close by. However, there were other many more insidious issues going in my family and I was in very deep denial myself, my brainwashing was such that I didn’t really recognize my family was scapegoating me. I felt something was off and I was treated differently, but my eyes were not opened to how much so I was being scapegoated.

    When my grandma passed away, she had 4 antique chairs. My parents selected two. There were two left – one for each daughter except they gave them both to my sister. When I asked my father about this and said I would have liked one of my grandmother’s chairs he insisted he promised them to my sister. I was stunned. I said “you have two adult daughters and two beautiful chairs why would you promise both to one daughter and none to the other?” That just didn’t make sense to me. I have two sons. I would never give two of something to one son and nothing to other. I do try to be fair in my treatment of my sons.

    My father just pursed his lips and would not answer me. For years any time I would question on that event I never received an answer. My sister later stated she didn’t know I wanted one, but when she found out she didn’t offer to give one to me either, lol.

    I think, however small this event might have been a light bulb went on and I sort of started looking back at all the messages I had received as a child and as a young adult about my place in the family. I remember when I was very young, about 5 or 6, the same grandmother who had passed away was going through all her lovely bone china and crystal with my sister and I. As little girls we were not allowed to touch these things, but I was enamored by all the delicate china, pretty patterns, and cut crystal. My grandmother kept saying this goes to my sister and that goes to my sister and so on. Finally, even as a small child I finally asked “Well why does my sister get all of these and I don’t?” The answer was “She’s the oldest” End of story. The message was so final. She’s the oldest so therefore she gets everything nice and I get what is left over. This is a message that been repeated over and over in my family through the years. Just by virtue of her being older she automatically got everything nice and preferential treatment and I got what was left. It was no vault of my own. I didn’t get to chose my birth order. I can remember even as a child feeling angry, jealous, bitter, and helpless.

    When I was 30, I had a failed marriage and was a single mom of two sons. One of whom had high functioning Autism. This was a low point in my life. While my parents helped to support me and even helped me financially they never missed an opportunity to tell me about it. My father would give me a tally of how much money he had given me over the years and tell me that money should be substracted from my inheritance because my sister (who was happily married and living an upper middle class lifestyle) didn’t get that kind of help from them.. However, she didn’t need it, and if she had I would not have begrudged her of it. I just used to imagine my father sitting there with his calculator and keeping a binder with totals of all the funds he had given me and how much he resented it, as if life was not hard enough. I was dealing with real emotional trauma, poverty and fighting battles trying to get my son the services and help he needed medically and in school. Despite reminding me about how much of a burden we were my parents insisted on continuing to do so even when I told them to stop and I was going to let my house go and possibly file a bankruptcy. I honestly at that point would have rather filed a Chapter 7 then to continue to be reminded what a loser and a burden I was. I had endured it for year. I worked a full-time job and went to school part-tim making straight As on top of parenting two kids alone – one with special needs. But it’ was never good enough. I was never good enough. I was severely depressed and my anxiety had morphed in full fledged panic attacks by this point. I was despite to get out from their thumb and constant criticism. I was tired of being reminded what a burden my sons and I were to my parents. I was tired of hearing all the stories of how wonderful my sister was and her life was. My sister and I had little to no relationship which isn’t surprising. She basked in the light of her superior position in the family. She loved when I was underfoot. If something good did happen to me (such as when I met someone and got engaged after 15 year as a single mom) she hated it. It was very clear. She would not be happy for me. Even though sons and I had had it so hard and finally I found a wonderful man who loved us all. She resented it. It was very apparent. When my husband was offered a great new job in a new city, she also resented that and was not happy for us. I lived for years at poverty level. Now my husband was making as much as her husband and we were relocating to a nice new city that was a place people traveled to and vacationed. She never congratulated us and never wanted to hear anything about our new life. She really couldn’t stand to see me start to come in the world in any capacity. it seems she was not happy unless i was down and out.

    When my father passed the scapegoating and differential treatment became worse because my mother was even a worse offender on her her own. My dad actually was somewhat of a buffer and would usually have tinge of conscience at some point and try to smooth things over and even apologize on occasion. Not so with my mother. After my father passed, I had had a disagreement with my sister where she very intentional and did not include my family in a family holiday/event. in fact, went out of her way to make sure we didn’t know it was happening and were not invited. I was upset with her and she went and told my mother all the details (like a child involving mom in arguments). I went over to my Mother’s with my husband for a visit. My mother was so enraged that I had the gall to argue with and upset my sister that she screamed at me and at one point flew across the kitchen table to point her finger in my face. My husband and I were stunned. I totally thought she was going to hit me. I was 45 years old at the time.

    I could go on and on about the treatment, but I think I’ve made my point. The kicker? Since I live closest to my mother my sister says I have to care for my mother now that she is ill and elderly and basically housebound. Dear Sister from 2 states away states “That’s just the way it is..” GRRRRR My mother is critical of me, and verbally abusive to me, and It’s sheer hell having to be the one to do everything for her. At this point, my eldest son has stepped in because while he loves his grandma dearly, he too clearly sees that my mother is abusive to me and insights panic attacks in me.

    I wouldn’t wish scapegoating on my worse enemy. IT’s a horrible, horrible thing to do as a chlld. I was not allowed to be who I was. My self esteem and very essence of self was stripped away at such a young age. I grew up with little to no self esteem and feeling everything was my fault. I tried most of adult life to win my family’s favor but I always fell short and was never good enough in their eyes. It led to picking an abusive spouse (first husband) who also verbally abused me and constantly cut me down. It led to me never believing in myself and constantly beating myself up. Telling myself I was the “ugly” sister and I was stupid and a burden to everyone. It led to debilitating panic attacks and depression.

    At 48, I finally have found the strength to stand up for myself with the help of my loving husband. He is the first person who called my family on their behavior and right from the start said I was being scapegoated. He has my back and supports me. He has even stood up to my family on my behalf. Unfortunately, because of that my relationship with mother and sister is very strained since I started to stand up for myself. I am learning to take my power back and distancing myself as much as I can from my mother and sister. I wish I had a loving birth family, but this one will never be it. They are toxic. They want me to continue in the role as whipping boy. They want me to take full responsibility for being my mother caretaker and just “tough it out’ if she is verbally abuse or critical. This isn’t a dementia issue either. This behavior from her has been going on a very long time. They refuse to take any accountability when my husband or myself shine light on their behavior. They are in denial and say I am just misperceiving things or overly dramatic. They twist things to suit themselves and again balme i all on, of course, ME. My mother and sister gang up against me. My sister insisted my mother has never mistreated her.. .I believe her. I am sure she has not. My sister is the golden child and favored so whey would she mistreat her. For so long I allowed them to brainwash me into thinking it was ME. That I was misperceiving. That it was me making it all up in my head. It took having my husband plainly lay out what he was seeing. He was new to the family. I had not told him about any scapegoating or mistreatment. When I did start bringing up that I thought I was treated “differently” than my sister, he let it rip. He pinned me as the scapegoat and that the treatment was far from my misperception.

    So I have withdrawn. I no longer do any holidays with my mother and sister if I can avoid it when sister comes to town. I have as little contact with boht as possible. I feel it’s the only way to heal myself. My sister says I will regret and live with guilt for forsaking my mother. I can’t even begin to respond to that.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. It is a shock to awaken to the differential treatment, albeit with red flags from a very young age. Transcending the trauma is possible and is my inspiration for sharing my story. There is no need for you to feel obligation or guilt toward your family. The way I see it, people who scapegoat are emotional rapists. Why should victims feel guilty for establishing boundaries? Empowerment is guiding you now-the way your parents never did. Go kick ass in the world!

  2. I am 43, and just recently stumbled upon the fact, I am the family scapegoat. I had no idea there was actually a name for hell I have lived! I am so grateful to know now, what I have searched for my whole life. It’s not me, it’s them! My crazy, dysfunctional, messed up family of origin. I have been hit and beaten by almost every sibling, and my mother. I am the baby of the family. I have four siblings. Just unreal. I have been crying off and on, and angry for over two weeks now. Letting myself remember, and facing it all. I was molested as well, by my oldest brother. My mother never believed me, or if she did, she never helped me, or protected me. I married an abusive narcissistic man. Now, I have to help him see the light, or I may have to leave him, in order to break the dysfunctional cycle, so our little boys don’t have to live the life like I have lived. Just wanted to offer you a hug…. You are an amazing human being! Thank you for sharing your story, and insight! Xoxo to you!

    1. I’m so sorry you experienced this trauma. It is tragic to hear of any person made to feel worthless and denied of dignity or integrity, especially by their family. You are not alone. You are stronger than anyone will ever imagine and every ounce of self-preservation is needed to remove the toxins in your life. Do not waiver in this. You are worthy of a beautiful life free of pain, blame, guilt, and shame. I have more knowledge to share with you if you’d like to email me: beaton.barbie@gmail.com

  3. I m also a spacegoat in my family. Because of all my bad childhood experiences i have a bad temper ,low self esteem and lack confidence.

    1. Know that your true self is perfectly lovable, confident, and gifted. You are not alone, and your experience doesn’t define you. Blessings

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