Scapegoating in Families-What We Need to Know

Have you heard of Scapegoating syndrome? I hadn’t heard of it until I randomly came across this post in my facebook feed;  Scapegoating: When You Get Stuck Trying to Outrun Someone Else’s Shadow by Glynis Sherwood.  This article answered many questions for me. It solved a mystery that I just couldn’t figure out.

Scapegoating in families-what we need to know
This film captures the family dysfunction and sibling coping skills. The mother played by Meryl Streep is a nasty Narcissist and wreaks havoc on her children.

 

You know when you feel as though you’re banging your head against the wall?  You’re playing by the rules. They tell you what you need to change, what you need to do. ‘If you do this, you can have that’.  You’re trying your best but your best isn’t good enough. Woops, you’ll have to try again.  Try again. And Again…

Well, doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result is insanity.  I guess I’m a little insane.

We’ve all heard of the Black Sheep of the family.  Scapegoating is the black sheep, intensified 100X.   The scapegoat in a family is often the sensitive, independent  or the outspoken one.  Either way they are the one family member that won’t accept the superficial front covering the dysfunction.  They’re the one who asks questions.  They’re the one who tells the truth.  They’re the one who doesn’t play the game according to the dysfunctional rules and even when they do, they still get blamed for things that go wrong.  This syndrome can start in childhood and continue into adulthood.  It is a form of bullying within a family.

“The family scapegoat is the fall guy for other people’s troubles.  If you are the family scapegoat, then the shadow you are trying to run from is not yours, but your family’s.  Specifically, the shadow of your family’s criticism – which you may have come to believe; your family’s rejection – that makes you question your lovability; and your family’s shame – which can severely undermine your self worth”. –  Glynis Sherwood See more at Glynissherwood.com

Scapegoating in Families-What We Should Know
usually there are 1 or 2 family members who are not on speaking terms.

 

Interestingly, these families can be lots of fun, gregarious and generous with outsiders.  You may not guess that a family uses these debilitating ways to deal with their problems by looking from the outside in.  They are not inherently bad people. They’re simply stuck in a destructive, hurtful pattern of coping.  They have lost sight of the fact that what they do is abusive.  They are simply trying to survive and justify their own issues and problems. However, this doesn’t excuse the scapegoating behavior and doesn’t mean that the family scapegoat should let this continue.  Everyone deserves love and if that means you must break away from this pattern by creating change then start today.  No one can make you happy or love you as much as yourself.  As a scapegoated family member it is up to you to change the pattern and recognize that if it isn’t possible to move on toward healthy relationships.

 

Top 5 signs you’re a target for Scapegoaters;

  1. You’re told often what YOU need to change
  2. You’re excluded or overlooked for family events, functions or activities
  3. You’re the butt of sarcasm and negative remarks
  4. You’re iced out by certain family members (it’s like you don’t exist or have been forgotten)
  5. Often you hear statements that begin with “If you_____ “ presenting something you should do to get the acceptance and love you’re looking for. i.e. if you do this then you can have that.

What I think is interesting and valuable for all of us to understand is that the victim of scapegoating in a family has lingering issues.  Until they understand that they have been victimized, it can affect many facets of their lives.  Choosing partners, choosing friends and even careers often continue the pattern of  verbal abuse. Why?  The scapegoated family member has low self esteem.  They have been told not just in words but in actions that they are not worthy of the family love or acceptance.  Over time and without an understanding of what Scapegoating is, the victim accepts their position in the family, one of a punching bag.  So, it makes sense that they would go on to choose a life partner who would do the same.

According to Glynis Sherwood,  Scapegoating happens in families that are headed by alcoholics, abusers or narcissists and that’s where the dysfunction begins.

“ Scapegoating enables the family members who point the finger to operate under the illusion that all is well with them, and that any family problems originate with the person targeted for scapegoating.  This is a primitive, and sometimes unconscious, psychological defense known as “projection”. “  – Glynis Sherwood, M.ed.

 

Top 5 Strategies to change or cope;

  1. Challenge the myth that you’re not worthy i.e. act like you’re good enough
  2. Begin pleasing yourself above trying to please everyone else
  3. Learn to say ‘no’
  4. Make yourself unavailable for parent/sibling scapegoating i.e. set boundaries
  5. Begin nurturing healthy/nonabusive relationships i.e. accepting you’re worthy of love

Scapegoating in Families-What We Should Know

What can we learn from this syndrome?  We can take a look at our own family experience AND we can take a look at the family that we’ve created in our marriage.  I have seen it happening in my own family while intact and after separation.  As parents it’s important to understand this syndrome and ensure that our own children are not being targeted this way.  The stigma can last a lifetime.  We want our children to be healthy and feel loved above all else in this world.

The good news is we can overcome this syndrome by standing up to false behaviors, negative beliefs and by choosing supportive relationships.  Once we begin to make these healthy choices we begin to heal and we are less likely to tolerate bullying or any form of abuse.  If we love and accept ourselves we won’t allow people in our lives who are unable to do the same.

Have you or someone you know experienced Scapegoating? Leave a comment, I LOVE ’em!

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116 Replies to “Scapegoating in Families-What We Need to Know”

  1. I used to think I was the scapegoat. And maybe I was when I was little, but I’ve really separated myself and moved on from that role. I still fell hurt a lot by my family but can also see their limits and don’t take it so personally.

    1. Hi Jodi, I’m happ[y you’ve ‘moved on from that role’ and curious if it was a very long process. Maybe you see this syndrome with some of your clients, too? Thanks for stopping over and sharing 🙂

      1. My father was a complete psychopath when I was growing up. And now Im 36. I’ve come to realize that he has targeted me to shift all of the blame onto. I have made bad choices a lot but he magnifies them into a huge problem and if I say anything in my defense he claims I’m about to become violent and threatens to call the police on me. Like a scare tactic to keep my mouth shut. His new rich wife has been fed a bowl full of bs and is in complete ingnorance and denial of any truth. About the scapegoat getting into abusive and controlling relationships thats me to a t. My mother passed away 6 years ago. I didnt realize the protection I got from her till it was gone. He has done everything he can to make me miserable. Exclusion, belittling, shaming,lying and intimidating. Yes and that whole playing the saint role. When I was 18 he tried to talk me into pretending that I heard and saw things that weren’t there. So I could get SSI and he could get paid for being my caretaker. So glad I had the strength to say “Ya, sounds like a good scam but how bout you pretend to be the crazy one and I’ll be your caretaker?”. He then got mad and kicked me out. I left a bunch of tools and other personal belongings which automatically became his. Now he is much more subtle with his tactics. He convinces or forces everyone to accept that Im the bad one and he is a saint. Reading this has really helped my self esteem. Thank you so much.

        1. Thanks for sharing here, Alex. It sounds like your’e on the road to recovery. So good you had the strength to say NO to his scheme.

    2. I’ve been scapegoated by my family my whole life and honestly I’ve just only realised it today, and I’m middle aged with teen kids. I’m the oldest and did well in school as a child and later in life. My middle sister is needy and expects the world and the youngest is spoiled and looks to everyone else to support them and at 45 still has rent paid by our parents. Last year the youngest freaked out and screamed at me and my son in a hotel lobby in front of our aging father, literally in a rage, over nothing. It was my birthday. Since then that sibling has not been in contact and the family blames me. When I mention it to my mother she blames me. They find fault in everything I do, ignore my achievements and have never told me they love me or given me proper hugs or love. I kept making excuse for them. But it led me to a series of men that treated me terribly, lack of self esteem, a sense I’m undeserving of love and a lot of self loathing. Everything I suggest or do is dismissed, and I’m usually left out of plans. I think it’s time to cut the cord. It’s devastating .

  2. Good lord, this kind of stuff really makes me lose faith in humanity. 🙁 i hope the people in the world, similarly to us who have gotten out of abusive relationships, will learn they are worthy of love and affection and acceptance. That they are valued and capable of being loved in the way that is healthy.

    p.s. i watched this movie, riveting, and oh the havoc!
    p.p.s. this is a double comment, lol, i commented over at blogher. 🙂

    1. Hi Jane, thanks for commenting. Well, I think it’s more common than we realize and we sum it up to being ‘dysfunctional’. I think every family has some degree of dysfunction and no family is perfect. I feel like the more we know, the more we understand (or maybe it’s the ‘less we understand’ as Don Henley said)?

  3. This is so interesting. I’m one of five in my family growing up and we all thought we were the black sheep or scapegoat at certain times. All of us!
    Makes me wonder if anyone really was.

    1. Maybe you all were at one time or another. You all took turns. All is fair in love and war. 🙂 It sounds like it all worked out in the end. TKS Tamara, for commenting.

  4. Hi Lisa,

    That’s really a well written post 🙂

    It reminds me of one of my cousins who is kind of fits in with this as she’s more of the bold and blunt kinds, yet sensitive too. Her own folks call her the black sheep of the family, but she’s just that…not a worse case as a scapegoat…still need to come across such people in the real sense.

    Thanks for sharing. Happy weekend 🙂

  5. Hi Lisa,
    This is my first visit on your site and really got impressed. 🙂
    Really its so interested and well written post.
    Thanks for sharing……….

  6. Hi Lisa

    Very interesting post.

    After reading it one thing is clear in mind; in all cultures and regions most of the family affairs are more or less same. Love, care, jealousy, competition are so common in joint family system of Asia but here also everyone hate to be a target of scapegoat and try to smell the danger well before time.

    Thanks a lot for sharing

  7. Hi Lisa,

    This is a very interesting explanation of scapegoating. I always had a different understanding of ‘the black sheep’ of a family. I always thought a black sheep would be rebellious, bold and outspoken, not caring for any rules…least concerned that he/she is not loved or at least pretend so.
    Can such a person be made a scapegoat? To my mind a scapegoat must be weak, not able to rise up to bullying or feels suppressed, helpless.

    I think all families do have such a person who bears the brunt of scapegoating…some accept it and some of them just wait for the right moment to hit back.

    1. I think the black sheep can be all of those things, too Balroop. The difference with the scapegoat is they may try to follow the family rules and try to fix things and still take the blame. I think it’s important to know when to ‘hit back’ to overcome the role. Thanks for your insight, Balroop 🙂

  8. Interesting post, Lisa!

    When I was younger, I was definitely the scapegoat. My siblings blamed me for a lot that was out of my control and took their anger out on me. I felt beaten down by everyone. I had even gone into a depression because of it. Luckily, I’mnot the scapegoat anymore. Like Jodi, I moved on and grew. But there still are times, especially with my father, who excludes me from things and ignores me. But that’s okay, I feel like it’s making me stronger as a person having to deal with it.

    1. I’m sorry to hear all that you’ve been through, Chrys. It’s a shame your father doesn’t appreciate the woman you’ve become. Sometimes, it’s a case of choosing a career or a life partner that the family member dislikes or doesn’t understand which causes the tension and conflict in the relationship. It’s really not fair. I believe as parents we need to give our children that acceptance of their choices and love them no matter who or what they choose. Thanks for sharing your story, Chrys!

  9. I am 60 and just now realized I have become the family scapegoat. Our original “black sheep” sibling (he always had a different opinion) tragically died a couple years ago. I thought of my siblings my whole life as my best friends and now realize they were willing to turn on my at a moment’s notice without having the facts, without giving me the benefit of the doubt, and without verifying the false information being spread about me. I have done nothing wrong except to have a different opinion about our recently widowed mother’s rights and needs. On several occasions I have stood alone in her defense (nonjudgmentally and diplomatically, I thought) and now, without warning, I have become an outsider, excluded from their social circle, excluded from planning on behalf of our mother, and more. Suddenly, according to them, everything about me is wrong. All this from people I have always loved. cherished, and defended.

    1. Aw, that’s terrible to find out how little you are valued. It sounds like this was a lifelong pattern in your family though. The sibling who took most of the ‘abuse’ is gone so they find the next one. It speaks more about them than you. Set some strong boundaries, speak up when they hurt you and keep on doing what you think is right for your mother. You may have to put a little distance between you and your siblings. Remember, friends are the family we choose. Friends can be your family.

      1. Thank you for your website and your reply. Right now my boundary is distance. Weird that I just didn’t know how long this had gone on in our family, but this new awareness has released me from a burden that I didn’t realize I had carried for decades. My real sense of loss (for my longterm sibling friendships) is for an illusion, not something that actually existed. Armed with the truth, I feel stronger and more hopeful than I did before. I appreciate your comments. Thank you again for your presence on the web!

        1. You’re welcome! It sounds like you’re getting to a healthy place of accepting what is and letting go of the illusion. Thanks for sharing your story here 🙂

        2. I feel for your experience, “middle of nothing”. It brings to mind this powerful quote:

          “Shatter your illusion on the rock of truth.” Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

  10. I was bullied in a job, mobbed in fact as the management /people appointed to prevent bullying, were also the ones doing it and encouraging it. Then, my own family – so similar to these individuals at this work place -stepped in to defend their bahaviour. My father did.

    I developed an anxiety disorder and lost the value of my university degree and significant health -pushed towards a sense of helplessness and depression.

    Years later, I am still suffering the effects of early long term unemployment. University educated, yet the anxiety disorder has meant I am locked out of good jobs near my skill/intelligence level.

    On top of this, I have a narcissistic sibling (and dysfunctional self absorbed family with emotionally crippled parents – bullying of me for having had an anxiety disorder for being “the family shame” is tolerated.

    So suffering is poured upon suffering. And if I ever step into behaviour anywhere near their own condoned bullying and disrespect of my rights I am quickly disowned and ostracized by even the very few on my side: the same room for mistakes simply is not tolerated by others in me, whilst I am expected to forgive everybody elses’ bulldozing over my rights and insults then when I struggle to handle life under the strain of shouldering others’ responsibilities.

    I foremost blame the older, elders, who in never having psychologically grown up or developed healthy boundaries, then permit and take part in bullying or other infringements on rights and boundaries of others. And then it becomes a free for all, where might is right is the only morality and the burden of responsibility is dumped onto the member of the family with the lowest status -usually young.

    In this way, the child is charged with parenting the adults.

    This is where I find my self: with parents who are children. The leaders are asleep at the wheel.

    My suffering has been great. I have felt suicidal many times but I keep going despite how increasingly isolated I have become.

    1. I’m sorry you’ve been through so much, Elisa. It’s time to set boundaries and not let your family walk all over you. You’ll have to decide what those boundaries entail. Do you live separately? Do you stop taking care of your parents? Do you limit contact with your family? You feel isolated but it’s better to be alone than be with people who abuse you. In time, you will find the right people. people who will respect you and treat you with love. Once you start loving yourself and building your strength you will attract good people into your life. I hope your work situation improves and I’m sure it will once you are feeling more confident. Things will get better for you!

      1. Thank you. Getting validation is like eating for the first time in a long time. I decided more or less the same just last night. I am going to be even more firm with cutting out contact with my so called sister. She is a massive heavy weight and life is frankly a million times better without her in it.

        Thank you for the encouragement. It’s difficult being alone, but it is even worse being subjected to attitudes that are about destroying self worth.

        I’ve also decided to simply not even waste my time on my bitchy sister and my family of emotional cripples. I have better things to do than wait for them to catch up to me. Or care that they completely misjudge who I am.

  11. I just wanted to say thank you. Finally my poor gentle husband’s sorrows have an explanation. Before I married him I was treated with quite the great deal of respect, as soon as I became “his” in their eyes the scapegoating moved to both of us and my daughter. Like if nothing that was his or part of him could ever be good enough. I, however, already lived this as a child and upon recognizing patterns got as far away from them as I could. He is not as lucky because of dependency, living close, and his guild that he will do wrong by them….which he is bound to do. After reading we have decided to opt for a happy medium for him. He will block them from all his personal access …. The constant texts, emails and calls have become a sort of leash…once they even called emergency because we would not pick up since we were having a date together. He will keep access only to his brother, whose distance we can deal with ok, we will block his sister all together…the golden child and trouble causer for him, and he will keep his parents ability to contact him at his work, removed from our family and personal time. Hopefully this will give us time to get in a less fragile space where these things do not do so much damage. We have ceased any visit or access to our child, who requested to be freed from their meanness. She is in the right here. They even mock her for being studious, and critiqued her for placing at 98% in her SATs. You know you can never do right when even stuff like that is not right. But most of all today I want to thank you for the article and more still bc I was so impressed to see you care and answer folks. What a beautiful way to help people. Thank you.

    1. Hi Ann, thanks for sharing your and your husband’s story. I’m happy to hear he’s able to set up some boundaries with his family to reduce the tension and opportunity for abuse. Your daughter sounds incredibly smart and sometimes being ‘different’ than the family will make them react with insecure behaviors like bullying and teasing (that goes beyond innocent jokes). So, good move on keeping her separate. If I could suggest that your husband respond to his family’s sarcastic and bullying remarks by challenging them right when they’re happening. If he can do that it really makes the person think twice before letting their vicious remarks fly the next time. I was always one to laugh off remarks as such but later it would sting. I’ve learned to question and call people on these behaviors the minute they’re happening that way I’m sending a message of strength and intolerance for negative talk.

      Thanks for stopping over and I’m happy this article has helped your husband see things a little clearer. Wishing you both peace in your family 🙂

  12. My family always treated me an outsider even as a child, where adults treated me the same my sisters talked about me in a mean way to discredit me call me names. They don’t want to be seen with me.

    1. Hi Hanna, I’m sorry you’ve been treat so poorly by the people who should love you. You’re better off without them. I know that’s not an easy thing to accept but anyone who doesn’t want to be seen with you, isn’t worth any effort. Be free!!

  13. “They are not inherently bad people. They’re simply stuck in a destructive, hurtful pattern of coping. They have lost sight of the fact that what they do is abusive. They are simply trying to survive and justify their own issues and problems.”

    I strongly disagree with this statement, as it is lumping ALL abusers together into a false truth. There are many sadistic and abusive narcissists who do much damage to others, daily, knowing what they are doing, and planning more things to do more damage.

    True, they come from much damage from usually early childhood, but this STILL DOES NOT GIVE THEM PERMISSION to abuse as they continually keep doing, as THAT is taking the responsibility off of the abuser, yet again, and placing the abuse again solely onto the abused.

    1. Your statement: “There are many sadistic and abusive narcissists who do much damage to others, daily, knowing what they are doing, and planning more things to do more damage.” is absolutely true.

      When I say not all of the abusers are inherently bad people, I’m referring specifically to this post and the example of scapegoating in families. I’m not talking about narcissist specifically (although often they are the heads of these types of families). So, I stand by that fact that some of these people are stuck in a destructive and hurtful pattern and have become numb to their situation. This is not making an excuse for them, I am simply acknowledging that they are human, too with both flaws and goodness.

      I disagree with you that this post in any way whatsoever, blames the victim. This post is written to empower the victim. I have not said anything here to indicate that the abuser is not responsible for his actions. I do focus on the victim taking action to protect themselves and to recognize the dynamic of scapegoating for what it is—abuse.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate hearing different perspectives and perhaps how my writing is sometimes interpreted differently than my intention.

  14. Hi –
    I divorced my husband when our 2 kids were 3 & 5 years old because he started making me the scapegoat for HIS unhappiness. That is somwthing he learned from his family, which was dealing with a high functioning alcoholic father. Instead of coming to my rescue when his parents began being emotionally abusive toward me, he joined them. He found this easier because he and his father were business partners.

    I struggled for years to raise my kids alone while my ex badmouthed me to our kids at every opportunity. For a while it seemed that they saw through it. Now my kids are in their 20s and have begun trying to scapegoat me as they deal with the stresses of education and establishing careers. I have always been supportive of both of them so its extremely hurtful to see this pattern continuing with my kids. I have, however, decided to keep my distance from them rather than try to reach out and be “reprimanded” by my own kids for not being this way or doing that. They don’t make an effort to have a respectful dialogue with me, and until they do, I am better off living my own life. I have no questions about the quality of my parenting. Nobody’s perfect, but I refuse to be bullied. My ex has more money than I, and at the moment the kids have decided to stay away from me because I’m not knuckling under. It took me a long time and a lot of begging and tears before I realized what was happening. It’s sad, and I hope maturity will eventually kick in.

    1. Hi Karyn, I’m so sorry for the hurt and pain you have (are) suffering. Sometimes that choice has to be made, as you mentioned. You won’t put up with the bullying. I applaud your strength for doing so. You have to get to a place where you’re healed and then take stock of where your kids are emotionally. AS for your ex, there’s nothing you can do about his behavior. The only thing you can control is your own reactions and it sounds like you’re doing what’s best for you right now. You’re better off without people who verbally abuse, don’t appreciate or value you, regardless if they are family or not. I hope your adult children come to a place where they can appreciate you as their mother and stop blaming you for everything that may go wrong. I think they will and it doesn’t hurt to let them know you’re thinking of them and still love them but maintaining your own space to heal. Thanks for sharing your story! 🙂

    2. Karyn, my situation is similar to yours. My ex has done the same to me, he is a narcissist as well. Not only my two oldest children blame me for their problems but also my mother and sister. This article has helped me understand what is going on. CW

  15. I have been the family scapegoat for many years. Starting after my parents divorce. My mother had me live with her for the child support check. She hated me. She would have my sister and her new husband take her side, gang up on me. I couldn’t win no matter what I did. My sister was the golden child. I put myself through college, got my master’s, have a beautiful husband and child. I have won, which has made it all worse. My sister can’t stand it, it infuriates her. How dare I take aware from her status, her being the one with it all. My mother, of course, has get togethers in which I am not involved. Pleasing my sister to no end. I haven’t been invited to a holiday event in years. My father and brother often go along with it, attend knowing I’m not invited. Approving of the decision. Of course this is hurtful and have decided that it is no longer ok. I recently informed them that if the behavior continues, if they continue to ostracize, then they will no longer be allowed in my life. I have not heard back from my father or brother. My mother wrote, you can’t make me choose? Haha, are you kidding me?! You haven’t had any problem choosing for over twenty years! The cutting of ties has been difficult, but am sure feeling better than I was and will likely continue to.

    1. Hi Sara, First, I applaud your ability to let them go. You’re right when you say it isn’t easy. In the end though, you will be happier without these people since this has been going on for so many years I doubt it will change anytime soon. Underneath your pain, I hear your crystal clear thinking and vision for your own life. Stick to that. Congratulations on your Master’s degree. That is a huge accomplishment!

  16. I was scapegoated by my ex’s family and still am. Their family secret was the reason for our divorce. After 15 years they now got my daughters new in-laws to hate me too.
    I was depressed, anxious, and angry for years after the divorce but I finally stopped being their victim. My ex and both his sisters are narcisissts, just how you described). Anyway with a grandchild now it isnt as easy to avoid all of them with his first b-day coming up. (Daughters inlaws too)

    1. Hi KF, thanks for reading this and sharing. It sounds like you’re still entangles with these folks and it makes sense, since they’re your daughters’ family too. However, best thing for you is to have boundaries and be very choosy about the events you attend. Focus on more one on one, private time with your daughters instead of group situations. Congrats on becoming a Grandmother 🙂

  17. For the last 12 months I have distanced my self from family, after being advised by a reliable source that as soon as my elderly mother dies, their plan is to boot me from the family. Years of misguided support and loyalty on my behalf. They have no idea I know all this.

    1. Hi Paul, that’s some devastating news! when you say reliable source—are you absolutely certain? Also, would it be a terrible idea to bring it up with one of your siblings to verify (although in these situations, people will often lie to save face). Distancing yourself is probably a good idea. It’s kind of a wait and see situation however, if you have a relationship with your mother, hopefully you can make the best of that. Thanks for sharing and reading the post, Paul.

  18. Yes Lisa , I believe the information is accurate. If I raise the issue , it is a possibility they will turn on my source and cut me off from my mother completely. Amazing situation which I never thought possible.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that Paul. Hang in there and know you have a right to a relationship with your mother regardless. Take care of yourself.

  19. This article is so well written – thank you! I have been struggling my entire life with being the scapegoat in my family (only I didn’t know what it was called until now!) My twin sister lives in my neighborhood and my mom and sisters gather there for holidays (I am not invited) and never accept my invitations. They have spread so much negativity around our small town, it is just unbelievable — it causes so much unnecessary division! Also, the rest of the family (cousins, etc…) are shying away from me, I think so they don’t become a target too. it is excruciatingly painful. Now that I know what is happening and have a name for it, I am hoping I can get “unstuck” and make it through a holiday without sobbing my eyes out. I have so much positive in my life. I am happily married for 20 years, have three beautiful children, went back to get my PhD, and landed a dream job. Maybe they were jealous? Seems strange to me because all I ever wanted was to be loved. Anyway, thank you again for writing this post. Finally at age 43, I feel like I have a new perspective and have renewed hope that I can move in a positive direction. It will be without them. Their loss.

    1. Hi Leslie, I’m so sorry. That sounds crazy but then this kind of dynamic is crazy. It sounds like they have problems hence the negativity they spread. I’m sure many people can see that. It sounds like you have your life ‘together’ and you’re happy. It is definitely their loss if they treat you like that. It gets to a point where you have to stop wondering ‘why’ and move forward. Thanks for sharing here, Leslie!

  20. Thank you for the great article.
    I have been estranged from my entire family since my father died nearly 3 years ago. I am the youngest of 9 siblings.
    Only very recently have I managed to work out that I have become the family scapegoat. The frustration of knowing that your family is badly broken & trying desperately to point this out to your family only to have them tell you that YOU are the problem is overwhelming. One of my brothers even went so far as to say that I had destroyed the family, this brother is now serving a lengthy jail term on multiple sex offence charges… hypocrisy at its very worst!.
    Not one person in my family has tried to contact me in almost 3 years, including my mother. The pain of knowing that your own mother couldn’t care less if you lived or died is unbelievably painful.
    The more time passes the easier it gets but I often wonder if I will ever truly heal?. It is nice, however, to know that there are others like me out there & that I’m not really going mad.

    1. Hi Dani, no. You’re not going mad. It’s sad. Part of healing though is acceptance for what is and also finding your own family with friends and people who care about you. I’m glad my article helped you in a way and hope you find your new ‘family’ 🙂

  21. My family had always treated me bad. My sisters are nice looking but I m plain. I marriy a nice looking guy one of my sisters was eyeing him.she’s married but her husband live another place I felt that she just want to make me feel bad. Because I don’t deserve someone like him.

    1. Your sister is attracted to your husband? I think that can happen in families and it’s not a terrible thing so long as everyone is respectful. You may be plain but your beauty can shine from within. Some of the most physically beautiful people can be ugly because their personality makes them that way. Thanks for sharing here!

  22. Lisa, thank you for this insightful and perceptive story that I needed to find right now! I am also grateful for your reference to Glynis Sherwood (dot) com, and she has a very informative website and a free e-book to download. But I can assure you, your story has really hit home!

    It sounds as if you know exactly what we are going through, and I hope it did NOT happen to you. At least not as badly as it has for some of us. When you mentioned seeing some of this happening in your marriage, I almost burst into tears. I have seen this in my own family of origin and then again in my own marriage and family, no matter how hard I tried to change it.

    Now I insist that I am treated with “the same common courtesy that would be extended to a stranger on the street,” and if they can’t or won’t do that, then I move myself to another side of a different street!

    It’s a start. Next is to not only realize but put into practice that I deserve “all the rights, respects and responsibilities that afforded to others,” which do NOT disappear” just because someone happens to be a so-called family member.

    This means libel and slander and emotional distress DO MATTER, even – and especially – if a “family member” is making your life miserable, and attempting to destroy your reputation.

    Reputation is taken quite seriously by the law, as attempts to destroy another’s reputation with falsehoods is considered “character murder” as it can make earning a living or anything else difficult if not impossible.

    Another good article I read online is on angriesout (dot) com, but I like the one by Glynnis the most because it describes me the best: The sensitive one, the truth teller, the one who won’t accept the lies, and the one who stands up for herself. That’s me to a “T.” I could never understand why people always described the scapegoat as the “weakest” member of the family, because in my experience, the weakest ones often go along with the bullies or the authorities as they are cowering in fear.

    It takes a lot of strength and courage to stand up to a scapegoating dysfunctional family or spouse in a marriage. We can give our selves a pat on the back for starters, and then start on all the rest.

    I have such a long way to go, but perhaps being a “black sheep” in a sea of brow-beaten and beat-down others heading off to eventual slaughter themselves, isn’t such a bad thing to be. At least we won’t go willingly down that harvesting chute straight into the mouth of the soul crushing killing machine!

    God bless for this wonderful story, and I found it just in time. I’ve been watching “Bloodline” on Netflix, which is all about scapegoating one member of the family and how everyone else just went along and the ultimate horrendous damage it can do.

    Thank God that some of us are saved and we can see our guardian angels have been looking out for us all along. It’s sad and sorry for those that were not saved too soon. And I’m not talking about religion here.

    We must never become the enemy of ourselves.

    1. Hi Catherine, thank you for your insightful comment. So much of what you say is spot on and very helpful to everyone reading this! You sound strong and I agree that the scapegoat is the strong one. Keep on shining!

  23. Lisa, you wrote: “You’re better off without people who verbally abuse, don’t appreciate or value you, regardless if they are family or not. I hope your adult children come to a place where they can appreciate you as their mother and stop blaming you for everything that may go wrong.”

    Yes, I agree with that statement wholeheartedly, and have been finally able to come to terms with letting family members, who ever they are, go until they want to be truthful, respectful and courteous. Even my only (adult) child.

    But I have to say that one of your statements in the story jumped out at me, just as it did for I AM ALIVE on Jul 25, 2015, who disagreed with
    “They are not inherently bad people.”

    I would have commented that YES, these people ARE “inherently bad people,” as they know exactly what they are doing and how much it hurts someone else. They don’t care!

    They would rather preserve themselves at the expense or “death” of someone else. No excuses there. Aren’t people who supposedly care about each other and are supposed to take care of each other and love each other to be expected to not go along with scapegoating or throwing stones, be they verbal or physical stones, or participating in “honor killings” as some cultures still do to girls in families who believe, falsely or not, that the family has been “shamed” in some way?

    I understood your response, and that other family members have been trained or brainwashed into participating or believing in thinking a certain way, but that does not relieve them of responsibility. I’m sure that wasn’t your intention here, but I did want to point out how much that one small statement struck me; like a rock from a pea-shooter, right between the eyes.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and experiences here on your blog. Much appreciated and plenty for all of us to reflect on and to hopefully grow.

    1. Hi Catherine, yes, well I’m sorry that you felt my words like a stone. In my saying they aren’t inherently bad people, know that I’m not speaking of people who have hurt you. I am speaking of the people in a group dynamic whom would be different without that influence. It’s important we acknowledge the human side of abusers because many of them are just like us with the exception that they are incapable of empathy (at least to our level). That said, remember I am not referring to your abuser(s) or experience so please don’t take that personally. I hope that clarifies my statement. Thanks again for your thoughtful responses, Catherine! I so much appreciate hearing about your experience.

  24. Lisa wrote: “You sound strong and I agree that the scapegoat is the strong one.”

    That is a most interesting statement, especially after reading so many times that the “scapegoat is the weakest member of the family.” I NEVER agreed with that, because I always felt that I was the only one who managed to stand up to the abuser and that took a lot of courage!

    However, I never thought of myself as “the strong one.” Now I am starting to. Maybe being the “black sheep” or the outsider or scapegoat isn’t so bad after all, since we are truth-tellers in the best sense of the word. I don’t mind being ejected from an abusive cultural or family system that damages it’s members, that uses shame, blame and threats and physical violence to “keep everyone in line.”

    No, no, no. That is not my way. And now I will try to see myself in this new light as “the strong one.” For it’s true, no matter how emotionally weak I feel myself so many times, I don’t give up and I don’t give in. I guess that has to have something good to offer in the end.

    I still can’t see the ones who go along with this kind of treatment as “not bad people if they weren’t influenced by others.” Perhaps this is true. But it will take a lot more time for me to accept or forgive those who stood by and did nothing, or those who said “better her than me.” No, influenced or not, they all made sure “their rice bowl was full” and they did not respond to the cries or the hunger of others. But that is for another discussion.

    For now, I will think about “being strong” and what an advantage that might actually be.

    Gracias, amiga. Catherine Todd

    1. Yes we are the strong ones, Catherine 🙂 I agree by the way that the ones who stand by and let blatant abuse happen as you’ve described, are also guilty. Especially if they watch it happen over and over—there is no excuse for that. As I say though, every situation is different. Stay STRONG!! Hugs to you, amiga

  25. I’d like to be able to help my husband, who finally realized he was a scapegoat of his family. It was a blog similar to this one where he just read peoples stories and finally it clicked in his mind…hey this is me! We live in the same town as his mom (widowed) and a brother and sister. He/we just keep letting them do it to us, and we don’t know how to break the cycle. Our town is small, 4,000, so it’s not like we can move lol….I just want to help him, and our family! HELP!!

    1. Tina you can help him in many ways. First of all get all the info you can find from reliable sources, for him to read. Educating yourself and understanding how it works in a family, is a key point in putting back lost self esteem (he can see the sickness, and know it is not him), ability to see how they function and avoid being in the positions that make it easier for them. Either of you do not allow them the place, time or situations to treat him in this way. They are emotionally immature, cruel individuals, just like the Bully at school. But, make no mistake it is abuse. When you make it imposible for them to vent this on him, they can not stand it. It is like a release, to their sole. They need their fix like an addict does, the misery intensifies, do not allow them access. If you do they will blast him. It is a life practice, a mind set, a habit. You can not control another person, only yourself, so your options are you. Now, by changing how you see it: education on the practice and why, you can avoid them using you, most of the time. It takes hard work, but you are then taking control over something they have had control of.This alone will anger them, do not be afraid, in time they will get you will not change, they will not like it and will try things, do not respond. You can love family from afar, it is not the miles that is the problem, it is the mind that causes the abuse tactics. So control your mind and situations, to stay away from this sick thinking.
      People do not tend to give up something that brings them pleasure, only to give it back to another person (especially their target). If they admitt to what they are doing, then the next step for them, is take responsiblity for their wrong and do the hard work to change. That will not happen voluntarily, no way. It is like a scale, until the pain is on their side, will they (might) take a look. It has to be bad pain for them, to be willing even question their ways. Right now, they have no pain or quilt, just he does, they have nothing to lose (change the scale). If he were not there for them to use, what do you think they would do with all that blame and anger. Find another person, or it will raise it’s ugly head at the wrong time or with the wrong people. That would be their problem, (good because it is their problem). They need to grow up and stop being a bully who can not cope with life. Alot of times it is jealousy, or insecurity and etc. That is not his problem.
      I have lived 63 years with six siblings and a mother who has done this to extreme measures. They have been tremendously horrible. But, I knew there was the problem, did not know how to explain it, or that it had a name. In the past seven years I have educated myself on it, I have always fought them off over and over, but they loving mobbing, they are cowards. But, after my fathers death (he was my biggest supporter). Mom and the children have been absolutely horrible. I do not talk to them, do not allow anything about me or my life to be in their hands. You can not believe the emails, texts, calls and any other thing with pain they could use, has been sent. I have been told at least 200 times I am to blame, we all (meaning the clan) agree it is you. I do not even go around them and I get it, a constant birage of hate, blame, telling me I am sick, full of hate, need help etc. They have tried to trick me into telling one of them, about my life, now get you this was including, how they loved me, but I had terrible problems. They did not even tell me my Mother was dying, or included me in her funeral. Cut me out of everything, tore each other up. But I did not make one decision, but told it was my fault for the person I am. They wanted me publicly persecuted for all to see and crucified, to make their selves feel better. I did not get to go to my Mothers funeral. But, that is Okay, they did all this, who do you think looked like horrible humans to the outside world, yes. Now, I am suppose to act like I deserved it. Told if I do not forgive them, then God will not forgive me of my sins. Mind you, they did nothing wrong, because I am told it is my fault and deserved it. What webs we weave when we practice to deceive. They want me to take the Blame and Bail them out, NO WAY! I am not a goat, I tell them go find another goat, I will not take your sins to the alter for any of you. Bend your knees, and face it yourself.
      One day you know, nothing you do will ever fix it with them, that is RIGHT. It is THEIR PROBLEM, hear that THEIR PROBLEM. They do not want to hear it or face it. So taking away the Goat, leaves them holding the bag. They will never change most likely. So look at them like you would any other emotionally deficited individual, who you can not help, it is beyond your control or job. Leave them with their problem, pray for them, you do not have to confront them, they will not get it. Pain will teach them that, not you. I look at it like a military family who moves to other places. Make a life, with people who treat him better, your family or others. Keep your information to your self, be busy and unavailible for them.
      Distance your selves, as to lessen the abuse. Leave them to deal with each other. Let them duke it out, (their hateful ways).

      You hold him up and teach people around you, he is important to you. He has the right to be treated with kindness and respect. As he does not get this from them. Do not allow them to ever put him down infront of you. They try to circle the wagons with all family, against him, to keep him in his assigned place, for their use. Never ever allow this! Make sure they never see you give in and become a member of their society.

      Support is the best way to hold him UP and them OFF.

      Tell Him to read he will see in time and be able to take and separate the illness from him. Once he has the heavyness will lift and he can heal. They will lose then. Never explain it to them, let them struggle and find it on their on. They will just turn it back on him, as that is their practice.

  26. I can totally relate to most of the signs you are a scapegoat in the family. My mom has always seen my sister as the “chosen one” while I’m the family screw up. Yes, it has taken me a little longer to get thru school and my mom has this notion in her head that I should be making straight As in nursing school. Her and my aunt constantly belittle me and it eats away at my self-esteem. It’s gotten to the point where I isolate myself from them just to avoid conflict and being ridiculed. I even considered applying to a hospital in another city just to get away from them. While I’m living with my mom at the moment till March as soon as I get out I’m going to minimize contact with them. After reading several articles about scapegoating in families I know how unhealthy this situation is, and no matter what I do I will never live up to their expectations. I’ve discovered I need to live up to my own and stop letting these people belittle me and insult me in front of others.

    1. Hi Reina, Nursing school is difficult and demanding. Good for you for sticking to it and simply doing it!! Getting straight A’s? Who does that? When you finish your studies and are a practicing nurse, I can assure you no one will ask about your grades or even care. Your mother and aunt sound jealous of your accomplishments and put you down to feel better about themselves. You are right in planning to stay away from them when you can live independently. Set your boundaries and stick to them and make others respect them. Also, build your confidence so you can stand up to them when they say rude or ignorant things to you. Good luck with your nursing studies Reina!

  27. I was most definitely the family scapegoat. Whenever anything went wrong I was blamed and the anger was taken out on me. My mother is a narcissist who definitely followed typical narc. patterns. I was the scapegoat and my brother was the golden child. She spoiled him and criticized and belittled me. My brother caught on to the scapegoating pattern after a while and was happy to let me take the blame for things. The worst of it was I was ganged up on by the whole family quite a few times. My father stood up for me at first then after a while he started belittling me. Very hurtful! I have Attention Deficit Disorder which led me to do very dumb things at times which is what they belittled the most. Mom claims if she had known I had ADD she would’ve gone a lot easier on me. I’ve always thought the black sheep treatment was because of the ADD. I’ve always heard kids with ADD, especially if undiagnosed like mine was, tend to be black sheep. It’s hard to know for sure. In all fairness family wasn’t this awful all the time. Mom had a good side and could be very pampering and we all had some good times together.

    1. I also meant to say I stood up to my parents for abusing me. I yelled and acted hateful right back a lot of times but it didn’t change anything. They just acted shocked and offended that I dared disrespect them regardless of how they treated me. I’ve suffered from major depression and I’m in therapy to overcome my confidence issues.

      1. That’s an amazing lesson. Being abusive back doesn’t fix it. Good luck with your therapy. It sounds like you’re on the road to better times and healing.

    2. Hi Allison, it seems the scapegoating is contagious to members of a family. It becomes uncool or unacceptable to stand up for the scapegoat–including saying anything nice about them, seeing them or challenging the head of the family who is often the one who starts the scapegoating. I’m gald you mentioned that you’ve had good memories with your family in the past because honoring those memories is important in moving forward and accepting that things are no longer the same.

  28. First xmas since distancing myself from family. Will be working so not too bad. I expect some form of drunken abuse to come my way, even if i’m not there. Will be filtering all forms of communication

    1. Hi Paul, that’s a good idea to filter communication in the case of alcohol fueled emails etc. Hope you have a peaceful Christmas!

  29. Merry Christmas everyone, holidays are hard for me ,alot of you sound so strong. Next year maybe I won’t be so down not being included a the family holiday. Thanksgiving through my son my sister invited me ” if your mom behaves then she can come thanksgiving”. If I behave? I invited in 10 years maybe 4 family holidays and not one time did I “miss behave” in fact they lucky I did not . They always invite all these people that have no where to go on holidays,warm family holiday spent with them and their own sits alone. My children are invited and my grandchildren just not I. If I change then I maybe allowed. What’s funny is change what? They know nothing about me, only the gossip and lies the spread. So today I’m with the best person in the world MY DOG unconditional love, tàking her on walks helps me get out of the house to keep positive around me even though I want to curl up in my bed cry all day. Sadley used to contemplate suicide but my many failed attempts gave them reason to reject my pain as “attention” . Nothing like kicking when your down. I wonder though I just realized what has been happening to me now 15 years (prior to that I was kind of Golden Child) 2hen my mother turned on me when I became a lesbian, I destroyed her perfect family image she molded me into,my “loser” sister took my place and my mother went after my children completely becoming friends with my xhusbands narcissistic wife and soon they both were parent of my daughter and my rep as a good. Mom soon turned to I was the worst mom,I lost custody off my daughter. I’ve tried for years to repair but she is my mom’s Golden child as well as sister,both rewarded with her generosity and her acceptance. They both and my mom are the most evil in family to me. How can they not know what they doing is wrong ng and hurting a person? Anyways I was sexually abused by my mom’s second husband from ages 4-13 then I ran away in LA California got into adult industry now 15 years of being bullied scapegoated,c
    Every relationship has been extreme abuse ,even my x boyfriend hung me and I was found clinging on to life ,in fact my family showed up at hospital for that because they said I wouldn’t make it through the night.. But at age 53 I have no self esteem,self worth. I am recluse now as I do not trust anybody . Can I be fixed? All I know is a life of abuse but I’ll tell you this much this by far is the worst,most painful then sexual abuse ,rape or attempted murder ,beatings ,this I feel broken damaged . I try stay positive its hard.

    1. merry Christmas, KaCey 🙂 Try to stay positive and I think it’s great that you have a dog. You’re right that animals provide unconditional love and that’s exactly what is needed. I think you have to start with self love and self forgiveness in order to heal. Once you feel love for yourself and set those boundaries against people who abuse you, you will attract good people into your life. I’m so sorry for the struggles you’ve faced. It will get better though when you separate yourself from the people who mistreat you. That’s the first step. So, in answer to your question “can I be fixed?” —YES because there is nothing wrong with you.

  30. Hi Kacey, hi everyone,
    My heart goes out to you all. I am a scapegoat. I know there is nothing wrong with me.
    We do not need fixing because we are broken. In my experience, we need help to prop ourselves up because we are broken down. Broken down by our abusers.
    My family think I am mad because I sought psychological help. My father died when I was 16 and was a workaholic. I was his favourite and he was mine. I tried to seek solace with him but how can a child tell their father about a mothers abuse? He chose to be never there and never see it – Now I see him as her facilitator because he failed to protect me.
    I have one elder sibling – a boy of course – the superior male golden child?!! He and his wife are alcoholics. He is high functioning and holds a good job. My mother has now started to be abusive about my 7 year old daughter. That I will not tolerate. My daughter will never become scapegoat by association.
    We had my mother here for Christmas. She takes over my house, all conversation is negative. She constantly criticises the way I do things – even our plates are the wrong size, my parenting, complains about what is happening in the world, makes racist comments. If I challenge her to stop. Her stock answer is disdain that I don’t care about my daughters future. Yes I do, however, it is my daughters immediate future and my health, which consumes me. My Sister in law is just like my mother. My brother speaks to my mother everyday and is turning into my mother. When we last saw my brother and his wife, my sil and to a lesser extent, my brother constantly boasted about their 4 yr old son whilst telling our 7 year old off numerous times and never praising her (she’s feisty and was just being 7, he’s very subdued and 4). When I asked my brother nicely to say one nice thing to my daughter that weekend, he pointed his finger in my face and shouted the house down and made my daughter cry.
    None of them can take criticism but expect to dish it out in spades. My sil likes to criticise me for not drinking. I can only have the occasional glass because of my health. It literally poisons me. Apparently I’m controlling and a party pooper, who likes to criticise my husband for getting drunk when he’s around them?!! Like when?
    They are coming to stay with us the day after tomorrow. Why do I put myself through all of this? My husband says nothing. But is increasingly fed up with the situation. I want to get closure and to a mature adult place, where they can no longer hurt me. Then decide whether or not to cut ties. I will get there. But I often feel like my own abuser for not cutting them out. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.
    I know when I have learnt all I need from them, they will no longer hurt me and I try to take solace in that. Thank you for reading this.
    Love to you all, Jane xx

  31. Triumph Of The ScapeGoat
    I was designated as the family scapegoat at a very young age. At the time of my inevitable violent ejection from my family system at 18, I called the police, used law enforcement and small claims court to monetarily prevail over my scape goaters. After 35 years of estrangement, my scape goaters have attempted to suck me back in. I sent them a picture of me riding in a hot air balloon and explained that this experience was funded by the money they had paid me. In essence, I escaped from my FOI and their lies about me in a hot air balloon with funds I had won from them, and sent them the pictures. I have spoken with many scapegoats and none of them has prevailed over their abusers and called out their lies in the way that I have. I laugh every day and my friends tell me I have a great sense of humor. I remain no contact with my abusers (the hot air patrol) and plan to stay that way to the end. Up up and away in my beautiful balloon 😉

    1. Wow, David what a story of strength and dare I say—revenge. I can picture you flying away in that hot air balloon. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

  32. I am the poster child for scapegoating. I have spent the last 4 years grieving the loss of my family, yet grateful to have the courage to walk away. The saddest part is that my own children are casualties from this sick dysfunction. My mother is a devout alcoholic and I was the child who wanted change. She told my children I am the sick alcoholic, and along with triangulation of my siblings, I lost the most precious thing in my life, my children. I have tried to move on, but there isn’t a day where I dont question my worth and identity. In my heart I know I am good, but I feel the years of abuse have taken their toll on me. I am lonely, broken and scared, but I know God will love and take care of me. I miss my children terribly and fear I have lost them forever. Robin, looking for peace in my heart

    1. Hi Robin, I’m so sorry you’ve been targeted for abuse this way. There’s nothing worse than having your own children turned against you. It’s something you can continually try to correct (with your children) as they are the most important relationship. Of course, you can’t do anything if you’re not strong and healthy so perhaps some time to heal yourself and gain some strength first before tackling getting your relationship with your kids back. Thanks for sharing and do stay in touch. <3

    2. Hi Robin,
      Your story touched my heart, I am in a very similar situation and feel for you. I just realized after being up all night that I have been the scapegoat as a child and now as an adult in a very dysfunctional family. Now that I have made this new discovery all of the pieces are starting to come together and I feel a new sense of freedom and empowerment.
      It takes so much strength to do what you did and just pray and God will restore your children to you…it is the only answer we have right now. God Bless you, stay strong.

  33. My mother was a narcissist and my sister was the golden child and I the scapegoat. I always knew there was something wrong with my family and it wasn’t until the passing of both of my parents that I started doing a lot of reading. It was like I was reading a book about my life when I came upon some articles. It was validating and extremely difficult. I believe my sister is a full blown narcissist like my mother. I have not had contact with her for three years. My father was the enabling father and never rescued me from the abuse. In fact he would carry out the punishment. He was afraid of my mother I’m sure. The struggle is so real and awful. I really mourn for my child me. When I look back it all makes so much sense. How could I have confidence and feel good about myself and beautiful. I was constantly told in words and actions that I was bad and ugly. I kept that family together. If there was a fight between my mom and sister it was up to me to fix it. This is the very reason I feel I have to help everyone. They have all grown to expect it. I am so tired mentally and physically. I am really trying hard to allow myself to take care of me but its a work in progress. I feel so unloveable and angry. The anger runs so deep I sometimes think I’m going to self implode. We moved so much as I grew up. I’m quite sure that my mother was running from something, probably her bad behaviour. The moves were not small ones either. They were from city to city and province to province. I went to 9 yes that’s right 9 different schools in 12 years of schooling. I was never able to establish solid friendships until I got older and thank goodness I have three great girlfriends I keep in contact with from ranging from junior high to high school. My sister surprise surprise has none. She’s too arrogant and thinks she’s better than everyone. It oozes from her bitchy pores. I made sure that both of my daughters were equally invested in and not allowed to treat each other with disrespect. Thank goodness I had the wherewithal to do this. I know I was far from a perfect mother but I was completely devoted to making sure they knew they were beautiful, smart,and equally very loved. As much as I am armed with knowledge I struggle. It seems that even though I know it’s a lie my first reaction within is still that of a scapegoat. It’s a knee jerk reaction. It will be in me forever and for that I am angry. I feel robbed and can’t help but wonder if I had a loving invested mother that believed in me what my life would have been like. It’s hard not to feel sorry for myself sometimes. I am working on it . H

    1. Hi H, Wow, you suffered a great deal and for a long time. It’s natural to feel anger and grief for the child in you. However, and this will be hard for you to hear, the past is behind you and you’re the only person who can let it go. Maybe you need to go to therapy and work it all out of your system. Your life is different now and 100% better. You’ve raised secure and loving daughters. You have amazing friends. Right there, that’s good stuff and says a lot about who you’ve become. It’s great that you’re researching the scapegoating syndrome to understand yourself better. I’m sorry for your loss, H. Indeed you have lost more than many in a lifetime. You’ve lost both your parents, your sister and your own childhood. It is going to take some time to heal. You’re headed in the right direction though. Self love is the only way…keep on working at it! 🙂

  34. perfect subject but a very important part of the problem is not mentioned the world leaders are not less sick than these families so they help them by isolating the target if the choose to have healthy relationships

  35. At nearly 60 years of age, I just recently discovered that scapegoating is what it has all been. My dad is elderly now of course and while the scapegoating continues to this day, I am finding comfort and strength in limited contact. The pain, the feeling of being so, unloveable became unbearable, to the point of attempted suicide. I see a glimmer of happiness now, now that I’ve begun to understand.

    The best advise I’ve read and have headed thus far, are:

    Limit contact ( severely )

    No longer ‘tell the truth’

    As few years as I may have left, I intend to finally learn to love myself!

    1. Hi S, that’s so important—the part about self acceptance. Often in these situations whatever you do is wrong. You may not understand why because usually it doesn’t make sense. Realizing that is the first step and it sounds like you’re on the road to recovery. Good to hear! 🙂

  36. The sad thing is: by the time the targeted one realizes what’s happened, the entire family has regrouped and followed the one (or two) manipulative personalities who’ve managed to convince them all of foolish untruths. /What’s now perceived to be true–anything remotely possible, is the “new normal.” The fear of NOT going along with the perp has led primarily good adults to drop valuable relationships who became so afraid of badgering they learned to retreat, cry and die in silence.
    Saddest of all, most of their childhoods were wonderful, and the 6 kids got along well. But as adults, they all are broken–even the “golden” ones (maybe especially the golden ones) as they can become self-righteous, cocky, and selfish. They’ve lost their memory too. Forgotten and pushed out are ones who gave their all when they were in need. But hey, so long as they keep on the narc’s “good side” they’ll get the goods, huh?

    1. Hi Denna, you’re right in that the group mentality is hard to break away from. The memory is a funny thing. Good memories of the target get erased by new, embellished negative ones.By so doing, the past gets forgotten or anything good about that person. This can spread like wildfire.

      This: “But hey, so long as they keep on the narc’s “good side” they’ll get the goods, huh?”

      Nail on the head.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing here!

  37. im “The Yucky Cousin”. my uncle and his family wont even sit on the same side of the family’s beach property as me, although they sit and chat with all 50 other family members. when i was 20, i was really bad – i wrecked the family car on a night of wild drinking. thats where this started.

    but im 50 now…this has been going on for THIRTY YEARS.

    ive sought help desperately from other family members. even my mother and father dont want to admit that this exists. i am on my own.

    every weekend that they do this, it REALLY HURTS. i grew up, got into AA, even became a respected LCPC. i havent had a drink since Reagan was in office. ive done my time. ive rehabilitated. but there is no statute of limitations with Scapegoating.

    it happened last weekend. it will happen again this weekend. the rest of the family refuses to help me. for as long as my uncle’s family lives, i’m going it alone here.

    1. You are not yucky. You are strong and have made a successful life for yourself by undergoing rehab. You should be proud of yourself. You have to let go of these people. Why spend time with those who won’t acknowledge you? Please re-name your handle. I suggest: “The Good Cousin”

  38. A question-as a scapegoat, who had to take the path of No Contact with my siblings…how does I tastefully handle the death of a sibling?? I have no desire to see any of my siblings yet feel that I am being disrespectful if I don’t attend the funeral…this has not taken place but I do have a sibling with cancer-I am trying to be proactive in thoughts so that I am not left with guilt when the time does arise-how to deal with illness and death is tough for me.
    Thanks
    J

    1. Hi Jan, I’m sorry to hear your sibling is sick. It’s a good idea to think ahead on these circumstances although, I’m not sure we really know how we will react or what we’ll do until the time actually comes. You have to do what’s best for you and what you need for closure. There is no right or wrong answer.

  39. My story is long but I’d like to know why I’m hated so much by them and why my father turned them and himself against me.I am 100% the scapegoat for absolutely no reason, and to this day I try to understand why. I knew my parents were controlling growing up. It was just my brother and me and my father was in the military so we moved around all our lives. Needless to say, my brother and I were very close. … Why the hate? Perhaps because I’m still single at 33 and childless? Living my own life? I honestly do not know. I know my father is the main reason why they think so ill of me as the emails I read were unbelievable spiteful and terrible. I could not believe a man, who was my father, could say those things and accuse me of being such an awful person when I was just trying to live my life.

    1. Dear surreal, I couldn’t post your whole comment as its as long as the post itself 🙂 and I don’t want to jeopardize your privacy.I think when you ask “why the hate?”, the answer is there is NO reason and you do NOT deserve it. You are right to distance yourself from your family. They sound destructive and you’re better off without those people in your life, family or not.

  40. I came across this website by total accident. I am a 46-year old woman (an only child) and still to this day I am reminded of mistakes I made 25 years ago. Was I a perfect child? Absolutely not but bringing up things I did in my youth have no bearing on the here and now. I am blamed for just about everything; including the happiness or lack of happiness of other family members. When I am being talked down to, I remain respectful of my elders and do not raise my voice or use foul language; unlike my elders. I am reminded daily of bad choices and mistakes I made in my youth. I an also reminded how perfent my mother is. Specifically what a perfect daughter she was. She constantly compares us. I am not my mother and never will be. If I try to speak or say how I am feeling I am talked down to or told I am wrong, etc…..Still to this day I am blamed for my parents unhappy marriage. The sad part is that from the outside people think we are “normal” but we are far from it. I am also being blamed for my 18-year-old daughters anxiety issues. She is shacking up with a 35-year-old man which I made very clear I do not approve of. This man always is around young teens and seemingly cannot engage in relationships with people more his age. I begged him multiple times to terminate the relationship but he refused to speak to me.

    1. Hi Lori, again, this situation is unhealthy for you. You must break away from your family until you can gain your confidence and yes, raise your voice. Your voice matters.Once you make some healthy changes for yourself, you can focus more on your daughter. By going no contact (at least for a while), you can make these changes and be a positive role model for your daughter.

  41. When my eyes were finally opened to the realization that I was and still am the family scapegoat, it was too late. Firmly telling my parents that they were absolutely not going to abuse and disrespect me didn’t do any good, It in fact infuriated them to a blood boiling seething degree, that I dared to conduct myself as though I even thought I had the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Their response to my attempt at boundary setting was to step up their abuse and scapegoating of me. A response that relayed that they believed they have ownership of my identity and were going to present their made up image of me to whom ever they chose when ever they wanted to and how dare I tell them and in no uncertain terms at that, to figuratively, get off of me and stay off.

    What my parents did destroyed my relationships with my siblings because they opted to believe the lies our parents were telling, or pretended to. The lies told and stories made up about me were not in any way reflective of my character, which my siblings surely knew. From what I’ve read many times, siblings typically stand by the parents, even when they know better. Thats an indication as to just how hard it is to accept that a parent can and will deliberately and willfully destroy their own.

    Boundary setting does not work with abusers because their targets pain and suffering is their sick addiction.

    That was six years ago that I stood my ground with my parents. My mother is still enraged by it and continues with her anti me campaign of lies slander and outright fabrications. My father died last year and vilified me up until the day before he did.

    It is all astonishingly mind boggling, that degree of hatred and sadism. Especially coming from ones own parents.

    Reading these blogs and readers comments is what has kept me from succumbing completely to despair. To know you are not the only one helps a lot.

    1. Hi Bobbi, I’m sorry for the abuse you’ve suffered. I hope you are finding some peace now and that you’re making a life independent from the scapegoating. I’m glad this article has helped you!

    2. Bobi, I don’t know if you’ll get this reply..but I hear ya. Boundaries and saying I will no longer play this role only get you ousted from the family, cut from the will, blah blah blah. Sounds like your mother has NPD and people with this disorder do not love their children…any of them. Just wanted to let you know you are not alone and your words sounded like they were written by me!

  42. Wow what an eye opener. Ive always known i am the black sheep of the family but only today my 26yo daughter said “mum your the scapegoat and always have been. If they didnt blame you for everything they would have to look at themsleves “.
    My daughters words hit a cord within me as the shocking truth was brought into the light.
    Raised in a very well to do family with a father who is a narcissist a mother who is an alcoholic and a grandfather who was a pedophile what chance did i stand.
    I recently decided to move back to the area where my mother and brother live . Mum told me today that she felt it was best i look elsewhere as she and my brother cannot cope with the stress of me being around them. Hurt Anger Shattered…..just a few of the emotions i was feeling when i heard her words.
    Thats when my daughter told me i was the family scapegoat . So here i am wondering whats next……and reading many similar stories

    1. Hi Felicia, I know this is hard for you to hear but you must distance yourself from your mother. It sounds like a toxic situation. She doesn’t want you near and I believe you will be happier far from her. Your daughter is wise and maybe focusing your love on her will benefit you in the long run. Stay strong!

  43. I have been the scapegoat my whole life. Since a small child. It has followed me everywhere in life and every new situation ends somehow with me being the scapegoat again. In school at work in social setting even at my doctors office. I had severe back pain for a decade and kept going to my doctor and he kept saying I’m fine there’s nothing wrong it’s just arthritis, it’s in your head, your just looking for pain killers. Finally some specialist decides to get me another MRI and they all went holy shit, I had surgery with in a couple months, and all the doctors apologized. Turns out my nasty ex husband told our shared doctor that there was nothing wrong with me I was just looking for drugs so there a note on my file that follows me for ever. Same ex husband had his own major illness that I took care of him our business our house and everything. When everything fell apart him and his whole family blamed me for the business failing, for relationship,failing for loosing money and all kinds of shit. I moved away moved on started over, it’s still happening. Current husband family has their own issue. His whole family even children blame me for everything even though I’ve barely been in there lives for that long. They had problems before me. So we move away from all this and try and start over. False accusation of child abuse affects me terribly. I work as a paramedic and have. Criminal record searches all the time. This has ruined our lives. I’ve had to star over from square on so many times,
    I haven’t even begin to tell you how I’m the scapegoat at every job I’ve ever had been accused of theft and lies when it turns out it someone else, no one even apologizes for accusing me. My whole life I’m called a liar a troublemaker. You name it. I am so fed up. How can’t it pisibbly be that I am the cause of everyone’s problems. Im so depressed. I have anxiety, I don’t want to go anywhere or have any conflict with anyone I live in a constant star if fear. I’ve honestly thought of ending it all on so many occasions, but then think that everyone would just go see, she is a fucking looser. I can’t take much more. There are so many more shitty situations it would take a book to explain them all.
    I hate people I hate life.

    1. well, my first recommendation would be to see a therapist and really open up about it all. It would definitely help you build some self esteem and confidence, both of which will help prevent scapegoating in the future. The reason is that with greater self confidence, you will send a message loud and clear that you don’t tolerate any kind of abuse in your life.

      I edited you comment slightly to protect your privacy and the children you refer to. Please don’t give up. It’s not you—it’s them projecting their problems on to you.Find people, places and things that make you happy and feel good about yourself. That may require changing jobs, living alone, finding new connections. You life WILL change for the better!

  44. I have a scapegoating problem with my children against each other because their father “hates” my oldest son. When I got divorced I unwittingly took my oldest son with me onto the “scapegoat” side. The poor kid saw right thru the bs! He’s the only one that was old enough that remembers living with him. He could see my ex for the narcissist he his without being able to verbalized but he never bought in on his on volalition. He remembers living with him lol! My younger children are great but have an animosity towards their older brother because He’ s “useless”. Imagine! That’s what their father tells them! What my older son and myself don’t do is buy into the crap he’s spewing. If we want Red Sox tickets we can get them lol. But if you don’t rely on the “King” to hook you up?! You are “Useless” lol

    1. Hi Kerri, creating conflict between siblings is a great way for the control freak to conquer his children. It’s too bad, because the children are the ones who miss out on one another. Hopefully as your younger sons mature, they’ll see their big brother for who he really is and not what their father refers to him as. Thanks for sharing here, Kerri.

  45. I am so Happy I stumbled onto this website. I can now put so many things into perspective. Recently after an episode with my mother and I realized that everything she blamed me for were all her thoughts and not mine. I had moved on from the past and worked so hard on affirming myself , Loving myself and believing that I am an amazing person , no less or no more than any other person. However most times when I am around my entire family, I often feel so bad about myself. They still see my as the child who had to be quiet and submissive. Fragile and unimportant. They still now require me to be present to complete the family and its 6 CHILDREN BUT I AM NOT ALLOWED A VOICE, i AM NOT HEARD AND THE TIMES THAT i TRIED TO BE ASSERTIVE AND STATE MY CASE. I am shot down, and it always feels s if I was the one spoiling the peace and everyone’s fun. They often exclude me from gatherings and family happenings, I have lately started to feel more and more bad when I leave their circle. I remember leaving from a Christmas get together sobbing as no-one ever heard me , I spoke but no-one heard or took any notice. I started feeling numb and of late decided that I can take no more. I send my siblings a message trying to explain why I am withdrawing also to self preserve. But they did not respond or say anything ( Except one of my brothers) but I get the innuendo’s on the group what sup chats. and I can make out what the conversations are about me. They make out that I am mad and irrational but I know that truth be told I am the logical and practical one with my feet on the ground. I know who I am.
    So having said “enough”, No more, has been very recent and I am trying to cope with it only they do not really leave me alone as if they need me around to complete the 6 kids or to have someone to shut down.
    Thank You all for the articles and for sharing. It is still a longroad for me since I said NO CONTACT>

    1. Hi Lizette, this: ” I am the logical and practical one with my feet on the ground. I know who I am.” Exactly and always remember that!

  46. I am the oldest of three daughters.
    I am 40, we are all about 2 years apart, in age.

    When my mother was growing up,
    it was the Mother and the Oldest sister
    picking on the Middle Child.

    And now, conversely, in my generation,
    it is the Mother and the Middle Child,
    “standing up to” the “evil” Oldest Child.

    Except I’m not evil.

    On the contrary: like my mother, I have tried all my life to earn the love, acceptance and respect of my mom and my sister,
    and have failed.

    But my mother doesn’t see the parallel between her role and my role.

    She looks at me and only sees her own evil older sister,
    and she looks at my sister and only sees the ongoing opportunity to get her mother’s love and acceptance.

    Also noteworthy is how my mother effectively repeated my grandmother’s technique:

    Switch roles with her own daughter.

    Just as my grandmother once swapped roles with my aunt,
    forcing my aunt into the mothering role once occupied by my great-grandmother, while my grandmother became the “daughter” in the relationship,

    My own mother continues her role as “daughter” whilst regarding my sister as a proxy for her own mother….my grandmother.

    *this comment has been edited for length-Lisa

  47. Thank you for sharing.
    I grew up as the family scapegoat.
    As an adult I have found myself being mistreated, abused verbally by my Husband’s Uncle.
    Things hit a all time low with the Uncle verbally attacking me, and even though he is a psychologist, he would not respect my boundary when I told him to stop.
    So after a lot of reading I was done. I went NC with Uncle.
    My husband tried numerous times to talk with his Uncle, pointing out his need to apologize to me. Uncle didn’t think he’d done anything to apologize for. Over time the Uncle has alienated my husband too. Prior to the big blow up my husband was taking his Uncle to the Dr. Calling his Uncle a couple of times a day etc. In many ways my husband was the Uncles caregiver.
    It’s been difficult to be NC with the Uncle, during the past year as my husband was still talking to his Uncle.
    Now the Uncle’s daughter has let my husband know that she hopes ” T and Dad can patch things up soon.” Followed by praying hand emoji.
    Soon? Laughable that Uncle has had over a year to apologize and won’t.
    Add to this I heard the Uncle give my husband a long list of all the things Uncle has against me. Some go back to before I even married my husband.
    We’re talking over 30 years Uncle has harbored and fed his negative view of me.
    But he would still come and stay days,over night visits that went on too long, eating all the food I made…while inwardly hating me.
    I felt very duped when I heard how Uncle really viewed me.
    Just the suggestion of the cousin of “patching” things up made me sick.
    You can’t patch narcissistic abuse, and she should know, she is a psychologist too.

  48. Now I know I am a scapegoat…. I have supported every member of my family when they have had nothing. I have been next of kin for all of them. Yet my sister insisted in treating me disrespectfully in my home and around my son. I have put up with this for a few years sharing my concerns with my mother when I have been upset. One day I’d had enough of her treatment at a small family party and retaliated telling her to shut up. This has led to most of my immediate family turning against me. My mother accused me of making her take sides. So untrue as we never discussed what had happened until 4 months later and now if we do have a conversation it’s like talking to a stranger. 6 months later and my sister is still not talking to me and my mother barely is. I feel hurt and confused as I didn’t want this to happen. However, not having my sister around me makes me feel a bit calmer but am struggling with the feeling of rejection from the rest of my family.

    1. This is just beautiful. Amen sister. Please continue your journey no matter how many times you make a mistake or fall, get back up and keep going. This gave me hope. I just realized I am the scapegoat of my family and although I gave up for about 3 years, I am starting to demand respect for myself from myself and others. I will no longer be the families punching bag.

      1. Hi Zakiya, sounds like you’ve got this under control. Self respect is certainly a big part of not accepting abuse. this: “I will no longer be the families punching bag.” AWESOME.

  49. I just got back from helping my brother, he’s 54 and got thrown from a motor bike and ended up in trauma 7 fx ribs punctured lung, I came to help him and it was a interesting life review. He is doing great! I was a flight nurse at one time in that town, my bro flew in the same helicopter I flew. The whole time I was there everyone remembered me and said hi, my brother made fun of me and blamed everything on me, his pain, the bad food, ect. My son and husband joined in. It hurt, I am always left defending myself with the insults.i am always thinking how am I the bad guy when I am helping? I found your article tonight and realized what has been going on. I am the scapegoat, always have been, my last husband and other kids too! I told my husband tonight no more, what has he done with his life? He now gives me the silent treatment but I don’t care. I appreciate myself and my accomplishments, I am a good person. I just choose weak men.

  50. I really needed to read this! Thank you so much. I am currently going through a period of loss and grieving my family. I have come to the conclusion that the only way to protect myself and my mental health is to detach from the family. I am 29 years old and I have been the family scapegoat on my Mom’s side ever since I was born. My Dad died when I was young and I do not know most of his family. I am terrified of being alone after cutting ties with my Mother and her family but I know that if I do not, I could lose any chance at a life worth living. I am taking it day by day but your article really made me feel like I might be ok.

    1. Hi Morgan, I’m so glad this article helped you feel stronger. Letting go, detaching is very hard but soon you will notice that you’re doing more for your health, making new friends who appreciate you, just the way you are. Who knows, maybe in the future certain family relationships may be possible but for now, do what is best for your mental health.

  51. Oh, I know these stories all too well. I ended up writing a book about my life with and without my family. They were very cruel, lied about me to everyone, cost me my extended family’s relationships, threw my son in a mental insititution to hurt me, never told me my mother died, and the list goes on. I wrote my story to extricate myself from the pain and to help others who have gone through the scapegoating, etc. I used ficiticious names and cities, but learned my very cruel sister read the book and had to move to another city from embrassement. I didn’t even write that much about her, but she was the meanest of them all. I suppose it did my heart some good to know she coward and for sure it made her shut up and quit going around to everyone pleading her case and lying all the time. I reread, my book all the time, I think, it helps me put things into perspective. But, I am always surprised at how bad it is to read it in print.

  52. I am the scapegoat.
    Recently my Mum and Dad have stopped talking to me due to me asserting my boundaries. My father responded to these boundaries with “they are demands from a little girl.” “you don’t live in the real world.” I have also requested we continue going to see the family counciller we have only seen once. My parents (well my Dad, as he is apparently the one “dealing with things” now) have said that they didn’t approve of the last session without giving reasons. All they say is “I don’t feel comfortable going after what happened last time”. What happened in that session was, Em spoke the truth, Em had a voice, Em felt empowered and safe enough to speak up, to be a whistle blower, to ask for an apology, for my hurt to be acknowleged.
    My Mum and Dad have a long history of passing on their scapegoating techniques to my siblings. My older brother was the scapegoat first. He was much older so all of us little kids just lapped up what Mum would say about him and his partner and would say terrible things to him and her. He has been pretty much estranged from the family for 13years. Now it’s me!
    I was not really in touch with my brother until things between my parents started to get more full on, and it was getting clearer that they treated me differently to my other siblings. Things started to click over slowly just before my 30th birthday, and then after it things really started to become clear. I connected some stuff up with what I struggle with today and parts of my childhood, such as some sexual assault stuff that I have some how never really thought was inappropriate between my Dad and I. IT was strange, almost immediately after I started questioning my Mum and Dad’s actions towards me, the sexual assault stuff started to become clearer.
    I now see a counciller who is helping me go through some stuff, and I talk to my older brother quite often which is positive. I am trying to keep in touch with my other brothers and sisters however it’s so hard to because each time I try they will tell me what to do, or NEVER question my parents, be my parents voice, blame me for problems they are having with my parents, blame me for problems that are occuring between Mum and Dad — which is amazing because they have had no contact with me for about 8months….. am i magic or something???

    I am having my little sister over for dinner in a couple of nights, I have a theory that if I could see through the crap my mum and dad dealt me when my older brother was scapegoated, maybe my little sister will one day stop blaming me, it might be a long time but I’ve sort of decided to just continue to be there for her, never let her down, keep forgiving her, loving her, and maybe one day she’ll support who I am and have a respectful relationship.

    Thanks so much for blogging this, it’s very helpful

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