Are you the Scapegoat in Your Family?


Scapegoating is a term that is used for the one person in a dysfunctional family that is targeted by the abusive family member for receiving the most aggressive abuse.

Usually this person is targeted by the abuser because of their resistance to pretending that the household is normal.

If you were the truth teller in the family then you pointed out when boundaries were being crossed and when the other people were being mistreated.You were the one that probably defended siblings who were being abused. You may have tried to draw the abuse towards yourself in order to protect younger siblings from getting the brunt of it.

Very often the main abusive parent has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, although there are other personality disorders which cause people to abuse their children, like Malignant Borderline Personality Disorder. 

The narcissistic parent us the focal point of the family because they demand that…

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  1. Interesting. In my experience, the scapegoat is usually the “ugly duckling” who does everything s/he can to fit in and be “part of the family,” but in trying to fit in just exposes herself to more jeering and bullying from all sides. This will sometimes push the scapegoat over the edge into rebellion; or sometimes the scapegoat escapes into dissociation, resulting in complex PTSD. In my experience, the “truth teller” is either invalidated as “crazy,” or otherwise pushed out of the nest (think boarding/military school) as a means of getting them out of the way. Why mess up a good family fantasy?

    1. You are absolutely right! I was (I suppose I still am) the scapegoat in my family. And yes, I was sent away twice–the first time as an infant and the second time just before my fifth birthday both times to live with a relative in another state. And yes, I was forced out of the nest early to find my own way. (Actually, I left on my own. Since I was of age, I didn’t feel like I had to deal with the emotional abuse any more.) Not sure if I experienced complex PTSD (I still need to learn more about this), but I did daydream a lot I’m sure to escape. What I’m trying to understand is, how in the world did I get to be a “truth teller,” (that is a “trouble maker”) at such an early age?

      1. You are a wise woman, is why. You have clear vision. Can you think back to a female ancestor who possessed your properties of clarity and knowledge of the truth? I know exactly where mine came from.

      2. I think I know who it was. I never met her (she died before I was born) but I was told that I looked like her.

      3. Any way of finding out more about her? I find great strength in knowing that my gifts came from Grandma Pearl. She was a remarkable woman. I should write a brief biography of her for my blog.

      4. You should. I’m sure that would make an interesting post. I’ll try to find out more about mine. For some reason, the family was very secretive about her.

      5. Hah! They don’t want to air their “dirty linen”– they might get outed. My lovely family put my uncle, who was a brilliant doctor and suffered from bipolar, into a state hospital and NEVER WENT BACK to see if he was dead or alive. The family myth was that he had died in the state hospital, finished. But I got curious and started tinkering with genealogy, found his death records all right–NOT in an East Coast insane asylum, but in fact in California, where he had gone after having been released. There, he rebuilt his life somehow, married, and had three children who survive him. I am so sorry to have missed him. I’m sure he could have clarified a lot of things–such as why they threw him in the state hospital and walked away.

      6. What a horrible thing to do.

      7. I even look like her, think like her, and keep my mouth shut like she did. She also was sent away. I ran away at age 16, out of the frying pan into the fire, but in fact better to go up in flames than to slowly sizzle….

      8. I agree. The slow sizzle of emotional abuse kills your soul. It’s interesting that even though we didn’t say anything; as you say, we kept our mouths closed–we never told anyone, it didn’t change anything. We were still considered “trouble makers.”

      9. That’s because they knew we knew. Had to get rid of us before we spoiled the party.

      10. This is absolutely crazy, but I know you’re right. Even though I was too young to understand the circumstances, my presence still told the truth. Thank you.I think I just found the last puzzling piece of my life–the answer to my last “why” question.

  2. liztinnea

    “If they have never been happy with anything you have  done by now, then what are the chances that continuing to try to please them will gain their appreciation and approval?” Amen and amen!

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