To Meet Publishing Requirements, This Free Preview Chapter From My Book ‘Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed’ Is No Longer Available Posted on April 8, 2022December 13, 2022Author Rebecca C. Mandeville, MAPosted in Family Narratives, FSA Recovery, Narratives and Family Scapegoating, Siblings and the Family Scapegoat9 Replies Visit my blog to learn more about family scapegoating. Share on FacebookTweetSubscribe (Free!)Save Related
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At age 52, after spending 8 years in a new town with my young son living in substandard rental housing I could barely afford having used all my savings as I failed to secure a mortgage for my fresh start after a breakup. I found out that my parents had loaned my brother $100k to buy a Bach. All I needed was for them to be guarantor on a mortgage of $115k in my own name for a house I had found that I could afford after having a mortgage since I was 20. My son is 16 this year and what a wonderful boy he is despite shifting rentals 5 times and not being able to have a pet or do any extra curricular stuff, all because I couldn’t be controlled, apparently. The lies told about me are horrendous. Now my mum is fantastic, I had a great childhood; never suspected she didn’t like me. Although on retrospect the signs were there. Heartbroken, I feel like I have lived a false life and have had to stop contact for my own sanity.
Thank you for commenting. It is quite a shock to discover the underlying ‘scapegoat’ narrative that somehow we remained oblivious to, sometimes for decades and decades. Waking up to reality can be painful, but it is necessary if we are to recover our true Self. Sadly, in cases where the narrative will not shift, and you are seen only within the confines of the damaging ‘family scapegoat’ role, ending ties will be necessary in order to experience optimal well-being and mental/emotional health.
Could someone scapegoat you and still love you?
While a person who scapegoats a family member may BELIEVE and THINK they love the person they are mistreating or defaming, in my worldview, the two states are incompatible.
Rebecca, question for you: some of the reading I’ve done on this subject includes a therapist’s opinion that the perpetrators’ scapegoating behaviors are wholly unconscious to the perpetrators. What’s your take on this, please?
Great question, Stacey. Classic Family Systems thinking in regard to the family ‘identified patient’ attributes family scapegoating to unconscious processes fueled by unaddressed, unacknowledged, or repressed intergenerational (aka multigenerational) trauma and attendant (repressed) anxiety. I discuss this at various points in my book, Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed. After 20 years of working with FSA survivors, my own opinion is that the worst cases of scapegoating do indeed occur in families with intergenerational trauma and it is this unacknowledged trauma and grief that the scapegoated child/adult child is burdened with and forced to unwittingly carry, versus “the sins” of the family.
In most (but not all) cases, family members who project onto the ‘identified patient’ are unconscious of this process. They genuinely see the child/adult child as defective and feel righteous in their condemnation of the FSA victim and experience absolutely no shame or guilt when mistreating / abusing the scapegoated family member. This does not excuse their horrific behavior, however. Abuse is abuse is abuse and family scapegoating must be recognized as such, especially by the FSA survivor, if they are to fully heal.
With that said, it is also my experience that the scapegoating can be conscious, intentional, and deliberate in cases where the scapegoating is driven by a family member who is narcissistic or has narcissistic traits (such as lack of empathy and insight) or has another type of personality disorder or is mentally ill, or is a sociopath, or sadistic – something I plan to discuss at length in a future book. I also see scapegoating occur when the FSA victim was also a victim of sexual abuse in the family and the perpetrator (a family member or someone connected to the family) wants to discredit the victim so that they are not a believable reporter, as mentioned in my article here.
You may want to read an article I co-wrote here on my blog on the narcissistic parent and the ‘martyr parent ploy’ for examples of scapegoating that is conscious and intentional. Link to the article here: https://www.scapegoatrecovery.com/2021/04/14/narcissistic-parents-and-the-martyr-parent-ploy/
Have you seen many cases where scapegoating comes to the fore as a parent ages and needs care? I’ve become the primary carer for my mother after multiple strokes, and a younger sister supports me and allows me to get some reprieve by stepping in on a regular basis. Our 4 older sisters have created some false narratives around why they can’t help, that are linked to apparent blockages we present to mums care, and consistently display DARVO on various issues. I had to go no-contact early on in the caring role, just to have the energy to care for mum, and whenever I think it might be time for reaching out to them to try to understand and address their issues, I get more DARVO back. It seems intractable, and we have recently had family therapy to try to work it through as siblings, though I’m now understanding it was/is probably too early for those approaches. My 3-strong therapist team recommended a radical approach of a truce and dealing with own hurts and grievances separately, suggesting it may take many years to be able to reconnect.
I have actually seen this with some clients in my therapy and coaching practices and it is not at all uncommon. From a Family Systems perspective, the death or deterioration of a parent due to stroke, dementia, etc, raises anxiety (both conscious and unconscious) within the family system, including within the sibling sub-system. This is because the homeostasis (or balance) that held the system together is shaken. For example, a parent that acted as a guiding force, matriarch or patriarch, or domineering power-holder is no longer able continue on in this role; this effects the roles of each sibling and power shifts will likely occur as a result. The resulting systemic anxiety related to shifts in roles and identities within the family can cause all hell to break loose and some very ugly things can occur as a result, which I have witnessed first hand.
Until the individual family members are each able to understand what may be occurring from a more holistic, systemic viewpoint, it will be difficult for them to tolerate hearing that they have a part in the family dysfunction or participate meaningfully in family therapy. It is often the scapegoated adult child that suffers the most in these instances, and it sounds like this may have happened to you. Also, your position as your mother’s caretaker may have been very triggering for your siblings for reasons that can only be wondered about on my end.
Part of a ‘radical’ approach to the FSA adult survivor’s healing is adopting an attitude of ‘radical acceptance’, as described in my book, Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed. You cannot control or fix this situation, and you are wise to seek out professional assistance and allow your therapeutic team to guide you through these choppy dysfunctional family system seas. As I state in my book and in articles here on my blog, family therapy cannot possibly be effective when the unconscious projective identification process is active within the family system (in this case, you apparently are the target as the family scapegoat within the sibling sub-system). Meaning, if you attempt to do family therapy while the projections are active within the sibling sub-system you would be going where angels fear to tread. I wish you the very best as you navigate through a difficult situation.
Very illuminating article, thank you, Rebecca. I’ve never felt that scapegoating as a completely unconscious mechanism explained my circumstances, and this article really clarifies why that may be. Looking forward to reading the new book!