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12 Steps For Family Scapegoat Healing

Family Scapegoat Healing

Family scapegoaters are insecure people driven to try and raise their own status by attempting to lower the status of their target, who then becomes the family scapegoat.

Did you grow up having doubts about your self-esteem or personal worth? When things went wrong in your family, did you tend to be the fall guy? Did one or more members of your family, especially a parent, routinely criticize, blame or shame you, like you could do nothing right?

Did other family members go along with this treatment or join the blame game? Do you find yourself encountering recurring disrespect from friends or colleagues? Do you feel unsure of yourself and/or have difficulty experiencing trust in relationships? Are you drawn to people who repeatedly hurt you, act irresponsibly or let you down?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of these statements, then you may be the family scapegoat. The term ‘scapegoat’ refers to a family member who takes the blame for difficulties in the family.

Related: Why Family Scapegoats Become Lifelong Victims

Scapegoating is a form of bullying. Scapegoats are repeatedly subjected to belittling, humiliation, abandonment, betrayal, and outright hatred by family members, who make them the ‘bad guy’.

Family relationships profoundly impact our identity and how we view ourselves. People who have been subjected to scapegoat syndrome since childhood may absorb and believe these disparaging messages from family, causing them to question their worth and loveability.

Scapegoats tend to feel a lot of anger, either towards themselves and/or the people who have abused them, causing chronic emotional distress

Read on to discover how to break free from family bullying, stand up to the inner critic – aka the Troll, recover your true identity and heal from family scapegoating.

family scapegoat healing
Narcissistic family scapegoat

What Are The Signs You Are The Family Scapegoat?

  • You are held responsible for family problems, conflicts, or challenges, even if they have nothing to do with you. Other people blame you for their actions. You may end up feeling a lot of shame for being ‘the bad guy’, and/or anger for being blamed for negative family dynamics.
  • You are attacked and disbelieved if you tell the truth and ‘blow the whistle’ on negative and/or inappropriate family dynamics. You are accused of being a troublemaker by pointing out reality.
  • There has been a history of one or more family members being verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive towards you. Other family members seem to accept this, look the other way or join in when you are bullied or aggressed like this. You may feel like the ‘black sheep’ of the family.
  • You find yourself repeatedly being accused of behavior the scapegoater is engaged in. For example, a family member repeatedly yells at you and then accuses you of being abusive. Or you behave thoughtfully and are then told “all you care about is yourself”.
  • You act out the negative ‘expectations’ of scapegoating such as not living up to your potential, or getting into relationships with abusive people because it ‘feels’ familiar and your self-esteem has been damaged.
  • You are the mentally healthiest family member but are repeatedly accused of being sick, bad, difficult, etc.
  • You have been slotted into the role of family outcast, and are treated with disdain or disgust by family or yourself.
  • You may be successful and accomplished career-wise and/or academically, especially in comparison to the rest of your family. However, your achievements are dismissed, belittled, minimized, criticized, and rejected by family members.

Related: The Masters Of Blame Shifting: Why Narcissists Never Become The Scapegoat

What Are Some Common Family Scapegoating Patterns?

Families that are shame or fear based are not healthy. Often in these families, you will find evidence of abuse, neglect, addiction, betrayal, mental illness – specifically Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and insecurity.

Dysfunctional families either lack insight or find it threatening, and actively repress it through scapegoating those who wish to understand and change negative dynamics. Scapegoating is a “projection defense” that allows scapegoaters to keep up appearances. In other words, making the scapegoat look bad takes attention off the real problems and accountability in the family.

Many families who resort to scapegoating are headed by narcissistic parents who lack personal awareness, and empathy for their target, as in their eyes, the target is there to serve their false image and make them look good.

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Glynis Sherwood MEd

Glynis Sherwood MEd, is an individual and couples therapist, author, coach, and educator known for her global Video counseling and coaching services, in-depth self-help articles, podcasts, books, and therapist training resources that help people overcome 'the pain that won't go away'. As a pioneering specialist in family scapegoating relationship trauma, Glynis assists adults and their partners to overcome the hurt of narcissistic family abuse and neglect, low self-worth, chronic grief and anxiety, complex trauma, and relationship challenges. Glynis Sherwood is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada.View Author posts

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