Woe to the scapegoat, the whipping boy, the outcast of the toxic and dysfunctional family. This person is made to carry the hidden blame and shame of relatives who refuse to acknowledge their problems.
Dysfunctional families are steeped in shame, and cannot look at their issues. They have poor insight into their own behaviors and problems, and will do anything to appear normal or exceptional, despite the fact that in reality, they are terribly crippled by their fears, addictions, mental disorders, abuse, neglect and insecurities.
While dysfunctional parents dance around the obvious real problems right before their eyes, they play a toxic game with the scapegoated child — the game is called, “You are the reason for anything and everything that is bad or wrong”. The whipping boy cannot escape this role, which is typically assigned in early childhood, long before a child can think objectively about messages given to them.
The rest of the family cannot allow the role of scapegoat to go unfulfilled, because it serves an important purpose — it gives them a place to toss their unwanted psychological garbage. If they did relinquish the need for the role, they would have to face reality — there are problems they have found impossible to accept and address. In time, the role eventually becomes the scapegoat’s internalized false identity – “I am bad, I am wrong, I am the reason people are unhappy, I am worthless, and I am at fault for everything” become the scapegoat’s deeply-held beliefs.
Even if the scapegoat eventually leaves the family, they are usually still considered the cause of all the family’s difficulties, no matter how much time has passed, because the family’s need to place blame and project shame onto another person still exists. Some families may find a new scapegoat or re-assign another family member to the position, however, they typically continue to carry the decades-old disdain and disgust toward the original scapegoat nevertheless. For the ostracized family member, escaping their family’s toxic blame is rare at best.
The role of scapegoat/black sheep/whipping boy/fall guy is a timeless classic that is typical of virtually all dysfunctional families. Parents with addictions and parents with Cluster B personality disorders usually scapegoat at least one child, and sometimes more than one. If your parent scapegoated you, I can offer no better suggestion than to look very closely at the four personality disorders that cause parents to scapegoat their children the most.
There is more information available at Light’s House about the scapegoat role and how to prevent yourself from being made the scapegoat at school, work, and in social groups.
Until family scapegoats evolve out of their old patterns of behavior, they often find themselves in similar roles at school and work. Therapy can be tremendously helpful in breaking down the internalized shame, fear and dysfunctional thoughts that scapegoats have been programmed to believe.