This article was originally published on Psych Central as an advance preview of my book on family scapegoating abuse (FSA), Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed. To comply with Amazon’s publishing requirements, I am no longer able to offer portions of my book for free online.
Visit my blog to see more articles on family scapegoating and childhood attachment.
Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA, MFT
2 comments / Add your comment below
What a terrific article! This is exactly what happened to me, the family scapegoat, as my mother punished me by casting me aside as her mother did to her (and is still doing so, having escalated the abuse to an even more cruel and damaging level that puts me in the bind of enduring it or risking financial destitution — but that is another story).
My mother made me the child who was/is irrelevant and needs nothing and so I grew up “the strong one,” entirely self-sufficient (as much as any child can be at any given age) and independent of everyone else.
My father, meanwhile, made me “the angry one” by projecting onto me his unresolved anger at being horribly abused by his tyrannical father. He teased a bit too far for a small child. I didn’t cry, I cried out. Of course, my siblings found this just too, too funny and made me their favorite wind-up toy — a lot of mocking/bullying while my mother went in to take her nap.
The “strong one” I fully embraced — to my detriment as an adult. The other, I rebelled against, which only fed my siblings’ antagonizing. I got out of the house, out of the town, and out of state as soon as I was old enough.
Then, something truly remarkable happened. I met a man who believed in me. He, too, had been neglected of love growing up. To the amazing fortune of both of us, we perfectly complemented each other in qualities, temperament, skills, etc. Our values and goals were the glue that gave us an unshakable bond and commitment to each other.
Though we did not know what it was we were doing, we effectively taught each other how to love — truly, deeply, unreservedly. With the faith we had in each other, both of us soared to unimaginable levels in happiness, professional success, enjoyment in life, contentment, and promise for the future. We each became the person we always dreamed we could be.
Sadly, I had him for only ten years when cancer took him from me. But, what he gave me will never leave me. It will, however, go underground, not strong enough to withstand my family in the wake of his death. (But, that, too, is another story for another time.)
The point is, now that I understand I have choices and what they are, I will not live the narrative they create of me, for that would mean abandoning the gifts of my marriage. I cherish these more than anything else in my life and continue to try to recapture that person I was, now that I have the knowledge and understanding of what my family had done to me and why.
This is why I truly value your work, your book, and these articles. You introduced me to FSA several years ago and set my life on a new, much better course. Thank you.
Hi Rae, what a stunning, tragic, yet uplifting and elevating story you have to share. I am deeply saddened to hear of the loss of your partner. I believe such life-changing and loving connections are eternal, and I do hope you continue to feel his presence and love for you today. Hearing stories like yours gives meaning to my own experiences as the ‘family scapegoat’ – So many FSA survivors/thrivers do seem to excel at making lemonade out of lemons – living well and going on to love ourselves and others is the ultimate ‘justice’ when there seems initially to be none…