What Is The Family Scapegoat


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233 shares, 34 points
Scapegoats get blamed even when they're innocent

Every family member has a role. When you learn about family roles, you can be astonished. Are you the storyteller, the caretaker, the moody one? Some family members take on the difficult tasks. Some are considered the geniuses. If you’re the good girl, or the good boy, you will be treated differently from the so-called “wild” or “dumb” one. Some family members are especially loved, and sadly some are not appreciated as they should be.

Your role can be arbitrary, or based on other people’s secret hidden feelings that have nothing to do with you

What if your family members blame all the family problems on you? What if you’re the one who’s left out?  If have you have low self-esteem, depression, sadness, anxiety, you may be the family scapegoat. Are you a parent who always feels bad?

Parents are often blamed by substance using children, even when they’re adults

In families with substance use disorder (addiction) a parent, or both parents may be constantly blamed for everything that goes wrong. Here’s and example.

Alice P, an addict’s mom, wrote in to tell us about a liberating ‘aha’ moment she had about her painful relationship with her son Jimmy. Jimmy is an active substance abuser and extremely mean to her. There’s no nice way to put it.

He throws dust in my eyes

“Since Jimmy started using, he lies a lot. I don’t know the truth about anything,” Alice told us, “and I felt horrible all the time. It was hard enough worrying that Jimmy would overdose and pass away, or hurt someone else while under the influence. But also it was extremely painful that he acts as if I am the one who abuses him and his problems are my fault because I don’t do enough to help him.”

I found out I was his scapegoat

Scapegoat theory refers to the tendency to blame someone else for one’s own problems, a process that often results in feelings of prejudice toward the person or group that one is blaming. Scapegoating serves as an opportunity to explain failure or misdeeds, while maintaining one’s positive self-image. If a person who is poor or doesn’t get a job that he or she applies for can blame an unfair system or the people who did get the job that he or she wanted, the person may be using the others as a scapegoat and may end up hating them as a result.  Encyclopedia Social Psychology

Alice’s enlightenment

“My therapist used the word scapegoat. She told me scapegoating is a kind of abuse. It certainly felt like Jimmy was beating me up for no reason, when I hadn’t done anything wrong. But if you don’t want someone to die, you will put up with a lot. The whole thing was confusing to say the least. Now I kind of get it. I don’t have to listen to him. My point of view matters.”

Two heads are better than one

Alice went on to say she is not the kind of person who ever looked to therapy for answers, or used facebook sites to vent her frustration, and she had not thought about trying Al-Anon, which is free and could also help her. But life with an active addict aged 22 and living at home felt like it was killing her. “I needed another point of view to help me accept that I was the one who had to change,” Alice told me.

Blame Shifting Is Responsibility Shifting

We know a lot of people find it difficult to ask for help. Alone, however, it can be too difficult to identify what about your relationships is causing so much pain. When Jimmy pins his problems on his mom, he doesn’t have to take responsibility for himself. He doesn’t even have to be reasonable. It’s her fault. If she buys his argument, she’s allowing herself to be both used and abused. If she tries to hold him accountable, he’s likely to get even madder. When you’re scapegoated by a family member, lover, or co-worker, you cannot win no matter what you say or what you do. A therapist can help identify what’s going on.


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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass is the founder of Reach Out Recovery and the winner of the 2016 ASAM Media Award. Leslie is also the creator of Recovery Guidance, the information website for those seeking addiction and mental healthcare for professionals nationwide. Leslie is a journalist, director/producer of award-winning documentaries, and the author of 15 bestselling novels. Leslie has served as Chairman of the Board of Plays For Living, was a member of the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America. She has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, as a VP of The Asolo Theatre, and was a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation.

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