Series on Family Bullying: When your Family of Origin Makes You Sick -Part 1

Struggling with Family Bullying and Feeling Like a Scapegoat? Take Control of Your Story Today – Find Healing and Empowerment

Family scapegoating is the similar to bullying (only worse)

I have come across many clients who exhibit common self destructive characteristics & symptoms that can ultimately be traced  to their role of scapegoat stemming from their unhealthy family of origin. The role of family scapegoat is the apex of being bullied within one’s family when the developing child needed to have been protected; being mocked when the developing child was to have been celebrated, as well as, being treated less than, in all aspects of human dignity when the developing child was to have been dignified, honoured and cherished. Unfortunately those goat horns feel hard, permanent and they stick out so everyone can see them.

Because of the indignities perpetuated upon the developing self within the child, the consequences of the role have a long reach far into the child’s future into their adult lives. Due to this being an insidious and heavily textured topic I have divided the articles into a three part series. This first article serves to educate regarding the family systems piece and will progress to real life stories as the series moves along. Most importantly as the articles unfold you will begin to shift your world view from a scapegoated person towards the “truth” of who you are. Instead of going through life wearing the goat horns, victory is on the way. It won’t be easy and it will take some work, but you can be set free.

Let me start off by exploring with you how this malady (being the family scapegoat) reveals itself in my office. While using “global listening” (the observation of pure facts, noticing body language as well as verbal expression) in the coaching room it is evident to me when a person has been or is currently being scapegoated within their family and/ or how it is currently showing up in their lives. The symptoms of being scapegoated surface as a “worldview” that is, how the client sees themself in the context of the world. Keep in mind this world view is distorted, but the consequences of the world view are very real. Think of the experiment of putting a pen in a clear glass of water. What happens? The pen looks as though it is in two pieces. The pen isn’t actually in two pieces, but is distorted by the water, the light and the glass. If you pull the pen out of the water, you will see that it is a fully intact pen. It isn’t in two pieces. It isn’t broken. It is just a distorted reality. There are telltale signs that surface from a person who has the worldview associated with being the family scapegoat.

Just to be clear the list below is reality. This is not in the scapegoated person’s head. The distortion is not what the scapegoated person experiences, but rather the distortion is how the scapegoated person allows themselves to be mistreated in the world due to the deficit of knowing the truth of their worth.

There are telltale signs that surface from a person who has the worldview associated with being the family scapegoat. They often tolerate abuse and mistreatment due to their lack of knowing the truth about who they are due to the distortion.  Below are examples of “ways of being” that may come from a scapegoated individual; Self doubt, second guessing, difficulty making a decision for fear of getting things wrong, fear of failure, fear of success, feelings of helplessness, seeing others as being favoured, feeling left out, feeling small in a big world, feelings of shame, feelings of worthlessness, fear of shining & being noticed, fear of making others jealous & angry, allowing other to take their items & money, remaining stuck in unhealthy one sided relationships, giving and not receiving much, stuck in jobs and careers where being used and not compensated fairly, and the list goes on.

Believe or not the above examples are merely a small number of red flags that make me sit up and take notice to probe further in my office. Once the client themselves describe specific experiences and is able to identify their scapegoat role within their family of origin do we realize together that this was the role they were assigned and are currently living out in their lives.

Building Their Own Kingdom

Essentially the family that creates assigned dysfunctional roles to its’ members are dysfunctional and typically hold a narcissist at the helm. There may be drug and alcohol addiction as well, but certainly there is a narcissist in the midst regardless. So in order to dig into this topic let’s start by going back to dissect the family dynamics at play. It is apparent that the roles and subsequent dynamics of this type of family serve to raise the status of some of the family members and demote the status of another. Make no mistake, this does not happen by chance. This is very strategic, although not always within the narcissistic parent’s level of awareness. What is in the narcissistic parent’s level of awareness are their own needs, that is the need to control, shine, steal the limelight and possess their children for their own needs rather than to raise children to become strong and solid individuals. Ultimately these flawed and abusive households have their roots embedded deep into the childhood of the narcissistic parent. It is the narcissistic parent who is the master and creator of these family dynamics. Unfortunately when the narcissistic parent does not seek the help they need in order to process their own wounds, they choose to create a microcosm, their own kingdom so to speak, where they themselves reign supreme. These narcissistic rageaholic parent(s) do not have children for the same reason as most healthy well adjusted adults do. Bringing children into the world is a selfless act. When the narcissistic parent brings a child (and/ or children) into the world, albeit not always conscious of this reason, it is ultimately a self serving act accompanied by a sense of entitlement. The children will come to serve a function that benefits the psychological frailty of the narcissistic parent. The children will not be raised to live their lives to fulfill their own God given purpose, but rather they exist for the narcissistic parent to shore up their fragile sense of self. Essentially the children, friends and other family members of the narcissist become an appendage to the life of the narcissist. To be the child of a narcissistic parent will mean that you do not exist in the true sense of developing a “self,” at least not during such a murky childhood, but rest assured you can and will develop your own solid “self” once you are free of the narcissist as well as the unhealthy narcissistic family system.

Family Scapegoat

There are so many painful family roles within these systems, but for today I am focussing on the role of the family scapegoat and how that role evolved within a specific environment. But first, let’s start with how issues can present in my office. For example, when I observe all fingers pointed toward one family member I can say unequivocally that a red flag goes up for me. Healthy family systems just do not do this. In these unhealthy dysfunctional family systems the only way unhealthy members can protect their fragile sense of self is to cast blame and shame upon another member. Every member of a family contributes to the health or the unhealth of the system, that is, except for young children. Children are innocent pawns.

Created in the Narcissistic Kingdom for a Purpose

The role of the scapegoat serves a number of significant functions within the family structure. The most important purpose is to exonerate the narcissist or those the narcissists favours from responsibility. The only way a narcissist will take responsibility is when there is praise, adulation and admiration at stake. Otherwise responsibility is not on the table for the narcissist as it does not serve the cravings that the narcissist has, that is, to be worshipped. The narcissist contrives a family system that ensures that their own needs are met and in order to do this they convince all members within the family system to believing the massive lie that someone must always be blamed when something doesn’t go according to their plan. The thinking goes like this, someone must be at fault, therefore, the rest of us are blameless. Ultimately the narcissist will work the rest of the group into believing that the scapegoat is the reason for all the ills of the family even when the scapegoat isn’t even present and couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the said problem. This crafty and insidious way that the narcissist constructs a system which only promotes their need for approval, attention, admiration and dominion is extremely abusive and downright evil. The narcissist is so self aggrandizing that they will literally sacrifice another family member in order to get their delusional needs met.

So now that we all know how pathologically unwell a narcissistic parent is to hurt their children in this way, my hope for you is that you start to pick away at the fake goat horns that were placed on you doing your growing up years. My hope is that you begin to touch them, feel them and start to imagine that these imaginary horns are merely made of paper and that none of this was ever your fault. The pain inflicted on you is the responsibility of a member of the black triad personality types, such as narcissism. If you were a scapegoat it was never your fault. You didn’t deserve to be mistreated, you don’t deserve to be mistreated today, and hopefully after reading this series you will be able to discern what mistreatment is and what it is not, as well as what you will no longer tolerate in your life. It is not your fault that you do not have a reference point for healthy treatment within any context, but help is on the way. Now put your hand on your head. Don’t these horns feel a little bit like paper now?

If you would like to have 1:1 coaching feel free to reach out to or We work online with people all over the world and in person at our coaching office located in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada.

  • For further reading check out “Mobbing & Treated Like a Scapegoat – part 2. Click Here
  • To reach out to George or Lesley for coaching support head over to the contact page. Click Here
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