There are many theories which try to explain why exactly the scapegoat is chosen by the narcissistic mother or father to endure a lifetime of scapegoating, abuse, triangulation, alienation and mental torture. Some theories claim that the position of the family scapegoat is relative to birth-order, and is usually the position of the second child, due to the reality that the narcissistic mother can only really love or hate. Hence, the concept that the first child is loved and the second child is hated.
Other theories pose the idea that the scapegoat is the most empathetic child in the family unit. Abuse urks them – which is why they challenge the narcissist. The scapegoat is often the whistleblower, truth-teller, and the only child who has the guts to question the narcissistic parent’s chronic abuse of the children. This theory addresses the concept that the scapegoated child unknowingly threatens the narcissist’s false self. Narcissists’ are notorious for becoming enraged when asked to look at themselves, or to face the reality that they are not perfect.
However, I believe that many factors can contribute to a child becoming scapegoated. The child may represent to the parent a wrongdoing. For e.g; the child may be the baby of an affair, or the parent may have experienced an emotional trauma at the time of the child’s birth. Reasons such as these mean that contact with the child will continually cause regular narcissistic injuries to the parent – because the mere sight of the child continues to force the narcissist to come into contact with their real – self, the inner self full of shame that they abandoned in childhood. The narcissist is incredibly insecure, and can’t handle being faced with difficult feelings. Any threat to their self-esteem, even one of their children, will in time, see the child discarded.
Other reasons for scapegoating a child may include
I believe that the child does not necessarily become a scapegoat because they are the truth-teller. Instead the scapegoat is a threat to the narcissist, and the family system as a whole, because of their democratic values. This quest of the child to remain autonomous, to have a different opinion from the narcissist, and to challenge the narcissist means that this child is not under the narcissist’s complete control, and is now a threat.
This totalitarian regime cannot have anybody in it who may challenge the family system, and engage in conversations with the more conforming family members of the family unit about the family dysfunction. The scapegoat refuses to conform and could bring down the family system as a whole, with the truth. Scapegoat’s don’t necessarily disclose the truth of the dysfunctional family to outsiders, or to insiders. However, their autonomous behaviour is very threatening to the narcissist, because it means that they wouldn’t be afraid to disclose the truth if it came to that.
In my opinion, scapegoats often ends up exposing the truth of the family system to outsiders because they have been scapegoated, and psychologically abused for their democratic, empathetic, caring traits. The years of mental anguish felt by the scapegoat due to gas – lighting, goading, and other crazymaking behaviours endured because of the narcissist, are some of the reasons why any scapegoat would want to rock the boat and blow the narcissist’s cover.
The golden child’s reaction to abuse
The golden – child often approaches the narcissistic parent’s abuse differently from the scapegoat. They decide that because they are already adored, and can do no wrong, that they will simply do no wrong. Doing no wrong to the golden – child means that they will not succumb to the abuse. After all, they have watched and learned from the scapegoat what not to do. The golden child either consciously, or unconsciously makes the decision to avoid disagreeing with the narcissistic parent’s opinions, and to behave as an extension of the narcissist. Some golden children will also quite happily aid the narcissist in abusing the scapegoat in an effort to keep their role.
They may as well. After all, there are a few perks. If they go along with the narcissist they will get that new car in adulthood, trips overseas, and anything else that they really want.
However, this childhood safety mechanism destroys their relationship with the scapegoat later on in adulthood.
The scapegoat’s reaction to abuse
The scapegoat has never been bought to begin with, unlike the golden child. Their achievements haven’t been praised – and a lot of scapegoats, unlike the golden child, have never even been told by the narcissist that they were loved.
While the golden child’s first steps were being treated as though they’d just walked Mount Everest, the scapegoat was being physically squashed by their angry sibling, listening, from underneath their sibling, to their mother jeer the sibling on, to hit the scapegoat even harder.
So, of course, their reaction to the abuse is to have big emotional outbursts and to question the parent about the abuse. This in itself, is a symptom of severe emotional trauma.
The scapegoat’s intuition
The above scenario gives the scapegoat the awareness that something is dreadfully wrong within the family system. However, the problem the scapegoat has is that the rest of the family carry on as though nothing is wrong.
Another huge issue surrounding the scapegoat’s abuse is that the more loving parent (the enabler) isn’t there to see a lot of the vile acts posed upon the scapegoat, that the other children see. This parent usually does defend the scapegoat to a degree when the narcissistic parent is being particularly vile.
So, quite naturally the scapegoat can feel the parent’s sickness. However, the hoovering and the love bombing that the scapegoat also endures on occasions gives the scapegoat relationship amnesia.
Furthermore, the scapegoat becomes so confused with this up and down behaviour from the narcissist that they begin to blame themselves for the relationship breakdown – which is why the shame begins to suffocate their soul because they don’t understand why they can’t fix this relationship.
This is because one minute the narcissist is putting on a huge surprise party for the victim, (who by this stage, feels too ashamed to go because they know the narcissist has smeared their name to the same people who are coming to the party) and the next minute they are packing up the scapegoat’s belongings and putting them on the doorstep, because the scapegoat disagreed with the narcissist’s opinion.
The scapegoat by this stage is so traumatised that they can’t even remember why they were thrown out of the home. However, they do remember the parent putting on this big party for them – and all they can think of is that they must be the one in the wrong because occasionally the narcissist does these amazingly wonderful things for them.
When does the scapegoating begin?
Scapegoats are scapegoated from the day they come out of the womb, and they are never given a new role, not even in adulthood. It doesn’t matter how much they try to become everything the narcissistic mother or father wants, they will always be at fault in the eyes of the family.
The scapegoat bonus
The mistreatment of the scapegoat is their ticket out of the family, and into health and emotional wealth. They are usually the first adult- child in the family to go and get help. Often they are pushed into therapy by their parents because the parents convince them that they are so crazy that they really should go to therapy.
The therapist’s viewpoint
By the time the scapegoat is sitting in therapy opposite the therapist, they literally feel that they are evil, which is the very reason the scapegoat came into therapy. The scapegoat goes into therapy often telling the therapist that they’re mad, that they are the troublemaker in the family, and that they need help.
If the scapegoat is given a good therapist to work with, the scapegoat will soon be informed that there is nothing wrong with them and that their parent is emotionally dangerous.
In time, they will be most likely advised to go no contact with the parent.
However, the aftermath for the scapegoat is often emotionally horrific. The scapegoat comes out of the narcissistic family an absolute nervous wreck. They hate themselves, have internalised the narcissist’s shame, experience chronic panic attacks, severe trauma, and are often diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some scapegoats end up with borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, or other serious mental health issues. This is the result of being gas-lighted, goaded, and baited by the narcissist over and over again in the hope that the scapegoat will explode, just so the narcissist can tell everyone how crazy their child is.
Scapegoats are trained in childhood to live in absolute fear. They are afraid of defending themselves, expressing their opinions, or demanding fair treatment. This attitude of worthlessness, fear and shame is carried into adult life. Other people can immediately sense that the scapegoat is a pushover, and a magnet for abuse, rejection, and bullying. The scapegoat has lost their voice, their credibility, and they are viewed by the entire family as the crazy one because the narcissist brainwashed the entire family into believing this false truth.
The pain is insufferable; to be rejected so coldly and denounced by a mother or father is soul destroying, and a form of soul murder.
The consequences of having a voice
The scapegoat was annihilated by the narcissistic parent a thousand times over for having a voice. Their identity has been stolen, and their voice thrown away, because of the rage endured from the narcissist for having a voice in the first place.
In childhood the scapegoat never knew which way the pendulum swung. It was forever changing, and messed with the scapegoats fight, flight, freeze and fawn responses. So, it is no wonder the scapegoat has emotional issues, random explosions and depression – all symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
The scapegoat internalises the parent’s rage, which was spilt all over them for no good reason, and may even mirror that rage straight back at them. Unfortunately, emotional explosions from the scapegoat are interpreted by the narcissist, and their minions as a symptom of a severe emotional problem within the scapegoat, rather than a normal reaction to an extreme amount of abuse. The sad reality is that the family members who have not been targeted by the narcissist often sit back and laugh or belittle the scapegoat behind their back.
In all of this, it is very likely that not one of the other children in the family will ever have the guts, or the integrity to question the narcissist about the vile abuse of their sibling. Why? Young children look the other way because they’re frightened of the narcissist, whereas adult children decide to turn a blind eye, even when they know its the wrong thing to do because they don’t want to be thrown in the discard pile with the scapegoat.
If the other adult siblings stand up for the scapegoat, they will be denounced as well, most likely lose their inheritance, and will possibly never be spoken to again by the narcissistic parent. Unfortunately, the scapegoating of this child is completely aided and abetted by the other children in this survival of the fittest setup.
A parent who does this to a child lives with a huge deficit – being humanity itself. They have absolutely no empathy for the children they scapegoat (there can be more than one) and no idea the damage that they’ve done. The scapegoat’s trauma travels with them every single day of their adult life and relates to every aspect of their life, especially social interactions.
The sad reality about the scapegoat is that they are often the kindest family member, the most creative and psychologically in tune.