‘Family scapegoating is a hostile discrediting routine by which the scapegoating family members’ remove blame and responsibility from themselves for problems within the family unit, and dump all of the responsibility onto a targeted family member. The practice of scapegoating allows for feelings of anger and hostility to be projected onto the family scapegoat through continued inappropriate accusations. The scapegoated adult child of a narcissistic parent feels wrongly persecuted after receiving misplaced vilification, blame, criticism, and rejection from the member’s of the family whom the narcissistic parent seeks to influence. Scapegoating allows for the self-righteous discharge of one’s aggression onto another more vulnerable source.’
Scapegoating is a serious family dysfunctional problem where one member of the family is picked apart for small things, that most non-judgemental healthy families’ wouldn’t view as abnormal, or problematic. Scapegoating begins in childhood. Small things that the targeted child does are exaggerated, talked about among family, and are considered the actions of a child with a behavioural problem.
Scapegoating typically occurs in families’ where there is a narcissistic parent. Narcissistic parents’ typically have a golden child and a scapegoat. The golden child can no wrong, and the scapegoat can do no right. The golden child is all good, and the scapegoat is all bad. All of the children are encouraged to goad, bait, and peck at the one. In a family such as this, somebody always has to be the bad guy.
Why is the scapegoat chosen?
Scapegoats are not chosen by accident. They are usually the more sensitive child, highly empathetic, can’t stand abusive behaviour, and have a penchant for the truth. These character traits bring to the narcissist’s attention that the child, come adulthood, could blab. Deeming the scapegoat bad in some way is the families’ way of discrediting the scapegoat, and denying the problems in the family by projecting onto the child the behaviours of the perpetrators’ – therefore, deeming them the main troublemaker in the family.
The scapegoat is to blame for everything
The scapegoated child is typically blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family unit. The narcissistic parent blames this child for the problems the scapegoat has with the other children in the family unit. In the mind of the narcissistic parent, the scapegoated child is at fault for the other children’s verbal and physical aggression towards them. Regardless of whether or not the other children are provoking the scapegoat, attacking the scapegoat, are caught out lying about the scapegoat, or excluding the scapegoat; these children will never be held accountable for their actions. Instead, the scapegoat will be blamed for the horrendous behaviour of the other children. This dynamic often plays out between the golden child and the scapegoat. In the mind of the narcissist, the golden child is never at fault for their poor behaviour. Instead, this child is grandiose and entitled to do as they please, just like the narcissist.
This dynamic doesn’t stop in childhood and often persists well into adulthood – up until the scapegoat either puts up big boundaries or goes No Contact.
The scapegoat’s view of themselves
This pattern of blaming and shaming the scapegoat for every issue within the family unit sets them up to be overly self-critical, to shame themselves constantly, and to believe they are always at fault in every conflict. Once an adult, the family scapegoat often has difficulty asserting themselves, does not believe in their right to stand up for themselves, or to the notion that they not defective, unworthy, or lovable. They often walk out of the family in adulthood only to be scapegoated again by an abusive partner, or abusive friends.
Subconsciously, the narcissist believes that if the entire family is unhappy with the scapegoat, then it releases the family from any blame, and deflects from the real issues within the family. The scapegoaters view the mistreatment of the scapegoat from a distorted mindset. They honestly believe that onlookers will realise that the scapegoat is to blame for the family’s decision to exclude this person.
Characteristics of a scapegoater
Typically, family members’ who scapegoat are very punitive in their beliefs, are extremely judgmental of others, and fall victim to the manipulations of the narcissist, primarily because of this deeply ingrained punitive, judgemental way of behaving and thinking.
How does the family scapegoat the victim?
Scapegoating is the practice of pathological lying. The scapegoater poisons the minds of other family members by slandering the family scapegoat, claiming they have said and done things they haven’t, by triangulating the adult children against the scapegoat, and blaming them for everything that goes on within the family. In adulthood, the adult children already view the scapegoat as fundamentally floored, because of the narcissistic parent’s continued slander, and accusations directed against the child for things they didn’t do. The adult children have been brainwashed into taking on the narcissist’s perception of the child; which of course, is untrue.
This works in the narcissist’s favour. When a scene occurs, the scapegoat is made to take the blame for whatever has happened, even if they are completely innocent, and it was another family member who was actually the real culprit. The scapegoats family always makes this adult – child the bad guy and lies about how things really went down. Horrendous behaviour from the other family members is shoved under the carpet, and the scapegoat is left wondering why they were just blamed for the attack upon them, which just occurred.
Repeated scenarios such as the one above often lead to the scapegoat being deemed as volatile, unhinged, crazy, and a troublemaker. These same scenarios often lead to the scapegoat being excluded from important family events, being talked about, laughed at, ridiculed, and denigrated to disgusting degrees. The scapegoat victim can usually feel the discontent, and anger from their family members during the scapegoating process.
They know they have been ostracised from family functions, and have a fair idea they are being denigrated behind their backs. What they don’t know though, is the degree of the slander, or ridicule.
Scapegoaters’ are often disappointed when they find that the same problems within the family still exist long after the scapegoat has left.