Release the ‘Scapegoat Story’ and Reclaim Your Personal Narrative

Release the ‘Scapegoat Story’ and Reclaim Your Personal Narrative

Although the work of freeing yourself from the painful and damaging role of ‘family scapegoat’ isn’t easy, it is indeed possible to reclaim the truth of who you are so that you can live a self-empowered life that includes love, respect, serenity, and clarity. Your recovery will hinge upon one basic concept: Cultivating a connection with, and embodying, your ‘true self’, free of the ‘shaming and blaming’ family
scapegoat (false) narrative.

Letting Go of False Family Narratives

When I first begin to work with clients who are suffering from the mental and emotional anguish caused by family scapegoating abuse (FSA), I help them understand that they have been imprisoned in a role common to dysfunctional / narcissistic family systems. This highly destructive arrangement invariably benefits the power-holders in their family-of-origin (often one or both parents, but not always).

While educating my clients on FSA, I explain that their personal narrative, i.e., their unique life story, has been co-opted and distorted by those empowered within their family to do so as part of a macabre and complex multigenerational ‘dance’. Said differently: Their identity has become embedded within a twisted, distorted, ‘shaming and blaming’ narrative which acts like a cancer that metastasizes and spreads throughout the ‘body’ of their nuclear and extended family.

In place of the truth of who they are, the scapegoated child / adult child becomes imprisoned within an extraordinarily damaging false narrative that requires them to accept their ‘role’ as faulty, damaged, and ‘bad’. If they recognize what is actually going on and protest against being ‘defined and maligned’ in this way, few in the family will align with them or come to their defense or aid.

Assumptions and conclusions are made about their character and motivations that are typically damning, unjust, and unfair. To make matters worse, they have no way to assert their truth, as whatever they say in their own defense is unlikely to be believed due to their having been discredited and dis-empowered within their family system.

A Shocking Moment of Clarity

The analogy I use for describing that “Aha!” moment when you realize you are the ‘family scapegoat’ is taken from the final scene of the 1995 film, “The Usual Suspects.” In this story about five criminals who are arrested and brought in for questioning, the entire narrative of the film relies on an unreliable narrator.

As with the ending of this movie, realizing that nothing was as you believed it to be can be both devastating and dazzling, once you get over the initial confusion, outrage, and disbelief. Understanding that the truth of ourselves has been twisted into something else (something we do not relate to or identify with), we must begin re-constructing the actual ‘plot’, or ‘story’, of our lives – a plot in which we were negatively impacted by a family projection process that co-opted our personal narrative. This process of uncovering and discovering the truth of our actual position in the family is the first step toward healing and recovering from being in the ‘family scapegoat’ role.

How does a person go about releasing the ‘scapegoat story’ in order to reclaim the truth of who they are after having their unique life story hijacked and co-opted by their family? Although there are many possible pathways for healing from the negative effects of family scapegoating abuse, one thing that must happen is your personal narrative, your unique life story, your sense of who you are, and the deepest truths about yourself must be recovered, aligned with, integrated, and embodied for genuine healing and transformation to take place. Said differently, your reality, your voice, and your truth need to be reclaimed and restored – whether your family can acknowledge and support this process or not.

The above was excerpted from my book on family scapegoating abuse, Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed.

Use the social media share icons below to share with others who may be suffering from FSA. Have you been able to release the ‘family scapegoat’ story? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Release the ‘Scapegoat Story’ and Reclaim Your Personal Narrative

  1. Prologue
    “It’s said we all have a diary inside us. We go out into the world to write the story of how our life will be, and we write the story of how our life is. What if life has us so busy writing, that we pass the halfway mark not quite sure what we wrote. (You ask, how can that be? Read my story.) What happens when the story we read is nowhere near the story we intended? As in 180-degree-opposite-direction, nowhere near? As in, with a gasp of horror, what-happened-to-that-person, nowhere near? As in, why-didn’t-anyone-in-my-family-notice-and-say-something, nowhere near? There were no whales saved or oil wells dug dry. I didn’t support any dead beat dads or bad boys behaving badly. And don’t tell me this is what I made my own fate, or a just outcome in a just world, because neither this nor the world is just. (Go ahead, I dare you. Tell me it’s God’s plan. Be predictable.) This wasn’t a lost weekend. This was a lost 20 f***** years!
    “You made yourselves co-conspirators with the tragedies in my life to slowly, imperceptibly, and systematically destroy me and destroy my life. While I was struggling desperately to keep from drowning and hang onto body and soul, you pinned me to the ground, put your boot on my neck, and then told me to stand up.”

    Chapter 1
    “There was a woman who stood atop a tall mountain, her face turned to the sun in joy and contentment, standing side by side with the remarkable man together with whom she this mountain was built. It was higher and stronger than either imagined, all their dreams being realized. Together, each became the person neither gave up hope being, and finally became as each found, for the first time, the person who love and believed in the other. Standing there, aglow in the amazing love they shared, they looked out onto a vast horizon with all the promise that had brought them to this great height . . . . It turned out she was standing on the edge of a precipice that was about to give way. . . .
    Two decades later, the mountain is gone and she lies buried under its rubble, her husband is dead, everything is gone, and her life is in ruins. . . .”


    It has been a long, difficult, and painful exercise. I am not finished. However, I can look back since starting to write this, and know I have come a long way. I am nearing the end of part 1. Part 2 is writing what my life can look like going forward.

    It is an exercise I recommend. It helps to clarify and exorcise the past and gives proof of my progress whenever life starts to look discouraging again. As I write it, it allows me to catch a glimmer of what I may look forward to ahead, having now made the break of going no contact. It has been my life saver.

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