Rebels and Scapegoats: How do They Heal?

Posted by in Abuse, adult children, Louise Behiel, rebel | 238 comments

The second role in this discussion is the rebel, discussed in some detail hereBut there is another point of view about the role of this troubled child and that is that they play the scapegoat for the family.

From this perspective, this child takes on the family’s problems and acts them out, to ensure that the family secret is held tightly within the family.  Obviously this is not a situation of a parent working too much, but it might be the case of troubled families where any of these, among many others, exist:

  • Alcoholism
  • Incest
  • Mental illness
  • Sexual addiction
  • Poverty that is held in secret for some reason
  • Domestic violence,
  • Child abuse

This child protects the truth of the home situation from coming to the attention of anyone

Image courtesy of wikimedia at

outside the family.  Outsiders look to the behavior of this child and focus on that, rather than the family as a system.

Ironically if a therapist or counselor tries to look at the child in the context of the family system, the entire family will walk away, willingly sacrificing the child to save the larger organism.

Behavior symptoms of the scapegoated child are, ironically the same as that of the rebel.  It always centers around self hate, rage and self harm, whether that’s by drugs or alcohol, promiscuity or actual self harm like cutting.

The child is lonely, afraid, frustrated, hurt, hopeless and riddled with feelings of inadequacy and self hate. There is some thought that they act out in relation to the depth of these feelings. This child is unaware of any emotion other than rage, lacks the ability to genuinely connect with others, refuses opportunities, and ignores success and accomplishments.

Although often very bright, not much is expected of this child and they are happy to live down to those expectations.  Even as adults, they are often under-employed, usually making failures of even these simple opportunities.  Everyone knows they could succeed if they would just apply themselves.  Unfortunately, they’ve bought the family belief that they’re the problem, the failure.  And as a result they’re stymied unless there is a drastic change in the family system.

What kind of change in the family system could cause the rebel or scapegoat to move from their role to a different place in life?  Ironically, it is not uncommon for this adult to take over the role of the hero, if something happens to the sibling in that role.  Whenever you hear of a death of a child in a family, watch and see if the ‘problem child’ comes around and straightens up.  There will be lots of reasons for this dramatic change but it’s as if the breadth of the success of the hero draws in the rebel, as if in a vacuum, if the hero can no longer fill that role.

To be successful in this new role or to recover from the childhood beliefs and values he or she learned the rebel/scapegoat will have to move through their anger to the hurt it

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

covers.  The hurt of the abandoned child who took on their role to give the family a focus other than the main problem presented by their parents.

As they move from anger to hurt, they will also have to learn to negotiate rather than rebel.  To communicate, not react.  To listen rather than talk.

The role of the rebel/scapegoat provides, in the midst of the acting out, a tangible service to the family, who is willing to sacrifice one of the children to keep the secret of their dysfunction.

Remember these roles only solidify in families where one parent is emotionally absent and the other is focused on him or her.   Not every acting out child is filling this role, but for the sake of the child, it’s always worth asking about the family system.

Have you met people in this role? Can you recognize the symptoms in co-workers or your town? Have you met anyone who had an amazing turn-around in their life?  Any thoughts about what prompted the change?

As always, it’s best not to diagnose our families of origin or our current family.  But your comments are always appreciated.  and if there’s something personal you’d like to share, feel free to contact me directly.



  1. In my 10 years research on the subject of npd and systems we scapegoat are in Its the first time i really feel understood. It’s not a coincidence I accidentally went on Madamme Behiel


    • Hi thanks for this eye opener.I just figured out who my husband of 11yrs is today and I decided to forgive him and let God help me with the rest but one thing i want to fix is his position in the family.He is the scapegoat of the family which i only found out 3 days ago.Is there anything i can do to rescue my husband from this ordeal?I strongly think i can burst that woman’s bubble.

      • Unfortunately there’s not much you can do for your hubby. He has deeply ingrained beliefs and values which only he can change. If he doesn’t see the need to change (the hardest thing for a scspegoat) then change won’t happen.

  2. I’ve been scapegoated since I was six up to recently. I severed my ties completely from my childhood family two years ago. I am the better for it mentally. My mother could not stand up to my alcoholic father who would close fist beat my older sister when he was drunk. Mom would disappear until the beatings were done, then reappear. Dad would not beat on me because I had that golden blonde hair he loved so. He waited until it turned dark, then he beat on me only once because I had to threatened to kill him in his sleep if he did it again. But, until that time, my mother put me back in the second grade after I passed because my sister told her to. She punished me for things I didn’t do, because my sister told her I did them. One time, a friend came over and cut my sister’s dolls hair after asking my dad if she could. He said, “Sure, go ahead.” The friend left, mom and my sister came home from town and my favorite doll was taken from the top of my dresser and mom shaved all her hair off. This while my sister laughed. Mom handed me back my doll bald. I said nothing because to do so would mean I would get another whipping with a belt and lots of welts on my bare legs. My sister told neighbors I hated them and they believed her. She accused me of going to a bar and drinking when I didn’t and mom believed her. Mom yelled at me all night and I asked her, “Why don’t you believe me, mom?” My sister, who so enjoyed the stress she caused me answered for mom, “Because you’re such a liar, Rhonda.” My sister physically attacked me when I was moving out after mom died. I cared for mom when her health declined and put off going to college until after she died. My sister beat on my so hard, I had to have surgery to have the scar tissue removed from my breast. This because I was taking a painting with me that I did…I was the artist. Mom willed everything to my sister that she owned and my sister felt that since mom liked the painting and hung it up….it was hers also. She called me a whore…because I had a child and she yelled that in front of my child. It continued and when my children got married, she tried to ruin the weddings for me. She convinced my son I was missing, not running late. My daughter’s wedding, she told her lies about me and told her things I had stupidly shared with my sister when I was trying to build a relationship with her…and confided in her and asked her not to ever tell my daughter I shared that with her. She told her and now my daughter has disowned me and hasn’t spoken to me for two years. By the way, my mother tried to drown me when I was six but silly as it sounds, my sister pulled me out of the hole I fell into at the lake after mom took my life vest off when she saw I was in the deep part of the lake. She took the vest off and didn’t tell me not to go back but left me unattended…I was only six. Mom also got angry about me telling my first grade teacher of dad’s drinking and putting his fist through the wall. I was a child and told mom I told the teacher that. Boy…did she get mad and told everyone in the family not to trust me because I couldn’t keep a secret. She also made us all drink dad’s beer in the refrigerator so she wouldn’t waste money by just pouring it down the sink. I hate the taste of beer to this day. I did screw up at first in my young adult life but realized I was becoming a failure after marrying a drug addict/drunk. I told myself I was stuck and didn’t like the feeling. I had dropped out of high school. I stopped caring after mom made me take the grade over and watched my friends always be a grade ahead of me. I went to college and became a registered nurse and worked at it until I retired. I put up with a lot of crap from my sister because she saved my life. But, enough was enough after she turned my daughter against me. My other sister who was also abused the same way by mom and sis after I left home the first time….had become a scapegoater as well and clings to my daughter like I was the one at fault for her hating me. I left her wedding practice after my daughter told her husband to be to yell at me if I talked to her. She asked me to speak to her and I did. Then he came over and yelled at me. She set me up. It’s a crazy family where you can’t speak to your own child and watch your own child turn into one of ‘them’. I let them go, including my youngest daughter. The other two I am close to and they enjoy their own children and me also. Just sharing. They can’t hurt me anymore. Thank God.

    • It is always amazing to me how families behave to one another and usually for reasons no one is consciously aware of. Stepping out of the toxic relationships is the only way I know of to deal with them. they won’t change, so you have to take the action to protect yourself. With your kids too, sadly.

      good luck and thanks for sharing.

      • Thank you for your response. I am glad I found someone who cared. Most people don’t understand people like me. God bless you

      • I have a dilemma! Yes, EVERY THING posted concerning the narcissist wether parents, friends, relationships etc. etc., and adult scapegoats is 100% correct. I read (over and over) trying to find ANY THING pertaining to the adult scapegoat with success stories in life, how they overcome this situation. Success stories of their trials, revelations, rebuilding of their lives, how they succeed, where they are in live today. Do we (adult scapegoats) have the same trials in life, do we experience the same personal experiences, for example: since I NEVER practiced social skills (since the beginning of time) do other adult scapegoats have this same anti-social skill. Wanting social skills is in important part of my existence today. I don’t have any, I don’t want to continue life isolated, I at the age where I want to change this personality trait. I do not have social anxiety, Im not afraid to get out in the world, I tired of striving by myself. Do others notice they really never fit into the world, they always been “odd”, not understanding why people (all my life) say: “I can’t figure you out”. Why do I have to be figured out; why can’t I just be accepted? Arn’t there any support groups out there with other successful adult scapegoats, where a person can fit in, for the first time in life, literally. Just to share experience, strength and hope. This type of sharing experience is very healing from within, rewarding, even needed for our souls and development. I am so tired of reading about the narcissist. Why do we give them so much attention? We know about the narcissist, we lived it……..where is the recovery in this for the victims. Yes, we are empathic individuals. I am very proud to be empathic. When I read about being emphatic in articles; its like a negative trait. I am emphatic towards others, it is who I am, and I am proud of this very positive characteristic trait I possess. It’s a shame others do not possess this amazing, outstanding quality deep within, their the ones missing out. 23 years ago I started this journey, yes it has been a lifetime journey filled with achievement, hurts, learning and I am still striving. But, I am striving for a God relationship , still striving to improve myself, still striving for happiness, still striving to become the person God intended for me to be. Our character defects could be a whole lot worse. Does anyone else ever ask themselves: Why me? Why was I born into this family? Why????? I decided its going to take this experience for me to become the person I’m intended to be. In short, what we have in store for us is miraculous? We are special, talented, we are survivors. We are examples in the highest esteem. Gods victory is in our hearts, lives, souls. Is there anyone else out there with a success story? I sure could use your companionship, experience, strength and hope.

        • yes, the scapegoats of the world do get the life they want, even if it is far beyond their childhood experiences. Usually it’s accomplished through a support system (say a 12 step recovery program if you’re addicted) or through therapy or group therapy. There are often church or mental health groups that will help with this transition. some people work with a therapist or a coach who has expertise in this area. To start, read about the role and how it can show up in your life (sounds like you’ve done that already) and then practice. this is a anew behavior and it will feel uncomfortable and awkward. but with practice, you will get better. easier to do when you work with someone else, but totally do-able.

          good luck

          • You can get out of an abusive family situation where you are scapegoated. For me, the incident that made me move on was when my 5 year old son was hurt by my brother and the family blamed me, and started blaming my child. It was so clear cut that I stopped contact with my siblings and narcissistic mother. When my mother had cancer 6 years later I helped her through the last months of her life. She died scapegoating me! I miss my siblings sometimes but I made a VERY healthy choice for myself and my son. It doesn’t hurt that I have a nice husband, a home, enough food, etc. etc. The way to stop being abused is to remove abusers from your life….

            • it is hard to step away, but most of us have to do that in order to survive, emotionally and in our new families. good luck

      • I didn’t know where to reply so I am here. I think the description of the scapegoat is all wrong! They don’t act out the abuse I believe. I think the abuse is projected onto them. As in the case of my mom, if I confronted her or had an opinion I got it, the belt or shaming. There was plenty of covert verbal abuse and shaming and needling of me , well all of us kids! My brother and sister took it. I fought back. I believe they did this to have me express their anger and their pain and when I did they could finger me as the abuse. I think the scapegoat role is one of the Jesus sufferer mode. I was very caring and compassionate but wanted mom to turn away from my sister and brother, so I sacrificed myself. I think there needs to be a review and rewrite of the scapegoat role. We are very truthful and want to rescue the victims and even the dog. I went so far as to rescue my mom from suicide alerting my dad. We are the seers and truth tellers. Please correct your description. A scapegoat is a true sacrificial lamb. I was full of love but also enraged and full of all our pain. To this day as a 69 year old woman, my sis and bro think I’m the abuser. I don’t know what to do but go to a great many support groups to detach.

        • in some cases you’re right. but for many people they act out as described and then the spiral starts of blame and increased acting out.

  3. I am so over my family. I have spent a lot of time over many years suffering for a variety of reasons and just somehow reading these posts over the past day. It is amazing that we think what we are experiencing is normal because although we are uncomfortable, we think that this is how it has to be.

    Pondering what I have read here, I have felt quite a bit of grief today as I reflected on what I have experienced in my family. I suppose that as time has gone on, the full extent of what has happened to me, has filtered down into my consciousness and changed my relationship with my family more and more.

    I always knew something was wrong and as a child and teenager, I felt very lonely and although I had some friends, I could see that others had different and more vibrant friendships and lives. I could never get a handle on this though, but just knew something was wrong. I was never a rebellious teenager or child, but was often punished. As a very small girl, my mother did not supervise me, did not teach me how to be in the world and I can never remember feeling connected to her or being hugged by her, or felt loved by her. I remember thinking in my teens that I hated her. She could never express any feelings, however, I was the one who got to wear them and always felt wary and guilty. I never felt as though I could get support from my family and I can remember as a teenager, one night, sitting in the car in the garage, hoping that someone would come to find me and ask me what was wrong. They never did!

    My father died when I was 9. He came from an extremely dysfunctional home and was not really able to parent me well. He was very punitive towards me and I can remember him dragging me into my parents’ bedroom when I was 7 or 8 years old and he was angry with me because I had gone off with some friends, mushrooming and did not let anyone know I was gone. I was hit many times with his belt and could not escape. I have memories of him holding me by my arm and wrenching it as I tried to escape as he was belting me. I can remember many punishments like this. I can remember the mixed feelings I had on the day he died in a car accident when my mother said that I would be dealt with by my father for jumping off the car-port roof. I was actually very relieved that because of his death, I would not be belted. That being said, I must have suppressed a lot of grief at his death but went into a deadened state until my early 30s and could really feel no feelings at all except depression, anxiety and anger and was not able to express myself.

    When my child was born when I was 32, I had been working with a therapist who observed that I was depressed and she suggested that I go into hospital for a few weeks or months. That was the beginning of a 13 year long period of healing as first an in-patient, then a day patient and finally an out-patient. I really had to do my entire life over because the false self I had constructed to allow me to survive as a child, fell away (terrifying process because I thought I was dying) and I then was slowly able to begin to live my life as an authentic being, able to express all my feelings.

    No matter how much I tried to fit into my family, somehow they always found ways to attack me, and make me out to be wrong. I can remember them once coming to the hospital to ask my doctor what was wrong with me. He suggested that they ask me.

    My mother sometimes allowed what was underneath her niceness to emerge and her resentment of me became very apparent. I have recently realised that she has always acted as the weak victim and has always in subtle ways, due to her neediness, abandoned and rejected me so that she can still get supply from my sisters and brother. She will never come out and be straight about what she is feeling. I have on occasion, suggested that our entire family go into therapy and sort out this long-standing generational family system. My sister and mother have both declined. It seems that the oldest child is always the one who is set up as the scapegoat in my family.

    Some years ago, I was dealing with the loss of my daughter and my mother took her in at age 19. Long story but my mother did not discuss this with me, but took in my daughter and my daughter was very happy to live in a home where my mother cooked her favourite meals and did everything in the house. In my own home, I had poor work contracts, was pre-menopausal, had little money and was struggling with having to drive long distances to get to work every day. There was no support from my family at all. I can remember once telling my sister briefly what was happening with me and her response was that she was not interested and that I should move on, not stay in the past and stop acting the victim. I was cleaning people’s houses and doing their gardening and ironing whilst having finished my teaching degree, taking every bit of teaching relief work I could get, just to pay the bills.

    There was a time my brother got married and I was invited to the wedding. My mother and I were going to travel together on the bus to where he lived in the country and share the cost of a room at the local hotel. When my mother was offered the opportunity to travel to my brother’s wedding in my sister’s car and to stay in my brother’s home, I was left with not enough money to get to the wedding and pay accommodation. I also could not afford a dress. I chose not to go and my family did not care that I could not get there. That also happened at my sister’s second wedding. My other sister and my brother were in the wedding party and I was on the sidelines as a guest.

    Sadly, my daughter got married a couple of years ago and invited me to the wedding. I have been pretty much estranged from her over the past 10 years and I decided to go to her wedding. I have never been more humiliated in my life. I raised her as a single parent and when the arrangements for the wedding were being made, I was excluded from any opportunity to be involved and at the wedding, my daughter’s father (my ex) gave a horrendous speech saying how fortunate my daughter was to have her new parents-in-law because where would she be without them. I felt as if I could have fallen through the floor. Not wanting to make a scene and spoil my daughter’s special day, I waited for the first opportunity and then left, cried all the way home and was a mess for the next week. I still have not been able to bring myself to look at the wedding photos. It is as though all my years of parenting her were for nothing and as if her parents-in-law have taken over the role of parent. The week folllowing her wedding, my daughter and her new husband spent at the property where the wedding was held in a family situation with her new in-laws. It was as though I never existed as her mother. I swore at that moment that I would never speak to my daughter’s in-laws every again! I could not believe how insensitive they were to think that the mother of their new daughter-in-law should be excluded from helping to create the wedding.

    The final straw with my daughter came last Mother’s day. Mother’s Day has always been excruciating for me since the estrangement with my daughter. It is such a painful day! After last Mother’s Day, I realised that I had had enough and wrote an email to my daughter telling her that I was not going to do this one-sided relationship any longer and I also shared my deep hurt about being excluded from her wedding preparations, the lack of response from her to me over the years when I have reached out to her letting her know I was thinking of her (nothing radical; just keeping in touch with a brief sentence or two). I have offered her the opportunity to come to counselling to sort out the difficulties so that we might get our relationship back onto the warm footing it was once on, In ten years, I have sent her birthday and Christmas gifts and kept in touch but with little or no response and I have had enough. The ball is in her court now.

    My mother invited me to a lunch for my birthday at the end of last year. I told her before I went that I did not want to hear one word about any family members (she delights in telling me how they are all going to stay with my brother or doing other things together, but I am excluded). She agreed to only talk abut mutually edifying topics. She raised the issue of my daughter and I told her how disgusted I was about her total disregard of my motherhood and the fact that she did not even bother to discuss this situation with me. She simply took over. I was very upset and told my mother that I had to leave the restaurant. I took her home, got my dogs from her house where they were staying during the lunch and simply left. I am never going back. It appears that I have finally realised that my mother is never likely to be able to relate to me warmly. Since that time, I have had various members of my family aka my sisters, trying to contact me by message and phone. I have not answered any of the calls or the messages. They are demands for me to contact them back so they can ‘discuss’ the distress I have caused my mother. Seriously? She acts as though she is always the victim and I am the bad person. She looks so innocent and kind, but if she were really kind, I am sure I would not feel so crazy around her. I cannot hug her.

    I have left them all behind. I have found that when I am away from them my life actually goes better. I have discovered that I am not the horrible person they have made me out to be and am actually very intelligent and creative. I have made a lovely life for myself. I have almost paid off my home in 12 years and have a lovely animal family of two beautiful dogs and 4 rescue acts. I have a great job as a permanent teacher, teaching Kindergarten and Pre-Primary and I also have some very good friend. Not many but a handful who do actually take the place of a family.

    Some days are hard like Mother’s Day, my daughter’s birthday, my birthday, Christmas etc. but mostly my life is great. I have discovered that although my family is not in my life, I am still alive and it is better to be without them and feel sane, than try to fit into a family that makes me always feel bad about myself. It is not what I would have chosen, and my family is not the kind of family that I wish I was born into, but I have been able to create a good and solid life and am well aware that I only want authentic relationships that feel safe. Sometimes there is nothing to be done except to be No Contact. I hope that perhaps one day, my daughter will want to get our relationship back on track, but even if she doesn’t, I am not going back ever to how things have been and I would prefer to be alone and happy, than to keep hitting my head against a brick wall.

    • you are absolutely right…sometimes we just have to move on. We can’t force people to like us. We can’t be so nice to them they change their opinion of us. We can’t make others feel what we want them to feel.

      but as you’ve learned, we can make choices for ourselves, live our best lives, have rich and fulfilled days and enjoy the moments of our life. I’ve discovered that even if those moments fall on Mother’s day, or christmas or my birthday, I’m okay. they are good days.

      good luck

  4. I’ve read through a lot of the posts on this blog and can resonate with almost all. Now my story…

    I am the 6th of 7 children, from a very religious family. Although I am very bright (skipped grade 5), and considered by most to be attractive, I grew up feeling inferior to everyone. I felt I was stupid, fat, and ugly. I married young, I think to escape the family. Divorced, went through a lot of turmoil afterwards.

    About 10 years after my divorce I tried to commit suicide, and this is when things got really ugly. I underwent a great deal of therapy afterwards and always went in with the idea that I would figure out what is wrong with me, fix it, then my family will finally accept me. The exact opposite has happened. I have been told by several psychologists and psychiatrists that there is nothing wrong with me. They have consistently told me there is something wrong with my family and they are simply projecting their own problems onto me.

    This has prompted me to look into the idea that I might just be the family scapegoat, and sure enough, when I read articles it is as though they were written about me. I was at one time a very successful person, but was made to feel as though it was something I didn’t really earn. Any milestones in my life were basically ignored.

    I am now 52 years old. Over the past few years I have been talking a fair bit with my father about what has occurred. I have 3 sisters who have a close relationship but will not include me in their events. (it’s difficult to summarize everything here) Basically, after I’ve put on countess family dinners (this means up to 30 + people), being kind and courteous, trying so hard to win their approval I’ve given up. For several years I have been excluded for “female” family events – meaning the sisters and nieces get together without me. My emails are ignored. My texts are ignored or ridiculed. Not one one-on-one conversation for any of them to understand who I am. I have finally given up.

    I have made it clear I will no longer be putting on the family dinners. I have even asked to be taken out of our father’s will. (this because if I ever do anything kind to my father I am accused of sinister motives… it couldn’t possibly be simply because I’m a good person)

    My two children are in my life, along with my four grandchildren. I have a good relationship with a wonderful, kind man. I have an amazingly good life…. until my family is around. At 52 I felt it was time to give my emotions a break and get out of the craziness. Which of course, will prove to them how crazy I am…. as you all know.

    I hope some of this makes sense. As I said, it is difficult to summarize 52 years in a few paragraphs.


    • It makes perfect sense. Many of us have had to do the same thing. However you got started in this role, your family cannot change their vision of you unless each of them does the serious kind of work you’ve done. but they haven’t. so you do your part, heal and know the end result of that process is that you will leave them behind. it’s a hard realization but there it is. You’ve come to that truth and are living it. sounds like a healthy, mature way to live.

      good luck

      • Thank you for your feedback, Louise. I know what you said is true, but giving up family is not an easy thing to do. Were I not 100% certain that nothing will ever change I would still be cooking and serving the Easter dinner in a month as I had intended to do… Feels good to express these feelings among people who understand. Most people don’t get it. Thanks again.

        • it is very hard. Absolutely and I agree that most people don’t get it. but if your family is toxic, it’s like staying in a vehicle that is out of control when you have a chance to jump and save your life. Most people don’t jump but live a life filled with hurt and pain and dismay. you won’t have those issues to deal with. others for sure, but not those.

          good luck

  5. What, if anything, is the difference between the scapegoat and the rebel? Based on my own experience, is it heard of for a child to behave in the manner of one role yet be treated in the manner of another, and/or for a sibling to be a mix of more than one role? I feel like I behaved as the lost child does and my intentions were that of the lost child but was treated as the scapegoat. I played the role of the lost child in that I was well-behaved to a fault, quiet, studious, tried (though with little success) to be the peacemaker, etc. However, I was *treated* like the scapegoat. I was blamed for things I hadn’t done, told I was rebellious and bad despite not setting a foot out of line right down the the point that I did not even get natural, healthy teenage rebellion out of my system. I was called “rude and uncooperative” despite being super polite and super cooperative, wasn’t allowed to go out because my mom thought I’d go and do bad things despite never showing any sign of inclination towards acting out. I even recall a time when I was 14 that I asked my mom how glad she was that I was not an “angry rude and rebellious” teenager (a description stated in a school textbook I had) and that I was so well-behaved. Her response was, “you are a bit rebellious.” Perplexed and hurt, I asked her why. She responded with saying how rude and uncooperative I was. I don’t know, maybe I didn’t get the memo that being polite means you’re rude or being cooperative indicates that you’re uncooperative, or going out of your way to do things for other people is selfish (if that doesn’t make sense, that’s the point! I’m sure one can imagine how confused it made me). After this interaction, I tried to remedy it by becoming more well-behaved and trying to figure out what I could do to make things even easier for the rest of my family-people pleaser to a fault- but it was never good enough. I retreated further into my shell of the lost child, afraid to speak because I knew I was worthless and inherently bad. This shyness was of course twisted around and used against me, too. I spent the entirety of my teen years trying to get someone to say something nice to me or about me. With the exception of a couple specific instances from teachers in 9th-10th grade (my 9th grade English teacher choosing me to be the recipient of the “best effort” award at the end of that school year, and my 10th grade Math teacher a couple times going out of her way to verbally acknowledge my hard work and effort), I never otherwise had a single nice or encouraging thing said to me. I kept on trying to get that acknowledgement, but it never happened besides those 3 isolated occasions.

    When I developed an eating disorder over time from my early teens through my twenties, it was so I’d be thin to please my mom, who constantly called me fat and berated me for eating, even for eating dinner she put in front of me. When I was 25 she learned of my eating disorder and was convinced I was doing it to spite her (again, the *polar* opposite of the truth).

    As I’ve only mentioned my mom thus far, I should clarify that, contrary to what her behavior has tended to lead outsiders to understandably presume, she is *not* the alcoholic one. But she was and still is the emotionally manipulative one whose resentment towards my father for his past drinking and the damage she said it caused, and used me as the one of their three children to take it out on, likely because I was the easiest target because I was the one who was least likely to retaliate. My older brother was without a doubt the hero and my younger sister was definitely the mascot.

    Now, in our thirties, I am by far the least well-adjusted, though not for lack of effort. In fact I’d say that, despite having difficulty getting established, I’ve actually worked the hardest, even at the expense of my own happiness. In adulthood , I did, in fact, become an alcoholic (now recovering) while neither of my siblings did, though both are avid social drinkers as far as I know. However, even that I attribute more to genetic predisposition than to rebellion, my having inherited a lot of traits, good and bad, from our father, whose family alcoholism stems from. I say that because it started with me doing absolutely nothing out of the norm by society’s standards. Never snuck out to drink behind the bushes in high school, never went to a single party in college (actually, come to think of it, *not* doing that would be classified as abnormal for some even among the most mentally healthy and well-adjusted people, but point being I never went out of line in such ways as far as drinking goes). It only took off, abruptly, when I started going out to bars a having what started as just drinking socially with friends and I got chemically addicted even though I was initially drinking no more than anyone else. That being said, I’m sure the “liquid courage,” as even non-alcoholic social drinkers like to call it, did add its appeal it me more strongly than it might to someone with better self-worth and more innate confidence contrary to what I lacked in developing due to the rocky foundation that I had. Still not exactly rebellion, though. I never had an “I’ll show them” thought or anything.

    • I don’t see where you say how many siblings you have. this can make a difference where a child ‘takes on’ 2 roles to satisfy the family’s dynamic. it is also possible that what you see as taking on the role of lost child, was perceived by your parents as being rebellious, stand-offish, or just plain rude. depending on the family’s values, the child’s behavior is interpreted. and always remember, these roles are common and strong in families where emotional unavailability or dysfunction are present in the parents, so often there’s no making sense out of what happened. If you could make sense out of it, it wouldn’t have happened.

      good luck

      • 2 siblings: older brother who neatly fit the hero role and younger sister who was very much the mascot, both of them born with in 5 years of each other with me – and I’m a female- about half way in between.

        The only thing there was that I wasn’t at all stand-offish. I was constantly offering to help and was always going out of my way to do things for them, asking them what they needed, smiling at them, being polite and friendly, etc.

        • in this very simple model there are always four roles acted out. from what you’ve said, your siblings have the hero and mascot, so you have taken on the lost child (as you mentioned) and your family responds to that by scapegoating you. you see yourself in one way, they see you in another. it’s a bitter reality that so often our family’s views are different than ours.

  6. I am 33 and years old. I first realised that I was the family scapegoat just two years ago after I became involved with someone who I believe to be a sociopath. I attempted to make sense of our relationship and I found out about my family disfunction and I do fit into that of a scapegoat and borderline pd individual. My mother played down the fact that we were dysfunctional and would point to people and there lives who were by no mistake dysfunctional too a T.

    I was sexually molested up until the age of five until I told on my abuser . Who lied of course. I cannot remember when he first started all I know is that my mum’s boyfriend who I met at 6 months had a father who was a known paedophille (he had raped and impregnated his daughter and was sent to prison I found this out when I was 10.) By this time my mother had two more children with an alcoholic who had just dumped her and she was having a nervous break down. (She spemt 3 monrhs or so in a memtal institute). I know that my mum and her boyfriend knew what was going on i feel they had some invovement because after i told he came back (the abuser) and they were argueing to take my sister who was two years younger them. He inquired as to whether my sister had eaten and she should allow my sister to go eith him . I heard my mother shouting and telling her boyfriend that he can beat her cause she aint letting him take her. Then I never heard or seen him again. them

    I feel the boyfriend kinda brain washed my mum. She had two kids by him. He was a narc. mother was smoking pot fron around 16 thats where all the money went mostly we hardly had food or things we needed beds or furniure in our house. Relatives once or twice felt sorry for us and gave us things that my mum. Could pay towards in instalement but she Always would rather spend the money on pot. Our house was always unkempt and i especialky would take lots of wrap lots of beatings with all kinds of items and objects. Being locked out always under great contr ol. Never being allowed to stay out as late as friends or sleep out. Being punished to stay in my room for 1-2 weeks. I would clean the house from top too botom at weekends whilst everyone else just stayed in bed or sat around. I was often slapped across the face punched several times in the back called fat bitch all by mum. One minute she was going to call my abuse step to come and beat me the next she was telling me that he wasn’t my dad . We never went anywhere did anything as a family. When there was no food no money my mum and her boyfriend would just banish themselves to their bedroom. Leaving us kids in miserly and hunger. Sometimes I was so hungry I would feel unwell and agitated. My 5 younger brothers and sisters have no respect for me as they don’t need to even though I bb sat changed there **** didn’t have much time to be a teenager because I was looking after them and keeping the dysfunction in order. This of course didn’t change as an adult I have continued to be a subject of ridicule by them to the point where I am now 4 years without contact with any members of family members and loving every moment of it I became stronger when after all I worked for I was still a victim of shame. My boyfrienf ain’t good enough, my achievements my carrer which I was excelling in ain’t **** whilst the rest of my siblings are sell outs and low lives. My mother refused to come to my wedding although she would frit in and out of my life when she needed financial assisrance when sge needed something she would be decent but it didnt last long. My sisters boyfriend a gangster decided it was ok to pull a gun on me for trying to defend her ( stupid move i know) but my mother pretended to be on my side for a day before stabbing me in the back and being a ******* traitor and best friends with the guy who she countinued to splatter in my face with a big smile on her face. My sistet os definetly a narracisst after a perceived slight she insisted on ruining my life with her savage ways of course she was right in the eyes of my mother everyone else called it bs. I gave up my house and carrer just to get away from these people. My mum counting es to slander me 4 years later talk shit about my decreased husband and the like and tries to hunt down my phone number. I hope she does phone so I can text her this all the above .All I can say to them is i was blinded but now I see. It was foggy but now it’s clear it was a nightmare but now I’m living my dreams and i had to start all over to get here in a place i do not know anyone and nibody kniws me.I know my mum is a problem she has only had long term relationships with narcissistic and alcoholics

    • the challenge for all of us who come from dysfunctional families is to understand, deep in our souls, that it doesn’t matter what we say, when we say it, how we say it, or where we say it….they won’t get it.

      they can’t. So text her if you want, but know it won’t mean anything to her. because it won’t.

      good luck

  7. hi I understand and am /was living the whole scapegoat from such a Narc/ dysfunctional family . I went no contact ,my fear now is what will the situation be like when their is a funeral of a family member? My 2 Narc sisters have ganged up against me their both pathetic & mentally ill ( made my life hell). Do I go “no contact” at funeral time? They’ve made my life hell know they’ll try even at a funeral. What do I do?

    • I would suggest that at the time of the funeral, you can make those decisions. It depends on how important it is to you to pay your respects to the deceased along with the community/family. If it’s not important, or scary, make a decision to do something different. If it matters to be there for the service, then go and hold your head up and be strong, knowing you’re doing what you want to do, regardless of the behavior of others.

      • Thank you so much for taking out your time to respond to my question,for it is very helpful & thoughtful of you.

        • you’re welcome. good luck

    • I am turning 60 next week and have just become aware of the scapegoat term. I have thought I was the pathetic crazy one my whole life! I moved away from my family 30 years ago, but because of my divorce I moved back to my family area to be close to my daughter. With my new understanding of this dynamic I can see my daughter drawn in and apart of my mothers narcissistic illness and watch as they work against me. I would move away if I didn’t have concerns for my grandchildren being raised in my ( sadly) daughters environment. I fear she has become a narcissist as well, that it is too late. Before I knew about this dynamic I was subjecting myself to a lot of emotional abuse with a highly unrealistic idea that If I could tough it out with kindness, my love would “heal” my mother and daughters anger and dislike of me. With the articles I have read I can clearly see it’s not about me at all and that there is no hope for me to heal these relationships. My approach now is to keep the relationships on a superficial limited basis. No emotions, no personal sharing. Quick visits. I feel sad that my mother must have snapped into this condition somewhere along in life, sad that I have lived so much emotional pain, sad that this looks to be passing down to another generation. And feeling fear for my beautiful grandchildren. And me? I suffer from low self esteem, unworthiness, untrusting. It effects my relationships, my ability to work. It has been devastating. Knowing and learning about it now gives me hope that maybe there is a way to come to terms with the damage and heal as best as I can.

      • your last sentence is the absolute truth. We each need to discover we were abused, uncover the damage done to us and recover from the trauma. then lead healthy, whole lives. we can’t change the other people around us, including our kids. we can’t save our grandchildren either. but we can do our own work and heal ourselves and model healthy living for them.

        good luck

        • Hi Louise: do you find that narcissism runs many generations? My uncle stopped all contact with our family 30+ years ago. No one knows what happened or won’t say. On the other side, my father was the scapegoat. His mother was overt type. He stayed and was left out of inheritance. Brothers never respected him etc. I never had close relationships with cousins or aunts/uncles. My father turned into the over narc that his mother was. He’d scream at us and kick our dog, give things to us and then take away when we did not comply, etc. I was the only girl with 3 brothers and he would basically grope me and make noises doing it. Pretty sure my “mom” saw and so she would cut my hair short and dress me in clothes many sizes too big. My brothers are clueless. I left when I could, got my masters had two daughters. When my dad saw my daughter for the first time he looked at her and then me and said “disgusting.” When they were small I decided to go to law school and made the mistake of telling her. She laughed, probably expecting me to change my mind. I didn’t. I went on to graduate near top of my class. 10 years later I’m still portrayed as the “loser” of the family. She is clearly a covert narc and he is an overt one. I understand why he is the way he is but what the heck is her excuse? I can find forgiveness for him not her. Is it genetic? I’ve tried to find out what happened to her brother but to no avail. I obviously cannot be the problem why the family is the way it is if all this stuff happened well before I was born. Thank you.

          • I understand your need to understand but there’s bad news about all this: often no one really knows. family dynamics evolve and develop when children are very young. it’s subtle and ‘normalized’ even when it’s unhealthy.

            I recommend to all my clients that identifying the past is important but more important is healing from that. you will NEVER change their minds. they may sidle up to you for help or money or whatever, but you’ll never get the respect you deserve because there’s no way for them to give it. Not unless they do lots and lots of work. Quit trying to get them to see you how you are and instead live your life with joy. like most of us, you may need therapy to accomplish this, but it’s worth it. Freedom from the strictures of our family of origin stuff is priceless.

            good luck

            • I agree, and thanks. I have gone NC for over a year. I want to clarify that although I forgive him I do not forget. That said, forgiveness has allowed me to “heal” some so that’s why I guess I try to do the same with her. I won’t let the pattern continue with me or my girls. I appreciate your comments 🙂

      • I wish there was a way to “heal” this type of behavior in the perpetrators. I am in the same situation being a scapegoat while my sister is the “golden child”. Both my mother and my sister have drawn in my daughter who acts as their “flying monkey”. Sad as it is, I have had to cut off contact with her as well (recently). I can no longer be a part of this dysfunction as I have some health issues (medical provider has kept me out of work & on medical leave). My family has absolutely refused to even contact me in any way to find out how I am doing. About 15 years ago, I took the big step of moving about 1500 miles away to avoid being a part of the evil triangle and thought maybe things would work out – unfortunately as time as moved forward they have gotten worse. As I start reflecting I am able to recognize that this disorder that have a grip on my mother, sister, daughter as well as some other family members has gone on for decades. When I had surgery a couple of times not one individual came to help me or be with during surgery, not one call, not one card – nothing. When I finally put myself through college (difficult at 50+ years of age) my mother said she would attend my graduation – the day of graduation she told me she had to do something for my sister – I was devastated. Both my mother & sister meddled in my family and drew my daughter into their evil ways. I am now facing some possibly serious health issues – AND – yet again not one family member has called, written or done otherwise to offer assistance, concern, etc. I believe they are heartless (but project themselves as otherwise to the public, friends, acquaintances, etc) and have no soul. I could go on and on, and could probably write a book on all the dynamics of this. I have done considerable research and without a doubt my family is severely narcissistic. I find myself being extremely cautious of trying to develop friendships (something that was easy for me before) as a result. It is difficult to comprehend that ones own family can be this evil.

        • It is difficult to believe, isn’t it? but your truth is real and honest. We can’t change them. they will never see our pain. and They will continue with their hurtful ways. It is so strange, but so very true.

          stay strong and get well

    • Stay away its not worth the craziness

      • i have to agree. Each of us can only change ourselves, not anyone else. and so if they don’t do the work to change, nothing in your relationship will change. Staying away is often for the best if you’re working to make a big difference in your life

  8. I’ve just been reading through the comments on this and it has really hit home how horrific and tragic it is to grow up in a home where are child is not only blamed and shamed for the actions of the abbusive and physiologically disturbing parents but they are then made to carry the burden of keeping it all inside as what would be the point in telling anyone as you are made to feel that nobody would believe you over the great actors your parents are. I think we grow up doubting our own self in the end. I was the rebellious child who fought out for truth and justice but was always shut down told it was my fault when my father lost his temper in some crazy rage when he beat me and made me think i was going to be murdered, i’d then be told by my mother who always defended him at 12 years old that it was my fault i provoced him or drove him to do it. I’d then be made to feel guilty because he hates loosing his temper and it was my fault because i didn’t go to church one day when i was supposed to or i was giggling to loudly or fighting as kids do with a sibling which i’d get beaten for. My heart is broken always trying to love people who were always going to put me down and use me as their scapegoat and had zero empathy of compassion towards a child who they could see was clearly suffering. I used to get anxiety from the age of 10 and when i was a teenager but pull my hair out from the stress of being in a home where u never know when your’going to be attacked for doing something you didn’t do. My father always looked at me like i was dirty in his eyes and my sister was like the golden child he’d always comment on how beautiful she was as if to remind me I wasn’t and would make terrible comments on my looks. I was actually not an ugly girl i look back at pictures of myself as a teenage girl with no self esteem and I can’t get over how pretty i was and yet in my head i thought i must be so ugly that if someone complemented me on my looks or my long hair or anything about me i would think they must be saying this because they just want to be nice. My father would point at an unattractive man on tv or a women he considered “ugly”to say that i look like them, it was always to shame me on the way i look as though i was something disgusting, i was really pale when i was growing up and was called names like ghost and casper etc which i was so self conscious of my sister would get a tan in the sun but i have the kind of skin that burns in the sun and then goes back to being pale again and my father would say i look like i have a disease that i was so pale if i wore a skirt he’d say oh god look at those milk bottles meaning my white legs and make me feel so self consciouse of it, my hair was aurburn brown and he’d call me ginger as if to put down the red in my hair he’d tell me i was so short that i must be dwarf, and all these comments he’d say laughing his head off would really chip away at my self esteem, and he’d enjoy to have me insecure and hating the way i looked, the thing is he could never handle one negative comment abt his looks by anyone he was always admiring himself in the mirror saying how good he looked for his age and how handsome he was a full on narcissist. But the worst is when your siblings are treated so different to the scapegoat that they refuse to acknowledge what he’s doing and then will defend him or say they don’t want to get involved as they experience such a different treatment by the same parent. My sister recently was on the receiving end of my father’s nasty vicious lies and manipulation and she totally broke down and was able to finally see how i felt but it won’t take long till he’ll be charming and nice and going back to treating her great and then she’ll probably choose to think he’s not that bad… It’s the never getting an apology its the fact they deny stuff blatently that they said or done clearly and then feeling no one will believe you, it’s the injustice of it, it’s knowing if you had have told a teacher at school or called the police when you were a child they would have been sent to prison for child abuse but how you sacrificed yourself for them for their happiness at the expense of your life, your sanity, your self worth and self esteem and they will never feel remorse or sorry and see it as though because everyone who they charm sees them as nice decent people they believe their own publicity….The scapegoat i believe is targeted because of our spirit we were the sensitive ones and the ones they knew they’d get away with abusing, my sister would always tell her boyfriend anything if my dad ever raised his voice to her she’d be crying telling anyone so he never went near her but i guess i was the one who never cried i always bottled stuff in and the stronger i was the more they try and break you. When i read the comments from people i see so many people who have been robbed of their lives due to their extreamely self servicing family. Why do we do it to ourselves? How do we go back to them after everything they done to us? I believe it’s a bit like Stockholm Syndrome where we are conditioned to always care for our captors where we were brainwashed into being “loyal” to people who were never loyal to us and who wouldn’t even understand the concept.

    It’s programming. We’ve been programmed to be slaves to an egotistical slave master who like someone earlier said about the parents “stealing their children’s power” for their own. Children have such energy and there is a type of child who is more vocal and outspoken than other children who will question things from a young age and who has a type of warrior spirit, i think these children are often the ones used as scapegoats as they are a threat so they have to shut them down, as they know these children will speak up when they see something wrong.

    It’s so sad that so many people’s lives have been ruined all because of all these terrible lessons we were brainwashed to believe about being “loyal” to family and being told that alot of really evil, toxic, abusive behaviour is normal. When we are growing up our family are the only people we really know we don’t know any other life or how any other family do things we don’t know any better. But most of us know that even if we make excuses for our parents and say they didnt know any better or they were victims themselves, it still doesn’t excuse why they now even when our parents have grown so much older never apologise or are truely sorry, because they aren’t. That’s what is so hard to comprehend is that they have zero remorse that till their dying day they’ll continue to hide their wrong doings and ignore the scapegoats need to be heard and understood. They have children for their own egos a lot don’t even see the child as an individual they are just a backing part and they are the main actor centre stage where their image is all that matters.

    I am living with my family now and even though i know how damaging they are i am having such back anxiety and have no income and i’m so drained by them that i find i lack strength to get out.
    When i lived alone i was so happy and never got anxiety and was able to do the things i enjoyed. But finding myself in such a bad situation and forgetting for a brief time how bad they were i let my guard down and i’m really regretting it.

    I wish i had never anything to with them i wish when i was a teenager and left home to live in Spain and focus on my dancing that i never ever went back. My mother always used high class manipulation tactics to make me come back and because she never abused me physically like my father and suffered with depression i always excused her and constantly allowed her to put me down. I only recently realised how damaging and evil her words are and how i was allowing someone to tell me i was a worthless bitch and i was good for nothing as normal. i now defend myself vehemently against her vicious tongue but she never ever apologises and just refuses to listen to me tell her how hurtful she is. The more i tell her the more angry she gets and she’ll sit there doing her rosary beads and praying as if to drown me out. Total hypocrite.

    But we know all this and still stay around these people. I think now the best thing for me is to start a new life and remove myself from all members of my family so i don’t even have to be reminded of them.

    It’s unhealthy and i’m just torturing myself and wasting more precious years of my life.

    Thank you so much for this article and the comments that have been shared have been a massive wake up call. We owe it to ourselves to make the most of our time and energy to not surround ourselves with toxic people who will never change and who will never show any empathy, remorse and offer an apology as they as that would mean they are admitting fault and deny deny deny is the name of their game.

    We are a lot stronger than we think and if we got through life not hanging ourselves and we lived through our crazy families then in theory we could really do anything. We will find the strength we have to tell ourselves that we can and to give ourselves a break and some self love that we never got from the people who were supposed to care, protect and love us.

    We were all little children once and i know that we can be hard on ourselves when we get older and feel like we are failures because some of us find it hard to cope with day to day life, it makes us depressed and anxious. But i do believe we owe it to those children who we once were to make the rest of our life mean something beautiful and we can only ever do that when we remove ourselves from the people who helped destroy us and led us to hate ourselves and our lives and some us consider suicide just as way to relieve ourselves from the burden of our pain… We must remove ourselves from these people and stop trying to change them and make them compassionate caring people, they’ll never change and we must focus now on changing ourselves and putting up our boundaries and being kind to ourselves…

    Peace love and light

    • You are stronger than you think and you are able to live the life you choose, with them or without them. I’m so glad you found this article and comments helpful to fulfilling your life’s purpose and dreams.

      good luck

      • Thank you so much Louise for replying and it’s so rare to see someone who genuinely cares so much for each person. You are a true healer and kind person. It’s funny how a lot of people who come from such toxic abusive homes and end up to be so caring compassionate beautiful human beings.

        I think if you are an empath by nature it is just so hard to accept and comprehend that your parent has no empathy, compassion or remorse, we constantly try to excuse them and in the process sacrifice our own self worth. But if we gave ourselves the love and compassion we give our abusers we would be so much better off.

        Thank you so much this article helped me and seeing the comments and your replies really made me feel as though i’m not alone and I can change this terrible prison i’m in and set myself free.

        Nothing good ever comes easy. Unfortunately scapegoats are generally not respected by most members of our families as the smear campaign was set up in full swing for us from a young age so that no one would ever believe us or think good of us. I used to be around a cousin who had absolutely no respect for me and i believe she thought she could get away with being so disrespectful and aggressive around me as she saw how everyone else treats me in my family. I’ve been bullied and shouted at so aggressively by my brother not long ago because i refused to agree with him on something and I see that in a way i’m lucky as i can see the truth and they can’t they have been brainwashed to believe my narcissistic father and see him as some kind of saint and have bought into an entire false image.

        I am going leave them all of them and as much as i love my sister i can’t be around anyone who will always be around them and be a supporter of them as i’ll never break free. I’ve got to stop self sacrificing and finally live a life where i don’t have people like that in it.

        If we were disrespected by a friend we’d cut them off but we allow our family to treat us in the most degrading, demoralising and unjust ways and put up with it like obedient brainwashed slaves and because deep down we must want their approval which we’ll never get.

        Sometimes you just have to accept that there are people who have a completely different mindset and you will never win or change them you’ll never get your apology which you so want as you think this will heal you and take away everything. It won’t they did what they did and the more time we spend around them the more we are letting them take more of our lives and sanity.

        My father drowned a kitten infront of me when i was a child as i begged him to stop and he wouldn’t let me take it to the vet, my mother tripped over it and fell on the poor thing breaking it’s back and my father seeing me in bits thought he’d show me how whatever he says goes regardless of how i feel about it, none of my siblings were there he let them go to school and because i was so mad about animals he said i should stay behind it was something that’s never left my mind it was pure psychological torture and anyone who would defend a man who would do that to a helpless animal is not someone i can be associated with. My mother just said she didn’t want to know.

        Thank you Louise I know what i have to do and i have to remind myself of all this abuse and really work hard to remove myself as fast as I can.

        • good for you. You figured it out and are going to take action. that’s what matters.

          good luck

    • Mimi, I have never commented on any of these articles, but my experience is IDENTICAL to yours. Scarily so. Especially about being the sensitive, brave, questioning ones. I had a text from my mother at 8.40 this morning to tell me that her friend has died. This is a because she expects me to ‘represent’ the family (depsite having an older ‘golden child’ brother), and b. its a warning, she will die too, and I will have her on my conscience. But I won’t. I have cut ties with my entire family, and now they have spent 10 years working on my son, who has now disowned me, and denied me access to my grandchildren. So it is going down the generations now.

      I have a disabled child, so have to stay strong. But despite the lonliness and isolation of being mob bullied by my entire family, I will never go back. They only want me broken and destroyed, and that is not going to happen. My advice is do one nice thing for yourself every day, even if its only rubbing a bit of handcream into your hands! anything you do to nurture and love yourself can only help you. Lots of love and luck to you, and to all people in this agonising situation. It never gets easier, but being kind to ourselves is the least we can do.

      Thank you Louise Behal for this website, it is like going to visit a fortune teller, you have told my story!

      • I’m glad you could find a comment and a fellow traveller among the folks who have stopped here.

        good luck and stay strong.

    • I found the article and Mimis reply so moving. I am about to end contact with my family. It’s hard to accept that I’m not always to blame because of ‘programming’ by my family. That feeling of guilt and shame is never far away. But over time it will lessen and I can finally breathe and grow. I have my own family now and it’s healthier. The best of luck to you Mimi.

      • yes, over time those feeling will lessen and you can become the person you were meant to be.

        good luck

    • Mimi, Its scary how closely related our stories are…I have been feeling the same way about my parents for as long as I can remember. My father is a narcissistic jerk and has done nothing but abuse me (physically, emotionally, and sexually on multiple occasions) my entire life. Everytime he came from having a bad day at work etc I would get blamed and then beat. He told me that I was ugly, stupid, and that no one would ever love me. My mother on the other hand is a doormat. She is well aware of what he has done/is doing and continues to chose to stay with him. On one occasion when he finished beating me, she came into my room and hugged me. She then told me that I should try being nicer to him or listen to him so that I would not get beat up. When the whole molestation started she would say that i must have been dreaming and constantly asking “are you sure it happened?” For a long time the abuse…and especially the neglect from my mother made me feel as though everything that was happening to me was my fault. That something was wrong with me. That I deserved this type of treatment from them. The sad thing is that after starting therapy at 25 years old was when I realized that I had done nothing wrong at all. I was just the personal punching bag for those people who could not deal or accept their own issues and behaviour. They are just horrible people and used my hypersensitivity (especially as a child) against me to further boost their own egos. To make matters even worse, I was bullied at school by the same group of people from ages 9 -17 years old. Honestly, I don’t know how I survived such horrible treatment all around but I did. Of course it doesn’t come without consequences. I am battling major anxiety issues, identity issues, insecurities about my self worth, etc. I have so much trouble making and keeping friends. I have never had a boyfriend…or even fooled around with a guy. I just don’t trust people and developed a slight hatred for them. Its really sad but I am working on my issues. I just want to let others going through the same thing know that you are NOT alone and you are NOT worthless. You deserve to be treated with love and respect so as hard as it gets don’t give up on yourself. You will be free and you will be happy.

      • I’m just reading the replies a year later and it has really moved me. I can’t get over how strong you are for removing yourself from your family for 10 years Mary. Mariam I can’t even tell you how I admire your bravery and honesty. To have gone through all that at home and then to have been bullied at school too. You are remarkably strong and brave and so inspiring. I really hope with all my heart that you all have happiness and live a life in peace away from toxic people. Reading your story Mariam did make me realise that human beings can go through remarkable things and still end up caring and loving people. You know I always feel that when a mother knows about the abuse and then makes the child feel it’s their fault she damages the mind so much more. Children know that abuse is wrong they know it but when a mother makes the child accountable for the abuse of an adult she destroys our belief in ourselves and makes us hold the shame and guilt of the abuser. It’s bad enough being abused but then made to carry the shame and sense of guilt that the abuser should carry for their actions and being made to feel it was our fault for another’s actions is so messed up. Mothers who do that are not only involved but they psychologically damage the victim and deeply wound our minds on such a deeper level by blaming and shaming them for the abuse and also making them feel no body will believe them and it’s our shameful secret and it’s all our fault. It’s just the ultimate act of betrayal. If your own mother isn’t on your side you feel no one else will be. It’s just so heartbreaking. And then ofcourse as adults we just attract more abusers and accommodate abuse and go through life always blaming ourselves when someone is abusive towards us we have been conditioned to always take the blame for the actions of others. I don’t blame you Mariam for not being able to trust people in general, that is a natural response and it so hard to trust people after we have been betrayed by our own family, if we can’t even trust our own family and our own parents who were the ones who were supposed to protect us from evil how can we easily trust others. I have been far too trusting my whole life though I have really poor boundaries I always felt that i am at fault for anything bad that came my way it must be my fault. ,I am learning to trust my gut feelings now and my intuition and know when something or someone doesn’t feel right and good to listen to it and not doubt myself. Abusers mess with our sense of reality and get us questioning our own minds when we question them. Like how your mother tried to make you think you must have dreamed it up and you must be wrong… I learned there is an actual name for that it’s called – Gass Lighting. It’s common for abusers to deny their own actions and make you think that the abuse didn’t happen or it didn’t happen in the way you “imagined” it. My mother does that all the time just blatantly denies denies denies and will keep on denying until ya shut up. She just shouts no that never happened or if you bring up anything she will say “why are you bringing up the past” or just change the subject. I have accepted now she is not sorry and simply doesn’t care. She jus wants me to play the game the game of acting like everything is normal. When she used to deny stuff I would sometimes question myself because she was so firm in her denial. Narcissists and sociopaths etc are liars they can’t take accountability for anything it’s never their fault and even when you pull them up on some serious abuse they deny it or just try and twist it to make it your fault it happened if you are not willing to be take the blame for their actions they just ignore you. Your mother protected your father instead of protecting you and then made you feel responsible it’s that kind of stuff that really messes with a persons head. It takes such a long time to get our heads round their twisted abusive actions and the way they never take accountability or ever say they were wrong and apologise. We even defend our mothers and give them an excuse which makes ourselves martyres. There is no excuse for child abuse and anyone who defends it or who turns a blind eye is just as much responsible and even worse in a way as they seem to make out they were just doing their best etc. Scapegoats are the strong ones they are also the most honest because they see the truth and while the rest of the family might be happy to play along in denial the scapegoat is always seeing and knowing the real truth. The truth sets us free we have to speak out and never feel ashamed or carry the shame that should be with the abuser we did nothing wrong we were children. Thank you so much for sharing your truth.

    • So well stated, Mimi. Blessings and light to you on your path to healing.

  9. This title is absolutely tragic. I was and still am in the family that I disassociated myself from, the scapegoat. In my family, it was my narcissistic alcoholic father who literally came after me if I was breathing wrong. I am 50, and just got done battling for 2 years a highly aggressive Breast Cancer, my parents hurt me so horribly that they didn’t even recognize that I had breast cancer. That was the straw that broke the camels back, I NEVER REACH OUT TO THE A HOLES. On the other hand I am extremely successful and do NOT associate with my 3 siblings. I had a very abusive X husband, I divorced his crazy ass when he came after me holding our daughter in my arms. She was 2 years old. I made him a millionaire and just walked away from him. I grabbed my daughter and now 14 years later the pattern is broken as I made a promise she would NEVER SUFFER at the hands of anyone. I have an amazing loving husband of 5 years and though we have our differences we do have a very solid loving marriage and family. To the others who are suffering from this mental and emotional abuse, LEAVE. You are stronger than ever. Once you leave your abusive surroundings, and heal, it took me 7 years. When I was 43 I fell for the love of my life. I told him I wish I met him at 10. It is my earliest recognition of my abuse. I HAVE NO HAPPY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES. I am just grateful that my daughter has a great childhood and starting a strong young adulthood. I am so HAPPY. Good Luck

    • congratulations on breaking the chain. it is very difficult to do and you’ve managed it.

      good luck

    • I was the scapegoat. I didn’t know that I was until I started researching the effects that I may have had. Tragic

      • very tragic

    • I’m so glad you found the love of your life. Your story is inspiring and gives me hope that we can change this cycle.

  10. Best not to diagnose our own family??? I can. I’m 35 and my parents still use me for their sick game. My sister is now on board. My father yelled at me about not getting scholarships 15 years ago, (I ask him for nothing and he didn’t pay for my school). and when I defensively yelled back, he told me he was just “sick of your passive aggressive behavior!” He actually thinks I need to sit there while he shouts at me. He also watches my Facebook page all day. I’m no longer calling him, he has some kind of screaming fit during every phone conversation. My mother likes to make me out to be the bad person no matter what. Whatever happens, it’s my fault. She blames and shames me all the time. They have both cut me down out of my happy mood on many occasions. I got angry at my sister for omething she said and blew up at her. That is so ineffective with a narcissist. I tried apologizing, telling her why I got angry. She flew off the handle and said horrible, horrible things. Also, all of them ignore my communications about how I’m treated. I’m shut down, yelled at, and told my emails are ignored. I am done with then to an extent. I’ve decided never to call them, keep visits brief, and that’s that. I will never be goid in their eyes.

    • you are absolutely right – nothing will change their opinion of you, so stop trying. Sometimes though, people think if “I will keep my distance and they will miss me and then they’ll straighten up”. Never happens. Family dynamics don’t get this twisted by accident and they don’t heal or change by osmosis. takes a lot of work. good luck

  11. I could be great friends with any of the people who have written here. You guys all sound so neat and accomplished. It always amazes me how much families can distort even the kindest of acts when they need to. In the same way, they distort the perceptions of those they scapegoat, as a result of their self serving sick, nasty, needy and obnoxious pathological illness. It’s so sad that it is so destructive to all concerned -not just those who are the attackers.

    • Hey, I never understood how they would always come up with a negative motivation for ANY of the kindnesses I have shown my family. Its taken a long time to figure out – but, now I have it – and that was understanding the neat psychological trick of PROJECTION. What they are in fact doing, is projecting ALL of THEIR horrible motives ONTO YOU.. For example – my mother and sister are Money Grabbers. They want it all – particularly my mother, and it has been very obviously bothering her, that I may one day benefit from her and my father, in the form of inheritance. Since my father died in 2014 the subject of her effing will has come up every fortnight without fail. How much money she has, what a great pension she has blah blah blah. How much her house is worth…blah blah I have never been interested in money, and have always been far more interested in what lies in peoples hearts, and the motivations behind actions – oh no, I am only ‘after’ her money. Interesting, is it not then, that it is my SISTER who benefits greatly from this state of affairs – and has done for the last 30 years. I have found out recently about inheritances that I was deliberately left out of – my mother practically bought my sisters house forher – brand new cars – music lessons for her son, (my kids never even got a birthday card)…….

      She said “H…..’ has been over choosing things from the house that she would like after I am gone – pause, then – ‘is there anything that you would like?…….. Me (thinking this was a real conversation e were having – silly me hey) oh, I’d like the smokers cabinet…….’H is having that’…… ‘ok, I like the Roman lamp ….H IS HAVING THAT…….and, I am honestly not making this up…..we went through practically every item in my mothers house – only to be told – H IS HAVING THAT. There is NOTHING for me. Nothing – oh, except the books. I ‘can have the books’ yup, a pile of tatty old paper-backs you couldn’t give away – I can have those. Thanks Mum. (My sister doesn’t like reading).

      Went no contact with these assholes several months ago. I will never go back – I am 52 and a Grandmother – the rest of my life IS MINE.

      My mothers comfortable existence is due to the fact that two of her relatives died without leaving a will, and despite the fact that she hardly ever saw them – was more than happy to get her grasping little hands onto everything they had.

      She herself has told me “I have very high-morals”……….as what? A dead turd?

      My sister, a thug and my mothers ‘bouncer’ (her other job is being a really Good Christian) is a complete turd also. For someone who is ‘so shy and so anxiety prone – she cannot even ring her doctor to make a 9much needed appointment – according to mummy – but Oh Boy, she can abuse me with impunity, threaten violence and generally act like, well, like my mother come to think of it! I used to feel sorry for her – but no longer. I used to feel sorry for my mother – no longer. Time FOR ME. thanks everyone who posts, and thanks for the really great blog. Hugs.

      • Better to figure it out late than never. Good for you. Nothing will change with them regardless of how wrong it is and how ugly is their behavior, how unfair. none of it matters. so live your life and let them be.

        good luck

  12. As I am living the book, “Who I was Meant to Be.” I find my discoveries to be very painful, because I’m 73. For example, I never knew I was artistic I never knew I could sing and that I’m a mezzo soprano, I never knew… What a waste my life has been, because of the family abuse I received as a child. I was convinced that I was a worthless piece of dumb crap. Recently, I was in a deadly car crash. I have lost a great deal of use in my right leg, and I’m always in horrible pain. I live in Portugal with my abusive Portuguese husband, and now I have to stay here, because of law suits and more surgery. All of this stems from my upbringing.

    • Eileen, I am sorry for your pain but thank you for sharing. Childhood abuse sets us up for a lifetime of living at less than our best, most successful level. congratulations for realizing it now and working to make a change for yourself. good luck in your healing and journey

      • Thanks so much Louise for you kind words. Unfortunately, the damage to my foot and leg can never be totally repaired. i feel really depressed and cheated as a result. This never would have happened to me had I not made such unwise choices as a result of my disgraceful upbringing!

        • I am sorry the damage is permanent.There is nothing I can say to take away your pain, but please know I am sorry you’re going through it.

          • Thank you so much for your support. I’m so isolated here!!! Even my doctor turned out to be the worst. He never told my husband that he works for the insurance company that is the company we had for the car accident, so that there is a conflict of interest, and he is, therefore, trying not to give me any more services. He is, in fact, leaving me in extremely bad shape. Saturday, I went to another doctor for a second opinion who told me that my doctor is violating my rights, and that it is proto call to give me the next surgery that i so badly need. This doctor also said that if I don’t have the permission of my insurance company, before I allow another doctor to treat me, that I could have horrible complications in reference to getting the money that is due me from the insurance company. Believe me, Louise, I truely know where hell is, and all of it stems back to my horrible upbringing.

            • Eileen how are you now?
              I stumbled upon your post and it really ressonated with me.
              I am in Portugal too and I really would like to know how are you now?

    • Hi Eileen,
      Exact same thing with me. These abusers are vile detestable monsters who steal the power of their children so they can feel powerful. I was a prop in my mother’s “wonderful christian family” charade.
      She has asperger’s along with her covert NPD. What a treat she is. These abusers should be screened and kept away from society. They should NEVER be allowed to reproduce. I hope you can find a way to break out of the scapegoat role and the abuse that sets you up for. It is very difficult to change a licetime of programming bit it is possible. Good Luck.

      • I’m working on it. Recently, I came to the conclusion that I really don’t want to see people who have made my life miserable ever again. One can be lonely and alone continuing to have fake and abusive relationships with a family of this sort. I refuse to have the pain of longing for a relationship with mean spirited people like this any more. It’s a start toward health!

  13. Very well said, thankyou

  14. I am the scapegoat ofmy family desperate to change and have a better life. My brother died 42 horrible car accident, he was the golden boy. I soon moved into his position. My mom was nice to me. I was at the top of the totem pole. My brothers wife was the golden girl but she was estranged from the family for a year after he died because she was at her lovers house the day he died. Now however they treat her like a queen because they don’t want to loose her and my brothers daughter. I’ve lived all my adult life trying to make my family especially my mom. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I have 2 little boys that I don’t want them to see this behaviour and my hatred of myself and low self esteem. Guilt …I let guilt rule my world and I choose to let my brothers and sisters talk and treat me like a looser. The ironic thing is I am a looser. I got onto drugs alcohol and almost lost my boys. I have 5 brothers and sisters now. I’m in a web that I don’t know how to get out of, that I have to take responsibility for.

    • The family scapegoat has a hard road to hoe and it rarely gets easier. there are 2 things you’re dealing with: first is their beliefs: their belief is that you’re a problem, so they continue to see you in that way. Second is your own view of yourself. if you are always trying to win their approval, you won’t ever get it.

      families are funny – they don’t let us change our roles very often. the best thing to do is to be the best you can do. over time, either they’ll come around (which isn’t common) or their opinion won’t matter so much, which is much more likely.

      I wish I had better ideas, but that’s what i’ve learned.

      • I think I have always needed proof that my family are the most evil group of people, and that there is nothing wrong with me. In fact, I think I spent most of my life trying to prove that my family was right about me. I think without that proof that I would have to face the fact that I was totally alone in the world. Well, the bottom line is that the proof of the fact that my family is evil has always been right in front of me. They made up horrible untrue things about me, and they have rejected me in the cruelest way possible. The rejection is the proof that they are evil, and have always been. It is right in front of my face. It has been so hard to face this cruelty, because it has left me totally alone and isolated. I work hard every day to deal with this aloneness.

      • I agree that it’s horrible being a scapegoat. But their beliefs are lies. Reputation-destroying, alienating, character-killing, spirit-killing, debilitating lies. My mother ALWAYS talked about me behind my back and also betrayed me by telling aunts and other relatives about my secrets when I confided in her. She betrayed me over and over and over again and absolutely crippled my self esteem. Even my sister’s daughter who has learned the “family game” has insulted me, saying that she agreed I looked great … but added …. “considering the life you’ve lead”. Snotty bitch. I would NEVER speak to an older relative like that but she did because like my mother and sister she thinks she’s entitled to treat me like scum. And you know what? They have made me feel so small, so cheap, so foul, so dirty like a scummy street walker. But I’m not and never have been! I dress conservatively in a biz-casual way, wear designer clothes, studied French Literature and English Literature. I’m a Shakespeare scholar. A Library Information professional AND a Nurse. I’m the one who was according to my Narcissist mother, going to be a prostitute by the time I turned 21! I was told lies about myself and had lies told about me to others. So much so that other relatives believed I was a wayward woman who went to bed with every man she met, and was nothing but a loose tramp. It was so far from the truth of who I really am and who I was. I was a damaged, hurt child who grew up with one mission: to heal from the harm that had been done to me from the day I was born. I’m 65 now, and I’m still trying to find out who I am. I don’t look for their approval or their love any more. I only need to approve of and love myself.

        • totally agree with you – you don’t need their approval but only your own. Remember that the scapegoat, by definition is the child who learns to handle stress by acting out. It’s not the child who is talked about or bad mouthed. these 4 roles are about behaviors of the individual child.

          good luck

          • Thanks Louise
            I did not realize the roles are based on the coping behaviors of the child and not the treatment of the child by the family group. What are the other 3 types of behaviors that create the other roles?

            • all the roles are on subsequent pages, so look for the star, mascot and lost child. those pages will have them all laid out

        • Gosh my heart hurts to hear this. I know the pain you’re going through. I can tell you once (from my own experience) you start to concentrate on you, life starts to get incrementally better. I say that because it’s not an overnight process. It took me 13 years to do and when I thought they’d gotten better just because I had it was undone in the space of 2 months. For now put you first.

          • absolutely agree – we can only fix ourselves. others may never change, regardless of what we do. so do your work heal and get better

            • Wow! How I desperately needed this. I see with such clarity what’s been dealt to me for decades. I always forgave and was ready to pick up and try again, most times without even a whisper of them asking forgiveness or even talking about it, so, I put bygones aside…only to be completely shocked that I’m outsted again over nothing!!!! It has hurt me for years and years and I’m not willing to accept abuse anymore from anyone. I pray to God to heal and restore me, sending good, Christian friends to me. They will be my family.

              This kind of senseless hurt Of excluding one does so much damage. I find it incredibly hard to believe they don’t know what they’re doing.

              • the most important thing is that now you know what they’re doing. choose the path of peace and step out of this toxicity. While it’s lonely in the beginning, it’s worth it, believe me.

                good luck

          • Hello everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve commented on here. I’ve pulled up this site so many times only to close it. The last time I posted my sister died. She was an alcoholic and died of a seizure from withdrawal. At the time my NM was acting ridiculous. She’s never been diagnosed but I believe she has Histrionic Personality Disorder. The funeral was trying. So 13 months out I had gone no contact again. One day out of the blue I get a text from her saying she’d really like to talk to me. At first I ignored it. And just in case you think this has a happy ending it doesn’t. I wish to god I’d ignored that text. But I answered it. We talked and then face timed. My mother’s stepmother (I say this because I don’t view her as a grandmother. I found that she’s a manipulative you know what) called me and kept pestering me to come for Christmas, the one just passed. This was October of last year. After being noncommittal and talking it over with my husband, we finally decided to go. I need to qualify this. My husband has never met my mother. My mother has never met my children either. My husband and I have been together for 16 years and this was the first time he’s ever met any of my family. I was no contact and though he understood what my side was he didn’t have a whole picture. The days leading up to the visit my mother called me everyday. It got sort of annoying as we’ve NEVER had this type of relationship. We drove down to AZ the week before Christmas so everyone could see me again and meet my family. At first it was okay but I kept feeling a nagging since of foreboding. My mother would be fine one minute and then screaming that she missed my sister in her bedroom the next. I can’t find the words to express how embarrassed I was. This is the first time my children and husband are meeting my mother. My husbands family are awesome. For every holiday we went to their homes or they came to ours. Nothing like this ever happened. Anyway my mom spent a ton of money on Christmas. When I saw that she’d gone all out, I started getting a sinking feeling. I told my husband this and he said that maybe I was going off of my history with her. I was, but I was still uneasy. So the day before we were supposed to leave we had to go to Best Buy to exchange one of the gifts that my husband received. We did a bunch of running around and did a store run for my mom as the last stop. We also stopped and got Mexican food. I purposely didn’t call and ask her if she wanted something because she’d been acting like a bitch all day long. I felt like she was trying to pick a fight with me. So we pull up to the house and I go in the kitchen to give her the stuff from the store. Then me and my family go to the den to eat. My son was on his game system sitting in the living room off the kitchen. About 10 minutes later he walks in. We are all VERY protective of one another. We live near no family and only rely on one another. So if you hurt one, we’re gonna go get everyone. My son said my mom was in the kitchen talking about me. I was done. I told my husband we’re leaving today. We’d been out all day long and had a 13 hour drive ahead of us. I go into the kitchen and ask her that if she had a problem we’d leave today. SHE. BLEW. UP. In my head I thought I knew it. I knew this was going to happen. She starts screaming at me. To this day I still don’t know what she was yelling at me about. I turned around and went back to the room we were staying in and started to pack our stuff. While I’m in there my mother comes in. She’s screaming in my face and all I’m saying is don’t put your hands on me. Of course she did. My husband had to break us up. After we were separated, I tried calling her stepmother. She had taken ALL of her phones out of commission. She was the main reason I came. I’d already told her how my mother was, IN DETAIL! She guilted me into coming and now that it blew up she wanted no parts of it. So my uncle comes over. During this whole time I didn’t realize (even now I tear up thinking of this) my 7 year old daughter was hiding in the bathroom. This is the FIRST TIME my children meet the only living grandmother they have remaining and this happens. My daughter told me she never wants to see or speak to my mother again. I don’t blame her. Anyway my uncle comes over and referees our exit. When I went to grab my Christmas gifts she had taken them back. I knew when I opened them I wouldn’t be leaving with them. She’s done this to me so many times in the past. This was such an extravagant blow up I thought she’d planned it. Her favorite is dead and she can’t blame me. When I got home I blocked every family members number except one, my cousin. She’s the only one who understood because she’s the other scapegoat in our family: Shes getting married next month and though I said I’d go in the beginning I know it’s a mistake and told her so. She said she knew I’d change my mind and was disappointed but she understood. Though my NM won’t be there her stepmother will. I’m not about to act like the doting grandchild when I know I hate her. As far as my mother goes I’m done. I told my uncle I’m never coming back. I told him that when she passes they better come together and figure out what to do because I’ve washed my hands of her. I can’t deal with her ever again. A few of my aunts tried to call and talk to me but I knew it was just to find out what actually happened and not because of concern for me. Everyone is blocked now. My husband said he really understands now. He admitted he thought that maybe I was exaggerating the way my mother was. He said he just couldn’t understand how a mom could treat their children totally different. While I was there my mother hadn’t given away any of my sisters things. She said she’d saved it for me and to take what I wanted. So I do that. While I’m going through her stuff I start to find out that I didn’t know my sister at all. She was doing things that had it been me my mother would have disowned me! The jobs that my sister said she had didn’t exist. My mother perpetuated the lie too! She was selling herself. She was an escort. This devastated me. The things I took I haven’t even worn. They’re folded up in my closet. Everyday I get dressed I look at them and feel like finally I can have a relationship with my sister without my mother trying to get in the middle of it. I used to think that was when we’d finally have a normal relationship, when my mother finally died. That’s not going to happen now and I blame my mother. I told her over and over that my sister was too heavy of a drinker to try to quite on her own. She didn’t listen to me because as she said “I can’t see putting my baby in the care of strangers”. WTF?! When did you get your medical degree? Anyway, my sister is gone, I truly have no feelings whatsoever for my mother anymore, and my wish to have a relationship with my sister isn’t what I was hoping. The one good thing that came from this is my husband understands some nonverbal things I do. He says he has such a better understanding of me. He did admit thought it was always there he just couldn’t believe a mother could be like mine.

            • the great myth of our society is that family is always ‘close and loving’. I beg to differ. I also don’t believe relationships like those in your family can be healed. it’s impossible unless everyone (and I mean everyone) does their own personal work, inn depth and then come together in small groups to work on the dyad stuff.

              This was ugly hard. but it’s part of your past. let it go and get on with living. you’re never going to change her or them. quit trying. to me, families are like people on the bus after work. some ride with us for a long time, others get on and off. but I get to choose if I stay on the bus if someone is harassing me. I can get off and catch the next bus. You’ve done that. don’t go chasing that first bus to get back on because the results will always be the same.

              good luck

    • Hi Michelle,

      First, YOU ARE NOT A LOSER!! I understand where your head is though. My younger sister past away last October and she was the golden child. I however didn’t move into that role. If anything my mother tried to force me into my scapegoat role more, if that’s even possible. You see I hadn’t spoken to my mother for 13 years preceding her (my sister’s) death. I haven’t spoken to my mother since the funeral either. Why? Well those old feelings of worthlessness and just an all around sense of not feeling good about myself started to crop up again. This is a drastic thing to do but NO CONTACTis the only thing that keeps my head and life straight. I know now that being the scapegoat helped me in life. I knew how to handle rejection, I didn’t depend on another for my well-being and even if I didn’t have the best of self-esteem I could smell bullshit a mile off. The point is, they (your family) are making you sick. If you continue to stay around them, they’ll continue to do the same things to you. Think Meg from Family Guy. She’s the only one in that family that has any sense but they unload everything on her so they can continue to live in this fantasy world where all is right. For yourself and for your boys Michelle get away. You are worth it and so are your boys. You deserve to live in peace and harmony and you deserve to have all that you wish for. It’s just time for you to see that too.

    • The worst advice I ever received was give your family a chance. As Louise states – they rarely change – they will always look for your vulnerabilities and attack you for them. This is a major character disorder which the people who think this way feel absolutely justified in their behavior. The only thing you can do is quit wasting your energy on them – it only keeps you in their negative energy, keeps the focus on them and prevents you from living your own life. The good news is today we understand these relationship behavior patterns and there is a wealth of information out there to help you figure out what is going on – the negative patterns and to teach you how to be your own parent – give yourself the things you should have gotten from your mother like unconditional love, acceptance, support. My advice is read, read, read!!! Not only about coping with toxic family but how to be you. I am reading a really good book titled “Who you were meant to be” by Lindsay Gibson. She does a fantastic job describing how these negative messages we received from our families create fear and guilt that we are unable to make the right choices for ourselves. It takes a long time to reprogram our limited beliefs but its worth the effort.
      Good luck!

    • Michelle, I would leave and never contact those people. Once they realize they have to reach out to you to contact you they have to face all their behaviors. Two things will happen they will choose to shut you out or they will apologize for their behavior. My family has shut me out but I truly don’t care, my sister has reached out to me and my brothers do but we talk maybe once every 3 months. Our family is not close. You will show them that you have to be respected and your children have to be respected. That will rattle their dysfunctional lives. Try it and good luck.

      • FAmilies who have a child who is seriously scapegoated never apologize. they don’t see the originating stress as the cause of that person’s behavior. and over time they always see that individual as the cause of all the families’ problems. Many experts say that we teach people how to treat us and I agree with that except for our families. sometimes, like you’ve discovered, the dysfunction is so deep that it can’t be overcome.

  15. I haven’t had any contact with my family of origin for 2 years. My father’s death was what freed me. The rest of my family never treated me with an ounce of respect. Once dad was out of the picture, I realized that I didn’t need to “get along” with anyone for dad’s sake anymore. I still experience pain and confusion over my family’s treatment of me, and I long to reconnect with them, but it is slowly becoming the past. I identify with the scapegoat role less these days than I ever have before, and I’m beginning to discover who I truly am, and that I’m not the horrible person my family always tried so hard to make me feel that I was. Total separation is not easy, but it can be done. I hope we all recover from the abuse we’ve been through and find peace in our lives.

    • As you’ve discovered, total separation is often the only way out of that role. It’s hard, but not worth sacrificing the rest of your life for. By the way, if you go back to interact with your family, in most cases, nothing has changed with them, so they continue the abuse as before.

      good luck and stay strong.

    • What a beautiful email! Thanks! I’m just about at the same point as you are, and I too am at just about at the same level of comprehension about what was done to me.

  16. My mother is in her mid-60s and still uses the same behaviors as she did when we were young. The situations are different (although she still users ammunition from 25+ years ago. Sometimes, my head feels so messed up that I worth if I ever had to take a lie detector test that I would fail being completely truthful. I just recently got on Bpdfamily and have found a couple facets of support. I’m still looking for more. I think I need it enough times that I allow myself to believe my own thoughts. I put together a video of four short voicemails that illustrate my guilt, shame, and confusion. I know this small, out-of-context display can’t give the whole picture, but I find comfort in the words of others that recognize the familiarity of which I’m speaking. I’m just hoping enough feedback will give me the right to believe myself.

    • I took your link out of your post – I dont send potentially wounded readers to other sites. It’s the only way I can ethically keep allowing comments and posts. that your mom still acts the same is not surprising. most people don’t change over time – we often become more of what we’ve always been. our challenge with our disordered moms is to live a great life in spite of them. hard, but very possible.

      good luck

  17. Thank you for this article. I was the rebel in my family hiding an abusive father and alcoholic mother. After years of drug addiction I went into recovery and therapy. My anger turned forewarning a Bachelor degree and post graduate work in Teaching. I successfully taught for twenty years. Now after 25 years I find myself before back in my dysfunctional family due to a disability. It’s so different now for me even thou they STILL to this day try to label me the bad child. They haven’t changed…..but I have! The amount of knowledge I have gained doesn’t let their dysfunction harm me anymore. When it gets tough I say, I’m safe, I can handle this and I’m educated. Thanks

    • good for you, you’ve healed so many wounds. well done

    • I continue to experience the exact same thing – I am the fuck up of the family. I got an MBA and had a good professional career for many years. Then I got burned out and switched to work that is not as demanding. I am not making the amount of money as before so my family sees this as a vulnerability and jumps in with their attacks about not being married or having a lot of nice things. It hurts but I just roll my eyes and keep moving forward. Having a good life is about creating healthy positive relationships – the more you do this the better your life will be and the less they matter. It also helps that I live on the other side of the world from them so my interaction is at a minimum.

  18. nI know it is extreme, but I see no way to keep my FOO from continued, endless [ I am sixty years old] torture is to fake my own death. Husband, sons, older grandkids all on board. Husband intends to call sister with the news next Friday [probably, need to close on business first] Trust me, there will be no tears on their part, and maybe I can finally go on with my life because as it is, it all just hurts too much.

    • the only problem I see is that they’ll all want to come to the funeral and ‘grieve’ like a normal family. Then what happens?

      I get the pain but this seems extreme for your hubby and kids, who will have to continue to lie about this forever.

      • No, they will make no pretext of grieving, nor wish to attend a funeral where they can make a scene about how happy they are [ not first rodeo. when my dad died I told them that none of them would be welcome at my funeral because of their cruelty at that one] We bought a home in the south that will be moving to the day after the closing. The kids and the husband were the ones who finally were able to get me to give up on them. The only thing I had left to do with them I did last week. Confronted my monster baby raper brother, and tossed a couple hundred pages of doctors records about my breast cancer all overmy mothers pretty living room. they did not visit me in the hospital, go with me for treatment, call to see how I am doing, not even once. when my sister had cancer, I was there every single day. I will never have to hear “you weirdo, why don’t you kill yourself Autistic bitch so that you can’t be so annoying’

        • well it sounds like you’ve got it all organized. Good luck to you

  19. I am struggling to deal with my brother and sister in the aftermath of the death of our Superhero father. Mother, an alcoholic, died years ago. My father and I were estranged for the final five years of his life, because I had reached my limit. He thought he could get my kids and me under his thumb when we got extorted by a customs agent as we crossed from Costa Rica into Nicaragua. I contacted Father to ask for help, and when he realised that I was in a bind he tried to dictate to me…I stood up to him, and he stranded us in Nicaragua. Well, my siblings couldn’t cope with the emotion and the honesty about family stuff, and they stood with Father, although they say they weren’t taking sides.

    Now, my brother has control of my children’s inheritance and won’t let go. I want to get away from the family once and for all now that I see that my sibs still scapegoat me, cling to their denial, and show no signs of willingness or ability to grow away from our messy youth. But I can’t just walk away, because my brother is holding our property and money hostage. And they have the lawyer convinced that I’m the one who’s a mess! I’m the only one to have had therapy and worked on recovery at Alanon. Every time there is any contact with them or the lawyer’s office, I feel sick.

    I know I’m not really defective, but there is no way to prove it. I just have to go on being treated as if I were. The thing is, I believe that my sibs really want to be good, kind people and don’t want to cause misery, they just don’t want to deal with reality or see their own parts in the problem. I don’t want to lash out and be unkind. I just want the estate settled and my father’s family out of my life for good. My own family is so much healthier: my kids understand codependency and dysfunctional relationships, and are so smart and loving…How do I break free?

    • My apologies for the delay in replying – I’ve been on vacation.

      I would most definitely work with a therapist and probably a good lawyer about this situation. I can’t advise you because I know nothing of the law. I do know you will never change them. This is how they are and will probably always be. So if there’s not a legal way to break the hold your brother has on your kid’s inheritance, either you will have to put up with it or walk away. Neither are good options but in my experience you can’t change what other people think.

      good luck

    • I’m so happy to read this. Each story rings true in one way or another. I am now 35 and for the past few years I’ve tried to break this dynamic unsuccessfully in my family. I am a single mother who broke out of an abusive relationship a few years ago. Something I “put my family through” of coarse. I want to be a good role model for my two girls and I want them to see people around us who respect each other. My family and I have been on non speaking terms for up to years just because I’ve tried to stand up against the way I’m treated. At one point of trying to set boundaries of what was okay with my kids and what was not without permission they rallied together insisting to other people that I must be on drugs. Never did occur to them that they need my approval before taking my children someplace or around someone I may not be comfortable with. They even went to my sitter to,I can only guess,turn her against me. This is a person they don’t have much interaction with at all. Fortunately she took up for me and told them that what they were saying was nonsense and that I was a darn good mother and shed swear to that in a courtroom any day. They also condone the same the same behavior when my brother has my kids. Setting boundaries with them seems like I’m just beating my head against a wall. When I make sense my mother steers completely off topic to point out something that was not a good decision I made from years ago then tries to connect it with the now.

      • These family roles and dynamic are terribly hard to recognize and break. Congratulations on doing both. But your work does not change your family. Your challenge (and it sounds like you’re totally up for it) is to continue your recovery and growth from this kind of family and know you are doing the best for your girls. Family is wonderful and is to be cherished, but not at all costs and not when the well-being of the little ones in our care is jeopardized. Our responsibility as parents is always forward, to the beings we bring forth to protect and nurture on their path.

        well done and good luck. and remember that if someone in your family was a pedophile or violent person, you wouldn’t put your girls in their company. Just because we are related by blood to people, doesn’t mean we take chances with the emotional well being and safety of our children.

  20. I I have always suspected that I was the scapegoat in my family but things have happened recently that make me know for sure. I was very young when my brother was born with a rare chronometer disorder. As a teenager, I became angry and rebellious. I started drinking, smoking pot and was promiscuous. Today I have multiple years sober, I’m a single mom and have a career. I have struggled with anxiety and depression and I am currently struggling very much. I’m exhausted and in so much emotional pain over still being in the role of the scapegoat in my mid 30s. I want out of this position they keep putting me in. I feel stuck in a cage that I will never get out. I realize a lot of things are based on my family’s misconceptions about me. They see me very different than other people see me. It’s all so crazy. Sometimes I feel like I’m navigating this boat, a beautiful yacht on the outside but underneath there’s holes and water is rushing in. I’m constantly patching things up and it works for awhile but I keep finding more holes. Maybe it was easier before I realized the truth, that I really am the scapegoat? In the end I know that in our secrets lie our sickness. I have a strong faith in my higher power, whom I call Jesus. I am dedicated to staying sober and I have a great therapist. I would really just like to know how I can remove myself from this sick family game?

    • First, congratulations on your sobriety and all the accomplishments in your life. You are to be commended for getting out of the insanity and finding peace and serenity. Well done.

      Let me begin by saying I have a distinctly different position on family than many people. You don’t have to agree and you don’t have to do anything but here’s my thoughts, from the little bit you’ve said.

      Some families are just toxic and won’t change. The individuals are not capable of seeing you as the world does. Rather the family system is based on you being the problem. Ironically the system, (not the people but the system of family dynamics) will work overtime to keep you in that role so the system has balance. This means that your family as individuals may also ever support you in this change and your new life.

      Change in individual family members is always hard, so I always ask my clients to look at their family and see what is important in this relationship? What role do they play in your life right now? Is it that the interactions give them a chance to play out old stuff? Or perhaps it gives you that chance (of being put down and misunderstood and underappreciated). What is there, other than the blood relationship that keeps you hooked in.

      I’ve never really understood the attachment that those in the rooms have to their families of origin. I hear all the time, “they did the best they could, so I’ve forgiven and forgotten’. Okay. But then I have to ask those folks, “What are you teaching your children?” that family can say or do anything because they’re family? they can use you and abuse you and claim to love you because they’re related?

      I’ve never been able to figure it out. My family was toxic, so I stepped out of the relationship for a long time. my dad couldn’t be trusted not to abuse my kids. Would I put them at risk? Hell no. So I stepped away and took my kids with me. Was it easy? no. Did people understand? Not all of them. In fact, many of the folks in the rooms tried to explain how I should forgive and forget and be the bigger person. But my take was that no one had changed, so if i keep putting myself in that environment, abuse just continues, over and over and over.

      Now when I noticed my mom wasn’t well, I took her to the doctor and insisted she get a cognitive assessment and when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I was happy to stand as her guardian when the need arose (about 2 years ago). she lives in a safe living unit, is safe, and i make sure her medical care is as good as can be.

      Is she my friend? Nope. never. Do I care about her? Yes. I always have. But that doesn’t mean I was willing to continue in a relationship with her (before she got sick) and allow her to continue with her behavior. I stepped away.

      does that make sense? Ask yourself why are you in this relationship? would these people be friends if they were your neighbours? Are you harboring a hope they’ll change and come to see you for the person you are, rather than who you were? Is that likely? What impact does their toxicity have on your kids? (dysfunctional people don’t choose their victims, they use who ever is available).

      I said these were hard questions and they are. at the end of the day, this is how they are. The Serenity Prayer says accept the things I cannot change (these people sound like that) change the things I can (either your presence or your reaction) and the wisdom to know the difference (the hardest part of the whole thing.)

      Like I said tough questions that I don’t mean to sound mean-spirited or nasty. But this is what I put to my clients and myself.

      good luck


    • Hi
      I know your pain! I went round and round with my family. The way I was treated was cyclical, first I’d be treated fine then my sister (the golden child and raging alcoholic ) would feel slighted by me in some way, which this last time was me telling her no she wasn’t coming to my house for a “vacation” so,she could sit and drink in front of my kids. She lashed out by calling me all sorts of names. She even went as far as calling my husband and tried first flirting with him. When that didn’t work she started telling him all sorts of stupid and extremely mean and vindictive things about me. My mother of course sided with her and told me I needed to apologize. WHAT!?!?! So I went back to (yes back to as prior to this I hadn’t spoken to or seen my mother and sister in 10 years) complete and total no contact. I will never, ever, ever, EVER speak to either one of them again. I made peace a long time ago that I may never see my mother or sister alive again as the next time I see either may be at their graves. No contact was the ONLY way I was able to get from under the immense emotional pain. My entire childhood was spent trying to get my mom to treat me like my sister. It wasn’t until I got on my own that I realized that it just wasn’t gonna happen, nor was she going to acknowledge that she was even doing that. I know no contact is very extreme. But I wouldn’t trade the peace of mind and the emotional healing that I’ve found for anything.

      • So an update to my previous post with regards to my alcoholic golden child sister. This past October my sister had an alcohol withdrawal induced seizure. I received a call from an aunt I hadn’t spoken to in about 10 years. When I saw the number my stomach dropped. It was during this call that I found out that my sisters upper brain function (this is the part that makes you YOU, your personality etc.) has ceased. This was October 22nd, and she pasted on the 31st. Previous to this I hadnt seen her for 13 years. I immediately hoped on a plane and the hospital left her hooked up to life support so I could tell her goodbye. I couldn’t believe how sick she looked, how unhealthy. Throughout the week I spent there I found out that my alcoholic sister was so bad that she hadn’t worked in about two years. BUT she drove a 2016 civic. She didn’t have a job BUT she always had alcohol. SHE HAD NO INCOME WHATSOEVER but she had things coming in the mail EVEN AFTER SHE PASSED AWAY. My mother was going around telling people that she had a seizure and that was the cause of her death. I made SURE everyone knew that wasn’t the case. My mother had the gall get upset saying ,”well her tox screen came back negative for anything!” I stared at her as if to say REALLY!?!? She talks about some of my other cousins who aren’t doing so well in life adm again I look at her as if to say REALLY?? My sister was a lazy, self-centered bitch who had everything handed to her and never understood rejection. My grandmother called me about a week after the funeral and asked if I’d be coming back for the holidays to which I responded with a resounding NO! I finally explained everything about my mothers relationship with me. My mother OF course comes back at me like it was me drinking and wasting space. Like I was the one that made her take care of me becuase I was a drunk. The lesson? The golden child is DEAD and I’m STILL the scapegoat.

        • yep. that’s how it works. sad, isn’t it? I’m so sorry for your losses, at all levels

          • What amazes me is that we both went to pay our respects and say good-bye! Lately, I have been asking myself why I felt so bad for my baby sister, and why I went running to her funeral. To tell you the truth, I will never do that for any of my family again, nor would I I have gone to my baby sister’s funeral knowing what I know about my family today. Once we understand what’s been done to us the whole picture of who we are changes to ourselves changes, doesn’t it?

            • Yes, it absolutely changes. and so must we if we want to live full and constructive lives.

        • So an update to the previous update:

          When I was in high school my mother made sure to keep any coach, teacher, counselor etc., abreast of every single (bad) thing I did. Later I realized that this was an attempt to cut me off from any adult that I’d grow to trust and eventually tell them about my home life. Imagine having to meet with your track coach after your mother told him about your bed wetting and shop-lifting. I learned that these two things were a direct result of my mothers treatment of me. So anyway I’m thinking my mother has “matured” and the bashing wasn’t going to start up again. My grandmother had been calling me becuase I didn’t come out for either holiday. She was under the impression that I was having a hard time after my sister passed. Honestly I was tired of the subterfuge and told her everything from how I was treated to how my sister and I interacted as siblings. Succinctly put, I told her while I was sad that my sibling was gone I wasn’t really grieving and I explained n great detail how my mothers narcissism got between us and never allowed us to be close like sisters are supposed to be. When I got done she was upset and told me she was gonna take to my mother “Right Effing Now”! (I kid you. To those were her words.) of course I couldn’t get her to listen when I told her there was not point becuase at the end of the conversation I’m gonna look like the devil incarnate. Mygrandmother says she couldn’t imagine how you have two child and you don’t love them equally. She wouldn’t listen to my protestations and called her. This was a month ago and I’ve not spoken to my grandmother since. She won’t take any of my calls. The weird part? I’m not even the slightest bit upset. My aunts have all been calling me and those calls are DEFINITELY going unanswered. I can already see this turning into , ” As The Narcissist Turns” and I’m not playing the game. The point of this is I really understand Ms. Behiel’s point about the narcissist NEVER TAKING RESPONSIBLITY. My mother is 65 and she’s STILL playing these games. This time is the rest of the family she’s playing and not my sister.

          • the unfortunate thing is that our extended families rarely understand what we saw nor do they usually believe us. I’ve discovered it’s a waste of breath to try to explain – it becomes more fuel for the fire. Weird how these patterns established in our early childhood go on for ever.

            good luck

    • Hi Fellow Scapegoatee,
      As I see it, the only way to get rid of your family problem is to get rid of the problem-your family, which is what I had to do. By the way, you are a fabulous writer, just in case you didn’t already know that.

  21. This sounds like Syria at the moment. Tyrannical world leaders choose one place as their proxy dumping ground to fight their never-ending egotistical battles for supremacy. Scapegoating abounds as everyone looks for someone to blame instead of helping the people in crisis. The problem is an 8nability to sit with pain and distress and finding something or someone to attack to feel better about yourself. The root cause of needing a scapegoat is the perpetrator seeking control over bad feelings by venting at someone else. The scapegoat feels afraid and helpless and trapped in a no-win situation caused by those demanding power and control at any cost. Rage is the final symptom og having been betrayed and hurt unfairly.

    • Excellent insight Chris. That really makes sense. I will re-read this when I need clarity.
      Now do you have any insight why a family picks a certain member to scapegoat? I suppose there could be many reasons.

      I don’t know if I was scapegoated from birth or from age 5 when my father died from suicide. I had five older siblings and one younger. I was scapegoated by most of the family including my mother. There were two other siblings (out of 7) who also did not fare too well and were also scapegoated on and off. I was scapegoated by everyone except one older sibling who had a mental illness and was also scapegoated herself, but she treated me in a loving and protective way to the best of her ability.
      I was number 6 of 7 kids. For some reason I was called the mistake. But I was also thought of as being the smartest, most talented, and prettiest. However they were all very smart, talented or pretty. So why they thought of me as moreso is a bit strange.
      It is so hard to make sense of such a jumble if you grow up inside it.
      Children are very loyal even to those they are being abused by. Our family situation was so unusual and tragic that I felt unconditional loyalty to them until my late teens and off and on and beyond.
      Even though I moved across the country by myself at age 17 to escape them as instinct told me to do, I was brought back into involvement with them many times by various therapists seeking to heal these relationships and pushing me to introspect as to how I was responsible for my part in these sick relationships. The therapy that I received was almost always very unhealthy. At that time twenty and thirty years ago even in the more progressive areas of the U.S., there was nothing being said about these sick abusive family groups and that they do not change. There was no talk about the dynamic of the family scapegoat.
      Therapy usually revolved around the therapist asking the patient how they felt about whatever troubles they talked about and trying to get you to see how you could be responsible for incurring that treatment. I am not kidding. That is it in a nutshell. That was a very common form of therapy when I was seeking help for 10-15 years. It was very unhelpful and made me stagnant in those painful and horrific relationships.
      I am so thankful that there is someone out there like Louise telling people the truth now. That these abusive family systems will not change. That the only thing to do is to go on a build a good life for yourself.
      But I do think that separating oneself from one’s family is the most difficult thing one can ever do. Everyone needs a parent or a sibling or someone to love them. And when you have no one? That is a crushing burden almost too great for any human to bear. Truly hard to survive.
      I dont know why I never became a drug addict to escape the pain. I have always suffered severely and had a deep sense of rage. But I am a very loving, caring and empathetic person. I have always tried to help the person in need.
      The only thing I had to get me through was the love of my animals. That is why I spend whatever free time I can helping one animal at a time.
      People that are born with someone who loves them are a marvel to me. My kids have that. I had my animals and maybe that is why I survived and learned love and compassion.
      I still suffer from pain and rage though. I hope I will be able to heal more. My kids love me now.
      I wonder if I had not finally ended things with my mother and siblings would they be also scapegoating my children now? My beautiful blameless children. I think they had already tried to start scapegoat them. So I am glad I am out. I wish I had gotten out cleanly 30 years ago when I first tried. I wish someone had had the wherewithal to tell me the truth. I never knew I was a scapegoat. No one ever put it to me that way in all those years of me trying to seek clarity and help.
      One of my other sibling scapegoats that I loved dearly died of suicide. She was the only one who cared about me in her limited way. She had tried to point out what was going on. But she did not really have the communication tools to do so. And my brother, not a scapegoat, also died of suicide. Three suicides in one family. It was our own private hellhole. It’s not over yet but I think someday I will outlive most if not all of them. Then I will finally feel at peace. I guess I am still afraid of them. I still have nightmares every night.
      If anyone actually reads this whole thing I thank and commend you!
      Best to you all. I hope we all heal from this mess we inherited but did not ask for.

      Oh two interesting foot notes. The number one abuser in my family was the oldest. She is now very successful and the chief of pediatrics in a top university. The second oldest was her cohort and sidekick in abuse and deception. She owns her own children’s therapy practice. No I am not kidding. Both horrific and unempathetic abusers themselves. They will never take responsibility for the pain and suffering they have caused their own siblings, and think of themselves as superior beings in the family and in society at large. They are my mothers favorites and are deeply intertwined with her to this day. Time has changed nothing except for the deaths of two of my siblings.
      If any one relates to my story and wants to communicate with me by email please let me know!

      • unfortunately many people, therapists included still believe in the total sanctity of the family. I’m not one of them. if your family is totally dysfunctional then you have to step aside in order to heal. the question I ask my clients is this: “If this mother/father/sister/brother was a neighbor, would you have anything to do with them?” If the answer is ‘no’, then you know what you have to do.

        Life is easier with family around but we don’t need them to survive. lots of children lose their parents due to death, mental illness, or addictions. You can heal and since you’ll never change them, have a great life. you deserve it.

        • I just read one of the more recent posts and I have the same question. How are the scapegoats chosen? I’ve always wondered. Even now as I’ve started re-healing from having contact and then going back to no contact, it’s the one thing that’s dogged me my entire life. What did I do to make my family hate me?

          • it’s not so much that the scapegoat is chosen but rather a process between the family and the child. Very often, but not always, there is a child who is doing well. that child is trying to please the parents and has realized that being ‘good’ helps everything flow more smoothly in the home. But when the additional child comes along, they soon realize that the older child is stronger, smarter (because of age) and already a success. So without a conscious choice, the next child chooses to deflect the stress from the home to themself. and they get attention by acting out, so they continue that role. and with time, they become the problem child.

            In other circumstances the birth of a child disrupts the parents’ lives and they aren’t ready for the responsibility of a child. They just want the kid to grow up, so the child can do nothing right. Realizing this, at some level, the child gives up trying and sets out to prove the parents right, ie, I am a screw up so I’ll show you.

            Obviously, every circumstance is unique and every family has its own story but these two should give you an idea of the process. It’s always fascinating to figure out.

        • Louise, I’m glad you mentioned that a lot of therapists still believe in the sanctity of the family, because I’m about to have my first session with a new shrink tomorrow. The first question I will ask her is how strongly she believes in the family in terms of support vs. lack of it. I will return to this therapapist depending on her answer. I want a full philosophy in reference to her beliefs about scapegoating. Sincerely, Eileen Vicente

          • good for you. you’re the customer and we all need to remember that

        • I’m so happy you said that!!! (Though I know that was months ago.) Every time I interact with family members I relive much of their emotionally draining behaviors. Life seems so much fuller/happier when I haven’t talked to them in a long length of time. I feel like I’m constantly guilt-ed into being a bigger person and forgiving and forgetting, though I often have nothing to be sorry for. I’ve read a few articles talking about how mean/complicated no contact is that I try to mend relationships and suffer through. I’m stuck ignoring my feelings…

          What ticks me off the most is that my mother has always picked apart every little word when someone talks, and every little thing means something when she talks. When I talk to her even the slightest that part of my brain gets activated to decode everything. I’m exhausted. It’s nice to know that an out is ok.

          • not all families deserve our loyalty and love. this is not an easy nor a quick decision but sometimes it’s the only way we can survive. I know about being ‘the bigger person’. Baloney. I understand that family comes first (why don’t I get that same regard?) and I also understand that there are many people on the face of the earth that I choose not to associate with. drug addicts, pedophiles, mean people etc. If my family is included in that group, why wouldn’t I keep my distance?

            I always encourage people to ask this question about their families: “If they were your neighbors, would you be friends or not?” if not, then why put up with their stuff?

            • Since my family has treated me like dirt for no reason, it’s time to say goodbye. I mean a physical and emotional boodbye. I used to look at strangers on facebook I hadn’t seen for years, my ex family. I will never do this again. They are not worth a dime. I think the major trick is not to allow them to reinjure you by allowing yourself to feel all the hurts they have caused you. I think that’s the most important thing you can do. Just stop the pain! If you continue to allow it then they win!

              • Totally agree. it’s about making the best possible decisions for yourself and then taking action. People can change but often don’t.

                good luck

      • Thank you for sharing your story. I feel that we are so fortunate to live in a time where their is so much information to help heal and to truly become a healthy functional independent adult. It’s not normal to leave a family but sometimes is the only healthy thing to do to individuate. Everyday I find new information that helps me to learn the things I should have learned if I were in a healthy family and that just reinforces in me that it is the right thing for me to distance myself.
        Bless you

        • thanks so much. Glad you found value in these posts

      • Sarah,

        Your footnotes: The number one abuser in my family was the oldest. She is now very successful and the chief of pediatrics in a top university. The second oldest was her cohort and sidekick in abuse – I can relate to.

        The only abusive sibling was the golden child and successful and he babysat my other brother and I. He was both physically and sexually abusive when my other brother and I were 14 and 10. He was 8 years older than I and revered by my mother who scapegoated me.

        I felt like I was bullied at home, not just at school when I was 14.

        My mother rallied my siblings against me and to this day I don’t have a relationship with the brother who was closest to my age. The golden child brother also feels superior to me and he is the one who sexually abused me with incest before my first menses. He physically abused my younger brother by kicking him repeatedly while he was doubled over on the floor on his side crying. That abusive brother was the one regarded as near-perfect by my mother. My parents were not informed of the abuse my golden child brother did, when we were growing up towards us.

        Like you, I had no clue I was the scapegoat or what that meant, but I was told I was the black sheep of the family at 14. This was after my being bullied at school and beat up after school by a school mate. My parents assumed the worst without asking questions, as if I deserved the beating somehow.

        4 years ago I googled “black sheep of the family” and found out I was actually the scapegoat and what that entailed.

        Where I went wrong and I realize that I had a part in it, is that I allowed my siblings to belittle me, ridicule, talk down to me and make me feel small and I didn’t stand up for myself.

        I learned through conditioning to accept that type of treatment from my siblings. That set the tone for my adult life and thus I went through a series of abusive relationships and was scapegoated by many people as an adult.

        I no longer tolerate abuse of any kind since learning four years ago I was the scapegoat. I expect better treatment now and learned to stand up for myself when verbally or emotionally abused.

        The hardest part was giving up on my siblings and the hopes that we will ever have a relationship of any kind. They are part of my past and there will be no future with them, or any relationship in the present. They were taught to look down on me by my mother and grew up that way and there is no hope of them ever learning or being willing to love and respect me.

        I’m sorry you had to go through that Sarah, just as I’m sorry any of you here had to. My healing comes from knowing that I was the stronger one because I didn’t turn out abusive, cruel, insensitive without empathy, a drug addict or alcoholic. I just coped.

        I’m a hell of a lot nicer a person than my two siblings I mentioned. Yes, there are successful, but they’re cruel, narcissistic, verbally and emotionally abusive and treat me like the outcast by stonewalling me. I’m not heartless like them. I didn’t let their abuse destroy me or my character. That’s why I’m the strong one and prefer being like I am, rather than like them, even though they were treated well and went on to feel superior and were both successful.

        I succeeded in something they didn’t though. I retained empathy and a heart. I’m sensitive and don’t like hurting people as they do. That to me is a higher success than being financially successful and having a higher stature in life.

        So, I don’t have their big money and big home or the looked up to career. They had self esteem and high self worth all their life. I wasn’t raised to have that. I was raised to be looked down on and demeaned so that I wouldn’t feel good about myself.

        Now I finally do feel good about myself and I’ll be 60 this month. It took decades for me to get there, but I’m thankful I did. Many don’t. I wish I could help scapegoats reach that point.

        I know I no longer will wait on my siblings to think well of me and treat me well anymore. I no longer need them to validate that I deserve love and respect.

        • Thank you Deb. I am so sorry you were abused by you older siblings and mother also. You sound like a really wonderful person. I hope I can come to the point where I don’t doubt my inner self and have the self respect and esteem that you do. I do also wish you could help other scapegoat victims like me find that confidence strength and clarity
          I still do not truly value my character more than my abusive siblings success and status. I find it all very confusing. They are so rewarded by society and the extended family and friends that I wonder in spite of myself if I am wrong or crazy. A lifetime of negative conditioning I guess. I love the way you believe in yourself and you prefer to be the kind of person you are. I hope to become more solidly like that.

          I still have difficulty at times quickly indentifying abusive behavior because I am so used to it. Due to the constant criticism of my abusive siblings and mother I was unable to speak in front of people for 35 years. I was academically high achieving and went to a top university but I had to drop any course that required me speaking out loud. I literally had no voice it had been emotionally beaten out of me.

          When I finally tried to speak up to my siblings after moving across the country as a young woman, that’s when the doors really slammed in my face. They were horrified and enraged that I dare speak up or defend myself.

          I doubt many people see through my siblings “wonderful person” veneer. But who knows maybe there are some insightful people do see through it. But they generally just seem to get praise and accolades, rewards, honors, success and money.

          When my husband got transferred to a new city 6 years ago, I was still in the fight of my life to reunite with my family of origin. Two siblings had died of horrific suicides and I just assumed that surely the golden children will stop their emotional torture now. Surely they would see how it has just further destroyed our family and nothing good comes of it. Surely they would be ready to open their minds to a more accepting, inclusive and loving way of interacting.
          My mother had doggedly pressed me for years to come back into the unhealthy family dynamic.
          I would put her off and say maybe some day when I have kids.
          So that day finally came and it was the goal of a lifetime to reunite with the family and come back in good standing. With respect as a normal person. My personal Mt Everest. Come back perfect enough to be accepted by them.
          Perfect marriage to a man with a stable tech job, perfect house in the upscale suburbs, perfect kids.
          But they would not have it. Even after all we have been through with 3 suicides and even though there are only 4 of them left (3 of them golden children) out of seven. Two others dead and one alienated (me). They still would not tolerate my presence or existence.
          The fact that I want to exist in any way, let alone speak openly or the worst that I would dare to stick up for myself is intolerable to them.
          Ironically or maybe not my husband and I moved to an area of the country for his job and in particular a neighborhood that is very cold, judgemental and critical. People talk badly behind one another’s backs, make friends based in social status and don’t respond or relate well to open communication, kindness or creative thinking. Just like my family, just like my childhood. Exactly like the neighborhood we lived in as a child when my father ended his own life.

          So my goal now is to get myself and my kids out of here within a year. Don’t make the same mistake again. Judge the neighborhood and area based on its accepting and friendly nature rather than a pretty facade on top of social ruthlessness. I hope I can make better decisions for me and my family now that they are out of my life.
          I need these changes to come. It takes a lot of energy and I am exhausted with my little kids and ptsd and insomnia. But I have done big things before and I can do it again. I am just older and more tired now. It’s hard to find the strength.
          But thank you anyone for reading this long missive. And thank you Louise for being a part of the solution. And not letting us sit embroiled in these horrible family units. And giving good sound advice to move on. And thank you for creating this informative blog and allowing us the space to write our truths in it. Bless you and everyone who shares their stories, their anger, their insights and kind words of support here.

          • sounds like you know what you need to do. good luck getting it done.

      • Thankyou Louise for this forum today I googled scapegoating again because I started communicating with my eldest sister about my mothers birth certificate which I needed and she has. This was enough to start her off on a rant about how shes not interested and to further insult me about a genetic heart condition I inherited from my mother( further reason for them to scapegoat me a the diffirent child. Im nearly sixty when will it end? So I will go minimal contact again. birthday messages are her usual tactic to open the door.
        Sarah I would love to communicate by email with you as I share many similar experiences and was helped by your post.
        I live in exile on another continent from my family it how I have survived , whenever they play the happy family game I have to remind myself not to fall into the bear trap.
        wishing you all peace and serenity.

        • sorry, i’m late responding to your comment. you will never change the others in your family. Deal with them when you have to and don’t otherwise. they are who they are and they will always scapegoat you because that’s the system they know and the way they see you. you can’t change it. ever. so enjoy your life without them.

        • I’m trying very hard to rid myself of the pain and suffering I endured during my childhood and part of my adulthood by blocking the thoughts of what happened, but I find that I have flashbacks as a result of things that trigger my bad memories. Have you any suggestions about how to avoid these memories from popping up.

          • the memories will continue to pop up until you resolve the trauma. it’s called PTSD and it doesn’t go away without attention and usually professional therapy.

            good luck

      • Thank you for sharing your story and journey. I found many of your insights helpful but what floored me – literally a defining moment – was:

        ‘People that are born with someone that loves them are a marvel to me.’

        That’s how I’ve felt for as long as I can remember! Marvel is the word – it’s not envy. I’ve never begrudged these people, just been drawn to them, fascinated by them, wistful too.

  22. I am the oldest of 4 siblings. I was the built-in. ‘Responsible Party’. Aside from chief cook, bottle-washer,buttwiper,emotional punchbag etc., I wasn’t even allowed any say. I was beaten physically emotionally. I thought of sucide (.swapping one hell for another?)

    • I too am writing a book. Writing is a the best way to vent that I know of-

  23. You guys must see this! As part of the book, I’m writing includes the unwise friendships I’ve had. Well, there was one really cruel woman friend that I let into my life, and we were so called best friends for about six years. When my ex and I moved to the west coast, she dumped me. My ex was away on business in Spain, poor thing, so I had to do all the packing and cleaning myself. My “dear friend” didn’t help me pack, she didn’t drive me to the airport, and worst of all she didn’t even say good-bye. Mind you, I was always there for her through her many bouts with pneumonia etc. Many years later she got in touch with me and we reunited for a short time, and once again she pulled a lot of crap on me Once again, she dumped me with no explaination. Once again, she caused me a lot of pain. By the way, she always reminded me of my wicked older sister in many ways. Well the other day when I was reorganizing my house, I came across a beautiful gift that I had received from a now deceased friend. She was the one who drove me to the airport and gave me the gift that I put in a more visable place. This gift brought back so many memories of the love and help she had given me when I needed her. As a result of the special attention and thought I gave to her gift that day, I wrote about my relationship with the friend who had dumped me. I detailed every nasty thing she had done, including the fact that she used to permit her two boys to call me Eileen the fucker constantly. They were really rude children, generally speaking. Well, it has been ten years since I heard a word from this nasty woman. Would you believe, the next day after I wrote about her, I got a message from her on my FB for a friend request. Because I understand myself now, I will never go back for more abuse. I friended her, but didn’t write anything to her. I’m so curious to see what she wants. So far she has said nothing. In time I will definitely unfriend this witch. There is no apology, no explanation or anything that will make me change my mind. She will get a copy of my book.

  24. They laughed at me because I’m dif erent, and I laughed at them, because they are all the same. Kurt Cobain

  25. I disagree with this: “This child is unaware of any emotion other than rage”

    I was only aware of sadness. Please refrain from making all-or-nothing statements in future.

  26. Louise, I know you are trying to help us, but I totally disagree about the Bible knowing how to create relationships. Many priests abuse children and many Christians have brought great grief on Jews and forced them to take on their beliefs as the Muslims are doing now. An orthodox Jew just murdered a young lovely gay woman. I’m sure there are books that don’t alude to the Bible ad nausiam that can do just as good a job as this one-probably better. You probably won’t print this, but I’m just telling you the way I feel. No, I definitely won’t be buying that book!!!

  27. hi
    scapegoating is one of the most awful thing to happen to someone especially from those who are supposed to love and care for him/her.
    I’m 42 and I realized after a long periods of blame, criticism, and emotional blackmailing that I was the scapegoat of a dysfunctional family. the good thing is they choose to stop talking to me because I was no longer filling the role of bullying anymore or I was not giving them what they need to stay in the fake world. at first and as a natural instinct I was trying to beg them to talk and give me some respect if it was not for me at least for my kids, my plans didn’t work and thank god it didn’t or my kids would haven been now the mini scapegoats among the grand children .
    it’s very sad what we go through and no one can imagine our pain and what’s more frustrating is that they advise you to reunite with them because they are YOUR FAMILY and the scapegoating gets a new boost every time you seek help from those that they don’t know what is scapegoating .
    if you want a better and more stable life stay distant from your dysfunctional family.


    • all of these roles are extremely painful but for different reasons. dysfunctional families are destructive to the hearts and souls of the little ones in their care. thank heavens you realized and separated from them. thanks for sharing

    • So glad for this thread.

  28. Misery loves company, and I finally have plenty of it. Although I didn’t read all the comments, I must admit that I fit the profile. At the ripe old age of 72, I know just what happened to me all of my life. Funny, I did a paper for my Mater’s of Special Education at Widener University in Pensylvania called Bullying. Since, of course my teacher, Dr. Margaret Lyn, the department head, and a full PHD Psychologist, looked at the paper and said, “That concept is no big deal. It’s only something that happens to children on the playground. Your end term project about how to stop class room bullying nation wide is a waste of time.” Funny, that was right before all the school shootings had begun. Actually, when I did my paper, it was so difficult to find studies in reference to the topic. Well, of course, you probably know by now that I was bullied by the entire class, and especially by this “professional.”

    Anyway, to make a long story quite short, I had a mother who used to beat the crap out of me from head to toe as she would tell me that I was dumb and that I was going to be a nothing and a nobody. She would also tell me when I was a teenager that nobody would look at a girl like me who has bad grades and no future. By the way, when she died, I did not shed one tear, and to this day, I hope she is rotting in hell. What I remember most about her, is the few times she took me some place. Although she hated the beach, she would take me to Jones Beach in New York. She took me there 3 times when I was about 7. I didn’t know how to swim at all, and she would carry me into the water with the very highest of waves in the área and she would “accidently” drop me when we were just far enough out in the ocean for me to have to struggle to survive a huge wave. It was only later in my life that I realized what she was doing at the time. I was so lucky that I could manage to make it back to shore. I still remember the struggle and trying to breathe.

    My father, on the other hand, was an alocohol abuser and an abuser of my older sister and me. Now that was a bit different since, my mother never touched a drink. In addition to these two lovely parents, I had two disgusting sisters. I always felt like Cinderella without the prince and the ball, and they sure helped my disgusting mother. Would you believe my mother treated me so badly that at one point I asked her if perhaps my father wasn’t my father. My sisters were experts at playing their roles, and by the time my very estranged family was finished with me, I had married an abusive man who I put up with for 15 horrible years. By the way, I have a very abusive son who I never see. I never see any of my family members either. Funny, I was the only one in the family who inherited absolutely nothing. My mother saw to that, She had some pretty lame excuses too.

    Well that’s the very short version of my very complicated life. I have decided that I need to write a book about all that has happened to me, what I have achieved, and what I have missed. My goal is to help those who have no idea what is happening to them. I hope I can save them from some of the years of pain I went through.

    • It is no longer surprising to me the pain that parents and families inflict on each other. it’s unremitting and unending in many cases. write your book. the world needs to know how you overcome your situation. good luck

      • Thanks for your support Louise! Just wait until you read about the complicated life I created for myself in the name of Snapshots of Betrayal which will be the name of my memoirs.

        • can’t wait

    • I’m 52, and although not physically beaten (which no one would dare intervene hardly back in my childhood time, much less before the ’60’s), I feel so validated reading all of these comments about families structured to make a scapegoat out of a child. Thank god for you speaking up and describing my life in detail. It is a cycle of abuse that the scapegoated can break when given proper resources.
      Thank U Louise Behiel. I’m now a psychiatric RN,BSN. I also have my son, now 19 and trying his 1st semester in college. It’s like his 2 aunts never existed, never knew he was around to love and enjoy, except on occasional holiday family events. I’m belittled verbally by them if given time, and I’m amazed how quick they are to it, and how ‘normal sounding’ they make it. I’ve had no contact w/mommy dearest after a phone call in which she cursed me, raised her voice yelling at me hung up on me. I’ve accepted what ‘love and family’ are to this woman and my never married childless sisters. Still I require your stories, so that I don’t slip back to believing I’m this loser stranger they scoff about and make fun of–they haven’t even been in my life to KNOW me. No matter how successful or good I am, it’s hopeless to think I’ll be around them and treated w/love as my father(they divorced, late 70’s) is dying from stage 4 aggressive cancer.
      I still need and want others to know, DO NOT return to that dynamic expecting them to acknowledge you are a worthy person, smart, or anything positive. The person they INVENTED is How they’ll treat you. No matter what life revelations you’ve had, they aren’t healthy enough to have been kindly kind in the past, and defiantly won’t give you what you emotionally need. Although not fair, You must be stronger and wiser, which can turn out the best in the end.

      • Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you found validation here. The problem is not the child, it’s the family system that creates this kind of crazy making in our children. How lucky for you that you’re strong, resilient and wise enough to get out of the situation and distance yourself from them. Family is important, but only when it’s supportive, loving and kind. If it’s not, then we’re best to stay away from all of them.

        enjoy your son and know you have broken the cycle. Well done and Congratulations

  29. Hi
    I’ve just figured out that this whole time it wasn’t me! When I was young as the older child I was the scapegoat and my sister was the golden child. My mother as I’ve come to understand was a screaming narcissist. We had a rule, I kid you not, “if no one owns up to it Em did it”. So growing up all I could think of was leaving. My father was an alcoholic and sorta buffered for me but not all the time. Mostly he’d drink himself stupid, and by the time I was 11 I was driving him to the liquor store to get more alcohol, then fall asleep, urinate all over the couch and then make me wash the sheets (because by this time our couch was unbearable to sit on without blankets on top of it) and remake his “bed” all before i started my other chores and homework. My sister and I would alternate weeks for dish washing but I hand the standing chore of taking out the garbage. And we had 7 garbage cans that had to be taken out. So there were weeks where my sister didn’t have to do anything. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. It got really bad about 13 years ago. Long story short I had my first child and I’d gone to live with my dad because the father and I had split. My dad tried to take my daughter from me so he could get welfare and not work. It didn’t work but I found out that he’d been talking to my sister and lying saying that I was doing drugs and drinking, you get the idea. He was trying everything he could to make sure my mother wouldn’t help me should the need arise because of course my sister STILL lived with my mother. Because of this I didn’t talk to any of them for 10 years. (I’ve written a letter to my father and told him he was dead to me and to never EVER contact me again. He’s trolled social media on my husbands Facebook page looking for photos. For this reason my husband and I do not put photos up of our children). My sister and mother however called me 6 months ago. I saw the number and recognized the area code and was going to ignore it. My husband told me to pick it up. BIG MISTAKE!!! At first I thought they’d changed until I started getting phone calls from my mother at ALL HOURS of the night. At first it felt like my role with my sister was changing. Turns out my sister has become an alcoholic. And according to my mother “she’s worse than your father”. At first I just listened. I wasn’t going to give ANY advice because the only thing I wanted to say was ” if it was me you would have kicked me out!” Then it got worse. My sister would get belligerently drunk and then call 911. By this time my mom was calling my phone, my husband’s phone AND my IPad through FaceTime. One night I finally pick up and my sister had been admitted to the hospital and was told if she didn’t quit she was going to die. Of course this didn’t stop. Meanwhile, I’d opened my own online vintage clothing store. I run professionally and had finally gotten sponsorship and my husband came home from training that allowed him to move up within his company. Not one time did my mother ask me about my life. Not even when they called me the first time. My sister continued to drink, call 911, and get admitted to the hospital. She’s 36 and is on about 10 different types of medication, some for blood pressure and others that I know my husbands 69 year old mother was on before she passed. At about this time I was being called because my sister had taken to drinking and driving (my mom tried taking her to AA but of course this didn’t work as she tell my mom she was going to a meeting and would actually go to the store, get alcohol and sit in a neighborhood and drink). She’d come home and my mom would make a big show of kicking her out (I’m on FaceTime so I’m witnessing all of this). Then the next day she’d be back and drunk as ever. She isn’t working at this time because she went to school for drama and has been waiting on her big break. She was in a movie but it was only on Netflix and you only see the back of her head. About a month ago my sister had started hinting that she wanted to come here. Now it wouldn’t be so bad but she’s had a breast augmentation which she’d been trying to flash my husband as well as getting up while she’s only in underwear while going on and on about how guys don’t ask her out because she’s a model and they think she’s taken. Then there’s the drinking. I tried Everything! From dismissing what she was saying to ignoring. I knew she’d come here and do the same thing so I finally I told her plainly you aren’t coming here and drinking in front of my kids. My mother tried to guilt me into it saying she needed a break. I had NO problem telling her that it was HER fault my sister was the way she is. I wasn’t taking that on as a responsibility. And wouldn’t you know it. They both got pissed off. My husband was texted and called (all by my sister) and told he married a (not going to repeat the messed up things that were said). Afterwards he told me he was sorry he told me to pick up the phone. My mother called me and told me I needed to apologize to my sister. Yes, she really said that. So about two weeks ago I started searching because I thought there’s no way they could actually be like this. And I found out about scapegoating and narcissists and golden children. The best thing was I found out it wasn’t me! I decided to go back to no contact because honestly my life was better when it was.

    Lastly this is the first time I’ve ever written what’s happened to me with my family. So to all the faceless, nameless people that stumble upon this,THANK YOU.

    I have a peace now that I’ve never known…

    • Hi
      I wanted to add something. I did write my mother a long email. When my parents first split I went away to a school I didn’t want to because I wanted to get away. I didn’t finish that school but re-entered school about 8 years later. At this time I was applying to the UC school system and found out that a school I had applied to when I was 17 had originally accepted me. They actually called me and asked me why I let the acceptance go unanswered. I was floored! The only thing I could think of was my mother got a hold of the acceptance letter and kept it from me. I also detailed everything I could think of from my sister being the only one to get a car bought for her to her getting her driving lessons paid for. When I went away to school I was on a full athletic scholarship and got financial aid too. So I was pretty flush with cash. Wouldn’t you know that was the most attention my mother had paid me. And of course I sent her a big chunk of it. When my father moved out he took EVERYTHING. (I got a call while I was at school. My roommate came looking for me and in front of everyone she says your mom is on the phone and she’s crying) By this time my parents had divorced so it was just my mother and sister in the house. I wouldn’t go home for holidays and I explained to her why. Because I didn’t want to be in that house without my father there. I know it makes no sense seeing as he only drank when he was awake but my mother tempered her behavior when my dad was present. No way I was walking into that alone! When I was in high school I was a state leader in track and field and cross country. I had the newspaper in my city send reporters to my races and I’d get interviewed. I was even interviewed on T.V. and the show ran for a week straight. And how do you think I got there since no one would help me get a my drivers license. My drunk father took me. We showed up and I remember the man doing the interview came over to introduce himself and my father fell down because he was so drunk. I remember fighting tears and my stomach feeling like I needed to throw up and use the bathroom at the same time. I got thru the interview but instead of staying around and talking to the people there I went out to the car and let me dad embarrass himself by himself. My sister on the other hand wrote an essay on a famous American leader, one she PLAGERIZED from our encyclopedia set because I watched her do it and my mother took off work and went to the award ceremony because of course she won an award for it AND took her out to dinner afterward, just the two of them. This was all in the last email I sent my mother. Previous emails I sent her that said some of the same things had gone ignored. But THIS one she answered. And I thought FINALLY!!! She’s listening! She’s paying attention to my feelings. When I opened the email there was a one word answer and that word was, “WOW”. And that was it, nothing else. I’d be lying if i said it didn’t hurt. It did, a lot. My husband said that at least this time you really tried. And honestly I did make me feel a little better. But that same question has come back. Why did God give me THEM as parents?

      • your question is one for which there is no definitive answer, of course. for me, because of my family I have lots of education and I have read tons about family dynamics. I had to understand what was going on. sounds like you’ve done tons of work and healed. that’s all that matters. we can’t change them. our best revenge is to live a happy, successful life, on our own. it’s sad but necessary because until your mom, dad and sister decide to recover from their stuff, nothing changes. and you will never be able to make them ‘see’ what they’re doing.

        good luck

    • Some families cause a great deal of harm and when addiction is in the picture, it’s even worse. glad you went back to what worked for you. stay well.

  30. I have been the family scapegoat all my life and without going into my family history too much, I’d like to ask a question. My sister-in-law recently lied about a conversation I had with her and is telling my family I yelled at her, completely turned around what happened. The reality is that I said something in a text to her that was innocent and she took it the wrong way, I hit some narcissistic wound, she’s obviously shame sensitive and she started “fumigating with a vengeance” belittling me and refusing to engage in the conversation as I mightily attempted to explain over and over what I meant. Now she’s turned it around, made it look like I did something to her, my brother believes her, even though it’s a total lie, I’m completely shut out of all family trips. The whole family went on a 4th of July trip without me. This woman is so good at looking completely innocent. Should I take a polygraph test? What should I do ? It’s so hard to let people like this win.

    • the unfortunate thing about this kind of family dynamics is that people treat you based on the role you’ve got. so even if you took a polygraph they wouldn’t believe you. save your time and money.

      • It doesn’t even matter to me whether my family believes me or not. I don’t want this woman getting away with lying about me and I’m willing to lose whatever it is I have to lose in order to stand up to this liar. Her husband, my brother, is the executor of our family will, so I’m about ready to lose a lot. They have already talked about putting my portion of the will in an escrow account. I’m 60 years old! I hate liars. These are all Christians and what I want to say to this religion is that you promise much and deliver so little to these dysfunctional people. Christianity’s promise to psychologically sick people of automatically being “saved” is so empty. I see the need for a new religion that encorporates the best teachings of Jesus Christ, but recognizes that Christ was a human who functioned at a very high psychological level and to promise low functioning people that you too can automatically function at that level if you give yourself to Christ is such poppycock. I’m singling out Christianity because that happens to be their religion. I’m not ready to give up my anger about this. Just as you go to a hospital if you get physically sick, you should also be able to one day get the kind of help you need if you are psychologically sick. If I have to write every church in this country I will or start a new religion that takes us into the next century I will, and I know I sound like I am ranting, but I mean it. If the human race cannot find a way of dealing with this problem, we have no hope of surviving as a species. I’m not going to go on, but I have ALOT I want to say.

  31. I have been in family system reclaiming for many years and weened/loved away from original family. My older abusive xsibling/zombie “stalks” to find out what I am doing within my life. The saga will perpetually try to continue. My family is a coreless system of zombies looking to get their feed from those who do not feel self-love. They use the phrase “love-family honor” as their excuse to keep the emotional prisoner’s inside. They are copycats (outside family’s and media) with no real core of self-love and reason. They are brainwashed and decidedly stuck in a self-serving criminal belief system. If they step up to plate of truth they will have to self-own their participating behavior “no matter what roll” and be a responsible human being, not human doing. If they accept the “truth”, they risk being placed by the system in the scapegoat role, which everyone consistently competes secretly, criminally, and without mercy to stay away from, aka: abandonment.

    Reclaiming: I’ve experienced many phases of grief, self-sabotage, self-conquering, letting go, and its hard work, yet not as hard work as staying within the family system.

    Self-love and moving on in personal growth is not abandonment, it’s reclaiming! Self-love is the inner core of true families and I couldn’t help them because I can’t self-love people, right! Self-loving myself was the only way out. Staying with it and not getting stuck in the grief process can be challenging. It’s then I saw the zombies who no longer have any power and seriously they look rather weak. Especially the ones who promote themselves at others expense! My self-love enabled me to love them from a healthy place whether I decided to keep it distanced, or cut off. Its then I saw the family dis-ease. I can decide if I’ve been or will be ostracized by zombies/irresponsible cowards, or I can decide I am once and for all self- loving-responsible, able to give in health, and FREE to be me!

    Since I am always growing it’s a lifetime commitment, yet life always is/was a lifetime of growth. I’ve lost nothing.

    Still want to stay?

  32. How does a scapegoat learn to have healthy, trusting relationships?

    • That is a good question. Scapegoats first have to learn to have a healthy trusting relationship with themselves. In learning to be honest with themselves and to be able to trust themselves to do the right thing, as they define it, scapegoats begin to heal. Often scapegoats have to separate themselves from their families in order to create a new self image and a new belief structure about themselves. but it takes time and you have to be patient with yourself.

      • Very well said, L! I feel this an affirmation that. I can use in my own life especially since cut out emotional vampires in my life.

    • Hi
      I found that when I went no contact for the previous ten years I actually started to feel like I WAS a person. I didn’t carry around a big ball of guilt. I felt like I was worth something. When I had contact with my family for those painful 6 months my stomach started to knot up again. I started to feel guilty for no reason. The emptiness came back, you get the picture. Honestly, I HAD to get away, and stay away.

      • yes, I agree. some families are so toxic that we are way better off on our own and away from them.

      • I found leaving the area from my narcissistic family almost 12 years brought a great deal of relief. However, every once in awhile when they call I find my anxiety levels increasing. It’s not even a “Hi – how have you been”? Instead, I didn’t know if you’d be home or not and then they would proceed going on & on about “golden child sister” at which point I generally “have to go” and end the conversation. After years of on & off counseling I found the strength to move away after finishing a college degree- it was not easy by any means but for my best interests. Very few family members contact me out of the goodness of their heart and most conversations end up with them trying to provoke a confrontation of some sort. The few years before I moved away I found myself finally walking away from the drama, holidays were get together events that evolved into upsetting me to which there was no use in trying to defend myself – walking out the door was the easiest way. The last visit I vowed not to return as I discovered my mother had given and/turned all her property to “golden child” sister – when confronted she lied and then was angry with me because I had the intelligence to research the property records. Most recently she had her attorney send me documents that “golden child” sister was handling all mother’s life events – trust, wills, etc. – without even talking this over with me. I was angry and, most of all, hurt but did not confront this issue – it is a no win situation trying to reason with people like this.

        I too get anxiety attacks whenever they call and I see their number on caller ID – sometimes I just don’t answer if I’m not up to the abuse. Certainly, at my age I would have hoped that there would be some positive family relationship but I now know that will never happen. It has always been about the “golden child” sister who could never do any wrong and her daughter who is on a pedestal even though she is a convicted felon.

        • Our families cost us more pain and sadness than anyone else. Unfortunately, so many of us come from families groups that are totally dysfunctional and totally unable to relate in a healthy way. I totally agree with your decision. at those times it’s best to move away and stay separate from them. good luck

  33. Louise–when do you think it’s worth it to stand up for yourself in a dysfunctional family that scapegoats versus just walking away? I am the youngest of 8 and have a queen bee narcissist oldest sister who runs the show. I finally couldn’t take her rages and stood up to her but the backlash has been her slandering people away from me. It is very sad especially since I don’t have my own family.

    • Maria, you are never going to change them. that’s the bad news – you can only change yourself. so do your work and build your own successful life. they’ll either do their work and come back or they won’t. good luck

      • Thanks for the wisdom Louise. I have so much empathy now for those who find themselves in this painful position.

        • you’re welcome.

  34. hi I left my family about eights years ago after years of being treated with disrespect, valuing or recognizing me as being a part of the family, the kind, considerate, sensitive one. I had a good relationship with stepfather which is not as common, but a horrible relationship with mother and siblings. I was told that they all talk about me together behind my back. When stepfather died, I could not cope and basically went on to find myself and create a life without the painful treatment by those left. While I did manage to engage in healthy activities that brought about some forms of healing, the “scapegoat” role carried on and surfaced in other areas of my life. I found I wanted to reconnect with my family, and for a short time, it was working well, then slowing disintegrated into old patterns of abuse. Well, the last straw was broken with my mother not being supportive when I called her to report a problem with my nieces who were prank calling and using foul language, she hung up on me stating I make a big deal out of everything. I realize she has poisoned the next generation of family members against me. They initially were very much attached to me, but it all went downhill. So sad. I felt a sudden urge of rage, but all the years of spiritual work while I was away from the family has consciously helped me to cope. I am ready to understand this dynamic and work through all the hurt and finally letting go and work on healing.

    • congratulations on being ready to face this family system and heal your self. that’s all you can do, because they will not change until they do their own work.

      good luck

  35. Hello
    I don’t want to write anything too long. But I am in my early 50s. Family scapegoat but I had no idea until recently. I simply lived my life trying endlessly to become perfect enough to be loved and drowning in sadness and anger. Father died by suicide at my age 5. Seven kids, myself number six, the “mistake”. Narcissistic mother. A lifetime of making sure I was despised and ostracized by everyone but denial to my face, because she was so “loving” and “loved me so much”. “We want you to be part of this family”. Brother suicide 10 yrs ago. Sister suicide 5 years ago. So there are 4 of them left. 3 golden children – (oldest two are more like narcissistic parents themselves) and one weak one for good measure. All clinging to their same old power trip and feeding off of my dead bones like vultures. All still scapegoating me. What is the point. A lifetime of misery for me. Very hard to overcome. I am afraid of the effects on m young children. I need to get help. I got therapy so many times that wanted me to take responsibility for my part in this. Hmm how do I take responsibility fir being despised for being born. And how do I feel about that? Well not to good thanks.
    I may not have to many years left. It scares me to die in this misery and to have passed done if it in to my poor kids. God save me and them.

    • remember that the therapist has to have your complete trust by the fourth appointment if she doesn’t, then find another therapist. life is worth living, but you have to overcome a lifetime of training from your family and live your best life.

      good luck

      • Hi Lousie, I am 40 years old and just realizing my scapegoat status. I can spend my time writing stories just like the ones on this page. I want to add though, my mother’s high school diary is the key stone in my whole case. My mom was dumped by her high school boyfriend and wrote that her older sister’s boyfriend (later husband) and his friends and family were going to be the center of her life. And that was the case. She married my father on the same anniversary day Aug 15th, as her older sister. Her first born, (my older brother) is named after her older sister’s husband. My siblings don’t know this but they don’t feel whole until they get attention from their cousins. My mom lifted her older sister’s children above her own. My father was a victim. He was raised as a scapegoat by his two sisters and played the role as the unsuspecting scapegoat trap my mom set. My dad died at a young age after is whole family dumped him. I remind my mom the most of my Dad, and I played the role of the scapegoat in my family. I stopped talking to my mother for several years in the 7th grade year and throughout my teenage High School years. then stopped talking for 1o+ years and now prepared to never speak to them again.

        When I was in these formative years, even though I knew instinctively I needed to get away from my mom, I only put myself into a scape goat role with friends and would tangle up with other scape goats. Everything you described about unable to normal relationships is true. My wife is also a scapegoat in her family, we are both aware of our problem and are loving to each other. Trying to not repeat the problems. My wife became aware of her scapegoat status early in her life and made corrections earlier, she is better at maintaining “normal” relationships but it is very difficult her. I ended up playing the role of a scape goat with an inner circle of friends that used me to elevate their status. My scape goat role in society has gotten so bad that I have received death threats by so called “prominent” members of society. The last death Threat was by my high school friend that always said for the last 25 + years he was my best friend. I found out late in life he would talk differently about me to the people he wanted to impress (the wealthy people in town)… He is very aggressive, and associates himself with fighting UFC and socializing with law enforcement. He has several DUI convictions and gets them covered up by the court system so he continues to appear like a prominent member. I thinks he is superior in society and has built a scary network of law enforcers, SWAT team members, stores illegal ammunition and assault rifles. He has so much power that he has threatened my life openly in public and has no consequences. I am constantly terrified that he will take my life and find a way to blame me for it. He has used me for a long time to elevate his status. It has taking me a long time to figure out what he was doing. I am thankful that I figured this out and I am still alive. I no longer feel hopeful that we’ll ever have a friendship again. I know for an absolute fact that this person will not correct himself and will go to any extreme to hurt me and anyone close to me. The only option is to never contact this person again, and not invite this person in your life. HE lies to his community to maintain is superior status. I am now at age of 40 trying to not be a scape goat in relationships and trying to heal a life long history of abuse. Hoping, in some point in the future I can begin to find healthier friendships.

        • sounds like you’re on your way to recovery. good luck

        • For people struggling to find healthy relationships I recommend Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Both are Christens so it uses a lot of references from the bible but the information is still really valuable. I am not a Christian so I overlook the references to the bible and sin. Although, it does make me think that the people who wrote the bible must of had a strong understanding of healthy human relationships.
          Good luck to anyone!

  36. My other half, or not so much anymore; has a narcissistic mother.
    When our relationship started, I believe she was in the rebel stage. She had always been the golden child, but I think she knew something was wrong.
    She came to me for help. Which was probably a bad idea, as I myself had narcissistic parents. I was a runner, I started life as the golden child – but at the age of 13 when my sister was born to my step-mother and biological father. I was put into the role of the un-wanted child.
    I so expertly failed over the last ten years. She cut herself, had constant stomach problems, etc. I missed most of the signs, or more precisely I looked for a cause instead of looking at the effect and going off that.

    She has now moved back in with her mother and sister. She quickly adapted the golden child role again, and her sister is being moved back into the scapegoat role.
    I know at some point she recognized these problems, but now everything she said before “never happened” or I am “twisting her words”.

    To give some insight on her childhood. At the age of 16 she basically dropped out of school because her mother believed she needed therapy – almost full time. She was a self cutter, and also had an anorexia/bulimic problem. Her parents divorced at the age of 10 and the other parent is almost non-existent.
    While she was at therapy, her mother knew everything going on. The therapist told the mother everything (right?). But I am sure she spent a lot of time finding that, especially since she went a whole other state away to find that therapist(3-4 hour drive).
    Now that she is back with her mother, she is now projecting the same image as her mother onto the world. Scares me terribly, but not much I can do.

    Far as our relationship, it was far from perfect – but there are some positive things that she should feel good about but doesn’t. When we met she was a drop out, very shortly she got her GED then a college education. She now has an excellent job. She use to accept the fact that I helped her with that, but she never took in that she also did most of it herself. Now she says I didn’t help at all, and she still doesn’t take credit for herself (so who did this then?).

    Of course her mother spent much time undermining our relationship. I’ve gotten over that and the fact we will never be back together. But I don’t want her stuck in a situation like that again, and I am also afraid for her sister. I am 11 days from moving away – states away. Running again, or just need a fresh start (confused on that one).
    I brought this to her attention (we still see each other, but when we do – her mother always needs her to come home for some reason or another “pick me up some dinner on your way back please” and it’s already 6PM).

    Frankly I thought the world of her mother until we broke up. Her mother convinced her that everything we had was hers. My couch, my TV, and my cat are all now the mothers. When I helped move all our old stuff into her house, she was more concerned with all the news things she was getting and less concerned with her daughters emotions. There was also a point when the mother said to me “Good Luck moving away”, then she smiled the most evil smile I have ever seen – even on my own narcissistic parents. That’s when things started to click. I always knew the mother didn’t approve of me, but I figured it was because I wasn’t quiet what she wanted for her daughter. And I had a hard time faulting her for that (maybe problems left over from my own experiences).
    I tried to approach my significant other(or not so much any more) with this information and she blamed me for finding an excuse. I came to her and said, I am leaving soon but there is something bothering me. Your sister seems to be stuck in life (she dropped out of CC, due to the mother) and I am afraid you are reverting to a person you worked so hard not to be. I will be gone, but I hope you can find a way to become independent from your mother – and I’d like you to watch after your sister and make sure she goes back to school (it’s currently her plan, but her mother has a way of stopping those plans time and again).

    She says, “maybe there’s a problem” but I can tell she isn’t really accepting even “maybe”. She is seeing a therapist who is apparently working on her ability to be independent (maybe the therapist understands, I don’t know – I don’t know anymore then what she tells me – I try not to pry). I suppose I should also mention, during this conversation she also said multiple times “but you kicked me out” (because I kicked her out, which I did and now regret as I see more of the problems and where they come from – but I also think that means I am no longer the person to help her).

    Is there anything I can do at this point, should I leave it up to therapist, or is the fact she has reverted probably a sign that she wont heal now – after all she tried and failed, this is easier?

    • Figured some clarification was needed on some points. Also a few extras.
      She is seeing a new therapist, not that same one that told the mother everything.
      My plans to move away are pretty much set in stone, I don’t think I can stay again without risking even more harm to myself.
      The mother had told her at one point she probably wont do anything great.
      The sister had almost moved out at one point, she was offered a promotion that came with a 2 bedroom apartment(free). She quit and took a job at a book store instead. The excuse was to focus on school, but she also quit that at the same time. She went from $16/hour to minimum wage, and hasn’t done anything to further herself since then.

      One good thing I do see. The two of them are partying a lot. While it hurts to think she is having fun without me, and doing things I begged her to do (like karaoke and camping, we never did these things even once.). I am happy to see her making friends, and experiencing more then just fear.
      But she is also experiencing a lot of fear right now. She is currently getting treatment for a sore the size of a quarter that formed due to stress, or so the doctors say. Never seen anything that bad on a person except at an old folks home.

      I’ve also come to the conclusion, I may be BPD or NPD myself. Which wouldn’t help her much. I lean more towards BPD, because I think I have genuine emotion – or I like to think so.

      • Another thing or so, before meeting me – she was addicted to pain killers.
        After 1 year in the relationship, she was no longer anorexic and she stopped taking pain killers.
        She also use to say, “I don’t even know who I am, so how can I say”. That was said pretty often to many topics.

        Out of 9 years worth of christmas presents, the mother didn’t like any that we gave her. Including a $250 gift card for massages. I was never even involved in picking out her gift.
        This last Christmas (two months after we broke up), the mother apparently couldn’t stop talking about how nice a gift she got. First one she likes happens to be right after we break up.

        I thought I should also say why we broke up. These last few years she has been regressing. Eventually it got to a point I couldn’t handle. I use to have explosive episodes, but I got that under control – I haven’t yelled in long while and I stopped disagreeing all together. Lots of anger from me early in the relationship, hence I think I am BPD.
        After one night where she had an explosive episode herself(well she had more then one later in the relationship). One of our neighbors called the police. I was arrested, even though I did nothing except run away from her(and she chased me through literally every room in the house). I didn’t tell the police what happened and neither did she. So they took the guy – me. I was however let go with in a few hours as there was no evidence to hold me on.
        When talking to her about the situation later, she said it was my fault.

        For the first three or so years of our relationship. She was a wonderful person and even cut most contact with her mother. She would see her, but only rarely.
        Later in the relationship, she blamed me for not realizing the full situation (of course, she never told me – but the signs were there as mentioned above). She then started seeing her mother more and more and the blaming me more and more, and the relationship went downhill from there. Prior to this she also use to stand up for me in front of her family, after this she stopped standing up for me (the mother had poisoned the entire family against me, had from day one – and I thought I deserved it).

        The incident with the police was probably the tipping point for me, but there was also the fact she was constantly demeaning me now. Everything I wanted to do was now stupid, my ideas were stupid, and even going out in public with me was embarrassing.
        She was now harboring a lot of resentment towards me and I her.

        Another thing I did wrong was helping her avoid therapy. She had a lot of issues telling the truth (yet another sign I missed). I did notice some narcissistic behavior from her even early on and recognized it as such, but it also seemed something she was actively trying to overcome – she even told me the truth sometimes. But I also figured in stressful situations she would lie to the therapist and she agreed(rightfully or not).
        I do believe she has been honest with me about nearly everything, even if she wasn’t always honest from the get go. Even later in the relationship when she resented me, she still sometimes did things without expecting anything in return and at her own sacrifice. There were also times when I knew I was expected to return the favor. But I never looked at the mother.

        Ohh one other thing I forgot to mention. There were points of financial generosity from the mother, which was the way she re-ignited their relationship. Especially when she was in school, things got tight a few times. We were okay as long as we stayed in budget, but the mother would undermine that by saying her daughter deserved these things – then would give us a few hundred dollars. While I was happy at the time, because it made the daughter happy – I realize now that it was a tactic used to separate us and make me look bad.

        My big fears with all this, I know I am a slightly controlling person – so that’s probably not good for her mental health.
        But then her mother isn’t good either.
        Her sister is unable to help.
        Who else does she have, besides her therapist?

        Would moving away, then sending her texts every day to tell her “she’s smart” or “pretty” or a “great person” help?
        Is there some other auxiliary role I can play or do I need to move on?

        I love her very deeply and blame myself for not seeing the help she needed, but I am also afraid of my controlling nature. But then I am just as afraid of leaving her in the situation she is in.

        Any help would be greatly appreciated. God I love her, please tell me there is some way for her to be okay even if it means I can never talk to her again.

        • Ohh, I was also the one to recommend her moving back in with her mother, instead of getting a place on her own.
          As I previously said, I thought the world of the mother – until the mask came off. She had always seemed like a nearly perfect mother to me. And I always put off things like her daughter dropping out of school as something besides her.

        • whether she is ok or not is up to her. You can’t help her. even if the two of you are living together and working together and always together – you can NOT help her. we are all on an independent journey and she has hes and you have yours. so live your best life and say a prayer for her. and get on with your life.

          • Fair enough, thank you for the response.
            In response to you other comments. I will be seeking therapy asap, more of a monetary issue right now.
            I am working on picking up the pieces and pursuing a career I always wanted. That does give me some happiness. I will try to focus on the fact that my happiness is my own.

            Thank you again, especially since it was free advice.

            • get started as soon as you can. good luck

      • please don’t self diagnose…work with a therapist who understands all your issues and can help you recover. it’s important that you live your best life – whatever that looks like.

    • Justin, the hardest thing for any of us to do is to allow the ones we love or care about to find their own way in life. Sounds like she has made a choice. So now you have to live your life. there is nothing you can do for her. but you can start to take good care of you and heal your own issues. good luck

  37. Hello,
    I feel as do many the role of the scapegoat and the narcisitic mother at the helm. She is good at what she does and my siblings are or seem to all be followers of her lead. Infact my father retired about 10 years ago and recently I told him he too was morphing into my mother. He basically said yes and feel too that he is just becoming a drone follower.
    How can I as the olders son and scapegoat go about shedding light on my siblings without actually tasting that mom is a raging narcissist and in the same time not push my family further into her camp. That all tend, especially the golden son, my younger recently married younger brother, stand up for her every time. Infact, he stated that he was not standing up for her even though it was a clear case of just that. It is a mess and I have been working on boundsry setting, but my mother is still holding firm and the smear campaign is in full swing.

    • unfortunately, I don’t know of any way to change her mind, except to quit trying. Live your life to the best of your wishes and allow her to fall into place. the problem with these roles is that they’re often hard wired into the family system and don’t change unless there is a death or an abandonment or she gets therapy. hard to hear, I know but it’s the truth as I understand it.

      get the help you need to live your best life and prove them all wrong. success is the best bet for you.

  38. How does one start? How does the family scapegoat begin to heal? I’m 54 years old, I walked away from my entire family except for my beloved little sister, she walked away with me, this was 10 years ago and still I am drowning in self loathing and pain. Why can’t I forgive myself or love myself? I am lost and I am so tired of the lifelong struggle.

    • your family’s programming is deep and ingrained. you need to work with a professional who is skilled at this kind of work with family roles. it’s not easy and it’s not quick but it does work.

      good luck

  39. This was the first article I’ve read that shows the interrelationship of the scapegoat and rebel. I fulfilled both “functions” in my family of origin with an abusive stepfather & chemically dependent mother. I have developed the scapegoat function once more with my brother & family who have tremendous dysfunction in their family. They have nearly cut off all contact with me. As sad as this makes me (they are my only bio family left), I would rather work through my grief vs. put up with their stuff anymore. I was interested that one must get through their anger to get to their pain…That has always been my challenge as anger surfaces first. I am forever thankful to have some clarity on this and that I have broken some family patterns of dysfunction. I have been clean and sober for 34 yrs. and that certainly helps with inner vision and healing. Thank you for your information.

    • first of all, congratulations on your sobriety. that’s great and is the start of everything, as you know.

      second, i’m delighted this article was helpful to you. yes, there is a relationship between scapegoat and rebel and it’s a hard row to hoe, especially if we try to life up to the family’s expectations of us.

      I used anger to avoid my pain and hurt, so I am familiar with that coping mechanism. it’s a tough habit to break, but it is possible. I rarely go there anymore. in fact, if I feel anger, I ask myself what’s really wrong and try to get to the underlying emotion. took a lot of practice and work but it’s been worth it. I went from being the family hero, always POd that others didn’t appreciate all I did for them to a calm quiet woman who no longer needs to ‘save’ anyone. You can do it.

      good luck

    • I too, am the families scapegoat and have been all of my life. I am in my fifties and I have wondered why it has taken me so long to finally “get it”. It hit me about 4 months ago. I figured out that my brother, the golden child, myself the scapegoat, my sisters were lost children and my narcissit mother . My late father was also a narcissit, abuser and child molester. My mother divorced my father when I was 5. She knew what he had molested my sister and yet she made me go for visits on the weekends. I would cry and beg her not to make me. She would get mad and say I was a baby and she needed to be by herself. This happened until I was old enough to work and then it was up to me to “earn my keep”. I remember getting very sick in grade school and needed medical attention. She was so mad that I was making her take off work and costing her money for medical care. I remember going to my friends house everyday before school and her sweet mother would make me breakfast because I was always hungry. In the summers I would be forced to go to church camp for 2 weeks every summer so that my two sisters and mom could go on vacation. So neglect and abuse was normal for me. As an adult I had to deal with her issues, a painful breakup with her boyfriend, the remarriage of my father, not having enough money, not having enough food, and everything was on my shoulders. I worked 2 jobs when I was 14 so that I could pay for all of my school expenses, church offerings, and any other essentials. The golden child, went to college, help manage my fathers store, and got a new car. My two sisters, married when they were 16 so they left home. I had a journal that I had and it was invaded by my mother. She was always going thru my drawers and my personal things. I had a childhood and adulthood from hell. When she got ill 20 years ago, I took care of her for 2 years while she recovered. I was her slave 24 hours a day. My siblings and I have never been close. Matter of fact, we can’t stand one another. I always wondered why that was until I started do reading and talking to a therapist. My mother started her smear campaign 20 years ago and has continued it today. I have developed serious health problems of my own so before she went for her heart surgery I told her that I can not take care of her any longer and I need to take care of myself now. She went into a NM rage and got on the phone and started talking to her flying monkeys. I received emails from my family about how mean and unfeeling I am to my sweet, kind mother. Then came Christmas this year, and she was in a rehab facility on Christmas. I told her that I would be gone for Christmas eve to be with my children two states away and I would be home for Christmas to see her. She agreed and acted like she was ok with it. Then while driving back home on Christmas, I called her. She said she was with my brother, the golden child’. She got defensive and told me that no one should be alone at Christmas. I told her I was only 1 hour away. When I asked her why she could not tell me that she was going to his house her reponse was that I was selfish and mean and started to cry. The next day I went in to see her and she was pouting. She said she had the best time with my brother and his family. The best Christmas ever! I told her that I was not happy about having to leave my family to come see her and to find out she was not at the rehab center. The smear campaign started again, she called my aunt, sisters, brother, her friend and by the end of the day my name was mud again. When I do not do exactly what she wants, it starts………….I can not stand to be around her. She is such a liar. She gossips, slanders, and spreads her poison on everyone she communicates with. Unfortunately, she lives right beside of me, she gets my mail when I am not home, she comes in my home because she has a key, she goes thru my personal belongings when I am not home. I will not let my siblings on my property because she has access to everything.
      The older she gets the worse it gets. Anybody out there like me?

      • your story is awful but is not uncommon. and unfortunately, you cant change your mother or her way of manipulating your family. all you can do is get the help you need to feel better and stop trying to help her. You are branded selfish regardless of what you do, so you might as well do as you choose, because your help is never enough.

        not everyone is going to like you. they aren’t going to approve but you will have self-respect and freedom. but a therapist is needed to start the work. you don’t know what you don’t know and will need help to figure it all out.

        good luck

  40. Very insightful, profoundly helpful. Thank you!

  41. Hello, I have just returned from my oldest brother’s funeral. He was very dear to me, and was killed in a vehicle accident at the age of 69. I’ve lost my other two older brothers as well.
    During the several days at which my surviving eight siblings and I stayed together before my brother’s funeral recently, there was a sudden blow-up, and I was yelled at and then ostracized in general. Because I have been describe within my family as being”successful”–I’ve just retired as an English prof and I have sweet kids–and have been a “second mother” to my younger siblings, it was only now, on this occasion of my oldest brother’s death, that I have realized THAT I HAVE BEEN FOR MANY YEARS, SINCE CHILDHOOD, THE FAMILY SCAPEGOAT. I may not be making a lot of sense, and can’t bear just now to write a lot of detail, because my POINT just now is to say to all of you that I finally, after being home now for some days, have searched the web in order to find a way of understanding what’s happened, what’s always happened . . . And I only want to tell you that each one of your posts has touched my heart and has helped me. And I want to send each of you love. And thanks.

    • Suzanne, I am so glad my posts have been of some help to you. being the scapegoat is a hard role. Clearly you’ve not taken that family role into your personal life away from them. Congratulations. It still hurts when they turn on you, though. doesn’t it? God Bless.

  42. Louise,

    Thank you for this post. I agree with all that was written, but there is one result from being scapegoated by one’s own family that is not mentioned.
    I was scapegoated growing up and I learned to tolerate it. Having lived it throughout my childhood condtioned me to accept, tolerate and endure the same type of scapegoating as an adult as when I was a child.
    Until I realized (well into my 50’s) that being labeled a black sheep was not a deserved and earned title, I just just tolerated scapegoating as my lot in life and did nothing to stand up for myself until a couple of years ago.
    I didn’t understand until then, that my alcoholic mother was narcissistic and needed someone vulnerable and sensitive to single out.
    I was the baby of the family and also the most sensitive, so it made me her easy target.
    I was a victim physically, verbally and emotionally as an adult through much of my life and just tolerated it.
    In my late 40’s, I again was a target of vicious slander and scapegoating and did nothing to stop it nor stand up for myself for over a decade, until recently.
    What I personally have come to learn is that I was “conditioned” to accept being scapegoated growing up. That’s why as an adult, I was constantly victimized.
    Once I realized that my reaction (doing nothing) was a learned behavior that I needed to change, I began to stand up for myself.


    • you are absolutely right – we learn these ways of coping and are conditioned to put up with them. thanks for sharing

  43. Hi Louise,

    Thanks for this insightful post. As the family scapegoat/black sheep, it has been very painful having to cope with the level of abuse heaped on my shoulders – sexual, emotional, physical and financial – coupled with the denial that any abuse took place within my “perfect family”. The really painful thing is acknowledging the way this role has played out in other situations where I have been attacked and then ostracised for blowing the whistle on inappropriate behaviour. I accept that my family will not change, but unlike your suggestion, I refused to be pulled into the role of hero when my mother became ill and my father suggested that I should care for her, and I have recognised my tendency to be the caretaker for needy people rather than focus on meeting my own needs first. My mother’s last comment to me was that Dad had removed all my pictures from the family album because I was too ugly. Lovely! Growing up in such a system has encouraged me to be alone rather than fudging compliance, denial or approval to gain acceptance. This can be a lonely journey. Think of a tiny spirit in a body that is layered with multiple wounds and projections and understand that it takes a while to work through the pain to arrive back at your core. Now I am wary of belonging to any group that normalises weird or cruel behaviour in the name of being loyal to the mob. Sometimes the needs and expectations of the individual clashes with the group, and belonging can come at too great a cost. One of my favourite movies is “Schindler’s List”, which outlines your very claim that the rebel/golden boy can change to be the hero. I prefer to believe that we have a potential to be many warring things within one body, and each role can serve a purpose in different situations. To yourself be true is only helpful once you know yourself, and being stuck in a sick system will require the strength of Hercules to pull away and discover who you are and what you really want and deserve. Abusers have a wonderful knack of denying patent truths and then presenting as poor victims and casting blame on the very person they injured. Grown ups are responsible and feel guilt and express remorse. Some people never arrive at this stage no matter how old they are, and leave a trail of pain behind them. Maybe the pressure to appear good and perfect creates a weird scenario where some people are afraid to come clean and admit they made a mistake or committed a crime. Better to punish or destroy the one who could expose the truth than suffer the consequences of your sins. That is why silence is such an insidious part of the system. Nobody dares to speak their mind or say what they know is really happening for fear of being ostracised or punished by the leader of the mob.

    • The rules of these families are don’t trust, don’t talk and don’t feel. sounds to me like you’ve adopted these as your way of being in the world.

      I will never understand how families treat each other. it’s always amazing to me how unkind we can be to our loved ones but it’s so common.

      sounds like you’ve figured out your family fairly well. awareness is the first step. good luck as you take the rest of them.

  44. I am married to a man who was made the family scapegoat. I thought everything was better now until recently.

    His father was forced to marry his mother because he was 20 and she was 15. It was that or get in trouble with the law. Then he left for Vietnam (I believe his parents also forced this). He came back after a breakdown of some sort (FIL won’t even acknowledge he was over there) and was an angry alcoholic. My husband was the focus of his rage and discontent as he felt that this kid ruined his life.

    Five years later, BIL was born and became the Golden Child. It didn’t take too long for BIL to realize that he could get away with anything as long as he had my husband to blame. Even if my husband complained to his parents about his brother’s treatment of him, they would respond with, “What did you do to HIM?” “You are older. You should know better.” or “Who taught him that??” while glaring at my husband.

    He was very physically abusive to my husband. One of the stories I’ve been told that seemed to bother my husband the most was when he was getting beat and a bunch of the kids were outside listening. He has told me that his dad would beat him until he “screamed like a girl” and then would stop. The next day, when going to school, the kids made fun of him for screaming and for his black eye and fat lip.

    My husband became the rebel/black sheep. Started smoking at 8. Started drinking at 12 when his mother cheated and moved out/in with another man. She left both kids behind for some reason. My husband stayed for another year or two but got to the point that he knew that THIS time when his father was coming to beat him, he was either going to fight back or get to the phone. He got to the phone and called his mother to go live with her.

    She was the classic enabler. She was so happy to have at least one of her children back (FIL had much more money and so was able to win a custody fight) that she allowed my husband to do anything he wanted. His stepdad was only 10 years older than my husband and him and his buddies thought it was funny to have a drunk, stoned young teen around. Once my husband started getting in trouble for his actions outside the home, they flipped the script and forbid him to do all the things that he was accustomed to them providing. They also threw him into treatment with no notice.

    He ended up moving out when he was 17. He pretty much raised himself when he was living with his mother because her and stepdad worked the evening shift.

    Anyway, when I met him (15 years ago), he didn’t have a relationship with either parent. I thought it was healthier if he did. Boy was I wrong.

    His brother has been spiraling into an alcoholic and drug induced pit the past five years since he had a brain aneyrism. This has spiked in the past year resulting in two assault charges (both against different women). I have noticed in the past that his brother would exhibit very strong jealousy when we would go to visit FIL. BIL was always there because FIL enables him and lets him live there whenever he has no other option – even at age 35, this is quite often.

    BIL also decided to get a pit bull for some reason. So the last time he got kicked out of his girlfriend’s house, he could not go live with FIL as he had the dog and FIL lives in an apartment. My husband had been following his dream of fixing up places to flip. His and BIL’s friend gave him a mobile home to do this to as well. Friend had previously offered it to BIL but FIL said it needed too much work. But with BIL homeless, FIL encouraged him to go talk with my husband to work out arrangements for living in the mobile home he was fixing up.

    BIL first texted three times wanting to come over. My husband responded NO in three different ways. Then BIL asked if he was drunk. Hubby thought that was weird but just answered no. BIL came over anyway, reeking like the booze he had sucked down on his walk. He first asked my husband if he and his dog could live there. My husband said no because he was trying to GET the dog smell out. Then he said he’d pay my husband. My husband said that he hasn’t even stuck to his agreement to pay FIL back for the lawyers he bought to get BIL out of jail (he’s on probation and isn’t supposed to be drinking).

    This answer enraged BIL and my husband told him he’d better leave because he could see BIL was getting extremely upset. BIL lunged at my husband. My husband is a very strong guy (welder/construction) and a lot taller as well, so he got the best of BIL and held him down. BIL was crying and saying, “I love you!” “You’re my brother!” My husband asked him if he was done and wanted to sit down and talk like men. BIL said “Yes. I love you!”

    Husband let him up and BIL attacked again. He had my husband on the floor, choking him and whispering “I am going to kill you now.” It ended up with husband having a broken rib and 10 dislocated ribs, broken new glasses and a broken toe plus other abrasions, etc. I talked husband into filing a police report but he didn’t until the next day.

    First MIL said we probably saved BIL’s life. Then she took all the information she gathered from my husband and I and told BIL so he would have his “story” straight when the cops went for his statement. FIL called and said we needed to show “compassion” for BIL.

    I can’t make a long story short but maybe a bit shorter by stating that now everyone believes BIL is innocent and husband is the bad guy. Since then BIL has been arrested again on a DWI charge. FIL went to bail BIL out of jail when their grandmother was on her deathbed. She died and had a funeral without any contact from FIL or BIL letting my husband know about his grandmother.

    BIL is walking around free as a bird and with a big smile on his face. He has his enabling family still. My husband is crushed that not only was he attacked by his brother but that his entire family chooses to believe him instead of my husband (who has no prior criminal record besides as a minor).

    I have no idea how to help my husband with this pain and I feel like it is my fault for encouraging him to have a relationship with these toxic people.

    • sounds like an ongoing tragic story. I feel sorry for your husband. Unfortunately, he can’t change his family and neither can you. no matter what he does, how good he is, they will find a way to blame him for everything – that’s how the family dynamics work. I wouldn’t encourage him to see them. I would change my phone number so they can’t call. I wouldn’t let them in. because one time they’re really going to up the ante and your hubby could be at risk in a big way. don’t go there.

      remember, it doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t change a pickle back to a cucumber. you can’t change this family either. they are what they are. so don’t waste your time or energy.

      encourage him to go to therapy and go too. it’s important for him to find the wonderful man you know is there and for him to heal from the trauma of how he’s been treated.

      good luck to both of you

  45. Is the family secret often mental illness/personality disorders?

    • Yes, often they are.

  46. Hi Louise describes my upbringing. Im 40 now and all my siblings including my older sister ignore my existence. I’m the second eldest of five, always v quiet tried to make peace over the years. Read loads of books trying to find answers when growing up. I have degrees but never got a well done or celebration for any achievement i tried it was never good enough or my workload was always thought of as less than others or so my mother intimated. Although things have always been like walking on eggshells they got worse when just before my 40th birthday. I moved back home ill with depression &hypothyroid expecting a little understanding & time till i got a plan of where to move next and well and job. Instead I was told I had to be gone in a month 2dys before my 40th no birthday. The pressure piled on was ignored except to be told by mother repeatedly for 3weeks if I wasnt gone in a few wks my belongings would be left out and I’d have to go live in a homeless shelter. I couldnt live with the pressure and threats I spoke to my gp and took the first available flat I could to try and get well without threats thinking my parents would care and keep in touch. They didnt. I had a leak in my flat for over two weeks I had nowhere to go when builders were trying to fix it so went to my parents hse four days on the trot for only a few hours (nobody ws in half the time) .On fourth day I asked my dad if i could stay the night saying was tired and missed the dogs would like to soend time with them ( at this stage I had been 2months in flat no ph calls visits from parents)he said i dont know i have to ask your mother.A 15 minute ph call ensued between both at the end he said i could stay but had to be gone in the morninh. The next day my mother gave out to me saying i was there too often that werk that i wasnt allowed there any wkend or for longer than 20 mins that it went against proffessional advice. I was v upset i never did anything wrong disobeyed them when growing up, i always helped out defended my mother &siblings when my father used to go mental, i took the beatings. Now my mother is treating me like i’m an outsider a criminal. I wasnt allowed home for christmas. Despite was obvious i had hit rock bottom depression loneliness wise. I was left on my own and tried to take my own life (for the fourth time first time i was six)I took hundred pills. My coysins tried phoning me two dys later realusing something was wrong. Took me to their hse for one night and arranged councelling for me. In the meantime they tried to tell my parents I was v ill i heard the ph calls they didnt want to know or care. My aunt later told me what had been said. But to please my aunt they did come and go to the hospital with me but didnt speak to me. The dr spoke to them told them to lay off me with the threats said to them i was fragile my whole life and they made me that way that what they had said done last summer and xmas was beyond cruel. He told me they didnt believe him and didnt care or have my best interests at heart that I shouldnt be living on my own ( my mother had frightened me during the summer telling me pple didnt like me that i should live on my own) he said i especially shouldnt be on my own for those next few days but that my parents hadnt cared or indicated to him they would have me for few days(it was 28th of dec).Unfortunately i couldnt stay at my cousins their hse was full for xmas and they couldnt belive even though i tried to explain that my entire family wouldnt help me. I asked my mother that night if i could go home for just one night to spend time with the dogs i raised..She said no. One of the dogs since died a month ago I went with my mother to the vets noone else wanted too. I offered to go in with the dog myself as she said she didnt really want to. Yet that eve when i was v upset and askec if i could stay the night and be with the daughter of the dog my mother said no i had to beg. She spent the night ringing my other siblings in front of me asking if they were ok. She never asked me once or spoke to me. I wasnt allowed put on the tv or radio for distraction. The next day she told me to leave v early. I never heard from them again. I went to vist the other dog one eveing only to find my parents had invited my siblings over for a fancy slap up meal. Its all very hurtful. I can never go home to my family home or village for a visit or family occasions or a break fir a weekend. I never thought my parents would cut me off like this and leave me all alone and not care. It came as a shock through councelling these last four months to realise they dont care about my life or want me in theirs. They put on an act in ph calls with relatives and at funerals and a show of solidarity with my siblings as if to make out I’m the problem. My councellor says most people in my place would have nothing to do with them. Im in conflict with myself i cant forget my family i still love them but im soo hurt i cant forgive them and let go. I still want yo see the other remaining dog and still have some belongings in the family home yet when i go even for 20min i cant bring myself to say hello or be polite to my parents. It hurts to much i just sit in the garden with the dog or if shes up to it take her out for a walk.
    Still my mother makes a snide remark such as you just cant call out without lettings us know first and tells me to go. None of this applys to my other siblings who can visit when they want for how long they want. Im constantly walking k eggshells still with them trying to recover. Ive been told i was mentally & emotionally abused by both parents all my life and physically by my father till i was i my 30’s and that because of this my siblings see me as the problem. I’m a very shy person with few friends and social life. My cousins havent been in touch i tried reaching out to them. Ive very little support ive one aunt and one friend who try a little. Ive decided to try volunteer sime time with a charity but the loss of my family & the dogs weighs heavily on me. Im finding trying to have the will to live and a reason to whole life i spent trying to fix my family make things better only now i know i cant fix them and have accepted that but im lost now. Any advice in how to recover welcome. Thanks

    • Your therapist is right. Heal yourself and you will no longer tolerate their behaviour but you have to value yourself more than them. They won’t change. Our challenge is to accept that and get on with our lives. Good luck

  47. Thank you Louise. As the second child of five children things were more difficult to define. However, my older brother was hurt by my father who wanted him to be more athletic (and male) then he was. He is artistic and musical but was never any good at sport. I was more intelligent than my brother which initially endeared my father to me. However, my mother, who loved my brother, got angry with me instead of my father about this dynamic. Than, when my younger twin sisters were born, I think it gave them both the opportunity to reject both myself and my brother. Like an unspoken pact. That is all ancient history now. However, your reference to rebel/ scapegoat turned hero rings true for me. I spent many years reading material about narcissistic families and getting to grips with my upbringing. Our younger siblings have grown up despising both my older brother and myself and regard us as failures. But now, in middle age, I am basically happy despite a rocky start, and I have helped my elderly parents though some rocky times. And despite my sad upbringing, I still love them both and understand they had rubbish childhoods themselves, particularly my dad. I just hope I am not damaging my own children. However, now, they are able to tell me that they love me and they do not seem to judge me so badly anymore. I think somehow, we have all been victims of something very negative.

    • I think you are absolutely right: bad upbringing keeps hurting children for many generations. I’m glad you’ve made such good progress with your kids.

  48. Thank you for writing this. I am so grieved to see my suspicions in writing. Actually, I have had a wonderful life, and I attribute it to knowing Jesus Christ, but I always struggle with feelings of rejection and confusion as to why my parents can not love me. I married a great man and have 7 wonderful, beautiful children, but my parents continue to criticize (with laughter and smiles usually) things about me. Logically, I can look and see how well my life has turned out, but feel so unimportant most of the time. I stay sad that my parents cannot approve of my husband or children….. or me. I desire to honor them, but don’t feel safe. I desperately want to be past this.

    • Have you considered some of the ramifications of their behavior? sounds like in honoring them, you allow them the freedom to continue to treat you with less than the utmost respect. I believe that good boundaries are necessary for adult relationships. They may not like it, but you will feel much better for having them. hard work to implement but so necessary.

      I’m sorry your life is so difficult. Stay strong

    • I too suffer drastically like you. I am probably even older as I have a grandchild who is my second one because my first one died. It hurt me that my mother didn’t cry or act very upset. She tells me not to talk about him but I want him to be a positive experience. I tried to save his life but I pretty much raised myself and anyone could do anything to me and nobody cared, so since my mother still tells everyone what a terrible person I am and even runs me down to my own children. My sons wife wouldn’t listen to me. Then about 8 months later my sisters new husbands brother died and my mother cried for days. She tells me my husband doesn’t want to be married to me and that I am not capable of love. She told me my grandson was going to die repeatedly while I told her I was going to love him every second he was here and he deserved to be rejoiced. I am so angry at her but it does nobody any good at this point since it’s the end of her life. Get away from your family. I clung to mine waiting to be accepted only to cry over and over then still knowing I’m in the abyss. No family to count on. The terrible things that have happened to me and no where to turn. My wonderful husband tells me I have a family and I wish it would be that easy and it’s getting much better. I went through his things and saw to my surprise he had been captain of the football team. I never knew that hated me married the captain! I have true love now. They still have their true because it’s their love to hate. I wish I knew you and could adopt you into my family as I don’t have much of one being disassociated with most.

  49. Very good post. Is it possible to play both the scapegoat and the hero? The big secret in my family is that the authority figures see themselves as inferior and failures in life, so they try to make the younger children feel like crap as well by playing mind games. I was/is the scapegoat and the hero. The hero because I own a successful business, very ambitious, and graduated from college. but the scapegoat because I always speak my mind, not afraid of anything, and very vocal about the family’s dysfunction. I am also very independent and not joined at the hip to my family; independence is the biggest threat to a dysfunctional family. Even the main “hero” is dependent and have to make grand appearances every so often to make the family appear healthy and thriving. My family on my father’s side (emotionally absent) wanted me to act as the “stand in” hero….the runner-up hero, when the main hero is away or for some reason unable to fufill her duties. I refused to play this game, in order to keep my own mental health in tact. Its actually funny to watch, because I am self aware, and the others are not. They don’t know whether to praise me or to start gossiping/backstabbing me. I had two choices; put up with it, or walk away, and I have decided to do both. Half of my family I still talk to, but the other half are blocked out of my life forever, and the ones who are not blocked, are only allowed access to me WITH boundaries. I do not attend family events (as this is where most of the dysfunction is acted out), but i will organize a family event; and the organized event has to be on my turf and the family has to play by my rules, or risk being kicked out of my life for good. This is how I deal with my mildly dyfunctional family.

    • The hero and the scapegoat are hard roles to blend. The hero handles the stress by being successful. Sounds like you’ve mastered that role very well. Your decision on who to relate to also sounds like a very healthy one. Toxic people are deadly, even if they are our relatives. It sounds as if you’ve found a way to handle all that dysfunction that works for you. Truly, it doesn’t sound like the scapegoat role at all. rather it sounds like your family may be trying to ‘bring you down’, whether you deserve it or not. the big rule of dysfunctional families is that we all have to keep the secret in order to carry on the lie about our family. You’re not doing that. Well done.

  50. This is me- my father was an BPD HPD overt narcissist-my mother has Aspergers and covert NPD and is extremely religiously rigid- I was the hero in elementary years but had a little sister (who is now the golden child) who lied constantly or provoked, taunted, mocked to get me to react and then I would be beaten severely while she stood smiling like a cheshire cat. I believe she also has NPD. I have adhd but loved learning as it was the only experience I could get doing anything and was a straight A student-overachiever-but we moved constantly and I was bullied terribly. I was creative-won contests at school and church wrote and directed a play at 10 yrs old at church but was never allowed to participate in any activities outside of normal church/school hours. I was not allowed to explore any interests and lived at the whims of my mentally ill parents. I had big dreams of getting an education or doing something creative and getting away from them forever. I was a really good kid-obedient and loving. Between the abuse and the restrictive environment and the blatantly unfair treatment of me regarding my conniving little sister (several relatives saw what was happening and tried to step in but were afraid of my father) and the fact that I was not allowed to pursue any activities while my siblings were given expensive activities -lessons and equipment-instruments etc… I rebelled. I saw through the “religion” at an early age and no matter what I did -no matter how good I was I was always beaten and abused physically and emotionally in a wide variety of very sick ways. I spent my life in a state of near panic never knowing when i would be yanked up and taken off for ‘discipline” . At 13 I stood up to them and when they tried to beat me into submission I ran away. They hated me for not upholding the image of the ‘wonderful christian family” they were trying to portray. I wanted to get away from their insanity at all costs and left to live with a boyfriend. I asked my mother to help me get on birth control but she said NO that would be her condoning sex outside marriage. I had 2 kids by the time I was 20 with (big surprise) a violent abusive alcoholic narcissist who refused to pay child support. He was wonderful and charming until I was pregnant with my first child then his true colors came out. I had to go back to the insanity to survive and they were only too happy to have me back because this time I needed them and they could torture me. My kids and I were forced to deal with all types of bizarre situations-they sabotaged me constantly-treated me like I was defective- undermined my parenting etc… They would throw me out the night before I was to start a new job or a month before I had enough saved up and finally gotten things in order to get my own place. Every time I was almost on my feet they threw me out. They wanted me to fail-I went from one bad situation to another and could never get anywhere safe and secure to get an education or get on my feet. Often we had to live with strangers or in intolerable situations. One of my children was molested by a roommate who went into the kids room in the middle of the night. My other child has suffered other damage psychologically from seeing me abused by his father and my parents and from all the instability that I won’t go into but is irreparable. I was under huge amounts of stress every day. I stuck it out for my kids but after they were grown had some issues with alcohol which I have overcome but not before 2 DUI’s and losing my license and job. I am now living stranded in a rural area with no car -No public transportation out here-barely able to stay in my home. I have always been underemployed -I have lots of creative and design abilities. I invented something that has a great deal of commercial potential but have no money for patent-my mother offered to help me get a patent because a friend of hers told her the idea was brilliant and could make alot of money. I was thrilled she finally believed in me and she gave me a couple grand to pay the first half of the patent fees-then she tried to force me to participate in a lie that would have made her look great but hurt one of my children terribly-I refused and she told me to forget the patent. I researched patent writing and was able to draft a provisional document but am not qualified to write the claims portion or create the drawings necessary that will meet USPTO standards. She was thrilled to see me crushed. I have tried so hard to be successful but they created a feeling in me when I was small that something was wrong with me and that everything I wanted was totally unattainable. That feeling has followed me into adulthood-for me just having a place to live all these years was an achievement. My parent’s ruined my life simply because they could. My mother denies all of it she still claims we were a “close loving christian family”. My sister is a pathological liar and next to my parents the sickest person I know. She has used her advantage with my parents to rise to the level of a waitress who rents out my mother’s basement. I have been at the mercy of some financial help from my mother as I am trapped with no car or license and doing phone sales and other low paying low level jobs from home. I am an adult and I feel just as powerless as I did when I was a kid. She plays games with my life offering small amounts of help grudgingly and it comes at a huge cost. She loves to give it and take it away. She would have nothing except for the efforts of my father who was marginally successful but ended up alone as a hoarder. She and my sister are dullards who were always jealous and threatened by my intellect and creativity. She is still in control of my life and after all these years I am still under her thumb-I feel like a cat toy. I have asked her to help me consistently for a few months as I came up with a plan to get out of this mess and of course she said a big NO. If I have enough money to but anything more than toothpaste or toilet paper she crushes me. I am not some spoiled brat looking for mommy to pay my bills. i have been trying to get away from these crazy people since I was a kid. I have worked hard all my life sometimes 2-3 jobs at a time. I started off with 2 kids and no money and was never able to get stable-I didn’t want to get pregnant I was just desperate to get away from the insanity. My kids father told me he would help me go to school. He never payed child support and I was on my own totallly unprepared. No matter how hard I try I can’t get anything to work out for myself. I am now dealing with stress related illness with no insurance. I live in poverty. My parents had many opportunities to help me get on my feet but they feel I deserve to suffer for running away and getting pregnant. My life has been a nightmare and a total waste of human potential. I wanted to be a writer but between depression and scrambling to make a living (not to mention extremely low self-esteem) -I have failed so much I don’t even make an effort anymore because I have no hope anything would ever work for me-I have never even felt like a “real person”. Of course they shake their heads at my failures “If only I could get it together”. I find myself extremely angry at them for scapegoating me all my life. I also have been really angry at relatives who have acknowledged the whole thing and apologized for not helping me when I was small. The police and child protection were notified repeatedly but believed their lies that I was ” emotionally disturbed” an d lied for attention. I did not write this for sympathy-If anything I have understated how bad things were/are. I find it unbelievable that they sabotaged my whole life. I feel like it’s too late to fix things and ever live the life I wanted. I have so many creative ideas that go unrealized because I do not have the time-the energy-the means or the confidence to move forward. My father is dead. my mother a secretary who has some money only because of his death. It is my blood money. she sacrificed me to his insanity so she could have her bills paid and not have to work. How dare I complain about the bizarre situation and abuse” I have 2 brothers (one died a few years ago-the lost child) they saw what was happening and knew it was wrong. I have one brother now who is loving and supportive-he was the clown/mascot and is trying to figure out what happened to his life. My mother has been a monster to me and my kids but most of the world thinks she is a saint. I am desperate to find a way to heal but she won’t allow it -she just denies everything and when confronted with proof she flies into a narcissistic rage or runs away-My brother and I have been trying to get her to sit down and talk but she refuses. Is there any way for me to heal myself -I have no money for therapy and I don’t think she or my rotten to the core sister will ever get real. I wrote this to document what happened to me they have told people for years I am crazy and I wanted someone to hear about the experience from the point of view of a scapegoat. It ends up better for some but for me, I don’t see an end. I have a few people who believe in me and and are shocked at the condition of my life. They can’t believe I’m not wildly successful. I am not ready to accept failure but I don’t know what to do. Any ideas???

    • In a situation as complicated as yours, I would never presume to give advice. each must find our way out of othe misery. it’s hard work but totally worth it – at least it has been for me.

      take care

  51. Wow. Just Wow. This is all fascinating information and I love the comments and your responses. I never thought about how the family unit encourages these behaviors and that if it’s not willing to accept that change is needed, then it probably won’t happen. You know, I think I need to email you… 😉

    • 🙂 email is always good

      I’m glad you’re enjoying. It is ironic that the very person that the family wants to change, can’t change unless there is a big commitment for everyone in the family to do their part.

  52. Fascinating post Louise! Really got me thinking. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  53. Louise, as always extremely interesting and very inciteful. Roles in families do change, especially if one of the other family members change, or for example, if a parent dies or the older perfect child moves away.

    I think that the hero, being driven and judgemental, may take on roles as the family enforcer or the family bully. Often two sides of the same coin. Sometimes with the best motives. In romance fiction, where we try to create strong heros, what are the boundaries between driven and abusive?

    I am particulaly interested about bullies becasue I write about bullies in our schools, which is such a huge problem. They learn their bullying behavior from somewhere. What impact does family role have on thier behavior. And how does someone from outside the family change that behavior.

    • Amy JO, you’re right, roles do change, especially if a sibling is disengaged from the family or dies. The hero has a certainty that they’re
      right’ and will always try to convince others of that certainty – regardless of the topic . And yes they may become bullies, as an adult, because they’re so certain they know what’s right for everyone.

      Heroes at a school age are rarely bullies. that is more likely to be the rebel child. As youths, heroes are always looking to look good – to be successful, so the typical bullying behavior in schoolyards would not generally be in their play book – because they have to look good. They might lecture other students on the need to follow rules; they might try to help steer them right, but they wouldn’t usually get physically directive with another child because that would be a blot on their record. (remember I’m speaking in generalities)

      and yes school bullies learn their behavior from somewhere and that’s usually the family. So to help the bully we’d have to intervene with the family – who usually doesn’t want our help. Nor do they likely see a need for it.

      If bullying is a learned behavior (and I think it is) then an outsider is the most unlikely person to change anything, unless the family is changed. not what you wanted to hear I”m sure, but that’s my experience.

      feel free to give me a shout if you have other questions.

  54. the depth of the role, the hardening of it, is usually dependent on the emotional absence of the parents, Each child always has some of each role, but the amount or influence of those other roles is usually determined by the family dynamic.

    most likely, your sibs have roles they have adopted and may integrate elements of other roles at times, but the predominant role and predominant emotions are fairly steady.

    I did rebel a couple of times, but it was usually rebellion that no one else (or very few) saw as such. and when the chips were down, I’d always revert to hero.

    Does that make sense?

  55. Louise,

    wow. ok.

    Can a child in a family be each of these children? I can relate to many of the characteristics of each of them. I always identified mostly with the hero child but…..

    How can that work?

    Thank you for this. It is hard but it is good.

    Peace, Jen

  56. Boy, oh boy, oh boy Louise. I don’t know how you deal with this everyday. But for you to be talking about this tells me that this is common. And I do know someone personally who is like this. So it does help to be aware of this trait. Thank you for explaining this. It puts a whole new light on things.

    • Karen, the nice thing about my work is that it’s about the client and not me. My job is to help them recognize and recover from these locked in roles. I’m not surprised you know someone like this – it’s a very common role.

  57. thanks for stopping by Alicia

  58. Your comment reminded of a book I read long ago, DANCE OF DECEPTION by Harriet Lerner. It had a huge impact on me–probably why I like to uncover secrets in my writing. Thanks for thought-provoking post.

    • Harriet’s book is wonderful. It brought to light many such issues. I’ll have to read it again – thanks for the reminder.

  59. Wow, Louise, you’ve described a close a family member of mine, that I never had a answer for her behavior. She is now older, and has never found success in her life, although intelligent, she had numerous opportunities she never took advantage of, college, parents paying for her full tuition, etc. Instead, she’d get married to yet another loser. She’s had several marriages, and now blames the world for her problems and is in a minimum wage job and is alcoholic. I believe it came from her mother who was emotionally absent due to her own problems. Her father was focused on supporting the family. There excuse for her was, “She’s so smart, it’s hard for her to get along.”
    What struck me was the ‘Hero’ I watched her suddenly become this ‘good girl’ during family drama such as a death or when she was trying to impress someone new in the family life. It never lasts long. The funny thing, a lot of this behavior she still acts out, even at 60. I’m finding this post so enlightening, so right on target. It left me with a big ‘WOW’, moment. Thank you for sharing…I have a different view of her now, and less resentful, but more understanding. She really could make our everyone close to her live miserable.

    • Yes, that transformation happens. It is very hard for them to maintain. Some succeed, but many, as your family member, succeed briefly, only to fall back again. It is very sad to see. And it always makes me wonder what is the family secret that they are unconsciously protecting.

  60. You’ve explained this so well, Louise. Such a poignant and intelligent post. Thanks.

  61. Another insightful post full of good info! I know people I suspect might be scapegoats, but not sure. In many cases, there’s no “hero,” just the scapegoat and rebel there with the absentee parent(s). Thanks for sharing.

    • Glad this made sense for you Jennette. I’m sure we all know scapegoats – they proliferate. I will talk about how a family ends up with only one role after I finish this series.

  62. What a sad post. I’m not sure I recognize these traits in anyone I personally know, but I have seen these types of people portrayed in movies and television shows. So sad that the entire family as a whole would abandon the hurt member to protect their little secrets.

    Very interesting post again, Louise. Thanks for sharing your knowledge in this area.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • It’s good that you don’t know anyone like this – it’s very sad and totally unconscious. but never the less, it destroys lives. thx for stopping by.

  63. “The hurt of the abandoned child who took on their role to give the family a focus other than the main problem presented by their parents.”

    Wow. I’ve never thought of it this way. I have a relative who seems to have done precisely that. Your post shed light on her pain and helps me understand why her hurtful behavior may have taken shape. Thanks, Louise. You are a wealth of knowledge!

    • Understanding is such a good thing, isn’t it August. I believe that all behavior is explainable, if we can get to the details of a child’s life. having said, I do know that is not always possible.

      I’m so glad you understand your relative better,

      thanks for stopping by.

  64. Louise, I see far too much of my own early history in this post. I find it completely fascinating. Wish I had met someone like you a long time ago. Ah well, perhaps this will shed light for a few more folks. I hope it does. Self understanding is the key to unlocking the door of the prison.

    Awesome post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Pru, I’m so glad you liked it. I’m hoping this will help some folks shed light on why they do what they do. Take care and thanks for stopping by.

      • Hello Louise,

        Thank you so much for hosting and facilitating such a wonderful conversation. I know it’s been extremely encouraging for me to even read as I feel less alone in my struggles in my family dynamic. In a nutshell: I’m the youngest, I have a twin sister and an older brother (18 months). My mother was our primary parent as my dad traveled extensively. My mom was (and is) loving and content and calm. My parents have been married for almost 50 years (how? I haven’t the slightest idea). My dad is either laughing or yelling, I once called him the “laughing powder keg” when I was a teenager because as I reflected to him “you’re either exploding or laughing and there is no way of knowing which way you’ll go!” He has a sarcastic sense of humor that I abhor these days because it sets me on edge. My mother is an enabler to his drinking (problematic, but a functional alcoholic as far as work is concerned) and never speaks up for what I have finally recognized as verbal abuse.
        I seem to be the black sheep, odd one out, because of several reasons: I took my own path (art, then art therapist), I’m a lesbian (which has been difficult for my dad to come to terms with) and I challenge him, I ask for him to show up emotionally and be there. It’s recently become apparent that he is not showing up.
        I was also in an incredibly abusive (psychologically and sexually) relationship with another woman in my college years. After I found my way out and to safety I reached out to my family, as encouraged by my therapist at the time. My family “couldn’t handle it,” blamed me, and acted as if nothing had happened. So, I found a way to survive. I found my inner strength (apart from my family) and became a bright “success story” as any therapist may see it. I have complex PTSD as a result and have tried to educate my family about how this may show up in our interactions. I tried to reintegrate with my family.
        As I provided messages and encouraging hope for my dad to grow and find healthy ways of communicating, I was shunned. While in grad school it reached a head. I couldn’t complete graduate school and deal with my family drama as it was far too draining. I asked for distance and time (as my dad had done when I found my fiancé and introduced her to the family. I have never introduced anyone to my family before, not even in high school. When I asked for time and space I was attacked, my twin sister wrote me a letter that I can only describe as shameful and disgusting (on her part). It made me realize how far we had drifted. She was unable to help me through my trauma because she was “getting married and needed to focus on that.” My mother was deeply hurt. We’ve patched things up. But now, my dad is unable to act decently around my partner and I. My fiancé and I have been together for a total of three years (as of yesterday) and we joined my family for a mother’s day dinner. I had been working on my relationship with my dad and thought he had learned and understood that his previous interactions were the reasons we did come around. I was wrong. He was completely out of line about nothing important of course. He attacked. My mother was silent. I drove my partner home and she expressed her deep rage and that she was done. I completely understand her and I frankly feel the same way.
        I actually went back to my parents house after taking my partner home and confronted my dad about his rudeness. We argued and I stuck in there. My mother softly agreed with me that he had been rude. He apologized to me and made some seemingly significant realizations that he knew he was being mean and that he was trying to be rude. This shocked me and giant red flags went up in my mind. The next morning (dad away on a trip) I spoke to my mother at length at my, still, deep sadness and anger about what had happened. She thought all had been processed. I expressed to her that I was tired. It took all the energy I had to survive and make it through the worst years of the PTSD for me and grad school. My dad had said in our argument the night before that he hadn’t been working on anything relationship wise with me. I feel done. I told my mom that I had nothing left. I ironically was the one with the most hope for him and now he’s pushed me away. I explained to my mom that I loved him yet I understand the difference in wanting someone in my life versus needing someone. I know I can survive without him because I have before. I don’t see any way. He isn’t interested in changing. Going to a therapist is out of the question (although he has seen that therapists can be incredibly helpful via my work). I suppose I’m beginning a grieving process. I have lost people (death) in my life who have been suspended on life support for lengths of time and that is what our relationship feels like. I don’t know what else to do. I have a rich and lovely life with my partner and her family has completely embraced in and models a healthy family dynamic that seems mythical to me. Her father hugged me today knowing about the past couple of days and he said “We have your back.” I feel so grateful for my partner and her family, our family.

        I have freed myself once from an abusive relationship, but didn’t have to leave anyone behind. They still live together and my partner is completely comfortable to spent time with my mom as she’s always been extremely supportive and loving. I just don’t know how to navigate maintain a relationship with her while her husband, my dad, is such a toxic presence that I’d rather just not be around anymore. I wouldn’t call it avoidance because I’ve exhausted all resources and ideas to help the relationship. And he doesn’t show signs of changing.

        • it is so important to remember that it takes a lot of work to change. and only those people who are totally committed to the process and potential result can succeed in the process. All the talking in the world, on our part, won’t help him change. He has to want to.

          doesn’t sound like he wants to. I hear your pain and grief. perhaps it’s best to stay away from him for a while and figure out your way through this relationship. perhaps in time, your dad will find out how to make the changes that his family needs to include him.

          good luck

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