The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Friday, February 1, 2008

Ridding Myself of the Family Scapegoat Mantle

Healing from my role as the family scapegoat was one of the last steps that fell into place on my healing journey. I had many more immediate and pressing issues to deal with first. At the beginning of my recovery, I was an open wound – simply oozing with pain. I had to deal with my hurt, denial, confusion, anger, and grief before I could even begin to construct a healthy new me.
All along the way, I struggled with my scapegoat mantle. I thought I was alone in this experience. I’ve since discovered that it is a common practice in abusive family systems to choose one individual to carry the blame and shame for the rest of the family.
My role as the family scapegoat took root at a very young age. I constantly tried to convince my mother that our physical abuse was the source of our family problems, not my pleas for help. I pleaded with her to protect my brother’s and me, rather than to blame me for complaining about our abuse. Because I was dependent on my mother for my safety, the only way I knew how to end my mistreatment was to try to convince her that I shouldn't be abused (or scapegoated).
Other family members and bystanders accepted my mother’s persuasive arguments that I was responsible for the angst in my family.
When met with blame, I’d ask, "Why am I to blame when my stepfather burns my hands? “How can I be responsible for my mother’s choice of partners? Why am I to blame for seeking help? Don’t you get this? Can’t you see?”
Once a pattern becomes ingrained in childhood, it is hard to recognize that pattern in adulthood or to develop a new way to respond. I didn't understand that I had different choices as an adult than I did as a child, or what those choices could look like. I kept defending myself and trying to "convince" others that I wasn’t responsible for our family dysfunction.
I put my energy into this argument for years. I didn’t know what else to do.
After years of healing from my childhood, I still kept finding myself in the position of scapegoat and I didn't understand why. Whenever this happened, I felt a primal sense of desperation and needed immediate relief from the pain that seemed to threaten my emotional survival. I didn't understand that when I found myself in an old familiar situation, I kept reacting just as I learned as a child.
I looked outward to others for relief rather than inward to myself, because I viewed my scapegoat mantel as something only my family and/or others could undo. I was frantic to get them to see this. I didn’t realize that it was something only I could undo. I needed to find new ways to respond to an old problem.
Understanding and dealing with my role as the family scapegoat was a layer of healing I couldn’t extricate myself from until I had first built a strong foundation of healing.
It took me a long time to realize that by becoming defensive and engaging in the old argument, I was wearing my scapegoat mantle well. A friend of mine (also a scapegoat) introduced me to her term, “being a woodpecker.” Where you peck and peck and peck and just dig yourself deeper into a negative place. For example: I’d say, “This is what happened. Get it?” When they argued, I’d say, “I’ll explain it this way. Now do you get it?” And so on – each time become more desperate. I always placed my safety and serenity in someone else’s ability to “get it,” rather than taking responsibility for my own well-being.
It wasn’t until I had healed enough (and this wasn’t easy) to stand confidently in my own experience that I was able to extricate myself from the scapegoat role.
Knowing when and with whom I could talk about my abuse was an important lesson for me. Validation was key to ridding myself of a wide array of childhood traumas. The trick is to differentiate from those who are supportive and those whom we want to be supportive – but are not.
In other words, whenever anyone suggested that I was wholly responsible for my childhood abuse or family estrangement, I learned to say, “I have a different experience,” and changed the subject. Over a period of many years, with the aid of supportive individuals – who did “get it” - I learned to stand boldly in my truth, in my needs, and to set and guard my boundaries – without defending or arguing. With time, it didn’t matter if everyone “got it.” I got it! I wasn't responsible for my mistreatment and the brokenness of my family. I no longer “felt” like a scapegoat so the title didn’t fit. It no longer held power over me. I had empowered myself to achieve a place of self-assured peace.


KarenP said...

Ahhh, this post is like a warm blanket wrapped around me. I love what you said here: "The trick is to differentiate from those who are supportive and those whom we want to be supportive – but are not." I've wanted so badly for my parents to be supportive and have just recently accepted the reality that they are not.

I also love that you said: "Over a period of many years, with the aid of supportive individuals – who did “get it” - I learned to stand boldly in my truth, in my needs, and to set and guard my boundaries – without defending or arguing." This is very validating and empowering to me. I have begun this with my parents and am truly feeling more confident with myself.

As you said, it is not easy. It is a lot of hard work but it is so worth it. I'm so glad that you have the courage to share your experience and healing with us. Thank you!

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Karen,

Thank you for your comments.

I agree, one of the hardest, saddest, and necessary realizations we can make - is when our parents are not able to support our healing journey.

I'm sorry that your parents have not been supportive. I'm glad that you are taking care of yourself and are feeling more confident. With growth comes loss - and eventually strength.

My best,

Anonymous said...

Hi Nancy,

Thank you for such a simple but still so profound message. I think we get 'stuck' at times when we've come to some realization and even acceptance, of the original hurt or particular deed or pattern of abuse, and we're able to fully see it for what it is, but then we turn around "armed" with the truth and our own strength in telling it, only to find that all of those who would and should be comforting us and validating us, instead turn away from us. It's like being abused twice over. Especially for a child, but even for an adult who is finally breaking free and who has the full emotional "vocabulary" to be able to articulate what happened. It's like you have this natural expectation that those who love you (or at least profess to love you) are going to embrace you and your truth and do everything in their power to support you and help you heal. As in your case, my family has scapegoated me for many years. I was always the one who "couldn't get over it" and who "couldn't just let the past go" like there was something terribly wrong with ME.

I have just stumbled upon your blog and have only read a tiny bit, but already have gleaned much from this one single entry.

Nancy, you are not alone. And even the most self-assured and self-sufficient "evolved" person can see there is a connectedness that is absolutely pivotal in all healthy individuals. So please know that I for one, and many others out here, do know that you have a truth that is valid, and that you deserve to be heard. Some of us do, indeed, "get it"...that alone is like a healing thing.

Thank you again, and I look forward to reading more.


AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for your kind words and comments.

You articulated the experience very well. Your words are very validating.

I found the following comment you made to be very profound:

even for an adult who is finally breaking free and who has the full emotional "vocabulary" to be able to articulate what happened. It's like you have this natural expectation that those who love you (or at least profess to love you) are going to embrace you and your truth and do everything in their power to support you and help you heal.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Nancy, your writings have aided me in my healing journey more than I can express. Thank you so much for sharing all that you do. This peice on scapegoating was especially poignant for me. I only discovered your site recently, and was amazed to realize so many parallels in our life story, though my mother, not step father was the main abusive one. I was the family scapegoat, crying out for love and help for years, blamed by seven for allegedly causing my mothers alcoholism and poor choices, told by birth father "just zip your lip and stay out of her way." blamed by sibs, extended family, and others for causing the very thing I was railing against from an early age, saying "this is wrong." For ten years I slept with a dresser up against my door, in hiding, but no way to escape the soul crushing abuse. Thank you for your writing, as it is helping me to heal. God Bless you Nancy.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for sharing your story with me.

The scapegoat role is a lonely, "soul crushing," and maddening experience that holds on way too long.

Thank you for taking the time to let me know that the sharing of my experience is helpful to you.

Your words are helpful to me!

I wish you peace on your continued journey.

Many blessings,

allihave2say said...

I am the scapegoat. I enter healing then something happens and I am wounded again. It seems everyone dumped (projected) everything onto me and have gone on to have rather fulfilling lives, while I suffer in loneliness and pain.

Born to an unwed teen mom, who's father was an abusive alcoholic, she pawned off on all her siblings. Who have all identified me as a "burden". My mother was married when my sister was born and she is the "golden child". Everyone response to us according to the roles my mother defined, even when their experiences with us have been contrary to the roles we are assigned.
I boldly speak about the abuse we ALL have suffered and I believe they hate me for that too. Even though at times while I was helping and supporting everyone-they were backstabbing each other. Now, they "get along" and I'm still out the outside. I have no friends because I either chose familiar types of people as friends or friends couldn't relate to my hurt and abandoned me. My mother and my own daughter both narcissists who used me as their footstools.
Father will help a stranger, a drug addict in his neighborhood,his niece who went to prison before he offers any help to any of his kids. He often states that I don't need any help.
Is there any permanent glue for my wounds?

AbuseAndForgiveness said...


Thank you for sharing some of your story. My heart is always heaving when I hear from a "scapegoat."

The scapegoat carries the burden of an entire dysfunctional family who can't face their own demons.

I speak with knowing empathy of just how painful,lonely, crazy-making, and isolating the experience is.

To answer your question, yes, there is permanent glue for your wounds. However, there isn't a "light-switch" kind of healing. It is more like a dimmer switch as we peel away the layers of our wounds until we reach the core and then rebuild a new healthy foundation.

At first the growth is so small it is hardly detectable, and even after you've made a great deal of progress, sometimes the progress is hard to see because until we are completely pain free, it is hard to acknowledge all of our growth; but then the day comes when we figure it out and we are no longer the scapegoat.

all my best,

Anonymous said...

Thank you...

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

You're very welcome!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this helpful and hopeful post; in my research about NPD and my scapegoat role, I was beginning to lose hope that I could ever break free especially when my family makes it difficult for me to have low contact, giving me the guilt trip and all. I think the worst part about the realization of my role and family dynamics is that my family is completely unsupportive and acknowledges nothing. It sort of makes my depression 10x worse - but I'm hopeful now that things have to be worse before they can be better? I really do hope so because right now I feel doomed.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

You're welcome! I am always happy when my words are helpful.

I'm sorry you feel doomed right now. I can empathize. I remember feeling very doomed for a very long time. But, absolutely, there is hope! With hard work and healing, your future can be good.

If you haven't already read it, check out my post Hope for the Future:

Stay strong!
All my best,

janice said...

I am now 63 years old and inherited a bipolar disorder. My mother had it and the family couldn't handle it, thus I became the scapegoat, feeling shame my entire life. Shortly before mom died she called me a "blacksheep since I was born, and when she passed everthing was left to my favored sibling. A good therapist finally explained it to me and I at last can have peace that I am, and always was, a person of dignity and worth.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

"and I at last can have peace that I am, and always was, a person of dignity and worth."

Bravo Janice!

Your words touched me deeply!

Anonymous said...

After 50 years and a horrendous experience last week at my beloved Grandmothers funeral a lightbulb went on in my head. I searched "how to cope with being the family blacksheep" and was led to scapegoating. I'm on the road to recovery now and want to thank you for your wonderful and intelligent insights. They are helping me immensely on the road to healing.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for taking the time out to let my know that my blog has been helpful to you!

I wish you much healing on your journey!

My best,

Anonymous said...

Very well said!
I have been trying to get someone to believe me for my whole life. It's like I've been yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre but I'm invisible- nobody sees me-nobody hears me-I have wondered most of my life if I am even a real person. I've been looking for years for the answers to what happened to me and to my life. I could articulate the details of everything that happened but only in the last 2 weeks have found the labels "narcissistic family" "scapegoat" etc... I have always been very intuitive so I not only had a clear understanding of the family dynamic but I also understood the motivations of all involved (of course we were a "WONDERFUL CHRISTIAN FAMILY"- the party line). I always believed something was just wrong with me on some deep unseeable level and I didnt know what. We moved around alot I was always the new kid in school and I was bullied terribly - no relief at home. I was a good kid a straight A student- won every contest I was allowed to participate in and excelled at everything I was allowed to try which wasnt much. I wrote directed and starred in a play when I was 11. A teacher in 6th grade told me I had real talent and that I could be a writer someday. I rushed home and told my parents and was so excited I told them" I think she really likes me "and they said "she just doesnt know you like we do". They did not allow me to pursue any interests or participate in any activities. I was told we.could not afford it but my siblings all got musical instruments sports and dirt bikes . There were so many things I wanted to do and learn and try and they took pleasure in denying me and in having complete control over every aspect of my life. It sometimes felt like I was being slowly starved and suffocated at the same time. Time passed so slowly then and it seemed like it would be forever until I could grow up and get away. My father was an overt N and my mother is a covert N- My sister the golden child N. Strange the similarities to your article. I have been desperate for someone to believe me . It' s like I am blocked somehow and I am standing on the outside looking in watching others enjoy their lives and I just cant seem to break through the barrier
I have basically just shut down and am struggling to function. I am as I was then -hopeless and powerless and I have been looking for help. No money or insurance. Where do you even start. I know intellectually that I should not feel defective, ashamed, worthless etc... but I just have not been able to overcome the terribly defective mental programming and my life is a disaster. Feels hopeless that I will ever be able to change this. they have been actively sabotaging me for years and I have also done my share of self sabotage . I am exhausted and burnt out from the struggle to just survive.
I honestly think they are hoping I will comitt suicide. I have half finished novels that I never completed because I just didnt think they were good enough and a couple years ago someone wrote a screenplay very similar to one of my stories- it was a blockbuster hit movie. I have an invention on my kitchen table that I have been told by people in the related industry would be very successful but I am frozen broke and cant move forward. I cant even make a living and my health has been affected. What can I do? Im so screwed up I dont even know where to start. I am alone and no friends as I am tired of attracting more of the N's-I just want to fix my relationship with the one person I.can never escape-myself. I want to see if its too late to make some sort of life for myself.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Anonymous,

It is NEVER to late!

You are extremely articulate - clearly capable - and not alone in your experience.

I also thought I was the "only one"; however, with the advent of the internet, it is much easier to connect with others who have had similar experiences.

There are many online support groups for abuse survivors. But, you need to do a little research to find the one that is best for you. You could start at ASCA (Adult Survivors of Child Abuse) and look for resources.

One of the reasons your story is so heartbreaking is because as a scapegoat you are "programmed" to view your whole life through a lens that was constructed by others who were mentally ill - unfair!

When in fact you are strong (you survived), capable, and creative. There is definitely hope for the future.

All my best on your journey!

Stottoh said...

After 20 years in sobriety I relapsed having found I'm a love addict - constantly seeking the approval and love of a mother figure that, at 47 was possible not likely to come any time soon (!)

I entered SLAA and CODA to deal with my dysfunctional life strategies and childhood susrvival techniques. It worked and I got worse as I detoxed.

In 2010 I finished a contract and had a breakdown. Depression hit and the many mists of trauma re emerged. I relapsed again on legal highs.

However. As you say - this is a drip feed recovery to access very, very deep pain that was installed (with buttons) many years ago.

I have 3 scapegoaters - my father's untreated alanon girlfriend (hero), my sister - no longer in recovery (hero) and my ex-wife (hero & martyr).

It's been so easy to spell scapegoat v-i-c-t-i-m - and with great justification - especially when no one seems to hear, no one seems to understand.

Having now done a year's trauma, somatic experiencing, general therapy and 8 month's NLP on childhood abuse recovery - I had a revelation yesterday:

It's been me that has rejected them. Yes, I had to to survive, but what if this is common? What if isolating is a common tool for a scapegoat to 'proect' but also blame? What if the other people in my family know no better.

I was digging in the garden at the time and the tears started.

I've been looking for the tools to move on, let go - foregive even. But how could I if I validated myself as the scapegoat. I could only move on if I accepted theo others were simply following their survival tools - one of which was me.

More tears and I can now feel a calmness as I look at this stuff. Could that be acceptance? Oh dear - I may be getting well! Can't let the family know as I'll probably be doing it wrong!

So I agree - foregivenss is coming as I accept we're all messed up and I've been as messed up as the others. Each time I reied to whisper, talk, justify, scream my truth even - it wasn't that they didn't want to - it was because they couldn't. They just heard more fodder for justifying their positions.

So now, what do I do. I've got friends who are safe - my wonderful CODA men's meeting - and I can share my truth there. It would be good for me to work on my foregiveness and acceptance (my inner teenager is NOT happy about that) and I can reap the benefit:

Gratitude that I listened to me and I'm moving on. My truth is factually based, it's real and I have the worth to believe me.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hello Stottoh,

Thank you for sharing your story! I found your journey very inspiring.

I remember the day I had a similar revelation when a much younger brother wrote me a hate filled letter. I read the letter and thought, "Oh, he's in pain and doesn't know what he's doing." I felt stirrings of forgiveness towards him and wondered - if he doesn't know what he has done, maybe the rest of my family doesn't either. And thus began a long journey towards forgiveness.

I love your statement, "Oh dear, I may be getting well!"

I think you are correct!

All my best on your continued journey!

Chrissy said...

This is the first page of this blog that I have read.
After a day of feeling upset at myself for never standing up for myself, and wondering how family bullies would react if their victim committed suicide, I googled "family scapegoat" and "suicide"
I must say, that post by Anon, the writer who has un-finished books, really resonated with me.
I want that person to read this post and to see how their post resonated with me.
I will bookmark this blog and read some more.
I feel a sense of doom. Having your own mother not accept you makes you feel like you are not welcome on earth itself.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Chrissy,

I do understand the devastation of not being accepted by your mother.

I'm glad you found this blog. There is hope for the future. I hope you are able to find validation, hope, and healing while reading the posts.

All my best on your journey!

Anonymous said...

Your story could be mine, almost verbatim. I'm sorry you are having to endure this, but feel validated that I'm not the only one. It also helped me to learn that the "scapegoats" are usually more emotionally honest and outspoken while growing up, as well as more sensitive. I'm proud of those qualities, but it sure hasn't made life any easier. It's never too late to be better than we are today; right? Hang in there

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for stopping by my blog and for your comment. I am grateful that the sharing of my experience is helpful!

Stay strong!

Anonymous said...

I'm still doing what they want me to. I've left, moved far away. To another country. But I'm still doing what they want me to. Always self-sabotaging. Having lots of opportunities but always somehow just letting them go - so that I can be "less". I know it but can't seem to do anything about it.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

I'm so sorry. Undoing our childhood programming is a labor intensive feat. Like you, I moved away after I had grown (out of state, not out of country)thinking it would help.

Unfortunately, the past has a way of traveling with us. I was plagued with PTSD and behaviors born of old wiring. But please keep hope, you can and will transition to a more healed you.

It took me a very long time to learn to stop treating myself the way my mother did. But I did learn to treat myself better and you can too!

Stay strong!

Gillian Woods said...


I really like your writing. It's always inspiring to meet and read about people who have overcome their horrific experiences as the family scapegoat.

I am at a bit of a crossroads, and I feel pretty hopeless.
Though I finally understand family dynamics an for the most part NC, and am not begging for their love (which invites more abuse) I am still a scapegoat to the outer world.

My body language, eye contact, mannerisms, all scream "I'm weak and scared, and I won't fight back" because of this. This creates probles: no friends, bullying, isolation, problems getting hired/fired. Without social support and finances I feel like the world's scapegoat. I'm pretty scared. Is there any hope in healing this?

People are afraid of me (I consistently get freaked out looks in reaction) because I look so hostile angry and scared, even if it's not my intent. Often I don't look people in the eye at all, not to be rude but because I am afraid to. Smiling is very difficult. Sometimes I twich or shake from nervousness. This has gotten worse over the years as the abuse has gone from insane to unimaginablelly horrific.

I'm wondering if you ever carried yourself like a scapegoat (shifty eyes, angry face, no eye contact, flincy,looks of terror for no reason when seeing a stranger,shaking hands, hunched over back) and if so, were you able to overcome these physical symptoms? And if so, how did you do it?

Thank you.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi Gillian,

I'm sorry you are having a difficult time. My heart goes out to you. Being the scapegoat is the worst - isn't it?

It has been a long time since I felt like a scapegoat so the feelings aren't present for me, but my recollection is that of utter terror. I didn't feel like a scapegoat all the time, only when something triggered in me that old scapegoat feeling. When that happened, I became terrified and irrational.My heightened anxiety caused me to react from a primal fear place rather than an intellectual place. I later identified that as PTSD. (Read my PTSD and ME post) My whole body used to shake uncontrollably when I had PTSD.

Your scapegoating may be causing PTSD in you too. Many of the current symptoms you describe sound like PTSD. You could be suffering from the effects of scapegoating and PTSD from the scapegoating. If that is the case, treating the PTSD would be most beneficial. I tried talk therapy for years concerning my scapegoating and PTSD, and although it was helpful, it never took away all of my symptoms because talking about it seemed to re-traumatize me. EMDR therapy was the only thing that truly took away my symptoms.

One way or another, I don't believe we can heal if we are still in abusive relationships. Further, we all need help and support, nobody can travel this journey alone. If you can't afford therapy, see if the psych department of your local university offers free or reduced trauma therapy or if they know someone in your area who does. You may also try social services.

All my best on your continued journey,

Anonymous said...


This was a wonderful post! I have struggled for decades with the scapegoat mantle, and because of it struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide.

I get it! I know the compulsion to explain and explain trying to make my family understand me. It is only very recently, this year, this week, that I've discovered the true extend of my family's dysfunction, and their hatred for me. That even the one member I trusted and thought was protecting me, was actually colluding in the mythology––and is perhaps the source of the problem. That is so hard to process.

That's why I loved your post. Because you're right, I understand intellectually, that this is their problem not mine. That I can simply not accept their belief system. And what a relief!

Of course, now I have to understand it emotionally––a much harder task.

Thank you for this post.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thank you for your comment. It was a real revelation for me when I "got it" too.

I also get what you mean by "Of course, now I have to understand it emotionally––a much harder task."

I always understand emotional concepts intellectually long before they travel the distance to my heart.

All my best on your continued journey,

Anonymous said...

Nancy, I love that you wrote this and I wish I had read it years ago. I've distanced myself from family for years, and am slowly reintegrating myself with various family members trying to keep the toxic ones at bay. I was recently in a situation with a family member that blindsided me (a niece) and sadly I've learned the scapegoating has passed down from one generation to the next. I found myself, for many years, trying to over explain and defend myself. Some people don't get it. After psychotherapy, I learned they'll never get it. A good friend who witnessed the recent wrath was dumbfounded and said to me repeatedly, "I don't know how you survived in that family." That's all I could do was survive. It wasn't until adulthood that I learned to channel those emotions and I'm human, things still hurt, but at the same time I can let it go. It doesn't control me, and I had to explain that to my friend. She thinks I'm putting up a wall. It's not a wall, it's letting go of the toxicity and not letting it control me. I'm in a happy place now and I look at my family like I'm on the outside looking in. This is THEIR handicap, not mine. I'm at peace with myself and who I am. Thank you for the wonderful read.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

You are Welcome! And Kudos to you for reaping the benefits of all your hard work!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I need solution to these problems where I am not the victim.
I was a victim as a kid but not today.
That doesn't mean I don't hurt - I do - and I've screwed up my life so badly I can't see a way out - but maybe that's an illusion too.
As long as we are ok in our insides that's what matters.
I have fears to face and pain to sit through but I know God is there. (He IS the solution.)
It is up to me now.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Thank you for your comment.

All my best to you on your brave journey!


Annette said...

I do understand and good for you for making it out! I have been in counseling for 2 1/2 years. Started because I could not understand why people blamed me so much. Going back into my childhood and learning that I was the family scapegoat was not easy, infact very hurtful, but it all made sense to me. I could finally see all this was not my fault, that I am a good person and I deserved better. My little sister is the golden child and we have emailed a couple times but I realize she did not walk in my shoes and cannot see what I endured. She is protective of our mother and believes every word she says. I have been labeled the trouble maker, the person my parents need to beware of, a person who loves chaos.

Thank goodness I had my grandmother who showed me unconditional love. This is the love all children deserve. She is gone now but she could see what happened, she saw my mom's indifference. It is my grandmother's examples I have used to raise my own children rather than the hatred my mother displayed.

I have not spoke to my mom in 2 years. I feel it would do not good to try and talk about the past.

Currently I am working on forgiveness trying to move on in my own life.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Annette,

I'm so glad you had your grandmother. Being the family scapegoat is such a terrible thing. Everyone needs love and support. One person can make all the difference in the world.

My best to you on your continued journey,


Anonymous said...

Boy does this sound all too familiar! Luckily for me, all of this being a scapegoat has only been for the past 4, 5 years and not my entire lifetime. I was adopted when I was 4, into the most loving family imaginable. My mother has a PHD; my parents took me to Church every single Sunday, raised me to know The Lord; my parents will be celebrating over 31 years of marriage this year- I was put into the most loving foster family before I was adopted and am still in contact with them to this day, the most loving people ever. Had such a good life; then my biological family found me on Facebook and it’s been complete you-know-what back and forth, I can’t even tell you how bad it’s been and am not going too- it’ll take too too long. But yeah, you can guess! Thank God I broke free of these people once and for all- I tried a million times over to get them to love me and accept me like they so claim to everyone around them, but it just isn’t worth it. THEY aren’t worth it. God Bless you all and Good Luck, Xx 

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi Floridachick,

Congratulations on being placed in a loving foster home as well as a loving adoptive family.

I'm happy for you that you were fortunate enough to not have do deal with your birth family until you were an adult.

Kudos to you for breaking free from a family that clearing isn't deserving of your love.

All by best,

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your posting here on scapgoating. I plan to check out the rest of your site and your book. After 49 yrs. I am finally putting proper terminology to all the confusion that has been my life with the people I grew up with. As a kid I just assumed we were “weirdoes” with abusive undertones. Both my parents I’m learning are the narcissistic personality with definite “stealth” and “sideswiping” abuse. My Father could be so charming, there were times that I was so insidiously thrown to the curb emotionally I never knew it until days, even years later. Mom well, she was just as my sister now puts it…”freaky.” At 6yrs. I heard (from only God knows where) the definition of a scapegoat and bells went off in my head and have been ever since. I never knew it was a legitimate form of abuse until just this month. I remember many times as a young child (elementary yrs.) reprimanding my own parents for the way they spoke to me and made it clear I did not like it, I even wrote them letters expressing my hurt and wishing we could be happy together. Hmm, I now understand I was just giving them more ammunition for making them aware that I saw through their fa├žade. But, hey I don’t regret it; perhaps I was just sticking up for myself even back then. When you have no friends who care, you become your own best friend as a matter of survival. As a Christian, I appreciate that there is nothing in your posting that insults my faith and allows me to keep reading. How you put things with a positive, cheerful yet healing tone is so refreshing from the angry negative and still hurting sites I have come across. Your insights to your life and healing give me hope that we don’t need to live our lives in a perpetual stat of healing – it does have and “end” and it is possible to “be done with it.” Of course there are things that will always be there no matter what we do, it’s jus a comfort to know that these “things” can be managed and that living a fulfilling and meaningful life is our reward for the tremendously overwhelming work we must go through to be properly healed. Because you have done it, I can too.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi anonymous,
I'm always grateful when my blog offers validation to other survivors.

Your comment, "I now understand I was just giving them ammunition for making them aware that I saw through their facade," is very interesting. I think that is often true of scapegoats; we confront the abuser with the truth and we become the scapegoat.

You are very correct; healing is indeed an amazing reward for what is undoubtably a great deal of hard but worthwhile work.

All my best to you on your continued journey, Nancy

Mary-Grace said...

Dear Nancy,
Thank you so much for verbalizing the crazy-making drive I have to try to 'warn' the future scapegoats now that I have left my family of origin because of my scapegoating abuse. I gave gone NC with all my family but have a few first cousins and nieces whom I have been compelled to warn, but thank you for using the woodpecker analogy. That made me laugh and I finally "got it". And I will stop thinking I need to explain my experience so they too can "get it".
I am 47 and just 2 years ago, after my fathers death, it was made clear that my family REALLY IS sick and I have been undermined my whole life because I was the youngest(called flakey), most trusting (naive), prettiest (though I was told I was fat and ugly), most successful (but never good enough) name the positives I AM it. To say out loud feels prideful but I can acknowledge today that I am a success on every level and am truly happy!! I am clean and sober 19 years, yet my family of origin, especially my oldest sister who is main abuser and bully, would tear me down for trying. I loved these people and thought they loved me. What stunned me most was their willingness to lie. Just lie.
I'm honest and thought everyone else was too but I know now that isn't the case. Duplicity was and still is their strong suit.

As a growing girl, I tried to make myself smaller (even my posture needed to be corrected) to avoid their verbal and emotional abuse, but know that I can see clearly the family dysfunction I boldly own my own strength, and that is AWESOME. I feel like I have sloughed an old skin. I really am free!

The hardest part for me was facing I have ptsd from my upbringing, but I've sought therapy. Just seeking was healing.
And the grief. I have faced I don't have the family I thought I did because of their dishonesty.
I've accepted the truth of the situation and stopped wishing it were different, therefore I've been grieving the loss of siblings I loved, the great people I thought they were. It's like my whole family died in a plane crash with my father. In reality for me that is exactly what happened the moment God removed my denial of abuse and the real family character was exposed.

I am so healed by knowing this is a common phenomenon because now I know I am not alone nor am I the crazy one like my family has tried to convince me of for so long. I was like beautiful Thumbalina being called ugly by the family of gruesome beetles because she was different.

Thank God for His mercy and good friends who know the real me, not the phantom my family needed to invent. I am loved just for being, and that is great to finally know!

Peace be with you all

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Mary Grace,

Thank you for sharing.

You have eloquently articulated the "push/pull," loss, grief, acceptance and finally freedom that comes from the realization that we don't have to wear our scapegoat mantle any longer.

Kudos to you!
And many blessings on your continued journey!

My best,

Anonymous said...

Here it is, another holiday and I'm alone as ususal.

I am the family scapegoat.

Maybe what's different in my situation is that my own children are going along with my various abuser's program-I essientially married my mother, who I think has naricissitic elements to her personality. Yes, I was the sensitive one. I was also bright, and I've always abhorred dishonesty. My ex, when I finally got the nerve to leave him hired a criminal attorney friend (small county where everyone knows everyone) and cooked up the scheme to kick me out of the family home and to take custody of my 2 kids who were then 7 and 8. I had just returned to employment after not working for a few years due to interference from him-I was an RN. (O yes, I have underfuntioned my whole life.) His goal was to not to pay me my fair share from the marriage, to make me support him with child support (hadn't worked a real job in over 30 years) and to punish me for reflecting the truth of his character back to him.

Now my kids are 21 and 22 years old. I have probably spent less than 40 days with them since the separation. They think they 'know'me but what they know are the stories told about me.

I cut my mother out of my life when she actually took my ex's side against me during the divorce. I have subsequently been prescribed various psych meds to try to deal with the pain of injustice and now have a diagnosis. I am not crazy.

Most recently I have d/c'd the last med, a benzodiazapine. It is hell. The medical professions deny that there is a withdrawal syndrome but there is plenty of information and (thank goodness) support groups online.

My kids have always mostly dealt with me over the phone-when I told them I was severely ill and having a hard time and could use their support, they told me I was too 'needy' and trying to get 'attention'. I often feel suicidal because it feels as if my family and society has just thrown me in the trash.

I am a good person-I could have done great things, but I am having a hard time just hanging on, financially, spritually and interpersonally.

I am always alone. I don't trust my judgement. I have found that some of my friedships were also abusive...

I, too kept trying to explain myself and got nowhere with my kids. They loved me so when they were little. I was their primary care-giver until he (ex) got his friend the judge to take them away, move them 100 miles away, leave me without access to the assets and homeless because I was 'crazy' . For seeking counselling, and taking an antidepressant that I reacted badly to.

The pain is more than anyone should have to bear. I sometimes with they were just dead so I could grieve properly. I have nightmares almost every night and then other dreams where I'm back in my abusive marriage but at least I have my children's company and care.

Is there any online support groups for the family scapegoat? How am I suppose to be the lone ranger and pull myself up by my bootstraps when i have NO TOOLS?

thanks for anything at all

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Anonymous,

Your story is painful to read. There is nothing more painful than the undeserved and crazy-making blame, rejection and isolation that comes with scapegoating.

Everyone needs support and understanding. I hope you are able to find an adequate amount of support.

I do not specifically know of a online support group for scape goats, but if you "google" the term "family scapegoat recovery" you will find a number of threads
in different groups and blogs on family scapegoats.

All my best,

chris60 said...

The problem with being used as the family scapegoat is the tendency to find yourself in similar situations until you learn to tease apart what is your problem and what is someone else's. DARVO -deny abuse reverse victim to offender comes to mind. In simple terms, people unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for a mistake will blame the person that they wounded rather than be seen as guilty. Scapegoating is used to maintain the reputation of the group and protects the leaders at the expense of those they have damaged. The weakest or least significant member is singled out to maintain the appearance of perfection that many dysfunctional families or groups strive to attain. When something goes wrong someone needs to be blamed and punished to relieve the tension that arises in the group. Mature people accept responsibility and feel guilt; some supposed adults cannot stand being seen as wrong or imperfect and pass the shame onto the very person that they wounded rather than bear the burden themselves. Many families hide shabby secrets and cast one member to carry the pain and blame for the group. Family scapegoats feel miserably abandoned and betrayed by those who claim to love them. Humans prefer pleasure to pain and would rather sacrifice one person to save the group than confront some ugly truths. Scapegoats, black sheep and whistle-blowers share a similar fate: a blanket of denial and silence, rejection and abuse.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Chris60,

Thank you for your poignant comment. You have written one of the clearest and succinct summaries of scapegoating I have ever read. One that can only come from a deep knowing....

Thank you!

Unknown said...

I too was the family scapegoat ! Past tense. No contact is really the only way to fully recover . otherwise a painful scab keeps getting ripped off. The people engaged in this horrendous activity never get it. Good luck to all people on this journey ! Melissa

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi Melissa,

Thank you for your comments, insights and well wishes for scapegoated survivors!

My best,

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your article. I have always been the scapegoat in my exceedingly abusive and dysfunctional family. I'm in my thirties now, a mother of one beautiful daughter, and a wife, and have still found myself at times trying to get my parents and/or siblings to see that they are still treating me as the scapegoat, the same way only now without the physical abuse. Now it's just the blame-shifting, self-righteous attitudes, criticizing, bringing up long past mistakes, and their judgmental attempts to "fix me" that I deal with to this day. You'd think by the time I was 34 years old this all would have stopped, but their attitudes are exactly the same. There's only one member of my family who doesn't engage in scapegoating-my younger brother. I've stopped trying to be friends with my family and win over their approval. I have succeeded in many ways in life, with a Bachelors degree in Nursing, a beautiful home and my own little family, great in-laws and good friends who love me. It's easier now to separate myself from their scapegoating, mostly by avoiding them. I don't read their nasty emails anymore, I don't answer their calls unless they've left a voice message that indicates they have something positive to share. I just don't try to be their friend anymore because they keep hurting me and it doesn't seem like that's ever going to change.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Thank you for sharing your story. The scapegoat experience is particularly difficult.

All my best,

Anonymous said...

I'm 50 and recently discovered I was the family scapegoat. I have been estranged from one of my sisters for over a year. One day I hope for my family to be able to gather together again for family functions – but only when real reconciliation has occurred between my sister and I.

Family togetherness, for me, has become a nerve centre of anxiety and pain if I attend a family gathering. My family, who only ever want to see the nice side of life, would be happy for me to just pretend – smile and act as if nothing’s wrong. But this act hurts me more than I ever dreamed possible. I cannot pretend all is well whilst ongoing blame is projected at me by my sister. I have been to family gatherings with my sister there, and pretended. Although I can do this externally, inside it screws me up for weeks afterwards and causes weeks of build-up and anxiety before the next family event. I can’t live like this. And I have tried. And neither can my husband, who is so supportive and loving, but who is also exhausted by the relentless emotional effort required of him.

As a recovering scapegoat, I realise that family gatherings is often when all the old systems of scapegoating behaviours occur in my family. I am not a ‘peace-at-any-price’ person and I value my own wellbeing above that hope of family togetherness. This has been an excruciatingly painful choice for me – to choose my own wellbeing (as well as my husband’s) over that of my longed-for family togetherness. And like you, I too live in the hope that one day this will change. But it’s not up to me to change it, because I can only change myself. For now, I can only be responsible for me – to ensure my wellbeing is maintained as well as my husband’s. To be honest, I don’t ever see change happening because she’s such a hard case, and I am dealing with an entire family system that has been ongoing for decades – maybe even generations. But still, I would rather live in hope, than not. Hope is what I can hang onto. Also my father is dying and I don’t expect that my sister and I will be reconciled before his impending death. It brings tears to my eyes.

However, I will be attending my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary celebration in December. There will be lots of people there and I will be able to blend into the background hopefully. They wanted all my family there and to feature in various ways. I have agreed to attend, but I have chosen not to sing and play my ukulele as requested because it puts more pressure on me than I will be able to handle on the day. It will be enough for me just to be there.

I have a good relationship with the rest of my family but am wary of their scapegoating behaviours. I don't intend to challenge them. I feel like my treatment, although scapegoating and awful, has been mild in comparison to others. I'm still working out how to proceed with many things. I don't have all the answers, but I do feel like I'm well down the track towards healing.

JZ said...

I know this post is years old, but I ran across it when I did a search for "abusive family" "apology" "scapegoat". I just received a written apology from my sister that left me feeling...well, yucky. I realize now, a day later, that the apology wasn't for my sake, but so that she could rid herself of guilt. Now, any estrangement is on me because she apologized and I won't forgive her. That isn't the case. I saved this blog post and will read it again and again. Thank you for posting brought comfort years later to my corner of the world.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Thank you JZ, your comment made my day.

Kudos to your resolve!

All my best,

Unknown said...

I have only learned about family scapegoating a couple of weeks ago, but it has already been healing in a validating way.
I went back to school as an adult, and I excelled! I fulfilled every possible goal. I graduated valedictorian and got a great job right off. But this was tainted by my family. My father simultaneously wanted to denegrade and take credit for my achievements. I was called "trash" and "slut" and treated worse than ever by my father and the rest of my family. I couldn't understand the fact that they KNEW he was a liar and yet they still believed everything he said about me. I was never allowed a defense.
About five years after graduating, I realized that he was treating my children the same way he had treated me. Their cousins were not held to such brutal scrutiny. That is when I severed ties. I will never allow my boys, good-hearted, intelligent, and talented to fall prey to that sadist. My goal as a parent has always been to guide and support, but to recognize their own unique talents and encourage their own interests, not mine.
I am grateful to learn about family scaoegoating, and to learn that I am not alone!

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi Laura,

Thank you for sharing! Validation is key in the healing process. I'm glad you have found some!

Kudos to you for putting yourself and your children first.

All my best,

Anonymous said...

Dear Heal and Forgive,
After another hurtful conversation with one of my children today, I finally googled "scapegoat" and stumbled upon your blog. I thought I was alone. I thought my situation was unique. Thank you so much for your wonderful post! You express every feeling that I have had since I was a child. I too have spent much of my life trying to get someone to validate my understanding of the family dynamics, trying to get someone to tell me I wasn't crazy or deeply defective. My younger sister was the golden child. I spent the first three decades trying to be her. I was in my thirties with three kids before I recognized that every decision I made was prefaced with the thought "What would_____do?" Because in my mother's eyes she was perfect and I most definitely, was not! I have all the classic characteristics of the family scapegoat - sensitive, empathetic, artistic, articulate, with a deep longing for connection and need for authenticity. I unwittingly carried that toxic identity into my marriage. Thanks to one of the posters to this thread, I have a much clearer understanding of why my husband needed to make me the scapegoat as well. Turning a victim into a villain distracts the perpetrator and the family from his own sin. Sadly, that has negatively affected my relationship with my precious children. I love them with all my heart, but as the scapegoat, every interaction with them is an invitation to be wounded. I am beginning to realize that there is a reason that my desperate efforts to change the family dynamics has failed. Sadly, I also realize that I need to give up that battle, mourn what could have been, and do my best to distance myself from harmful family gatherings. My mother, and then my husband, successfully convinced me for most of my life that I am deeply flawed. However, God has brought into my life many loving friends who have patiently helped to convince me otherwise. Thank you again for your wonderful work!

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi Shelly,
Your story hit home for this former scapegoat. Your painful experience brought tears to my eyes.

Thank you for sharing and best of luck to you on your continued journey.

My best,

Anonymous said...

I am the desperate scapegoat. All you say is true about the constant quest to be understood. The more I quest, the more rejection I get. I understand now that there is no mercy for my long held position. The thing is, is now I know I am free. I see the terrible role the other family are complicit in. I see they are on auto pilot. I can walk in freedom and leave it behind. I doubt that they will notice :-). My freedom came from God speaking to my severely broken heart. Jesus took the position of scapegoat to redeem us. We supposedly redeem our families. My pain is known. Grateful to God and blessing to all of you that suffer. I know the deep,deep pain and I pray for the peace you seek. Thank you Nancy for clarifying this truth. We, that are the scapegoat get validation in your words.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Thank you Anonymous,

Your eloquent words touched my heart.

The peace of our Lord be with you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experience on an incredibly important topic. For many years I have struggled with this ans always confused as what to do. When your going through this it can feel as your alone. This is apparently more common than I even knew, which is frightening. Reading positive and empowering experiences you have shared, has definetly inspired me to take steps towards recovery. Thank you for being brave and speaking out.

Amanda C

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi Amanda,

You are very welcome! You are correct that scapegoats feel alone! I might also add very rejected. Thank you for your comments. I wish you all the best on your healing journey!

Stay strong!

The Youngest Adult said...

In the past couple of years I've spent a great deal of time realizing the fact that I'm related to narcissists. I'v read and realized a lot of similarities with the very definition of the word and certain close family members. It was an eye-opening experience when I really wrapped my brain around that concept. I was wondering why my mother and my brother were always so outspoken and overbearing to me. The outbursts, the almost-fist fight with my older brother. Why is this happening? Here I am researching topics about family problems online and I came upon a website called "Light's House". THIS was the beginning of seeing the light shining down on a very sad but true problem in my family -- being a child raised by a narcissist parent. There I thought I'd have solved the problem of realizing the personality disorder of certain family members. I thought it stopped there, but it didn't. What about "me"? How I fit into this unfortunate family dynamic is a realization that only a few weeks old. I am only now seeing a another new light, but this time it's shining right down on "me". An adult now, I am the youngest of four children. I am the child of a very narcissist mother and a very sweet, passive and religious father. I now realize that I always was and currently am a scapegoat.

What I am doing these days is a lot of reading about this new "light". It's makes me angry, it keeps me scared, but also curious. I'm interested in learning more about this topic and how I'm going to deal with this role in my adult life going forward. Who to talk to, who to trust, who can support me with this stuff. Not everyone can -- not even my twin sister of all people. She "gets it" today, then changes her tune tomorrow - probably because she, too, is a scapegoat by the same mother, but doesn't realize it. She was always the assertive one. Me, I was always quiet. I think I became the "target" of my mother because of that quietness. It is no surprise I was diagnosed with depression in Sept'94 and stay true to my meds and therapy to this day. It doesn't surprise me that on occasion my mother likes to use my treatment of depression against me. It's just one of her cards she plays when push comes to shove. When I voice an opinion on something the family could benefit from, she'll say, "she must me off her meds", etc. And where is my Dad to get involved? He's sitting right there allowing all of this dialogue and disrespect to happen. He doesn't go against my mother to protect his daughter. He doesn't take that chance. My mother has a hot temper and he'd rather go into another room and shut the door and pray it all away. God love him. I'll always love him, but I'll always wish he took control of the plethora of problems that came with marrying a woman whom already had a bag full of baggage from her own disappointing childhood. A childhood she never sought therapy for and forced all of us to swallow the same pill she had to -- up to and including verbal and physical abuse.

So I'm reading, learning, trying to heal. I'm trying to decide how much "no contact" I can really do with aging parents. They need me at times and how can I turn my back on them? That's where I'm at right now. I need to toughen up and establish a respectful position in this family since all I have is "me" to do it. But it's so hard. It's like a test. A test of my psyche or something.

It feels good to write this. I want to thank you for reading it. I will continue to dig deep and soul search to save myself. To save MYSELF.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Dear Youngest Adult,

Thank you for sharing your story! Being the family scapegoat is an incredibly lonely place to be. Having our voices heard is very important.

I wish you all the best on your healing journey!


The Youngest Adult said...

Thank you, Nancy, for all the work you do and all the help you've given to ourselves, to our souls.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

You are very welcome!
My best,

Doris said...

I have long suspected that I was the family scapegoat but it only came to a horrible head a couple of years ago. Shrugging off the need for family contact and the opportunity for the abuse to continue has been very lonely, but better for me than the other. I have constructed a new "family" that is healthy but I can't help wondering....who will assume the mantle now? Will they try to find a new scapegoat when they find nothing has changed except that I am not there? It doesn't matter in the long run , but I can't help but wonder.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi Doris,

Thank you for your comments and question.

In my experience (and in that of many other scapegoats I know), the assignment of family scapegoat doesn't go away just because of estrangement. When I became estranged from my family they believed all their family problems were still my responsibility; the pain they suffered from estrangement they saw as my fault, their current family problems they believed resulted in the way I had "single-handedly destroyed our family."

It took 14 years for a shift to occur. After one of my brothers became married and had a daughter, my mother who doesn't like girls started treating her poorly. When my brother stood up for his daughter in much the same way I stood up for myself (which was a big reason I was chosen as the family scapegoat), my mother started scapegoating my brother. This event caused all my brothers (I was the only girl) to begin a journey of awareness about scapegoating and what had happened to me. I need to note that this was a slow journey we have been on for the last 10 years. However, it did shine a light on my mothers behavior instead of allowing her to continue to scapegoat.

I think it took the combination of many situations to begin change the cycle of scapegoating in the family; (but one that still isn't completely broken).

14 years of estrangement

A clear repeat pattern (discrimination against girls) that hadn't affected the males in the family until they had girl children

A tremendous amount of emotional healing

I don't know if my answer helps, but I do believe that we must all put our own healing and well-being first. Their journey is their own.

My brother reached out to me after he became the scapegoat. If there is a new scapegoat in your family I would hope that they would reach out to you too.

All my best,

Lor said...

Oh my perfect mother, who made out I was her only downfall somehow,
Well if I cause you so much discomfort,
I hope you're thinking of me now!

C said...

Thank you for this...I cried for a long time today when I realized things aren't going to change. I have to move on and let them think what they want of me.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Hi C,

I'm sorry for your pain. I know it is a long road, but it sounds like you will persevere and take good care of yourself!

Stay strong!