12 Steps to Breaking Free from Being the Family Scapegoat


Scapegoaters are insecure people driven to try and raise their own status by
attempting to lower the status of their target


by Glynis Sherwood

Did you grow up having doubts about your self esteem or personal worth?  When things went wrong in your family, did you tend to be the fall guy?  Do you find yourself encountering recurring disrespect from friends or colleagues?  Do you feel unsure of yourself and/or have difficulty experiencing trust in relationships?  Are you drawn to people who repeatedly hurt you, act irresponsibly or let you down?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of these statements, you may have been scapegoated by your family.  The term ‘scapegoat’ refers to a family member who takes the blame for difficulties in the family. Scapegoating is a form of bullying.  Family relationships profoundly impact our identity and how we view ourselves.

How to Tell if You Have Been Scapegoated:

  1. You are held responsible for family problems, conflicts or challenges, even if they have nothing to do with you. Other people blame you for their actions.  You may end up feeling a lot of shame for being ‘the bad guy’, and/or anger for being blamed for negative family dynamics.
  2. You are attacked and disbelieved if you tell the truth and ‘blow the whistle’ on negative and/or inappropriate family dynamics.
  3. There has been a history of one or more family members being verbally, emotionally or physically abusive towards you.  Other family members seem to accept or look the other way when you are bullied or aggressed against like this.  You may feel like the ‘black sheep’ of the family.

  4. You find yourself repeatedly being accused of behavior the scapegoater is engaged in.  For example, a family member repeatedly yells at you, and then accuses you of being abusive.  Or you behave thoughtfully and are then told “all you care about is yourself”.

  5. You act out the negative ‘expectations’ of scapegoating such as not living up to your potential, or getting into relationships with abusive people because your self esteem is has been damaged.

  6. You are the mentally healthiest family member, but are repeatedly accused of being sick, bad, etc.

  7. You have been slotted into the role of family outcast, and are treated with disdain or disgust by family or yourself.

  8. Your achievements are belittled, minimized, criticized and rejected.

What’s Going On In Families That Scapegoat

Families that are shame or fear based are not healthy.  Often in these families you will find evidence of abuse, neglect, addiction, betrayal, mental illness (e.g. Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and insecurity.  Dysfunctional families either lack insight or find it threatening, and actively repress it through scapegoating those who want to understand and change negative dynamics.  Scapegoating is a “projection defense” that allows scapegoaters to keep up appearances. In other words, making the scapegoat look bad takes attention off the real problems in the family.

Many families who resort to scapegoating are headed by narcissistic parents who lack personal awareness, and empathy for their target, as in their eyes, the target is there to serve their false image and make them look good.  So the purpose of scapegoating is to allow families to carry on unhealthy behavior patterns, and maintain the myth of normalcy, without having to look inward or take responsibility for a toxic environment.  To the outside observer – and possibly the Scapegoat – these families seem crazy making and delusional.

Who Gets Picked to Be Scapegoat

The Scapegoat doesn’t get picked randomly or by accident.  Usually they are either sensitive, unhappy, vulnerable, ill and/or the outspoken child or whistle blower.  In other words, the scapegoat is the child
who refuses to look content or stay silent in the unbearable atmosphere created in the family home.

How Scapegoating Impacts the Target

Scapegoats almost universally experience low self esteem or lack of self worth.  The major problem is
that they suffer from an Identity Disturbance, as the target confuses the myth that they are bad, with the truth.  This is usually a lie, with the more insidious truth being that Scapegoats are being abused through the process of being taught they are ‘bad’.  Scapegoats tend to struggle with chronic insecurity, as they never feel safe or believe they are good enough or loved.  They can also fall into a‘Victim’ role, and unconsciously repeat their scapegoating by gravitating towards unhealthy behavior or relationships at work, school and their private life.

Scapegoats often have trouble feeling safe in relationships – especially intimate relationships – due to the betrayal of trust in their family.  They can also have challenges managing emotions, and find they either feel overwhelmed and anxious, or shut down and not know how they are feeling.

How To Break Free From Scapegoating

  1. Understand that what you have come to believe about yourself as family Scapegoat – i.e. that you are bad, weird, inadequate or defective – is not the truth.  In fact it’s likely a lie that was created to prevent family members from acknowledging their own troubles, thereby avoiding taking responsibility for both their behavior and the need to change.

  2. Locate and trust your ‘Inner Owl’ – that wise part of you that knows you have been mistreated and will no longer willingly allow this abuse from others or yourself.

  3. Recognize that feelings of shame, guilt and self blame belong to the perpetrators, not you as target.  You are simply a dumping ground for their bad feelings.  To change this, you need to start standing up to the notion that you are at fault.  You will likely have to begin with yourself, learning to question and reject seeing yourself as ‘bad’.

  4. Get to know your true self.  Identify exceptions to the negative stereotype you have been saddled with.  In other words, pinpoint what is good, likeable or at least adequate about you – your character, values, actions, etc.  Write down your good traits – you will need to be reminded of this alternate universe, which is the truth about you, especially if you start to fall back into the habit of feeling bad about yourself again. Understand that getting better – and feeling better – is a learning curve, and you may slip a few times before you gain solid footing

  5. Figure out what you might be doing – consciously or unconsciously – that gives scapegoaters the idea that it’s OK to abuse you.  Determine how to change any behavior that draws you into the Victim role.

  6. Stop trying to win the favor of abusive and uncaring family members, co-workers or ‘friends’.  Anyone who engages in this type of inappropriate behavior has personality problems, especially a parent who did not love their child.

  7. Don’t expect abusive family members to apologize or make amends.  They will likely blame you more if you attempt to hold them accountable.

  8. Start asserting your right to be treated respectfully with family and other people who try and abuse you.  E.G., “The way you just spoke to me now is not acceptable, and I never want to be talked to like that again”, or “If you want to have a relationship with me, you will stop the angry outbursts, name calling, accusations, etc.”  Know that you may not be heard or respected by aggressive or disturbed people.  The point is that you hear and respect yourself!  Don’t do this until you are ready to follow through with your commitment to yourself.

  9. Accept that you may never have a healthy relationship with your scapegoater(s).  This may involve limited or no contact with those who are determined to continue to abuse you.  You may experience feelings of grief.  Work through the painful feelings, and get support if needed.  This pain is much less harmful than continuing to allow yourself to be abused by anyone.

  10. Get in the habit of treating yourself with kindness, caring, compassion, appreciation and acceptance.  Practice viewing yourself as a person of worth and loveability.  This will likely feel weird at first as it is unfamiliar.  But even though it is unfamiliar, treating yourself in a loving manner is never wrong.

  11. Understand that it will take time to learn how to love and appreciate yourself.  You have been trained to be overly self critical and may believe you are defective.  Be patient as this false image gradually crumbles.  Get counselling to help you overcome this painful legacy, and find your true self – the strong, valuable person you are meant to be.

  12. Practice what you preach with others… Break the cycle


Like this Article?  Read more articles on Scapegoating here

Need help overcoming scapegoating?   Check out my Scapegoat Counselling page

Counselling is available by Skype Video around the world.

Glynis Sherwood – MEd, Canadian Certified Counsellor, Registered Clinical Counsellor, specializes in recovery from Scapegoating, Low Self Esteem, Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Addictive Behaviors. 

  • Alice27

    I don’t think you’re being unfair. Part of the manipulation is them wanting you to believe you’re the one causing the problems. Like we are damaged somehow. Your story is a lot like mine, but I also have a sibling who can do no wrong.

  • Pipkins2t

    ” IMO, your loss of the support and sanctuary of family is a completely legitimate reason to grieve”. I don’t know how to grieve, or what I am actually grieving for. I had time to think about the process of grief, and intellectually I know a part of me would like to grieve for the ‘person’ I once was, i.e. a sister, a daughter, an auntie. That ‘person’ was a very good person, kind, loving, giving, trusting. To a large extent that ‘person’ in me has died. I am still a good person, however, very few individuals ever get close enough to see that part of who I am. I miss the open heart that I used to hold. I have a legitimate reason to grieve, yet I remain unable to identify a single focus for such strength of emotion. My experience of choosing no contact has taught me that not only did I walk away from my biological mother & siblings, I also walked away from the ‘person’ I had become in order to please them. I left the person they had created me to be behind. At times I struggle to accept the responsibility of who I am now and that the who I am now is of my own making. No excuses. No naivety. No innocence. No ignorance. No, definitely no excuses. Today I stand as *(Christian name) a mother, a friend, a lover, an employee. My identity a creation of what I choose to make of this life.
    Yes, I need to grieve for the loss of individuals, hopes & broken relationships, but I also need to find a way to lovingly let go of the sister, daughter & auntie that I once was.

    • Desertcatn

      I feel for you, I had to let go of my family and it isn’t an easy road; still finding my way. I had a lifetime of pain lifted from my heart, this last Summer, but must maintain the no contact or the pain returns. Hang in there, I don’t know how it happens, but eventually you will heal! Best wishes!

      • Thanks Desertcatn for bringing up the positive side of No Contact. Although there can be a lot of fear and sadness for people going this route, for those who believe it’s necessary, no contact frees up mental space to focus on creating the life and relationships you want and need, including the absence of abuse!

        • Desertcatn

          Thank you for your articles on this subject, Glynis, they really do help!

          • Great to hear that my articles have been of help to you Desertcatn. All the best!

      • Pipkins2t

        Thank you Desetcant and anyone else who empathises with words shared here. This may sound irrelevant, however, I am certain it is not. I have two adult sons, each having treatment for mental health conditions; bi-polar & autistic traits combined with bi polar. I am a support worker for carers for those who support someone with mental health conditions. Since my last post I have pondered my words and those returned, or the perceived ‘ silence’.
        I am strong enough to hold my own pain.
        I am strong enough to begin the lessons I require in self compassion. Only then can I truly support those who are on a similar path to my own.
        I have yet to shed tears for the losses that I will always hold in my heart, however I am blessed to hold them there, for I can see how far away from ‘madness’ my sons and I have travelled.
        I hope to complete my Masters Degree in Education this year, and I am gladly relinquishing a long academic life/career in education to pursue an offer to pursue training as a counsellor/psychotherapist.
        When you have stood found yourself in the pit of despair, rejection, self loathing and confusion, you will not leave any soul who feels likewise alone, be that person your own child or stranger.
        No one in this life deserves to die alone.
        This site has been an invaluable tool in my own learning and I cannot thank those who contribute there honest and heart felt emotions and thoughts here, enough. You have all helped me through the darkest of times and helped me see just how far my sons and I have come.
        I hope to continue to contribute to this page as life unravels new paths for me and mine to travel.

  • Annette Ross

    I have been the family scapegoat. It took counseling to help me understand it and family dynamic I was born into. Sadly, always looking at myself and wondering what I did wrong and wanting to please, I realized I had surrounded myself with those who would pick up where my parents left off. I have spent the past four years trying to dig myself out from underneath the weight of being the scapegoat. Had I caused the issues? Do I owe them an apology? I was hurt, I was angry, I felt duped and unloved. I reflected on my own outbursts and wondered if I was truly who they claimed I was. I finally decided to face my actions that could have cause them pain and I made apologies. Yes, I made apologies, all I can do is face my own actions and I knew I had not been 100% in the right. When I did this, I was finally able to let go. I owned my part, my abusers did not and it was so plain to me then. I was able to walk away without guilt or questioning myself any further. My life is about me now and while my abusers may always see my as fault, the one thing I know is that they are not facing themselves and their own actions that caused me to walk away.

    • Thank you Annette for sharing your experience. Both positively and negatively, when you apologized you were calling the bluff of family members who were abusing you. I agree that we all need to take responsibility for our actions, and our healing. Sadly, scapegoaters usually will not. Glad to hear you are feeling at peace with yourself due to your ability to be accountable and neither continuing to stay in an untenable situation nor hanging on to what you are not responsible for. I hope other readers here will take strength from your story.

      • Elaine Stackhouse

        I agree. This is where I am now. I realize certain of my behaviors have contributed to the scapegoating. I don’t say caused because it began when I was very small child. However, as I grew older I certainly had some reactionary behaviors and was hyper sensitive so I took offense to most everything. There were other areas I contributed to the treatment. I will never say I caused it, but I also will not claim that I am completely blameless. There are certainly things I could have done differently and improved on. I have tried to admit those things as I go along, but currently sister and I only speak via text and short calls regarding Mom’s condition. We haven’t physically seen each other in over a year. I have tried many times to try to mend the fences with her over the years, but it just never works out. Our personality are oil and water and I think my mother did a lot of triangulation with my sister. Parents also had set up a dysnamic of one child being good (sister) and one child being bad (me). Doesn’t exactly encourage a sisterly loving relationship. My sister carries many of the narcissistic traits my mother does and also I suppose from having been the family favorite. It’s just not possible for me to have a relationship with her and I wonder if we ever will. It’s okay. I am making peace with that. Even if in my own mind I take ownership for the part I play. It’s more about forgiving myself and learning to love myself at this point.


    It doesn’t sound like you’ve dealt with these types before Tommy. Rationality doesn’t work with these folks. Usually makes the sitch worse….


    Nice!! You have trained your son well!! Sounds like you have successfully stopped the cycle of abuse with your family- SO RARE!! Pat yourself on the back a bunch!

  • You are so right PJ, scapegoating can extend outside of families and infiltrate friendships. Usually this means that there is an ‘inner scapegoat’ that needs to be confronted and challenged if this pattern is to change. Seems like you are starting to make some great strides with your insights and and more assertive mindset that stems from knowing you deserve better.

  • More great insights PJ, and what’s even better is you are starting to take action based on treating yourself more respectfully. In the end this will separate those who are willing to treat you respectfully from those who refuse to abandon abusive behavior, and you can make decisions about who belongs in your life based on that distinction.

  • Ruthie

    Keep the faith!

  • Z Sha

    I think she ruined it all trying to be too controlling. You both are equally to blame anyway. Distance yourself.

  • Rubinis_K

    I too was the scapegoat of my family. I cut off all communication with my mother, brother, and sister. Best decision I have ever made. I humbled myself and apologized for everything they have ever accused me of, yet I never received any acknowledgment of how they have hurt me. That experience showed me that they were incapable of taking responsibility of their actions and their misery and misfortunes never had anything to do with me. They truly don’t know how to love themselves, therefore will not ever be able to love me. I just simply could not allow myself to be abused any longer.

    The blessing in disguise from this experience is, after letting my family go, I was able to truly feel the deep love my husband, in-laws, and dearest friends have for me. I was so busy trying to receive love from relatives who weren’t capable of giving it, that I couldn’t appreciate the love that was so freely and unconditionally given to me by my friends, husband and his family. The love was so overwhelming and deep when I took my focus off my abusers.

    And another blessing from cutting all ties with my family was the overflowing forgiveness I now have for them. This is the most I have ever loved them. I had to release them and cut contact in order to heal, forgive, and love them…from afar.

    I hope this might help someone else who is thinking about breaking contact with their dysfunctional family.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and experience Rubinis_K. I think it’s tremendously helpful for people to hear that in order to be able to recognize and receive love, you have to stop focusing on those who can’t or won’t give it to you. In essence, by taking your power back – the power to not give abusers the right to define your worth, and ironically something they will never do – it is an act of self validation that sets the stage for more love to come into your life.

    • Highland26

      I am doing this now, but it’s very lonely as I don’t have any family to speak of.

      • It can be a lonely path Highland26. I wish you an abundance of other people in your life who will appreciate and support you.

        • Elaine Stackhouse

          Very helpful advice Glynis.

      • Pipkins2t

        Highland, please accept the following as a statement of support and understanding. Yes, we find ourselves understanding the meaning of loneliness, however, during these times we are invited to learn to comfort ourselves in a way that we always craved from others, and failed to receive. There is no denying the sense on loneliness that you so rightly speak of Highland. Please take some strength from knowing that you are learning how to comfort self.
        When you emerge from the darkest of days, you emerge stronger. The sense of loss may never go away, but we find ourselves better equipped to manage our losses, little by little.

        Kindest regards

        • Elaine Stackhouse

          Higland26, I do understand. I am rather no contact as much as possible. It’s hard because I stated my sister accepts my adult sons and I have to hear how they went out to dinner and treated lovingly and accepted knowing that I am not. We have a very small family. Only 1 sister, my mother, and a couple of cousins we don’t see often. My husband’s family is across the country. So I basically have my two adult sons, my granddaughter, and my husband. I am glad however the scapegoating has stopped with me and my sister is not scapegoating my sons – as much as I am hurt that i am still enduring it. My mother is in hospice and so I have to maintain some form of contact with my sister. IT’s mostly quick phone calls and more often texts or my oldest adult son relays information. My sister and I have not physically seen each other in over a year! I suspect we will at some point because my mother is moving in with my sister, but they reside out of state. I guess I am writing to just say I do understand the loneliness. My husband has some friends from his former church before he moved. We get together a couple of times a year. This is where I felt the difference in being with people who loved, respected, and accepted you for who you are… Maybe you could try to joint a church or connect with friends who love and accept you for you are. I know it’s difficult if you don’t have this support system in place. I don’t make friends easily and if I didn’t have husband to help me along I would struggle more. I hope you can connect with some people who value you for the person you are.

      • pierce singleguy

        I know how you feel. Highland26

    • Elaine Stackhouse

      i totally understand what you mean. My husband was also a scapegoat in his family. Not his immediate nuclear family but in the extended family. Basically, his mom, sister, and husband were scapegoated and barely tolerated. My husband has contact with his aging father and sister via phone as they are cross country, but he does not really speak to any extended family. He has been a tremendous support and he was the one who really made me see that I was being scapegoated. My husband had a loving church family and some people he stayed with during a rough patch in his life. When we meet up with them and go out to dinner I finally realize what it feels like to be loved and accepted. It feels so wonderful to feel you are wanted and appreciated. Not singled out and criticized constantly. I wish things were different in my nuclear family, but at nearly 50 years old I don’t hold much hope that my sister and I will be able to forge a relationship even though she and I are literally all the family each has left from our birth family, besides our spouses and kids. She does have in-laws. My in-laws are cross country. Sister and I have never gotten along – not since we were very small children and even then our friendship consisted of her very often bullying and being cruel to me. I agree cutting contact has been integral in my healing.

  • Lady LaLa

    Thanks. My only issue is I live with my father and am his caretaker so I can’t escape it all together at the moment. But I’m no longer speaking with my abusive, gaslighting, scapegoating brother. I’m done with the toxic nature of that relationship. After my father passes away, I plan on moving far away from my family. I’ve hoped for too long that the dysfunction would improve and I know there are people out there who like me for me and don’t relish in the opportunity to criticize my every move in a hypocritically self-righteous manner. Thanks for the article!

  • Wounded Eagle

    First, I would like to say that I have read through quite a few post and it has brought me a sense of security; that I am not the only one, and this sort of thing does happen to people. My life with my immediate and even some extended family and how I was ostracized and scapegoated has been happening for over 8 years… It started in the end of March 2007 when I was misdiagnosed as bipolar following a hospitalization for a marijuana induced psychosis. My extended family wanted me to accept that I was bipolar and needed to take pills the rest of my life. I tried to explain the situation and many of my extended family members do not talk to me because of this… My immediate family consisting of my mom, dad, and brother have been a trauma laden family since really I was a toddler. I remember Christmas Eve of 1988 as a 4 year old boy; mom and dad were fighting to the point of pushing, shoving, strangling and even a knife getting pulled out of the butcher’s block, until my grandpa said “you get your god damned hands off her!”… I was crying and even pushed my mom and dad back together so that they could make up and give each other hugs.
    Years went by, and there were always outburst with my mom and dad fighting. I would occasionally engage with my dad and verbally fight with him… It became a routine thing for us all to fight…. My dad has continued to tell me that “I am a fuck up, that has smoked dope and been to the god damned insane asylum!” what has made it worse is that my dad, brother and now mom are all saying that I am a problem to the family… When I counselled with a “money hungry” family therapist, she tried to tell me that a complete disconnection with my family would not be good, and ultimately that is a big “no no” in psychology… So I am at the cross roads a bit, but I feel comfortable with going ahead with a complete disassociation, because of the very stories that I have found on this blog – Thank You!

  • Elaine Stackhouse

    I am 48 and I always knew my sister was favored and that I could never seem to do nothing right. My parents would light up like Christmas trees when my sister came to town and they ran their entire schedule around her visits. They expected me and my family to do the same thing. We were supposed to live to accommodate my sister’s visits and our own schedule was never taken into account. If we could not make an event my mother would become enraged and badger us that we “must” come. I used to put it down to my sister living out of state and I lived close by. However, there were other many more insidious issues going in my family and I was in very deep denial myself, my brainwashing was such that I didn’t really recognize my family was scapegoating me. I felt something was off and I was treated differently, but my eyes were not opened to how much so I was being scapegoated.

    When my grandma passed away, she had 4 antique chairs. My parents selected two. There were two left – one for each daughter – except they gave them both to my sister. When I asked my father about this and said I would have liked one of my grandmother’s chairs he insisted he promised them to my sister. I was stunned. I said “you have two adult daughters and two beautiful chairs why would you promise both to one daughter and none to the other?” That just didn’t make sense to me. I have two sons. I would never give two of something to one son and nothing to other. I do try to be fair in my treatment of my sons. My father just pursed his lips and would not answer me. Anytime I would question on that event I never received an answer. My sister later stated she didn’t know I wanted one, but when she found out she didn’t offer to give one to me either, lol.

    I think however small this event might have been a light bulb went on and I sort of started looking back at all the messages I had received as a child and as a young adult about my place in the family. I remember when I was very young, about 5 or 6, the same grandmother who had passed away was going through all her lovely bone china and crystal with my sister and I. As little girls we were not allowed to touch these things, but I was enamored by all the delicate china, pretty patterns, and cut crystal. My grandmother kept saying this goes to my sister and that goes to my sister and so on. Finally, even as a small child I finally asked “Well why does my sister get all of these and I don’t?” The answer was “She’s the oldest” End of story. The message was so final. She’s the oldest so therefore she gets everything nice and I get what is left over. This is a message that been repeated over and over in my family through the years. Just by virtue of her being older she automatically got preferential treatment and I got what was left. It was no fault of my own. I didn’t get to chose my birth order. I can remember even as a child feeling angry, jealous, bitter, and helpless. Most of helpless. I remember there being no fight in me really. I knew even as a child this was very, very wrong and very unfair, but all the adults in my world gave me the same message “Sister gets the best – you get the rest” – if I was lucky I got the leftovers. Sometimes it was nothing at all. However, the family would never admit this outright as with the chairs. There was no valid answer for why I didn’t get one so I was met with silence and ignored .

    When I was 30, I had a failed marriage and was a single mom of two sons. One of whom had high functioning Autism. This was a low point in my life. While my parents helped to support me and even helped me financially they never missed an opportunity to tell me about it and brow beat me about it. They made sure I knew what a burden I was. When I would ask them to babysit so I could go out and do something for myself such as a yoga class, my father would criticize me and say “Why don’t you go out and do something where you can meet someone” Really, all he cared about is that I found another husband to take my burden off of him. He didn’t care for my emotional or mental health. Yoga helped my anxiety and it made me feel better… but that was not worthy of my time.

    My father would also angrily give me a tally of how much money he had given me over the years and tell me that money should be substracted from my inheritance because my sister (who was happily married and living an upper middle class lifestyle) didn’t get that kind of help from them.. However, she didn’t need it, and if she had I would not have begrudged her of it. I just used to imagine my father sitting there with his calculator and keeping a binder with totals of all the funds he had given me and how much he resented it, as if life was not hard enough for me I was made to feel like a low-life. My children were small. MY youngest had autism. I was exhaused. I was dealing with real emotional trauma, poverty and fighting battles trying to get my son the services and help he needed medically and in school. Despite reminding me about how much of a burden we were my parents insisted on continuing to do so even when I told them to stop. At one point, I was going to let my house go and possibly file a bankruptcy. I honestly at that point would have rather filed a Chapter 7 then to continue to be reminded what a loser and a burden I was. I had endured it for years.

    The fact was I was not a loser or a slacker. I worked a full-time job and went to school part-time making straight As on top of parenting two kids alone – one with special needs. I took care of a house, mowed lawns, did the repairs, shopping, laundry, and played both mother and father to my sons. I look back now and marvel at how I even was able to do it all. My parents only helped me financially just enough to get by. So we were constantly just at the poverty level with no hope of getting out I hoped schooling would be the way – but I could never take more than 2 classes at a time due to all I had going on. I felt trapped and while I needed their help I hated their help. I hate that they made me feel the low-life and burden. I hated that I was treated different when honestly some of things I was doing the average person would not be able to do. It was rarely recognized.

    As time went on, I was severely depressed and my anxiety had morphed in full fledged panic attacks by this point. I was desperate to get out from their thumb and constant criticism. I was tired of being reminded what a burden my sons and I were to my parents. I was tired of hearing all the stories of how wonderful my sister was and her life was and how she was perfect.

    My sister and I had little to no relationship which isn’t surprising. We never have. She always was the older sister that was far to busy with her own life and friends. I tried many times to reach out and seek a relationship with her, but it just never worked. She very clearly basked in the light of her superior position in the family. She loved when I was underfoot. I don’t say that as resent, but even my husband noticed it. She was truly unhappy if something good happened in my life. If something good did happen to me (such as when I met someone and got engaged after 15 year as a single mom) she hated it. She was disinterested in the wedding plans even though she agreed to stand up as my maid of honor. She found fault in the dress I had selected so I let her select her own style. I didn’t mind what she had chosen so I went with it, but the day of wedding she complained that dress was not right. She almost bailed on our rehearsal dinner and rehearsal. when I stated my niece had never been in a wedding and needed the rehearsal she stated “She’s a smart girl she’ll figure it out”. You could honestly seen the resentment on her face when she found out I was engaged. I could never figure it out. she had a nice life. She was married. She lived an upper middle-class lifestyle. The point was she was not happy unless she was up and I was down. She liked it when I was down and out, as it had always been. She didn’t like that fact my life was changing for the better.

    When my husband was offered a great new job in a new city, she also resented that and was not happy for us at all. she became angry when I talked about my husband’s new job or the new city. I lived for years at poverty level. Now my husband was making as much as her husband and we were relocating to a nice new city that was a place people traveled to and vacationed to. I was overjoyed. She never congratulated us.

    It just became so obvious to me that the place my family enjoyed me being was down and out and underfoot.

    When my father passed the scapegoating and differential treatment became worse because my mother was even a worse offender on her own. My dad actually was somewhat of a buffer and would usually have tinge of conscience at some point and try to smooth things over and even apologize on occasion. Not so with my mother. After my father passed, I had had a disagreement with my sister where she very intentional and did not include my family in a family holiday/event. in fact, she went out of her way to make sure we didn’t know it was happening and were not invited. I was upset with her and she went and told my mother all the details. I went over to my Mother’s house with my husband for a visit. My mother was so enraged that I had the gall to argue with and upset my sister that she screamed at me and at one point flew across the kitchen table to point her finger in my face. My husband and I were stunned. I totally thought she was going to hit me. I was 45 years old at the time. This was the real turning point for me. I could no longer excuse away their behavior and continue to blame myself. It took almost physical violence for me to get it at 45 years old that I was indeed the family scapegoat and I was being abused My husband had been trying to tell me that since he met my family but I continued to downplay it.

    Since I live closest to my mother my sister says I have to be the one to care for my mother now that she is ill and elderly and basically housebound. Dear Sister who resides out of state says “That’s just the way it is..” GRRRRR. No compassion. I guess I shouldn’t expect any as it’s never been given before.

    My mother is critical of me and verbally abusive to me at times as I try to meet her needs and It’s sheer hell having to be the one to do everything for her. At this point, my eldest son has stepped in because while he loves his grandma dearly, but he too clearly sees that my mother is abusive to me and insights panic attacks in me and that it’s not healthy for me to be the one to car for her.

    I wouldn’t wish scapegoating on my worse enemy. IT’s a horrible, horrible thing to do as a chlld or an adult. I was not allowed to be who I was. My self esteem and very essence of self was stripped away at such a young age. I grew up with little to no self esteem and feeling everything was my fault. I tried most of adult life to win my family’s favor but I always fell short and was never good enough in their eyes. It led to picking an abusive spouse (first husband) who also verbally abused me and constantly cut me down. It led to me never believing in myself and constantly beating myself up. Telling myself I was the “ugly” sister and I was stupid and a burden to everyone. It led to debilitating panic attacks and depression. I am finally starting to heal. At some point I would love to get counseling and most likely need it but we do not have mental health benefits on our insurance. Someday I will have to pursue this because I do truly feel it will help me cope with all this.

    At 48, I finally have found the strength to stand up for myself with the help of my loving husband. He is the first person who called my family on their behavior and right from the start said I was being scapegoated. He has even stood up to my family on my behalf. Unfortunately, because of that my relationship with mother and sister is very strained. I am learning to take my power back and distancing myself as much as I can from my mother and sister. I wish I had a loving birth family, but this one will never be it. They are toxic at least to me. It hurts they are loving to each other and I find it hard still to not blame myself.

    They twist things to suit themselves and again blame everything on me and that I misperceive things or am too sensitie. My mother and sister gang up together and support one another. My sister insisted my mother has never mistreated her.. .I believe her. I am sure she has not. My sister is the golden child and favored so why would she mistreat her?

    For so long I allowed them to brainwash me into thinking it was ME. That it was me making it all up in my head. It took having my husband plainly lay out what he was seeing and the fact that my older son (adult) also sees it as well. He says he hated family get togethers as a child because of the way my family treated me -his mom. He began to be scapegoated to a certain extent as well but to a lesser degree.

    I no longer do any holidays with my mother and sister if I can avoid it when sister comes to town. I have as little contact with boht as possible. I feel it’s the only way to heal myself. My sister says I will regret and live with guilt for forsaking my mother. I can’t even begin to respond to that.

    • Hi Elaine – It seems that getting distance from your scapegoating family and having the support of a loving partner have made a big difference for your psychological well being. I wish you all the best on your healing journey.

      • Elaine Stackhouse

        My mother is in hospice. She is no longer being abusive to me but my sister is another story. She and I hardly speak except through my mother and my adult sons. Strangely, my sons are not scapegoated. My youngest is close in age to my sisters son and the cousins are friends. I think this is why he escaped. The oldest WAS scapegoated for being tattooed and looking “Thuggish” and made fun of and greeted with “Yo-yo, what’s up” as a mocking of his style. He had a baby with his GF 7 months ago and suddenly to my sister he is the “best Dad ever” And she fights tooth and nail to get contact with my granddaughter (who ironically lives with me as my son and GF and baby are living with us temporarily). She will talk to both my sons. Go out to dinner with the, be their friends on Facebook. I unfriended her and my mother on Facebook after one too many snide comment. My sister had my nephew but me on a restricted list. I used to be able to see my nephew’s content. Suddenly I could not. So it’s strange my sons are totally accepted and greeted warmly at family events, but I am the person non grata. Now mother is moving to live with my sister. On one hand I am very relieved. It will take some pressure off me as a caregiver and it’s obvious my mother prefers my sister. However, it will make it very difficult to for myself and sons to visit with her out of state. I would not feel comfortable staying with my sister for a visit as we once did years ago. Eventually, sis and I will have to settled an estate together – that should be FUN! (sarcasm intended). Yes, having a supportive partner has helped, but my healing is very much in an open wound process. I still feel very hurt and wonder what it is about me that caused them to treat me this way and no one else. I mean literally NO ONE in the family is treated this way. I realize it’s their issues not mine. I do think I was too much of a doormat for many years. As a single Mom very much dependent on families help for most my adult life I tried not to rock the boat too hard. I bit my tongue and went along to get along. If I did push back it was WWIII and there would be immense ganging up and pressure on me to stop and conform. Now that my father has passed and my mother is basically in hospice that strength has lessened. However, sister does whatever she can to carry the torch of scapegoating on. To the point of trying to embrace my adult sons and their families but still leave me out and ostracize me as much as possible. Not a fun way to live, but again, I do believe once my mom has passed the contact with my sister will be very limited if not null. We live two states away and the tie that was mutual was our aging parents.

  • Elaine Stackhouse

    Also in my 40s. I always knew something was off. I always knew inherently I was being treated differently than my one sibling, my sister. I knew there was favoritism and I was not the favorite. I knew my parents were critical and controlling of me. I knew I blamed myself for everything. I had no to low self-esteem. I chose a marriage partner at 19 as a way to get out from my parents thumbs, but I chose someone who was emotionally abusive and cut me down the same way my parents did. I spent years as a single parent – in a way back under my parents thumb as they helped keep me afloat with 2 young son – one who had special needs. I self loathed. I was told what a finanicial burden I was. I worked full-time and went to school part-time getting straight As, but never completed my bachelors degree as I was so exhausted in trying to keep it all going. I gained a bunch of weight – I comfort ate. I always had anxiety but didn’t realize what it was. It morphed into panic attacks. I began to have PTSD reactions before get togethers with my family or holidays .A nasty comment on my weight or some aspect of my personality was always made. I always came home hurt, holding back tears. It hurt the most when my oldest a 15 years old asked me what I allowed my family to treat me this way. He also was angry and told me years later he hated holidays for having to watch helpless how I was treated and by extension how he felt about himself because in picking on his mother it was picking on him and his family that he loved. I thought I was doing the sons a favor by making the peace and bowing down to bullying in mistreatment so that they could have a relationship with their aunt and grandparents, but instead I hurt my sons more by letting them see me abused. So much of this I have not fully seen until my 40s. I was for lack of a better term so brainwashed to feel I was the one at fault and I was inherently bad and damage person I just kept trying to seek my family of origin’s approval. My father valued education and the only morsel of praise I received was when I was getting straight As in college. I tried to thin down not only for myself, but mostly for them so I would be as thin and accepted as my sister. I kept thinking if only… if only I got my degree then they will love and accept me. If I only slim down .. then they will love and accept me. If only I can find another husband and not be a single divorced Mom … then they will accept me. If I can become financially set … then they will love and accept me. First, I failed at many of these goals because they were not truly for me but for them. I did get straight As ,but couldn’t keep up the pace. i did lose weight, only to gain it back. I did get married… but thank God I married a man who supported and loved me, but he was not financially. But, even when I did find some measure of achieving these goals it was never enough. For awhile I might get a little praise, but I was still scapegoated. I still didn’t love myself… My entire sense of self worth was wrapped up in my family of origins opinion of me. I still, to them, was never good enough. Now I make goals for myself. I am trying to heal from many years of scapegoating that I used to excuse as my own fault. It’s a process. I wish I had realized earlier.

  • mom2mkld

    I am 50 years old and just now finding out that this has been happening in my family since I can remember. I always wondered why I felt so terrible about myself and why I am so critical of myself, yet I make excuses for everyone else’s bad behavior. I even apologize for things that are not my fault. I have suffered panic attacks and severe clinical depression for the past 19 years. As a kid, I wasn’t really happy and could never look anyone in the eye. I have wondered for years what is wrong with me. This scapegoating behavior in my family towards me is what is wrong with me. I do not know how to have a relationship with my mother or my oldest sister, because they were, and still are, the scapegoaters in my family. My dad was the alcoholic, although my mom was so good at denying it and covering it up, I never knew until my sister told me. I knew he had problems when I was an adult and out of the house, but never knew he had problems when I was a child. He was always just aloof and uninvolved. There were lots of secrets and lies and I was always the bad person. I still am. Even at his death this past March, I was blamed and yelled at. That is what really shocked me about my mother. She basically had him euthanized because she didn’t want to take care of him. He was not a dying man. He was murdered and we all had to sit there and watch them do it. While he was in the hospital, my mother told me twice that she resented him — then she had him euthanized. The next day I called her and she screamed at me because my husband and I prayed with my dad before the hospital staff killed him. The next day, she put on an act in front of my oldest sister and my two daughters as if I were not being compassionate towards her. My mom and I were on the phone and I was trying to explain how it hurt that she had yelled at me and hung up on me the day before when I only called to help. She put on a big act and cried and said, “please stop doing this to me” and got everyone mad at me, except my one daughter who sees through it all, but won’t stand up for me. I am so tired of being in this role. I want to have good, healthy relationships with my mom and sister, but I do not know how to do it. I need to get healthy myself and they just play head games with me and pull me down. This is tough.

    • You’ve been through a lot of heartbreak mom2mkld. I completely understand that you want to have healthy relationships with your mom and sister but it sounds like this is not possible as they won’t let you. This is the sad reality of scapegoating, and it seldom gets better. Most people find that for their own peace of mind they need to create more distance from family who are mistreating them. I’d encourage you to read my article on no contact for some other perspectives that may help you.

  • pierce singleguy

    All I can share to my fellow goat’s is this. be strong fight for your rights and live in peace and never give up, because we are the true light that guides “those that are truly dark”. WHERE NO BETTER OR WORSE. “but we are who we are…… where scapegoats we are stronger because we were predestined and chosen to be. firm believer here. some give up and throw their lives away others fall and bring others down with them but if your willing to love yourselves and forgive yourself and your enemy’s in heart you are no longer their puppet. I wanted and would of given my life personally to feel loved by those that turned their back on me from infancy up till now to others that I do not know that judge me. u see guys your not alone when it comes to being considered the common denominator in a dysfunctional group. take it with you to your last breath and don’t look back ever. I use to fear death and cry but now I know I will be at peace knowing I will die alone waste away without any real surviving family. I give them the so called WE’ s in my life” credit there for toughing me up. the pain and isolation labels loneness anger silent tears rage shame despair will only destroy you if you give up. Don’t give in and ever give up to your enemies. love them forgive them and peacefully grief accept it and walk away its all we can do. “no life lasts forever” somebody calls me crazy a jackal or an Butt today I ay its not easy being a cast ironed bull it took years of careful training on your parts. don’t hate me because you always have from birth. I shook them all off there more to my life than people that judge you and abuse you negatively for their own gain or game. I love each on here and my prayers are with all of you. please pray for me. as well. my special appreciation to the site Mgr. Sherwood. your works are industries and may god bless you. you are helping and healing guiding people to come out and talk real life~. G Washington State.

  • pierce singleguy

    I wanted to make a difference, even now it seems pointless or hopeless and that’s where I found my redemption and true salvation, I am comforted knowing I will leave this earth having fulfilled my true legacy. I was rejected labeled outcasted, shunned, hated because I am strong like all of you. We are the lights that never go out when all around us seems Dark. we can spread our light unto the darkness.
    G. WA state

  • I hear your wisdom and your pain cpt n3m0. It’s good you have chosen to pull away from this abusive family situation. I understand that you feel very alone. This is a very difficult transition. But you have started to take the right steps if you want to regain your sense of self worth. It is so important to stop participating in traumatic relationships if you are to begin to heal. If possible I’d recommend you start seeing a counsellor who can support you through this challenging time. Hang in there.

  • April First

    I Lived this all My Life … Took On Scape Goat Black Sheep and more … I am A Street Minister and Psy /Theoleogy Major … I have Video’s on UTUBE … HOLY GROUND STREET MINISTRY … That Speak’s on this … And … Delivered FROM Alcohol and drugs’ 26 yrs … NO DESIRE … I AM Also … A Survivor of ABUSE … From … Alcohlic Family for Generation’s … My Video’s are Spirtial … NOT RELIGIOUS … Jesus Said … Be Not like The RELATION PHARISEE’S … There is DYSFUNCTION Churche’s too … Been There … ON TV AND OFF … Mentally and Emotionally stealing people’s money … Love to you all … xo … WRITE ME … ON GOOGLE … Or … My Facebook … VIDEO’S Are A Must Watch …

  • Karen

    I am 70 years old. My parents are 96 and 94. I am the oldest. My sister and brother are the golden child. I have been the scapegoat my whole life. I cannot begin to tell you how badly I have been treated. My sister and brother love being the favorite and can do no wrong. Try as I might I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Now my children are being treated as outsiders. Sad to say but I wonder if life will be better when my parents are gone.

    • Sadly Karen, many scapegoated people feel this way when abusive parents die. It can feel like relief to know the hurt is finally over.

  • Justfinenow

    I am the youngest of 7. I took care of my parents for 10 years before my divorce. My father was in a nursing home and my mother lived at home. I would take her to doctors appts, shopping, to see my dad and be there anytime of the day or night if she needed me. I would go to my dad’s doctors appointments, go to all the events at the nursing home, he call and I would bring him what ever he needed, I would take him out to eat and sometime just go see him and just talk about life. My parents made me in charge of their will. They told me I would see a whole other side of my siblings and to be aware after they were gone. All of my siblings and where close. I seemed to be the one they leaned on to talk to…. I kept their secrets because most of the time they just needed to let off steam. I was the first one they would called first when tragedy hit our family. They wanted me to tell our parents and the other siblings. After my But after my last parent died, my mother… all changed. I still can’t believe how they act. They went through the family home taking things and feeling justified. Ifor I mentioned something I would like… it was a family meeting but yet when someone else wanted something they just took it. I decided that nothing in the house was worth what I was being put through. The few things my parents gave me mean the most to me. I now stay away from them. I go to family get togethers still but don’t put myself out there. I love them all but just don’t like them anymore.. I feel sorry for them. They back stab each other and still make up stuff about me. It’s sad ,

    • A painful situation. Sounds like you did what you needed to do JFN.

      • Justfinenow

        What you wrote that it will feel like grief… it does. Thank you…. you confirmed what I thought in my heart.

  • Pipkins2t

    I’m not quite sure if I can put into words the image I have in my mind at this time…………………Something, somehow, at sometime, eventually ‘clicks’. So subtle you would be the exception to the rule if you could perceive ‘it’.
    Imagine your ‘family of origin’ as a static object that you stand directly in front of; they loom so large you see no way round them, through them, across them, nor can you dig below and beyond them, Retreat is not an option.

    I invite you to know imagine the same image only this time you stand on a conveyor belt that is slowly moving backwards:allowing you distance at a speed you control.

    I am not sure how that ‘conveyor belt’ happens, nor do I need to know the reason why.
    That conveyor belt has brought me to a point where I can see the ‘drama’ for what it was. None of us are blameless. We all played our part.

    I no longer have a role to play. Nor do I desire one.

    Love for a better word gifts us space, time, compassion and understanding from which we can heal.

    Better to have one who rode the conveyor belt than a whole family who remained stuck, with no where else to go.

    • Very creative approach to distancing from the pain of toxic relationships!

  • SSmyheart

    I grew up in a unstable home of addiction. We never knew where we were moving to next and I had extreme anxiety/worries as a very young child about money, I’m talking before kindergarten. I’ve witnessed so much abuse and was the victim of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a young child. My mother would always blame me for my siblings behavior. Example my sister ran away and when she came home the two of them fought and my mom brought me into it saying I wasn’t a good enough older sister, she had such a way of deflecting. I remember being molested and running home at 2am after hiding under a baby’s crib at my parents friends house and the next morning telling my mom what happened. Of course my mom sent me to school and that very day the neighbor/patents friend’s wife showed up to pick me up from school and question me if I was telling the truth. That same week my mother invited them over for dinner while I refused to come out of my room to join them. My mother even had the nerve to state if I was lying I could ruin their marriage. She never protected me and always told me she wished she had had the abortion she almost went through with me when she was pregnant with me. I could not do right and took the blame for everything. Then I met my husband when I was 15. We are still married to this day and I will be 40 this year. The thing was he seemed to have an amazing family and I desperately wanted to be a part of it. As with most in my life I was let down in this part of my life as well. His mother and sister dispised me and only used me to watch his sisters son and to help cook and clean. They did not want their son to be with me and even tried to get him to date his sisters best friend. I came to find out his mother was using, yet again addiction had followed me in life. My mom soon left town without my sister and I and we became homeless for a bit. I slept several nights in my boyfriends closet and finally sought out my birth fathers mother my grandma whom I adore. She took my pregnant sister and I in and asked for nothing in return. I let my husband know his mother was using and we found proof when one day she had left the house and dropped a triangle folded small paper like package filled with crystals. My husband flushed it down the toilet and she came home moments later frantically searching the entire house for her drugs. We then told his sister and his dad. They were in denial at first until her pipe was found hidden in her bathroom drawer. I knew she blamed me for this. She hated me and knew I saw who she was from the beginning and saw me as a threat so instead of being welcoming she shunned me. She has been in drug treatments several times and is now sober for 12 years now, which is wonderful. She made a statement to me early in her treatment that she needed to apologize to me for what she has done following her 12 steps but she said she was not ready to address this and she just wants me to know she is sorry without the specifics. I’m sure there are tons of specifics. She has never invited me to go to lunch, a movie, shopping, anything or anywhere and her daughter and her would make it a point to make plans right in front of me. You know when girls are being caddy and just plain mean. They were the mean girls for me. This was not something I wasn’t used to so I brushed it off and took the abuse because I love my husband. He also is to blame because he never stuck up for me back then and has only recently done so. We have two children and our children are treated very differently than their other grandchildren. Lately since my husband has taken a united front towards them they have stepped up efforts to be a part of our children’s lives. I have made it a point to always be there for my kids and put them before anything. I am a PTA mom, the president of our auxiliary board for little league, volunteer in my children’s classrooms, have an amazing relationship with my children. I know I do more than most because I want to be the parent I always dreamed about. I always go above and beyond for my family. I feel my mother in law holds resentment towards me because of this. Her grandson, whom I watched practically everyday of his life from the age of 1 when I first started dating my husband till he was 13 when they moved away, he is an addict and criminal who just recently got out of jail. Anyway I am ill with a disease I get treatments for and I gave pain medication that her grandson wanted and I refused to give. He in turn told me I was a hold out and began disrespecting me every time we were in the same room. One night we were at my in laws and he started to threaten my son who was 9 years old at the time, he was 23. He was stating he would kick his ass. He was also talking really bad to his sister. I defending them and told him he needed to grow up where he then began singing the toys r us song I’m a big kid now. After that day I wrote him out of my life and wanted nothing to do with him. This made his mother my husbands sister totally upset with me but she did it in a way that turned her into this victim because we were not having her child in our lives and this of course upset her other two children and now things are weird with them. Instead of her accepting her son was wrong she flipped the script. I don’t want my kids around him and because him and his girlfriend/babies momma live with my in laws I don’t want my kids and our family over there. They can come to us but they don’t. I’ve written off my mother a long time ago and I’m ready to do it to his but worry what this will do to my children who will then have no family except my sister and brother and a few cousins. I can’t stand being around addicts and the drama that comes with it but I don’t want my children punished. I’m sick of being the bad guy for everything and everyone’s problems. There is so much more I haven’t stated. Honestly since we haven’t been around any of them since the holidays which his nephew almost got in a fight in front of our kids with their uncle :/ our lives have been so much happier. The kids do miss their grandparents though and crave the attention from that family. I just don’t want them exposed to that. Why am I always the one to blame? I don’t do drugs, I rarely have a drink, I’m a devoted wife and mother, I have many friends. Why is my family life like this no matter what?

    • I understand your need to distance from this dysfunctional family situation. Active addiction, blaming others and not taking responsibility for one’s actions tend to go together. Sounds like you were hoping that the children could maintain contact with some family members, but it doesn’t seem safe. The operative word is “safety” – emotionally and physically. No contact is much better than contact that is harmful to anyone, especially children.

      • SSmyheart

        Thank you for your response and in my gut I already knew the answer. Just wish things were different

        • Yes, I wish things were easier and better for you too with your family.

  • Yes Amelia, self protection and setting boundaries, even if family pushes back, is the only healthy option.

  • Joni

    You used the words “bad attitude”. I was told that my attitude was my problem my entire life. I remember my father yelling at my mother when I was young, he didn’t know I could hear or didn’t care, that I had that same attitude as her grandmother (which he hated). He left to find himself and I was left with my great grandmother which were the happiest of my childhood. But even in my 50’s he continued to say the problem was my attitude. I had no problems with anyone else but if ask him to explain he would just get over the top angry. I was always to blame for things I obviously had nothing to do with. I was literally their best child, but may have well been a homeless drug addict. You are right no person should suffer this emotional abandonment. I also keep waiting for them to check on me but it has been 5 years. It came to a head due to physical abuse for no reason by my father and I was forced to separate. In the course it seems I lost them and my friends and my life. Now I am 58 and been very sick much of what stems from years of anxiety and having to move into assisted living. I wonder everyday if I did the right thing even though my mother knows I am sick but never calls. After Glyniss Sherwood’s intro they will never take accountability or apologize or even care. I don’t underdtand. I care more about a homeless person I don’t know than my own parents do. Odd thing I have siblings and nephews who have really had attitude issues but overlooked. If you discover what the attitude is let me know. I do know from years of experience each time you return wanting love and acceptance it seems they suck out a little more blood and not happy until you can’t take it anymore. Please don’t let them cause you future health issues but I understand your sense of loss and why you return. Sad thing is most of this is invisible to others and if your parents are financially comfortable and have paid gore college and trips people think how could I not overlook s little verbal stuff because all they did for me. I can’t say this side is easy except no drama or sitting on edge for next shoe to drop. I was older when I finally left and got so sick and couldn’t work or drive and put on disability. Impossible to start over. So I will die alone or at least with new friends in independent living place. If I had left 15 years ago I could have moved and easily started over and visited my base of long time friends. Take care of yourself and move on while healthy. Unless they change sadly you will never “fit in” unless you accept and approve if their behaviors. Maybe when you get settled and strong in a new life you can contact them on your terms but I don’t know. According to her intro this is highly unlikely. I will tell you it is hardest thing I have been through but life with them was more unbearable because it didn’t and doesn’t make sense. Hope this helps

  • Joni

    I replied to someone but don’t see it. Did I respond incorrectly? I found You miss Sherwood many years ago but only read posts thinking I could beat it alone. I would like to know if there are rules and if I did something wrong. Thanks, joni

    • Your comments are below Joni. I do moderate comments for appropriateness. Due to the busyness of my counselling practice, it can take me a day or two to approve comments.

  • Pipkins2t

    Perhaps it is ‘easier ‘ to remain at the heart of a battle than to choose to sit on the side lines, becoming increasingly aware that once the ‘game is over’ you are no longer playing your part in a team. No matter how dysfunctional that team or part was, it played a part.

  • Pingback: I am my family’s scapegoat. – Bright Healing()

  • I am the family scapegoat and it took me until age 46 to figure it out. I have been being treated for complex PTSD and thought my ex husband (an emotionally unavailable alcoholic was the root of it.) I am currently going the no contact route with my family.

    Long story short I quit drinking myself 2 years ago when a psychotherapist told me I was an alcoholic and I needed to quit drinking. Not only was I co-dependent but I was an alcoholic myself! I became intentionally positive and my self esteem came to fruition. I never felt so good about myself! I started having flashbacks about my ex.

    Once you are out of the forest you can see the trees. I moved from my dysfunctional family 18 years ago and was low contact. I believed I subconsciously went low contact because of the shame of living with an emotionally and verbally abusive alcoholic. Nope it was a coping mechanism because I couldn’t handle the pain of a narcissistic mother on top of a narcissistic alcoholic husband.

    Over the years (married in that situation for 25) I went to therapy after therapy because I was told I was the one with the problem from both my family and my ex. Whenever the therapist went deep with “how was your upbringing” I would respond “white picket fence good”.

    Now since I am healthy and intentionally positive and found an AMAZING partner (who ironically had a similar background with a narcissistic father and ex wife) my narcissistic baby sister is spreading lies about him. Two weeks after we married (this past October) she let me know he abused his daughter (not true) and started spreading them around the family.

    In November, we visited the folks for Thanksgiving. Everything was normal as normal could be in this situation. I did find myself lashing out at my new husband that week and I could not figure out why. I prayed all through December and January to find the reason why I am paralyzed with work (I own my own real estate broker) and why I am moody.

    Well the folks came in late January for a visit and they were parroting baby sister’s talking points. They had me thinking my husband is bad, I am bad and I am in a bad situation. She verbally abused me when no one was around. They went to my step daughter’s work to abuse her. Again the verbal anger continued against my new husband and flashbacks began. This time flashbacks were of the horror of my childhood.

    I am back in therapy and hoping for neurofeedback approval with my insurance. The flashbacks this time were HORRID and they went back all the way to when I was 1 1/2. The worst one was when I got my wisdom teeth out and my mother was driving me home and I was sick from the anesthesia. She stopped to get gas and I opened the door to puke because I could not hold it in anymore. She was screaming that I needed to stop because I was embarrassing her. You have to understand now that I was Cinderella in my family. I am the oldest and the youngest was 15 years younger. Queen Bee had to work and Cinderella had her teenage years stolen because she always had to babysit Queen Bee’s children, do her laundry and cook. Queen Bee was put out because she had to do Cinderella’s job when Cinderella was down from the wisdom teeth removal. She fed me codeine for a week straight which made me sick and NO ONE in my house noticed until a week later they came in, took the sheets off of me and said “OK YOU ARE DONE GET OUT OF BED AND DO SOMETHING.” I was lethargic and covered in hives because of the codeine allergy. I had one big hive (and these suckers were big welts all over my body) on my neck and she screamed at me that I was a whore and it was a hickey. I remember screaming at her back that I have been no where and look at my body – they were all over. At age 17 I had to figure out on MY OWN that I was allergic to the meds and that those were hives because according to her I was a whore (even though I didn’t leave my bed for a week!)

    The flashbacks are horrendous, the grieving process is insane. I decided to go “quietly” and just disappear from my narcissist mother, enabling father and siblings’ lives. My mother has apologized that she was “more harsh on me” over the years but her actions have not shown it as she repeatedly goes through her narcissistic rages. My siblings won’t keep the narcissistic baby in check and allow her to damage me and my reputation with her lies.

    My life was peaceful and serene before all this. I am now being love bombed by my narcissist mother (and ignoring) and narcissist sister has convinced all siblings to have a relationship with my narcissistic alcoholic ex husband. More power to all of them I say!

    Right now I am dealing with the grief of losing them and the anxiety that my snowbird parents just 6 hours away will show up on my doorstep to attempt to get me commited. (they have tried before.) Because I am the crazy and oversensitive. My feelings have always been minimized. Now the chaos and crazy making has stepped up a notch because I am attempting to live a peaceful and serene existence. And God only knows that Renee does not deserve it. According to them.

    • Sounds like No Contact is the best defense you have Renee. Good for you for taking care of yourself through therapy and finding a solid partner. I’m wondering if it might be helpful to get legal advice from a lawyer who understands family abuse, regarding your sisters slander against your husband and in case your parents try to have you committed again?

      • That’s actually something I am considering. The intense paranoia and anxiety these types give individuals also have prompted me to shop for cameras for my house so we can monitor activity.

  • Emma

    Hello. To me your case seems pretty clear cut. You are the scapegoat in my opinion. I know you’ve just come to the realisation that you are a scapegoat so this is all new. If it were me though I would be analysing the amount of contact I allow. Once a month for a few days seems like an awful lot of time to expose yourself and your family to their toxicity. Best of luck.

  • Bill Fedde

    How does one handle weekly contact with a family member where no contact is actually the best answer,
    but creating distance is not practical now or for the immediately foreseeable future?

    This site contains one of the more interesting articles and remarkable series of posts I’ve read since being introduced to the narcissist/sociopath phenomenon over the past twelve months or so. Unfortunately all twelve of your accompanying ‘scapegoating’ criteria matches my experience as well. I am almost fifty five years old.

    I wish I had understood what I was really up against before purchasing an expensive home in a small neighborhood so close to what I now understand to be a narcissist, high functioning alcoholic younger brother and wife who seems to fit the sociopath criteria, and who is also an alcoholic.

    I originally moved away from the same city with my wife and two children after essentially being driven out of business by the younger brother whose business I initially helped to provide data for and set up. I had to find work and did find enough out of the area to get started again.

    We moved back seven years later because this is just about the only three block section of the California coast that offers the combination of waterfront living and a boat dock in the back yard with direct access to Channel Islands National Park where my immediate family spends so much time together on our small yacht. It is the closest area of its kind geographically to my primary real estate asset based business as well.

    I thought while my brother and his wife were relative negatives on our pro and con list before purchasing this house about two years ago, our second since moving back, somehow the slander would have to slow. We thought some degree of truth, with a level of general goodness would have to somehow prevail. Doesn’t it always? So I once naively thought.

    When the exact opposite occurred, my wife and I consulted a psychologist to try to determine what was wrong with us and what we could do to fix it. According to the psychologist, we are apparently the relatively healthy ones and there is nothing we can do to change the relationship given the apparent personality
    types of the brother and wife and the success they have had with certain methods of making us their targets.

    The problem is we’re committed to our neighborhood (which we otherwise enjoy) and the brother has successfully accused us within the family and parts of the greater (but small) community that we moved here to do nothing but ‘stick it to him’ (of course assuming we were willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to do so), all while also somewhat successfully accusing us of several miss-deeds
    that actually they themselves have committed against my family.

    We’ve gone ‘no contact’ with them along with the rest of my extended family who have willingly looked the other way from glaring evidence of what has happened over a period of years. The brother is in process of building a much bigger house after tearing down his existing one. My hope is that once this is finished, he
    will again feel that the compensating height and size of his home over ours allows him enough perceived internal balance to leave our friends and us a little more alone.

    How do we present ourselves during the weekly negative contact while enduring the slander, continuing manipulation, etc. that we now know we have to live with and will not be changing any time soon? Current method is to just watch them go by our dock in their own boat and not say anything but ‘looking good’ or something of the sort. This reaction is the only one we can come up with at the sight of pathological beings my wife and I sense we will never be able to completely understand.

  • Ahmed

    Thank you for this article Glynis. It has just rekindled some hope for me.

    I’m 29 and I have only recently realised the dynamics of my family. My Dad is Narcassistic, my Mum has folllowed suit and my sister (30) is the golden child, leaving me to be the scapegoat. My eldest sister was also a scapegoat, the rest of my siblings being lucky enough to be almost ignored.

    My Dad has been verbally and mentally hurting me since I was 10; calling me names and always telling me how stupid and unworthy I was as the eldest son. He has to this day said the most vile things to me and has eroded my self-estrem as a result. But after saying everything, he always says he loves me. This cycle has been ensuing since almost 20 years and I am now emotionally exhausted. Everytime I try standing up for myself, Im reminded by him and family members of how much he loves me.

    I am now learning that I’m not bad or crazy like my parents have always said to me and even told my siblings and extended family. There are times when I think they may be right, that maybe its me; but Thank God I’m beginning to think otherwise. My confidence is growing and although I’m still sugfering from depression and anxiety, this too is a lot milder at times.

    Living in these dynamics all my life, now that I know I am trapped in a web of lies I’m still unsure of how to get out of this predicament. Your list has enabled me to start this journey of being free of this cycle of emotional pain.

    A word to my fellow-sufferers; learn to love yourself and never stop standing up for the truth.

    Many thanks and God Bless.

    • Hi Ahmed – Thanks for your comments. Glad you are feeling more hopeful. I’d recommend that you read my other articles on scapegoating on my website. You might also look into counselling with a therapist who understands scapegoating, narcissism and other abusive family dynamics. All the best to you!

  • Labradorsrule

    Thank you for this article. I am the youngest of 10. We grew up in a physically and psychologically abusive house. I have 5 brothers and 4 sisters. There is an 8 year difference between me and the next oldest. My brothers don’t have much contact with us. I never understood why I didn’t get along with my sisters, until now. Whenever I have tried to tell any of my sisters that they have hurt my feelings, it was my fault that my feelings were hurt or I had no right to feel the way I do. However, I hurt or offend one of them, I am attacked. What’s worse, their treatment of me is now extending to others. My sisters bought each other and all of my nieces, Pandora bracelets. I was not included. In May, my brother-in-law threw a drink on me at a wedding because I disagreed with him. (He becomes extremely angry if someone disparages his favorite football team.) Apparently, I am not entitled to an apology. My sister said, “Life is short, get over it.” Like so many other things between us, I am expected to act like it didn’t happen. “What is worse is my brother-in-law and sister lied about the situation and my niece and nephew that I got along with now think that I am the bad one. This is just the tip of the iceberg in 47 years of being blamed, yelled at, and abused by older siblings. I was the youngest, and for so long I was unable to defend myself. Now, I am at the point w’here I want nothing to do with them. The only reason I do is I get along with most of my nieces and nephews. I don’t know whether to break ties or to suffer through it because of my nieces and nephews.

    • Very challenging situation, but sounds like you are in touch with your bottom line – i.e. respectful treatment. I wish you the greatest success in being able to maintain the relationships with nieces and nephews that mean so much to you.

    • MB

      I just wanted to ask how you decided to handle your situation. I have a young niece and nephew (5 and 7). My parents stopped speaking to me once again for having a differing opinion (Albeit about something major but I still feel I should be entitled to my own opinion). Eventually one brothers partner lashed out at me via text (He actually had a good reason to be angry with me but not to speak to me the way he did which is unfortunately worth brownie points in my family. He, in the past, has acknowledged that they agree with me but are currently financially dependent on my parents so can’t go against them and that always hurt my feelings because I wouldnt let my mother treat them the way she treats me and say nothing). Then my sister in law decided I mistreated her because I said I was unhappy that she repeated things I said to her in confidence (which is why my brothers partner was angry because it was part but not all of something he told me in confidence that I repeated some of when my sister in law questioned me. I thought I was omitting the most important parts but satisfying her curiosity enough and it was a bad decision on my part). She told me I had to contact my brother to visit with their kids. Then my brother claims I chose to stop speaking to my parents and refuses to let me see his kids unless it’s at their home or around the other family members (like my mother). I asked to take the kids (which I’ve done before with no issue) so that we could go to the zoo and spend nice time that wasn’t awkward or tense. I wanted to break all contact with my parents and brothers (I’m exiled every time my mother gets mad at me anyway by my parents and two brothers). I usually step back in once “forgiven” but I don’t want that for myself anymore. I want to see the kids but I’m being forced back in or I have to walk away and I don’t know what to do. The thing is that I love those kids like they are my own but what scares me most is that my 17 year old daughter is now being targeted as the “problem” as well as me. Advice?

      • Labradorsrule

        My nieces and nephews are all over 21. I do have great nieces and nephews. I have decided to talk to my nieces and nephews with whom I am closest and go from there. I am not attending any family functions unless it is specifically for one of my nieces or nephews. I am keeping my distance from my sisters. I have come to find out that my brother sides with me. He doesn’t like the brother-in-law who threw the drink but he can’t say anything. His twin, is married to the brother-in-law. It would only make matters worse if he did anyway. I am certain one of my other sisters didn’t like what he did at the wedding either but no one is going to stand up for me and they don’t want me to stand up for myself. I am staying away for my own sanity. However, my niece whose wedding it was where all of this occurs, said she loves me, and feels I protected her because I never told her what happened. Someone else did. She said she loves me even more than before. Her mother however, blamed me that she didn’t have pictures of the day to look at the first week. How that was my fault I don’t know as I wasn’t the photographer. But this is the crazy logic that gets thrown out at me.
        My advice to you, is protect your daughter. I have been going through this for so long and nothing ever changes. No matter how hard I tried to be what I thought they wanted my sisters to be, it wasn’t enough. They changed what they wanted, they turned tables and twisted words. The thing is, THEY are part of the problem and until they admit that, it won’t change. And they never admit they are part of the problem. It’s always us! So the cycle continues. Unfortunately, your niece and nephews are so young, you can’t talk to them about what’s happening. But you can keep your daughter from going through what you are going through and have gone through. I am lucky because, for a long time, I thought it was me until I started dating my husband. He came out of a family gathering one time and said, “What was that? Can you ever be right? Do they always gang up on you like that? Why is everything your fault when you weren’t even there? And finally, I felt like, wow, it’s not just me.

  • Hey Folks – what would you like to see me write about next regarding family scapegoating?

    • Pipkins2t

      Recovery. The power of survival and what individuals like ourselves can offer to others. I am done with the anger, the pain, the continual and exhausting cycle of self recrimination and imponderables.
      What can we do to help others who feel trapped ? How can we help others release the guilt that will break them? How do we show that live continues in a positive way?

      • Thanks for your input!

        • Pipkins2t

          Hi Glynis, your page here has been invaluable. Until I stumbled across the entries here, I had never heard of the term ‘scapegoating’. Reading others experiences allowed me to accept that I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings. That the guilt, confusion, feelings of rejection, low self esteem etc are symptomatic of my relationships with my ‘birth family’. I do agree that a page such as offers a major step towards recovery, as individuals are given a safe platform to express themselves. I am at the point in my recovery where I can accept that continuing with my decision of no contact is the best choice I can make.
          It helps me to hear and know that life does go on. I take strength from the fact that I do not wish to spend the rest of my life feeling guilty, suicidal, rejected and worthless. I will spend the rest of my life appreciating each day, being grateful for the calm I now have in my life, and for the genuine loving and unconditional acceptance I receive from my own sons and close friend. Perhaps recovery starts the day that we choose to move forward. There are days when we ‘look back’, however it helps to do so when we have sufficient amounts of ’emotional distance’ that affords us a safe vantage point. It helps when I hear a voice that tells me ‘to keep moving forward’. That I deserve to see the world. That I am worth walking alongside. That I have so much to offer life and others who don’t yet know that there is a path out of the hell they find themselves trapped in. Recovery for me is being able to enjoy a walk in nature, to listen to music, share laughter with friends,hold hands with someone I love. Fall into sleep being held safe in the arms of someone who accepts me for who I am. Recovery is shedding a tear on the days I do choose to look back, and I see just how far I have traveled. My sincere hope is that I meet many of you along the future path.

          • Thank you for the wisdom and the beauty of your thoughts on recovery. I wish you ongoing peace and loving support as you continue on your healing path.

    • Pipkins2t

      Hi, I do hope to find some help. Over the past few weeks I have been trying to identify a feeling/thought that is unsettling me. I would appreciate some help in clarifying what it is that my mind/soul, is trying to show me. Whatever it is relates to the terms ‘misplaced loyalty’ and rejection. I think my mind is confused by the difficult emotions I hold relating to being rejected, and accepting the reality that I have come to a point in my life when I am choosing to reject the behaviours of my mother and siblings. Does that make any sense?
      This feels like a bit of a conundrum, with my mind racing between feeling powerful for rejecting abusive behaviours and setting appropriate boundaries, to feeling a like a naughty child who can come out of her room once she accepts how wrong she is and says sorry.
      As a child my mother would dismiss her children in a rage, sending them to their room to ‘think about what they had done’ and when they figured out what it was they had done they were to find her and apologies, explaining their understanding of just how wrong and hurtful they had been. On so many occasions, I would find a rationale for my inexcusable behaviours, only to find that my apology was rejected outright as being false, attention seeking, hollow, selfish and meaningless. My apology was deemed a reflection of just how stupid and selfish I was, as I never gave an answer that told my mother what it was she wanted to hear. To this day I still don’t have a clue as to what she would need to hear. Listening to her children, or my father is certainly not on her agenda.
      So, my own question remains unanswered, what is it that I am trying to find peace with?

      • What a terrible double bind you were in with your mother as a child! I would encourage you to listen to the Feelings you have when you are aware that you are rejecting abusive behavior by your family – i.e. Power. The ‘naughty’ child is who you have to let go of, as it’s a manifestation of the internalized scapegoat.

  • HollowResident

    Thank You for this insight into why I feel the way I do..I have been the scapegoat all my life…the past 15 years has been the hardest..it’s a wound that I think is healed then all of a sudden the bandage gets ripped off and I am back to the emotional bleeding again… I think us scapegoats feel unlovable because we have been made to feel this way..

    • HR – The path to healing is about overcoming the guilt, shame and anxiety that has been imposed on you from an abusive family situation, and internalized so you buy into it. I hope you have good support in your life as you make your way through this pain. I would also recommend you consider getting counselling from a therapist who truly understands family scapegoating.

  • Sarah020562

    Thanks for this article. I am the scapegoat of the family and have been as far back as I can remember. My sister is the golden child and has been treated like a princess since she was born. My brother was a scapegoat too, but not to the extent that I was, he just up and left as a very young teen (8th grade) and lived with one of our neighbors and my Mom was okay with that as he was nothing but trouble as she would state. Our family is and has been messed up for a very long time. My parents were divorced when we were very young and we moved constantly. Never really got the opportunity to make friends until High School and never really had the time with all the stuff that I had to do from a young age. I got blamed and punished for everything including stuff my brother and sister did since I was told that I was old enough to know better and that I should have been watching them. I was cooking, cleaning, ironing, doing the laundry, etc. and even changing my brother when he was a baby. I was only 5. When I was 14 I was told that I needed to get a job. I did and was told that I needed to buy my own stuff and I needed to give money for my upkeep.My sister never had to work and basically did whatever she wanted. She did not even have to clean. I was told that I had to do this stuff because I was the oldest and I needed to be responsible. When I was 16, my sister had developed anorexia. She was so sick that she had to be hospitalized. My Mom quit her job to be with her and to take care of her and never stopped taking care of her to this day. I was pushed aside for as long as I can remember and it was even worse when I sister was sick. I spend weeks at a time by myself with no one. I got great grades in school, but my Mom would go to parent teacher and tell the teachers that I was lazy and to pour on the work. She never liked the way that I dressed or how I wore my hair. She picks at me to this day about those things. I was and still am a neat freak, but she named me “Sloppy Annie” and constantly made fun of me and called me names, no matter what I did. She would just fly off the handle sometimes if I had something out of place and would go into my room and pour out all my dresser drawers in a pile and pull all the stuff out of the closet and I had to put it all back while my sister sat and watched me, most of the time making fun of me, the both of them. It really hurt. I would save my lunch money to buy her something for Christmas, birthday or Mother’s Day and she would just throw it aside and on to my sister’s gifts and she would praise her to the moon and back. She still does that to this day. No matter what I ever did to try and please her, she was always nasty to me. I could write a book on my childhood and my childhood alone and it would be as big as a set of encyclopedias. My brother and I were very close, he recently passed away suddenly. My brother and mother were not talking for two years prior to his death. Well, long story short, my brother accumulated and inherited a lot of money. He left his estate to my dad and mom. My dad recently passed which left my Mom the sole heir. I helped my Mom through the whole process, and I wonder why, I even try because she abuses me constantly. I know nothing accordingly to her. Well, I cleaned out my brother’s house 5 dumpsters full, helped to sell off his 7 cars and 2 motorcycles etc. My sister did nothing. I felt bad for my mom, but I should have felt bad for myself instead. Anyway, my mom gave my sister my brother’s new house that she inherited no money was required. I wanted one of my brother’s cars and she charged me for it, cashed the check and tried to say she gave it to me. Now my Mom has terminal cancer and has me on a guilt trip of a lifetime. She only talks to me when she feels like it, but is in constant contact with my sister daily. In the middle of all this, my mom calls me and tells me that she has settlement on a new house the next week. She never even told me they were looking or that they even thought about moving. I quit my job that I loved to take care of her and they ended up moving away. She moved down the street from my sister. Since all this happened, they have gatherings and stuff and don’t invite me and I confronted them about it and now they invite me, but wait until the day before or day of, knowing that I can’t just drop what I am doing to run 2 hours away. The games that they play. This past Christmas, I was talking to my sister and we were getting together a menu for dinner. I went and bought all the stuff. I get a call a few days later and she said that they wanted something different and it was stuff that they know I can’t eat because of allergies. I went along and took some food with me that I can eat. Anyway, she asked what I was getting my mother and I told her (I was making a quilt with clothing from all the family etc) and asked her for some items that I needed for the present. She said she would get them together. Anyway, she never did. I had to rush around and find something, which I know my Mom wouldn’t like anyway. The last present that my sister gave to my Mom was a quilt with my idea. I wanted to take her down at that moment and I am in no way anything near violent. My husband and daughter both looked at me. I went outside and cried. I put up with this crap for 54 years. I am so tired. I know my Mom is dying, but I think it is best that I stay away for my own sanity. I am so tired of it. They are not answering my phone calls and texts, this is what they do to me all the time and then blame me for not contacting them. Easter is just about upon us, and I told my husband and daughter that I am not answering them, we are having a wonderful holiday right here at home. My family has only been to my home 1 time in the past 7 years. The last 3 has been the excuse that my Mom has cancer and she can’t travel this far, but she was able to go to Disney on Ice with my sister 3 hours away from their house. I want to be normal and have a normal life. I even asked what I did and they act like I am making this stuff up. My daughter keeps telling me not to care, but it is hard. My mother never even as much ever said to me that she loved me at least I can not remember a time. Thankfully, through all this, I became a good mother, very supportive of my daughter, her biggest cheerleader in life. I turned it around and it stopped with me. I knew how it felt and I never would want anyone else to feel what I have felt the majority of my life. I just have to get past what I am feeling. The hurt. Sorry for the book, but this has been therapy for me. Just getting it out to others that understand.

  • Alice

    Thank you for this website and all your good information. I figured out that I have been been recreating the scenario of the scapegoat throughout my life. Sure, it was imprinted into my psyche from a very early age and I played the role well. I have adapted to always being blamed, mistrusted and demonized. I was the parent to a narcissistic mother and bullied by my father.I recreated this by marrying a man who had full custody of 3 troubled boys and they still scapegoat me after 18 years of giving them my heart and soul while raising them. I have always secured employment that was beneath my skill level, because I believe that I am flawed in some way. I currently work in a corporate call center where customers call to vent, blame and berate with all the urine and vinegar of a full fledged bully and now its making me sick with migraine headaches. Bottom line, I am at a cross roads and I need to stop replicating the scapegoat. I am fearful of how to begin, I was never one for baby steps and wonder how dramatic of a change should I make before I start to feel alright with my life

    • Hi Alice – You’ve been through a very tough time indeed with your family. I hope you can find employment that will be easier on you. Everyone goes at their own pace in terms of change, but a good rule of thumb can be that unless you are sure there will be good consequences for any action, to go slow and test the waters for safety and peace of mind as you make headway. Best of luck.

  • Kathy

    There are 5 of us in my family, I am now 60, there are two of us that are scapegoats, me and my oldest brother. I can see us both in your article, not everything applied but a lot hit me dead on and hard. Two of the other children, the babies a boy and girl are the golden kids! The other sister a follower. But I might have misunderstood, but my brother and I were the sensitive and happy kids, we had lots of friends and were loved by most everyone, except our family. We were a lot like my dad, hardworking and usually satisfied with simple things in our lives and made our own happiness, both of us creative and artistic . My mom bullied my dad as she did us. He has been disabled and bedridden most his life and she has resented him. The other three like my mom, show all the signs of a narccisist. They want to control everything and everybody, they undermine us, and try to make us miserable, when my kids would visit them, instead of speaking good things to them about us, they spent every opportunity to tear us down. We gave and gave to them but when they figured out they could not control us, they blocked us and I mean literally. The youngest took power of attorney over my dad and talked my mom into signing not only her property and everything over to her, she secretively took my granddads farm which my brother and I were suppose to recieve one fifth, and wrote my brother and I out of the will. My dad had no knowledge, and my mom told us she was terrified that if she didn’t go along with her she would throw her out of her home. Now the siblings say they paid for it, but we got copies of the will and it was done 10 years before we found out and was done with love no money passed hands. My sister says she is owed the house because she pays my moms bills, but then if they paid for the farm of 90 + acres, and my oldest sister had of paid by the cash inheritance my granddad left my parents which she used to purchase my uncles third of the farm, then I am pretty sure that along with their retirement income would pay for everything! My sister the youngest also blocked our numbers from our parents phone, and she banned us from all family gatherings, when we found out they stole the farm. My daughter graduated in 2012 and sold tickets for a free auto, my sister told her at the time since she was the baby and all the other kids had cars she would give the auto to her if she won, so guess what, she won and instead she sold the car, took a piece of the money and bought a old van to get my parents around. We were told we could all use it to take my parents out, but when my brother and I tried she told us if we left the property she would have us arrested for car theif. When my dad was first disabled by a stroke, he had built a mechanics garage next to the family home prior, my oldest brother worked nights and weekends in the garage servicing people’s autos to pay off the mortgage. My parents told us all he would get the garage and lot for his co tribute on, but after my sister took control she changed it to her name, she gave him 30 days to remove his stuff before she dumped it or sold it and she changed the locks. My mom said she was too afraid of her to speak out! When I was young a family member sexually abused me, I told my mom, she didn’t believe me, months later after it kept happening and I cried each time she took us there to be babysitted, (I was 5) the person tried to do it to my older sister, she told mom and she believed her and we stopped seeing them. It took me 50 years to talk about it. I always thought maybe I was just too imperfect to fit in the family. I never told my other set of grandparents but I think they knew because I wanted to spend de very moment I could on their farm, they never asked me anything, they just loves me and made me feel loved. When I came home my mom would torment me getting the others to tease me that I was granny’s favorite and her baby. I have always had overwhelming desires my whole life to end the pain. I have night mares still . I even tried once in college, and a friend found me, I never spoke of it and hid the scares. I still fight those feelings. My son is now in a relationship with a girl exactly like my younger sister. A narccicist! She ban everyone from his life except my 3 siblings . My youngest sister became her best friends and their top prority is to keep stabbing me my husband and his sister in the back. They have an alliance and we are depressed. My daughter and I have read messages she has written, her own mother told us her daughter was a narcissist just like her father. When her father threw her out she became pregnant, and my husband, daughter and I are not allowed in their lives. With my family they really don’t care for her, they have never before showed an interest in my son until his girlfriend decided he couldn’t live us both. They have even made the statements, they do it to keep me and my brother the scapegoat, they tried to turn my daughter but it did not work, she even took a class in college trying to understand them. They have tried to turn my brothers kids but they also stayed loyal to their dad. I don’t know how to change anything but myself. I failed to mention everything the others do is always wonderful, my sister a veterinarian in town, had many affairs in her husband with married men, she has been living with one of those married men, she is divorced but he is still married, he won’t marry her because he says he won’t be controlled my her, she is now 46, no kids, except the nieces and nephews she try’s to buy or pry from us. I have heard her and my youngest brother call my mother all kinds of disrespectful names, and get by with it all of their lives. I could never do that. My younger brother failed out of college after barely getting into college from his grades in high school, but her married rich….so now is totally the smartest person ever if you ask him or my mom, no matter what they do, they are golden. My oldest brother the other scapegoat, is brilliant, he is an plumbing and draftsman engineer and has a very successful career, the youngest brother a mechanic for tractors, oldest brother has struggled in his marriages, but now has a wonderful filipno spouse which they spread the tumors always was a mailed we bride and continually put her down. Both sisters graduated 1 and 2 in their class and were forever bragged about it, I graduated 12th, never mentioned, both sisters had beautiful weddings with professional flowers and photographers, I got azeala bushes and a friend who snapped photos which were never put in an album like sisters, and have since faded out. There are professional baby photos of them, none of me. I just cannot understand parents who would do this, the list is just way too long to post.

    • Such a painful situation with your family Kathy. But at least you can see reality and make choices based on that. And as you rightly said, especially if you are dealing with abusive narcissistic people, the only person you can change is yourself.

  • Unah

    I am the family scapegoat. My mother has schizophrenia, and my grandparents were deeply ashamed of this. They did not want to deal with the reality of her mental health, so they blamed me. I upset her, wouldn’t over look her, didn’t help her enough, or I was just a difficult child and she had to discipline me. All this blame led to me being blamed for other situations in the family where I was clearly the victim. When a man who married into the family began writing me inappropriate letters I was blamed even though I told the instant it happened. He even tested the waters by writing letters to my whole family where he talked about my “purity and chastity” and other such weird stuff involving my sexuality. My family brushed it off as being good things for people to think about me, and the real problem is that these letters upset my mother. As an adult I had to stop contact with my mother because she wouldn’t stay medicated, and I have young children. I ended contact with the rest of my family when they blamed me for her behavior because I wouldn’t talk to her or let her be around my kids. Being the scapegoat doesn’t really end, we just have to put up a wall between us and them.

    • Unah – Sadly what you describe about your life happens far too often – i.e. not only being blamed for your mother’s problems, but also being made to feel responsible as a child, for the well being of a parent. Clearly this is just wrong, completely overwhelming for a child, and an abdication of responsibility by other adult family members who did not step in to help you or your mother manage.

    • Christine Gates

      This is true, though, I will disagree with you on one point. Being the scapegoat DOES end. I’ve been there, when it felt like it will never end. But, it does END, when you step away from that role completely. It is not just about walling them off and cutting off contact. This happens after you’ve taken the difficult & lengthy steps needed to heal those wounds & attitudes you’ve wrongly believed about yourself, which for most of us, is a lifetime’s worth. That is hardly easy. This ends when you start truly believing the right things about who you are & living your life free in every possible way. (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually etc.) It takes alot of work. but it can be done & I honestly believe that it is worth it. You are worth it. You’ll know you’re getting better when you start honestly believing that too. Someday, I hope you’ll see this. Good luck!

  • Christine Gates

    Yes. I was the responsible child. I am highly intuitive and an empath. When I saw things that were messed up, I talked about them or asked questions. It was clear that my insights were not welcomed by my former family. I learned to feel intense shame for my perceptions even though they were probably spot on. I learned to be silent and afraid. What is worse is that I learned to see things that I knew were wrong and say nothing about them. I often knew bad stuff was being said about me, but just accepted it. What could I do? I cannot tell you how difficult this made my life. I never seemed to be good enough for anyone, at least, in my head. Now, I know that’s not even true and that there is nothing wrong with being perceptive or insightful. Those are good attributes. I went out and tried and succeeded at many things only to be routinely ignored or criticized. Despite my successes, other family members successes were embellished and highlighted over anything I ever did. This was like a slow cancer that ate away at everything I thought and felt about myself and the world at large. These inadequate feelings followed me into relationships, friendships and work experiences. It was truly harmful. I am glad that there is info out there for people like myself. I consider myself fortunate that I escaped this pattern and refused to live another day by it. I have disowned all of those I once called family. I really do not care about them anymore. What they did was messed up and wrong. I don’t expect much to come from this. I truly only hope that my life will be more of a relief without their oppressive bullying and abuse. It’s taken me a long time, but it has gotten better. Imagine trying to stand up to dozens of family members who have sort of accepted that you are bad just because a parent decided that you would be that one kid. It’s just awful. Even though this has peppered my life with really negative experiences that I wish I could take away, I do feel fortunate to be free. I am alot better at sticking up for myself and for being productive. I speak up when I see things that aren’t right or important. I also give credit where and when it is due. But, I will not take the blame for things I haven’t done anymore. It has been a really tough process, but I’m glad I came through it. It is truly an insidious dynamic to harm a child in this way. It sets that kid up for so much heartbreak. Anyway, today I am just glad to be enlightened. And if anything, I’m here to say that is you scapegoat a member of your family or someone else, that you are a bully and that you are abusive. To refuse to help them or to turn a blind eye makes you a part of the problem. If that’s you, then you need to own that. If you are scapegoated, know that I know how truly brutal that lifestyle can be especially when your actual livelihood depends on getting along with your family. I can only suggest that you try to find outside support and to do what you can to make it on your own. It can happen. It happened to me and I’m really glad to say that I won’t ever return to that nightmare.

    • Some great advice and wisdom here Christine. So sorry you had to learn this the hard way, but I think others will find your story inspirational.

  • Kylie Hansard

    I’ve had to deal with this exact issue in my family. I never played victim or felt sorry for myself (I think the assumption that scapegoats will do this is slightly off- it varies from person to person… and telling people I didn’t deserve the abuse was often falsely construed as “victimhood” since they saw nothing wrong with their actions.), just worked really hard to get out of it. Unfortunately, it did effect my relationships bc I do tend to come off as cold and don’t trust easily. My family still does it. My father was abusive, bi-polar, my mother complacent, my grandmother an alcoholic who was prone to abuse if you exposed the alcohol abuse. It was toxic because they each had something to hide and when the unacceptable behavior was pointed out, they often leaned on calling me delusional or accusing me of having mental issues “if that’s what (I) believed”. My father still won’t admit to what he’d done and, as far as I know, has lived out of homeless shelters and hotels since my parents split. His disorders finally caught up to him. He used to tell people I lied to cover it and even though it is clear to everyone that he was a mentally unwell, abusive and dishonest- I still have to deal with a stigma people should have realized, at this point, was based on something false. My grandmother has finally admitted to her alcohol issues but still says that I had made false accusations in regards to her abuse- even when she admits it as true, as though she has said it so many times that she doesn’t even realize one sentence contradicts the other… if you were an alcoholic, the accusations weren’t false…(??)… My mother and sisters aren’t as bad but tend to look the other way and carry on the idea that I was always wrong, that I’m everything they said in the past. I just point out my successes and tell them that, “obviously” , they are incorrect. I have no time for it. It makes me feel bad bc I feel alone in not having a loving family but, oh well- it is what it is…

  • I agree Christine. No matter how difficult someone’s past might be, they have no excuse to abuse another and are choosing to scapegoat. This is particularly harmful when parents scapegoat their children, who are dependent on them for their physical and emotional survival. Sounds like the children you teach are lucky to have someone as sensitive and aware as you appear to be.

    • Christine Gates


  • Great. Onward and upward may you sail high!

  • Pipkins2t

    Thank you Christine, your words ring true and have given me a renewed sense of hope and determination !

    • Christine Gates

      Wow. Well, thank you for the compliment. I’m happy to give you hope.

  • lynette mayo

    My sister, 6 yrs. my junior, often attacks me, indirectly through my guy Gary, sending him emails l am blaspheming our mother? She is in 100% denial of our mother being a psychopath, l had no choice, been in therapy most of my adult life, ll was 6 yrs. ahead of her in the abuse. How to stop a sister doing this and scapegoating me to the whole family, making me the sick one?

    • You probably can’t stop your sister, but I’d encourage you to think about what limits you can set that will make it harder for her to intrude on your life (e.g. blocking her wherever you can – phone, emails (Google “canned email responses”)

      • lynette mayo

        Thanks, l did. Told her l can’t do this anymore, l feel your not ready for a relationship ! its tough, when you have done therapy for many years and your family is in the dark ages and very emotionally repressed about it, l have had to let them all go, they are English, therapy ?? not in their culture.

    • Christine Gates

      I’ve been through this. She does that because the truth threatens her. Whether it’s her job, friends, reputation or relationships, she has built them, in part, based on allowing you to be the scapegoat. Maybe the only way she thinks she can succeed is by making herself look great while making you look bad. And rightfully, she is concerned that her stock will fall when people figure this out.

      Let her stock fall. Tell the truth. She’ll have to deal with the consequences of her own actions while you keep living your life. When people hear about this, they won’t like her as much. They shouldn’t.

      Lies she has spun and actions that she is guilty of will come back to her. Part of treating you like the scapegoat, was allowing you to be blamed for everything including things that she has done. That is very very toxic.

      I would let Gary know in no uncertain terms that your sister is a troublemaker and has an investment in making you look like the bad guy. Ask him not to associate with her.

      If he chooses to associate with her, despite your assertion, you need to let him go. Do not get defensive. Just explain to him that he either supports you 100% or not. This means not participating in any communications from your sister or relatives at all. If/when she changes her tune, you can reassess the situation.

      Lastly, you do not want to get involved with a guy who will take part in this toxic behavior anyway. You need a guy who clearly understands and respects the boundaries that you must enforce with your family.

      I’ve left people behind who have done this to me. They probably didn’t think I knew or owuld find out, but I eventually did. That is why alot of people aren’t in my life anymore. Remember: the truth always comes out.

      I also strongly agree with the advice below about limits.

      • lynette mayo

        Sorry l did not get back, forgot about Dr.Perlmutter’s site ,which l visit infrequently. Everything you said is right on. This week my guy removed my sister from his emails & fb, l don’t know why l did not insist on it before, it just didn’t occur to me, because she contacts him infrequently, usually when l try to share about my situation, she blasts me down and harasses him ! . Her terror, is Shame, about her kids knowing how horrendous our childhood was with two alcoholics in a pub, l was the oldest l got it the worst. It is her secret, l am a risk to exposing it! being straight intimidates her. I feel really bad, l am finally letting go of her daughter, my niece, who gives me nothing, not even a like on fb posts to kids. It is unimaginable pain to give up & let go of your entire family, Gemma the niece l realize is symbolic ‘Hope’. I have to let it go. The start of REAL hope is letting the symbolic go ! I cannot unfriend her till Wednesday night, to hard, l have therapy on Thursdays, so will deal with it then. Thank you so much for you valuable insights, pls. keep in touch ! (go by Lynette)

  • Sharon

    Boy have I played my role well! With four other siblings, I have been the sole caretaker of my dysfunctional aging parents. I held my abusive step-father’s hand as he took his last breath in a nursing home, alongside my mother. I have been there every step of the way for the parent’s who were never there for me and I have fussed and fought with my siblings to garner an equal share of responsibility from them…to no avail, as they hold steadfast to their roles as well. I have come to realize that being the scapegoat, the fixer, the responsible one, has been a futile role. As adults, the five of us siblings couldn’t be more disconnected from each other now BUT our parent’s still had/have me by their side! There’s something so off about that but I can’t seem to just walk away from it all. I still long for compassion and love and forgiveness and to mend as a family. Am I a hopeless scapegoat?!

  • Happy to post your comment Susie Q. Just a gentle reminder – For future ease of reading, please write shorter comments and break into paragraphs. That way you can make sure that people will be more able and inclined to read through to the end. Thanks!

  • POSTING GUIDELINES – Constructive comments are most welcome. For ease of reading, if you want to submit a long comment, then please break it into paragraphs. That way others will be encouraged to read all your valuable thoughts and interact with you more easily. Thanks for your understanding!

  • Please share your stories of what you have done to recover from the pain of family scapegoating.

    • Pipkins2t

      Personally, I am working on building a sense of worth that I feel. Intellectually I can compile a list of my positive personality traits and accomplishments. How do I feel ? I feel empty. I was defined by what I was, not by who I am. Who am I? I am not too sure. However, I do know that I am worth getting to know and for now that is my path of recovery.

      • Thank you. You are already well on your way, and you will get there.

      • suzie q

        Our parents were supposed to raise us and help us build our self esteem-instead they’ve torn it down and make you question if you are even someone worthy of love-I too, feel empty, lost-I’m glad you are building on a sense of worth-and can focus on your positive traits-I hope you have people outside of your family who love you and have your back-I am all I got right now-I have cousins, but I can’t really let them know what’s totally going on-because it’s just so crazy-they have an idea-but the depth of it-this grief thing is really hard-especially since I still live with my folks-it’s definitely initiative to get out and find myself, but wow, I feel like they’ve destroyed any chance of being somebody.I wish you all the happiness and for positive people to flock to you and help you embrace who you are! May your soul be at peace- 🙂

        • Suzie Q – I’d recommend that you find a counsellor who understand these kinds of bullying family dynamics as it sounds like you could really use some additional support right now.

          • suzie q

            I have a therapist, however sometimes it’s just as helpful to read my fellow scapegoats’ experiences, because sometimes a therapist can only do so much for you. I appreciate mine, but I know, she can’t climb out of my hell for me, I have to do that for myself. Very grateful for everyone sharing their experiences-it’s super validating and I think it will help me heal-I exercise as well-but nothing is a cure all unfortunately-Thanks for looking out 🙂

        • Pipkins2t

          Thank you Suzie. I wish no less for you and others who find themselves here. Regardless our ‘parents’ did a ‘good enough’ job that enabled us to survive long enough for us to keep ourselves afloat. Thank them for that and be done with them. There are way too many people in this world who need people like us to help them see that they have a future. Life goes on. Relentlessly. We either get swept under by the strength of the current, get luck and bob along, or find our self washed up on a safe bank. We all need someone to help us find our own way through this crazy life. Our parents gave us life. I thank them for that. I am responsible for making my own way in life. I hope that I am fortunate enough to meet many more ‘ banked souls’ in life . Otherwise the journey by ahead will be pretty lonely. There are so many gifts in life that can give cause to smile. I am just so grateful that my journey ahead is by ‘ foot’; no more family torrents to be navigated.

          • suzie q

            I’m not so sure I could ever be thankful to a woman who detests my very existence. I actually wish they did a good enough job for me to survive-I currently reside with them and would love to move out-my number one goal-my number one fear: I’m so fu*ked up emotionally and feeling dead with no motivation or self esteem at the moment, that I’m not sure I can stand on my own two feet-What do I do, fight with the rest of the assholes of the world? How do I survive? Not sure I’ll survive on my own, but I know I have to get the hell out of here-I used to have hope for me as a human being-but I feel my light has been stolen by the woman who gave me life-My life has been a ridiculous path where I always had to beg for my mother’s love because whatever she gave was nothing in comparison to my siblings.

            I asked her today (week 6 of the silent treatment), why she’s doing this-and she said she just doesn’t feel the need to talk to me and when I asked if she cared if I was angry at her, she said no. I said do you care that I’m sad and hurt-nothing-She said she doesn’t know why she’s not talking to me (after I tried to hold her accountable through anger, for not having my back with my sibling-ever!) I’m supposed to be mad at her, lol and she flipped the tables on me! This has been the longest forever-would be easier if I didn’t live with her, but it’s even more heart breaking because I do live with her-pure torture.

            What’s even more disturbing is she’ll have moments where she’ll act like she’ll care, then become cold when I ask her why she’s showing bits of love here and there then acting like I don’t exist 99% of the time! I want to be independent and thrive and flourish, but this woman has broken me down and kicked me while I’m down-not my friend, just my enemy-the same woman who always told me to never doubt her love! F HER! That’s exactly why I said F Her that day she invalidated me about my sister belittling me the other day along with all the other times my mom never stood up for me when she saw it! My dad calls my mom a zero or illiterate-she’ll ignore him for 2 days-Me? A century-my sister treats me like shit and my mom, but my mom will talk sweetly to her because she’s the golden b*tch. I don’t think I could ever be grateful at this time to a woman who sees how torn and sad I am because of her and keeps it movin! I’m glad you can be grateful, I however reside in the anger right now. I hope you continue to have such a positive outlook-maybe one day, I too, will have a more positive outlook-i feel like this woman has robbed me of my soul.

  • JM

    This is a great article. I have greatly appreciated it’s thoughtful insight into the disfunctional family.

    It has taken me 30 years to understand that I am not the reason for everyone’s suffering. That my abuser, not me is solely responsible for the destruction and pain.

    I’ve spent most of my life being sorry for everything, to include breathing and chewing to loudly. I even apologized for laughing, after all, who was I to deserve to be happy.

    I cut ties last year when my daughter began to say sorry and take blame for things that were not her fault, clearly a habit learned from watching me.

    Now my abusers have resorted to triangulation and I realize that deeper cuts will have to be made.

    I know that I’m on the path to recovery, I just pray that I can undo what was already starting to set in on my daughter.

    • You’ve had to make a tough but important decision for yourself and your daughter JM. Sounds like you’ve got a very good head on your shoulders. Here’s the link to my article on going No Contact which I hope you will find helpful: https://glynissherwood.com/no-contact-the-scapegoats-last-resort/

      • JM

        I’ve also decided to start blogging as a way to purge myself of all the ugly lies placed upon me by my family. I would love to link back to your article as it has been extremely informative. Please let me know if you would be ok with this. Thank you.

    • Christine Gates

      That’s awesome that your daughter has been your reason to change. You obviously want better things for her.

  • suzie q

    I asked my dad why he said I yell at my mom when she shows love and I realized it was one incident where my legs were hurting (low vitamin D), she interrupted her silent treatment to acknowledge me, then go back to ignoring me-ask me what’s going on-ignore me-then her kids would call on the phone the next day and she’d be sooooo peppy and loving! That is like a dagger to your heart-why can’t I be loved? Why do you give conditional love to me-why am I not good enough for you-why do I give you permission to pick me up and put me down when you want? When these things happen, it makes you lash out-my dad can’t see that because he’s living in a fantasy world.

    The price you must pay to live in reality-I ask my mom, why can’t you love me? What did I do? Why must I pay for speaking up regarding these injustices? Even when you plead with the woman, it makes her ignore you even more or deny-Should never have to be made to feel this way, even if this is my mom-she doesn’t get a free pass-I think this is why she hates me, because I tell her that she doesn’t get a free pass and I hold her accountable for treating me like she does.

    • Scapegoating family members often push back when you try and hold them accountable. It’s a negative defense that wards off truth and perpetuates abuse.

  • Cece

    This article has helped me to realise a lot of things, thank you so much for writing! I no longer have contact with my mother, but I still feel like the golden child and the rest of my family don’t seem to know how to treat me any differently to their scapegoat. I’m not really sure where to go from here to heal from my growing up, I’m 21 now, living on my own away from family and recovering from a heroin addiction. I want to start healing my mental health, if anyone has any idea where to go from here, how to salvage a relationship with the ‘golden child’ if possible without jealousy and resentment and still being treated like the scapegoat getting in the way, or any other advice I’d really appreciate it.

    • Hi Cece – Thank you for your positive feedback – glad the article was clarifying for you. You have been through a lot for a very young person, and it sounds like you are determined to get back on your feet. Good for you. Unfortunately family members who buy into the scapegoat dynamic are unlikely to change, and the ‘golden child’ is in a privileged position that they may not want to give up. I recommend you keep the focus on protecting yourself and your recovery, which may involve limiting contact with family members unless they can behave respectfully. Also working with a therapist who has a background in family abuse and addiction recovery could be helpful as well. Best of luck to you!

    • Christine Gates

      Good luck Cece.

  • Chunk it down. If you find someone you like, test the waters in a small way to see if you can trust them. If that works, it give you a green light to see if the friendship can be deepened. I wish you peace and the greatest success as you move towards independence, and the love and support you deserve.

    • Kira

      Thankyou for this article! I posted a lengthy testimony lol about my toxic family. This is helpful beyond! Blessings to you❤✌

      • Thank you Kira. Hope you have support as you navigate creating healthy distance from abusive family members.

        • Kira

          My husband is like my best friend. He’s witnessed how toxic my family is and sticks by me 100%

          • Great news!

          • Christine Gates

            Awesome! Good to know there are honorable men out there.

    • Christine Gates

      Great advice! Going slow is the way.

  • Kira

    Hi! This is my life. I literally just cut off my mother, 3 brothers and my sister like 2 days ago. I can not take this anymore because it is effecting my adulthood. My mom was verbally and physically abusive coming up as a teen. She became a monster when I was 12 and she’s still that same monster til this day,only difference is she smiles and remains very phony in my face but my sister tells me she talks the coldest crap about me behind my back. My mother has done so much damage to my mind that I’m now in my early 30’s still trying to put the pieces together of my mind. She tells lies about me and she doesn’t like her grandchildren. She makes up excuses so they won’t spend the night with her and she’s resentful of my marraige. I let her in sometimes to my problems giving her a chance to be a “that” mom, but the moment I can’t do something for her she bashes me to my siblings or doesn’t talk to me at all for about a week or so. I have lashed out at her for how she talks about me and seem as if she doesn’t want to be a grandmother and she told me not to contact her ever again. So I didn’t. But she hits my husband up on Facebook telling him how much she misses me and the girls. This time I had not spoken to her in over a year. So I felt conviction in my heart to apologize and once again I reconcile. Well I’m done, with all of them. My story is mad long. Shes labeled me a whore, ugly, b**ch, told me to go to h3ll, a rogue, and everything else. She said all I ever will be is a whore. She rewrites the past. She says that I was throwing myself at my grandmother for love when my kids and I went to live with her and she kept saying that,until one day I just couldnt take it and reminded her that she put the kids and I out on the streets in the middle if the night. She told me to get my **** and leave. We had got into an argument that night and I kept bringing up real facts and asked why is she like this. She went ballistic. Shes turned my siblings against me. Even my sister who is getting abused by her. She has manipulated my sister into believing its all my fault, and Im the bad guy. My mother has even used church against me. I use to run away to church faithfully to get away from her. My little brother wanted to go but I’d always throw a fit so one day she told she let’s me go to church and that it’s a priveledge to go to church with a nasty scowl on her face. I was 15. She said I don’t go to church until she says so. So she took away my going to church for like 2 Sundays. I begged her to let me go to church. I use to want her dead. But now it is Christ that allows me to walk away from them all, still loving them and praying for them. I don’t want my husband and children nowhere near them. Until she gets her mind and heart right, my family will not be coming around. I had been looking this topic up so that I may have some insight and also therapy. It’s so good to know we are not alone. God bless ❤✌

    • Christine Gates

      Good luck. It will get better. Expect that your life will dramatically change after you follow through with wanting a healthier lifestyle. You’ll need to learn to just be and exist with others without that toxic garbage following you around. It takes a while, alot of hard work and dedication, but you can get there if you really want it.

      • Kira

        Thankyou! I’ve started taking therapy and I’m learning ways to cure the anxiety and trauma I’ve experienced behind abuse. I’m taking it day by day and each day I feel myself healing mentally and emotionally.

  • Hopefull

    Hi Christie,

    Do you have any advice of letting go?

    I have a loving mother who unfortunally had to raise three children by herself. Allways working and trying her best to give us what we need…Not being the richest family, I allways tries to be as less as a burden to her.

    I have two elder sisters; one is 10 years my elder and the other 7 years. I allways listened to them and did everything they wanted, but was allways blames for everything. My sister had troubles in her relationship, she would push me from the stairs or hit my head against the table, or just insult me and bully me… My other sister blamed me of having it easier???

    Anyway as I was growing up and becoming my own person, I would started realising that I can not allways drop everything for them. what I normally did. But when I did that, they would team up – say hurtfull things and not talk to me for weeks – untill they needed something and then be nice again. or they when they had a fight between temselves, all of a sudden they were nice to me.

    It’s hard to explain all the things they did/said- but one day I had enough. I would let them hurt me so bad, and was allways sillent.

    My mom was like – don’t respond: two wrongs, does’nt make a right…

    So I kept quiet and tries everything in my power to please them. Untill i could’nt anymore. I had to say something to the hurtfull things they would say. But for this I had to gather all my courrage and scream things for them to stop. they would just laugh in my face. Untill I learned to hold a mirror in front of them- saying things about their lives and then they would stop (stop speaking to me, untill I apologised).

    Now I still have this, the moment i feel (think) someone will hurt me I push them away, not giving them the possibility to hurt me. I will never let anyone break me down as my sisters have done.

    I allways try to please people, it’s the only thing I know to do – ans allways put myself aside…but that would draw the wrong people… i would allways fall in the same cylce, trying to hard to please people and they would take me for granted…

    Anyway two years ago i broke teh relationship with my siters – but people who know my sisters- they act as if I am such a bad person… They don’t understand. I tried to explain to some, but then they are like – okay that is not correct, but to break with them.

    They just don’t understand…

    It is really hard for me to have a normal relationship with others, because I am allways trying to protect myself from being hurt. I became really defensive and do not know how to get rid of it.

    It is hard on my mother – she wants her 3 children to get a long – but she understands – she says that my sisters like to blame me for everything: when she was at my sisters 3 weeks ago, my sister stained was in a hurry and stained her couch – when she came back she blamed me – when my mom said: you haven’t seen her in 2 years – my sister said it’s because of all the stress i give to her??? seriously???

    One day ( i think two months ago)my eldest sister came to my mother’s house when i was there, started an argument and said that she never understood why my mother had to have a 3rd child – they where fine with the two of them and never asked for me.

    uchh i can go on and on… I feel that I am their escapegoat.

    my big scare is that i do not know how to function with other people. allways scared to be verbally abused – and allways on the defense. I am very sensitive

    HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO BREAK FREE OF THIS. But reading your comment does give me the feeling that it is possible, just don’t know how you did it.

    • Hi Hopeful – Please read my article on going No Contact for advice on letting go: https://glynissherwood.com/no-contact-the-scapegoats-last-resort/

    • Christine Gates

      You have to look inside yourself and find the strength to do what needs to be done. No one else can do it for you. Find a faith and lean on that. Ask for what you need and work towards it. Find help and support from good, nurturing people. Also, try what Glynis suggests below.

  • Christine Gates

    Yes. It is a horrible feeling when treated like you do not matter. It is absolutely abusive. Try to start treating yourself like you are all of these things: important, adequate, lovable & joyous. Trust me, it helps. My very first boyfriend nicknamed me butterfly and ironically, he never met my family. My best boyfriends never met them. I think he knew some of what was going on. I would always ask him what he meant. Now, I know. I have started to collect butterflies. Every time I look at them, I am reminded of the process. You may have been treated like a terrible and ugly caterpillar, but eventually, one day, you will become a beautiful butterfly with wings.

  • Hi Valkirey – I suggest you read my article on going No Contact for advice on how to distance from abusive family members: https://glynissherwood.com/no-contact-the-scapegoats-last-resort/ Distancing is necessary in order to regain your psychological well being. Very few psychotherapists are as unethical as the person you were dealing with. However, for a therapist to be effective, they need to understand abusive family dynamics and never collude with abusers. I wish you the best of luck getting free.

  • Christine Gates

    I’ve been through alot of the same. I have just gotten to the point in my life where I can remain in the company of other women w/out issues cropping up, whether inadvertently by me or b/c they aren’t the kind of females I need to spend my time with b/c they are toxic. Because of how I was raised, being friends with women was always something I associated with threat. My father prized me, so most women in my family outright hated me for the attention he gave to me. The abusive behavior followed with females getting angry when men looked my way or if people liked me more than them. I finally shut down out of fear. I became really responsive to women not liking me near their men and getting really mad at me for being attractive. I avoided females b/c I thought they were all screwed up. I tried hanging out w/ women who liked women thinking that they would be nicer or more protective. But, I learned it really didn’t matter. I was terrified to go after the guys who liked me b/c of how certain women would react. I have been able to branch out and find nice, accepting females who aren’t crazy and it’s been nice. There aren’t many out there, but healing actually brings them to your life. There are women out there who are supportive, not backstabbers and understanding.

  • Christine Gates

    I was a very responsible child. I am also highly intuitive and an empath. I didn’t learn this until years ago, but I wish I’d known this when I was younger. Whenever I got a feeling, it was demeaned.

    As a child, I was afriad to go to sleep because I had very vivid dreams that terrified me. I was alone at night consistently scared. No one in my family did anything to assist me and I suffered in silence. Today, I still have very very vivid dreams, but I know it is just part of who I am. As a child, I did not know how to process this. Even as an adult, it is still hard.

    I remember my mother did absolutely nothing to defend me. The rest of my family did the same. I think that because I am so sensitive that certain things made it worse. I have a caffeine allergy, for example.

    I was first told by a social worker when I was 20 that I was the scapegoat, but I really didn’t know what that meant. I would, in fact, like to break that down.

    This is what being a scapegoat was like for me:

    -My feelings, thoughts and needs were ignored to tend to other sibling’s and relative’s needs.

    -My thoughts and feelings were discounted and criticized nearly all of them time.

    -I was made to participate in activities that I really didn’t excel at for the convenience to another.

    -My natural talents were ignored and not invested in.

    -What went for other family members did not apply to me. For example, in college, I was made to stay close to home while everyone else could go away. They were allowed to work and have cars; I was not.

    -I was singled out, made fun of and judged from nearly everything from my looks, to my tastes to my friendships and boyfriends

    -I was never given credit for anything I did well. If I ever made a mistake, it was all my family could talk about. Therefore, I had such an intense fear of doing anything wrong because I knew that it would be publicized and used a source to humiliate me.

    -Their issues & downfalls were never openly discussed. If I ever attempted to bring up their issues, I was threatened and/or abused.

    -They tried to control my life from picking my profession to whom I should to marry.

    I did agree to a marriage, by in large, because of the pressure from them. They reassured me that I could not make it on my own, that I needed a man to take care of me and that I was better off, even though, I did not love him. I did divorce him and was met with fury and an actual pulling out of support from my relatives. I remember being really really scared, at that point, because if anything bad happened, I would not have anyone to lean on.

    Later, In one month. I totaled my car on my way to a second job & I was assaulted. I was unbelievably traumatized. I did ask for help with the car & my mother refused. My uncle stepped in. I knew my family would likely react the same way in regards to the attack. They had always blamed me for everything and that was just one thing I could not handle. I could hear them telling me it was b/c I had divorced my husband or telling me that I really couldn’t take care of myself. Therefore, the assault killed me inside & I lost everything. No one in my family offered to help me except for one person. She let me stay with her for one month until even she turned on me. Every single relative I had at that time owned a couch or had an extra room. Every door was literally slammed in my face. It was brutal.

    I am ok now. I have recovered. Once I was ok enough, I let each and every relative go and even some friends too. I had to.

    To top it all off, after I moved, I nearly died. No one called me. No one visited. They simply solidified their absolutely heartless characters. My sister’s dog dying and ice bucket challenges were more important.

    I have two jobs, one as a teacher. Times are tough. They have been incredibly tough these last few years. Money is tight. I lost my car a few years ago, but a kind-hearted friend helped me get it back. I still have yet to repay him.

    Being raised as a scapegoat meant that I somehow had to make my relatives abusing me ok in order to survive. Now, I can tell myself the truth about it. It was not ok.

    There is something seriously wrong with people who treat other human beings in this way.

    I hope, in all sincerity, that they all get some help. Even then, we still won’t hang out. This will give them a tiny shot at being decent human beings for what is rest of their horribly mean and spiteful lives. They ought to try it. I’ve been living my life this way for forever.

    I do believe that my future will be bright in spite of all of this. I do truly believe that one day I will have an amazing family and I suppose that is poetic justice.

    Thank you for hearing my story & for all of the great and pracitcal advice.


  • Helene Louise

    Hi. Your insights were interesting, but I feel that this problem isn’t taken seriously enough. It’s more than just giving yourself a talk about your self worth or “standing up for yourself.” When I was 11 my mother divorced my father, who doted on me. She came to me and said, “You were special before the divorce, but I’m going to make sure you’re never special again.” She also said that she had to go to work, so now I was “the mother.” And off she went, sometimes for days, without contacting us, leaving a number, money, or food. When she came home, my younger sister would complain that I had offended her by mopping the floor or doing some other chore. My mother would punish me then for mopping the floor or doing chores, until finally I gave up and quit doing chores. It was considered to be my job, and my job alone to do housework and prepare meals, even though I had an older brother. He and my mother and all the people I knew considered him to be exempt by virtue of being male. He has continued to excuse himself now that we’re adults because he says his sisters were argumentative. So as a teenager, he was OK with abandoning his sisters in elementary school. Then I was evil because, at 11, I didn’t do a good job as “the mother.” My mother would invent stories about me, like I was “leading my sisters astray,” and “giving them drugs.” She claimed that she knew me to be a prostitute.

    So, as you said, I was being bullied. But I am uncomfortable with the way “being bullied” is treated as something that I just need to realize as not caused by me, and therefore handle it by ignoring it and distancing myself from it. These people in my family will track me down if I try to do that. I did get married and my husband died. I went to California to a vegetarian community, and thought that it would be a nice way to get away from anyone in my family, since after my husband’s death, the bullying had started again. I went to sleep one night, and my mother called and said, “When are you coming home?” I thought, “Home? Where is that?” I told her we needed to talk another time and told her goodbye. She said goodbye and I hung up. As a precaution, I unplugged the phone so I could sleep. Within a few minutes paramedics broke into my apartment. I woke up with one of them holding me upright and shaking me as hard as he could. They announced that they were taking me to the hospital. I refused to go and I was tied up and thrown onto their gurney, which they missed and struck my head against a dresser, fracturing my skull. Away we went with sirens screaming, and the paramedics said, “You seem to be stabilizing.” “From what?! Being asleep?” When they got me to the hospital, with no clothing or shoes or purse or money or phone etc, they wanted me to talk to my mother who claimed to be concerned. They wanted me to sign papers that she was my next of kin. Her plan was to fly to California and be given custody of me, (and my assets) and force me “home.” I found out she had been telling my sister that I was lying on the floor screaming “I want my baby! I want my baby!” and that I had fallen and I couldn’t get up, and possibly was drunk or on drugs, she thought I was in a drug rehab and had gone out and gotten high, and that I had “mental problems.” So obviously the answer was to put me in a psych ward. After $12,000 of blood tests, for which the hospital sent me a bill, there were no drugs found. I told them I didn’t feel I should be there and I wanted to leave. They told me I could leave only when they let me go, because there was no way for me to get away. I had no clothing on, and by the way, they didn’t give me any, no shoes, no money, no phone. They said I wasn’t familiar with the area and I couldn’t find my way to my apartment, and I had no friends or family in California that I could go to to help me. They discharged from the emergency room with a diagnosis of a fall, which no one had witnessed and I stated that I never had. However, my mother’s word seemed to be gold. She, two thousand miles away, knew whether I had fallen. I told my mother that I had refused to pay the hospital bill, because I had no contract with them, either written or verbal, for their services, and they should ask the person who contracted their services to pay. My mother was horrified and said, “You want ME to pay your $12,000 hospital bill?”

    The whole purpose of this was to try to force me not to get away from my family. I imagine I would have to go into hiding to escape them. They all felt that mother had done the only thing she could do. When I tried to tell my brother about it, his eyes became slits, and he said, “THEY (the apartment building office) should have answered the phone when she called back (repeatedly).” Supposedly my vegetarian community was a hospital of some sort in his mind and she was calling the nurse’s station.

    I don’t feel the extremes of what bizarre families will do is addressed. This situation is set up to be a deathtrap to the person being bullied.

  • JuWu

    Hello there fellow recovering scapegoats! Wanted to check in with you all and let you know that after 6 years of staying away from my borderline personality disordered and scapegoating mother, I recently saw her and helped her go through chemotherapy. She has not changed one iota (of course) and spent the first 30 minutes telling me terrible things about other family members and insulting my friends, but the difference is ME! Whew–being away was KEY to clarity…it’s so easy to see that (regrettably) her mental illness makes her an awful human to be around and that is has absolutely NOTHING to do with me. It doesn’t make up for the hurt and betrayal of being scapegoated, and it doesn’t change the family dynamic (6 years ago my then 5 year old was hurt, on purpose, by my 41 year old brother, and the family line is STILL it’s my fault, sheesh!) Yet, when you do your healing as best you can, and take in the love that is around you, and then come back to the madness it is freeing to know a) how right your diagnosis was, and that b) the madness is not about you in such a clear and visceral way. I think being not enmeshed has helped me tremendously–and I truly do not foresee any great ‘coming together’ with my sibs and can accept it. I feel free from all of that pain I carried around forever–but it took staying away to see just how lunatic the situation always was and remains!

  • Lisa Tibbitts

    Thank you.

  • lynette mayo

    I think the more real we get with therapy and insight into ourselves the clearer all the the dysfunction really is. It is the hardest thing imaginable, to let go of them, even thought they are toxic, they are our family. I walked away from my toxic pub home in Manchester, England at 17. It was the beginning of having a real life, l sailed to the US alone, like a real immigrant. Life began. I still had years of struggles to let them all go totally. . Last one this week. Giving up family is unimaginable pain, because it brings up the truth, we where not loved !

  • AlmostFinished

    While your 12 ways of breaking free of scapegoating may be effective for adults, children under 18 are “diagnosed” and labeled as defiant, oppositional, and entitled.

    We know 2 wealthy families with manipulative and narcissistic parent(s) that have sent their scapegoated children to “wilderness therapeutic programs”. (Our child has been very close with each child for more than 10 years. We have come to know the kids *and* their families in excruciating detail.)

    These wilderness programs have “escorts” whisk unsuspecting kids away in the night, confiscate all personal items including clothing, strip and cavity search, isolate kids, subject them to grueling and abusive hiking in the sun with heavy packs, food deprivation, physical restraint in order to break their will until they admit to and remedy their ‘inappropriate’ behavior.

    These kids are wonderful, kind, academically and socially successful, drug & alcohol free, really smart and creative; they are cursed with conniving narsistic parent(s) who have lied and mischaracterized their kids behavior. Therapists, gullible to the manipulations of scapegoating parent, create ‘official reports’ attesting to the unruliness of the child. Family therapists will even witness a child using excellent coping skills yet interpret them as ‘defiant behavior.’

    It’s absolutely heart-breaking to see awesome kids truly further damaged by dysfunctional families, get punished –and deeply traumatized–by these wilderness programs simply because they developed excellent coping skills.

    I’ve been unable to find legal protections nor rescue help for these kids. If anyone has suggestions…,

    • You are quite right, my article – and counselling services – are oriented towards adults who have the ability to do something about their situation, like walk away or seek out independent help. Children who are being scapegoated are usually powerless, and endure years of harm to their psychological well being. I work with people who once were these children, helping them to rebuild their lives. It’s a tragedy that abusive parents get away with mistreating their children, and that any systems of care would collude in that abuse. Anyone who suspects abuse can always make a report to child protective services, at least in Canada.

  • Kim

    Hello Bird, joonbug here. I am 54 years old, and had come to believe I was broken beyond repair. Going to counciler after counciler since the age of 19, I had been picked apart and put back together so many times my nose felt like a toe and visa versa. Finally, I became friends with a crisis counciler. She has watched me for a year and a half. Meeting my family, seeing the dynamics, and just gave me the diagnosis of being the family scapegoat. She refered me to this site. For the first time in my life, I have a word, something to call what is wrong with me. I too, am having severe difficulty with the fact that I may never have a healthy relationship with my family. Know that it is a learned behavior, and can be unlearned. Baby, you are so not alone in what you feel. I am physically ill, already, caused from being in a state of dis- ease since 6 years of age. I can’t fix my problems yet, and I cant fix yours, but you are not alone. Maybe we can walk together on this journey to heal. You have a lot more time than I do. Take a deep breath. It doesn’t have to be this way for you. realize how many people in your life love you for who you are. And would do anything to make you smile. Family isn’t always blood, I don’t know you, but your post wrenched my heart, I have lived so long under this label, I know how horrible and confusing it gets. Even my children have learned scapegoater behaviour. I too feel alone. But were not. hang tough Lil Bird, fly to a special place you can call your own where you feel most peaceful. It is there you can clear your mind. I will be here, and so will others. Hang in there, Hugs.

    • Kim I’m so touched by the compassion in your message to young Bird. I hope she draws some comfort from your wisdom and kindness.

      • Kim

        Thank you Glynis. What you have read, is the result of a life long battle with a Narcissist Mother, It is like a curse. I have done years of investigating back as far in the families as I can go. My Father was a loving and kind man, who also was abused by my Mother, physically and mentally. He tried to help me, and I was lucky enough to have him, Though abused himself, he was strong, and Kind, and Loving, and taught me to love unconditionally. I was so angry for so many years. I am a Medical Vetran, starting out as a Registered Medical Assistant in 1980, and became disabled in 2003. At that time I was a flight Paramedic and Flight Nurse. I gave and gave, being rewarded for going above and beyond the call of duty. I have always been a people pleaser ? Wonder why !! A lot of my healing has already been done. It’s setting the boundries, I need to work on. But I honestly cant hardly make myself eliminate my children who learned as adults that they could take from me, be disrespectful, I get lectures from my 38 year old daughter. I have 1 daughter and 2 sons. My Daughter is my best friend. I am having difficulty setting the boundry that she may not speak to me with inappropriate words and accusations. I am truely the whistle blower, and have been very verbal about my abuse since about 15 years of age. 15 is the age I ran away from home, continued my schooling and went on to college. I have seen so much. Its every where. We are not alone. I only hope I can encourage any one here in some way. I will share my stories, give encouragement wherever I can, and it is accepted. I have so much to give. But have had real issues with relationships. I have been accused of being paranoid schizophrenic, because I am always waiting for the next ball to drop. Ok, I am praddling now. I know at times I have felt like Eyore fromWinnie the pooh. “Thanks for noticing me”. Lol. I will post more later. Please, let me know if I cross any boundries here.

        • Kim, you are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your experience and encouragement. Sounds like your father was instrumental in helping you hold onto and develop your kind heart. So good to have you here as we all learn and grow into the people we are meant to be.

  • Check out my new article on Recovering from Scapegoating here: https://glynissherwood.com/scapegoat-recovery/

  • Kim

    I too understand. I have been accused of being Pregnant at the age of 13. When in fact, at that age, sex was prominant in my peers at school, but something I had absolutely no interest in. I have been beaten, Burned, shoved out the front door in nothing but a dishtowel put on me like a diaper by an enraged mother over a C on a report card. I was bruised from a severe beating the night before, and turned to hide my blossoming young body. I lost my precious Father this last December, and my Mom who was in a nursing home with alhziemers in January.

    When Daddy passed, the child within me was terrified. This woman was mean all my life, and the outbursts from Dementia’s and alhziemers, were no different. I finally feel somewhat safe, however my Brother, my Daughter and Neice are in full swing throwing me under the bus for every tiny trivial thing. I never stopped loving my momma, I knew she was broken, but didn’t know until I was about 30 how bad. There was a very small part of me that was looking forward to some Mom and I time, as she was deeply apologetic one minute and madder than a wet hen the next. My “Daddy” was not my biological father, and adopted me when I was still a very small child. I never felt like I wasn’t his, ever. We were so close that momma accused us of ” sleeping together” when I was 19. We went for years and years with never a hug, or an I love you in front of momma or my brother. It was when he had a severe heart attack when I was 42, that I decided no more. She withdrew her love from anyone who didn’t see and do thngs exactly her way. Now I grieve for the relationship mom and I never had. And I grieve for the life she lived, Burning bridges with friends and family. Medically trained, I know her world had to have been a lonely one too. Hopefully I can mend with my daughter, who is the worst towards me. Hang in there. We are not alone. We have each other. Family is not always blood. It truely is those who love you for who you are, and would do most anything to see you smile. Hugs.

  • Archibald Selman

    This is an excellent article, thank you. The 12 steps you listed to recover are exactly what I’m discovering in my own research on this problem, so you’ve saved me a lot of time.

    One thing I noticed with my family’s style of scapegoating is that they use it for sadistic pleasure in causing pain and destroying someone (same goes with family’s cruelty to animals, that sort-of thing), as a technique to “distort reality” away from their crimes (they hold good reputations in the world, but have sick private lives, including rape, con artistry, adopting a kid to molest them, pretty dark stuff), and as a method of control to get whatever benefits they can out of it (family-wide affection for slavery). Sounds like a great bunch of people, huh?

    Regardless, I’m going to work through these 12 steps and see what I can find. Unfortunately there are few counselors out there willing or able to work with heavy material like this, so I’m stuck doing it alone for now. So be it.

  • Pingback: Narcopaths Have Been Entitled To Scapegoat Anyone They Please | PTSD FORUM()

  • Jay Jay

    Hi Glynis,

    After a lot of self help reading and counselling I get how not to be judgemental and controlling so many triggers etc. However I recently discovered my brother and father made my mother sign away everything in her name (two houses and money) to my brother in his sole name – without my mother understanding what she was doing. Now, I am my mother’s full time carer – and have lived with her (and a-now-disowned-dad) my whole life. My life has been given over to my mother – who has parkinsons – and I am 41. This is what I had resigned my life to.

    After a lot of legal advice and my mother’s desire to take the path of least resistance – there is nothing we are going to do about this – my mother simply can’t due to her health.

    I am INCREDIBLY angry about this whole situtation. My brother has gained EVERYTHING and my parents didn’t even spare me a thought. somewhere – I think my mother was ok with what they did.

    I can sum up my life as being the scapegoat in the family, a female who has no value according to my parents, someone who lost a career due to expectations of me putting the family and family business first, someone who has no friends, no life of my own to speak of, no good relations ANYWHERE.

    I am the youngest and have always carried this household selflessly – and they have all lived off me – the one non earning person in the house. (I have rental income)

    Tell me – PLEASE – how do I not be angry with my entire family and how do I not HATE them and how do I even consider FORGIVING them?

    The anger I feel reverberates throughout the universe.
    i’d love some help in knowing how not to let the toxic anger get the better of me. Every time I see my dad (and yes – mum dad and myself live together) only profanities come to mind. the profanities that I learned from him growing up whilst he abused my mother and us.

    • Pipkins2t

      You have every right to feel angry. You also have the right and responsibility (to yourself ) to walk away. The reality is that your mother, father and brother will continue in life with or without you. Question is will you choose a life without them?
      I do wish you well in life. Your current position is not one you asked for. You can however take control of how you choose to live the rest of your life from this moment on.

      • Pipkins2t – In case you hadn’t seen it, I just want to let you know that I recently published an article on recovering from scapegoating here: https://glynissherwood.com/scapegoat-recovery/ Please feel free to comment on how you are approaching the healing process, as this really inspires hope and optimism. Thanks!

    • Jay Jay – I think Pipkins2t has said it about as well as anyone can. I’d encourage you to do whatever you can to find a way to create some distance for yourself from this painful, invalidating and thankless situation you find yourself in.

  • Rocco 71 – Scapegoating has caused you much hurt and loss, and grief is a normal response to that loss. That being said, now that you know what you have been dealing with, you can choose to begin to heal and let go of the legacy of internalized scapegoating, so you can live the life you want, not what scapegoating has inflicted on you.

  • Sara_84

    Hi… I’m experiencing this now. I was very suicidal and even wrote a note to my aunt and uncle and tried to get help from a friend. I finally admitted it to them and my uncle is giving me the cold shoulder and my aunt was extremely heartless when I poured my soul out. I’m in a financial bind so I’m trying to get a second job to move out, but what and how should I act in the mean time? I have been trying really hard to change my life and it seems there judgment and blame has gotten worse over the last few weeks. I come from a bad childhood with a narcissistic and abusive mother, and I can definitely see how I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable to these attacks. What steps do I take? Really trying to hold it together. Thanks

    • Sara_84 – My suggestions: Protect yourself at all costs. Hold your cards close to your chest (i.e. what you are thinking, feeling and planning) as you focus on getting out. Do not reveal your emotional state to people who are not on your side. Good luck!

  • DLC

    This article is, for the most part, so spot on; a starting point for healing and empowerment and very very much appreciated. Thank you Glynis.

  • Pipkins2t

    ” Genuine love not only respects the individuality of the other but actually cultivates it, even at the risk of separation or loss. The ultimate goal of life remains the spiritual growth of the individual, the solitary journey to peaks that can be climbed only alone”. (M. Scott Peck)

    • Thanks Pipkins2t – I always love that quote from Scott Peck!

  • Anthony Cavanagh

    I was Scapegoat by my family I was the scrapegoat, my brother was the Golden child. I joined the Army to escape, my mum then destroyed my brother. Sadly he died from a drink drug overdose.
    Its funny I am needy and cold at the same time. If I feel a close friend has hurt me, I will delete them from my life.
    I dream about my family and mother most nights even now 30 years after I escaped. Its always the same I am living in a place my mother owns.
    One if the threats my mum would use was that she would kick me out the house when I was 12 onwards.
    I was abused, and I was more scared my mum would find out. I am happy at a basic level, but am sacred of relationships LOL even at work I hate talking to management, think I am going to be told of.
    But it did make me tough from being a homeless boy I joined the army to went to uni, now I have a well paying job in the city.
    I do envy friends who have close relationships with there family. I have learned to be on my own, and feel happier on my own/ but I lie to people when its Christmas I tell them I have places to go, as I don’t want them feeling sorry for me.
    I do wonder what its like to have a mum and dad who loves you.

    • Anthony – Sounds like you were very hurt as a child, and the hurt lives on in the fears you have about getting close to others. As you say you envy people with close relationships with family, you may want to explore getting into counselling with a therapist who can help you heal and find the closeness you missed out on and still long for.

      • Anthony Cavanagh

        The problem is for some reason counselling scares me, its like if you open up it makes you weak. My mum used to taunt me did I want to know who my dad was. Then one day she asked I just said no. She was shocked and surprised, I think that was when I learned not to let people know you cared, not to let them know what is going on in your head. But I will think about it. Is there groups ones you can do, I dont think I can handle a one to one, it will be like the therapist will be the strong one, and im the weak one.

        • Anthony – The vast majority of counsellors – unlike your mother – will want to help you. I understand that it’s hard to trust, but therapists for the most part understand that this kind of pain is legitimate, and will want to help you develop the capacity to know who and how to trust so you can have more fulfilling relationships. I don’t know of any groups for people who have been scapegoated, but you could search for a trauma recovery group in your community. Best of luck to you!

          • Anthony Cavanagh

            Thank you, It wlll take a leap but I think I will give it a try 🙂

          • Pipkins2t

            Hi Anthony,
            Surrender can feel like loaded terminology, however surrender has to start somewhere and the beauty of surrender lies in you taking a step forward with the acceptance and knowledge that you now longer wish or need to carry the BS any longer.
            Choosing to lay the burden of scapegoating down frees you. No one can hold any power over you when you lay that burden down. You have chosen to take control when you open your soul to speak your truth. Speak your truth. You do not require an audience.

        • mblaster


          I went to a counselor several years ago and it was the most positive thing I have ever done for myself. It was also the first time in my life anyone had ever demonstrated compassion and empathy towards me, something I didn’t realize had never happened in my own family. You are not weak, you are hurting and those hurts can be healed. Once you recognize the cycle of abuse from your abusers and learn the tools necessary to heal your broken heart, you will notice a gradual but monumental shift in how healthy relationships work and can apply them to your own life within your circle of friends and loved ones. You are worthy of love and always have been and your counselor will help you understand this. Please muster the courage – it will set you free. Best wishes to you!

          • mblaster – Such kind, sensitive and wise words of support!

          • mblaster

            Glynis, professionals such as yourself deserve the credit for my post and I can’t thank you and your profession enough, truly and sincerely! Keep up the excellent work helping to heal broken hearts one heart at a time. Bless you.

          • mblaster – Thank you. People like you make it easy for me to be here. 🙂

        • Sanctimonious High Priestess

          For me group counseling was painful. I told a secret that I had held inside for 30 years and not one person said anything, not even the counselor. I felt so all alone after talking about it and it drove it deeper and made me more distrustful of others. It is too dark for people to comprehend, they don’t want to hear it. Another 10 years went by until I found a counselor I could trust and it made a huge difference to have a supportive, compassionate person who saw the good in me. I do think there are some wounds that are so severe they can never be healed. But they can scab over and from time to time I can have a fairly decent life. I did reconnect with my family but I have to be very careful as if I get too close, they start criticizing and trying to put me in their little hurtful box again. At times, I wonder if its worth it as I realize after a family gathering, I’m depressed for a couple of days afterwards and it takes me getting back to my life to get over it. I am happy I reconnected with my mother though as she did mellow as the years went by and we ended up with a fairly good relationship. She recently died and so I’m glad we grew closer before she passed. I hope you can find some peace and love. Sorry about my name. I post on real housewives board and it’s what I think of one of the ladies.

  • CarolinaLife

    What do you do if you are dependent on family and they treat you like you don’t matter? I told some relatives about what I had endured and they are acting like I didn’t even tell them anything. They will even change the subject when I talk to them. My family treats me like my feelings don’t even matter. I am a caregiver for parents, but also dependent to some extent on them because of the health problems I have acquired from the constant stress while growing up. I feel trapped and very depressed. It’s almost like I am a ghost.

    • Carolina Life – Very tough situation. Seems like family is unsupportive at best, and this has been going on for a while, so like most scapegoating families, this will not likely change. The only person you can really control is yourself. Sounds like your living situation keeps you stuck and feeling more hopeless every day. What choices can you make that will help you become more independent and get some distance from the family dynamics that hurt you? This much I know – no one can overcome the harm of scapegoating from the inside of family systems that are built on abuse. I wish you all the best on finding ways to protect yourself, which will likely involve some form of distancing from abusive family, be it physical and/or emotional.

      • Pipkins2t

        Glynis…………You, me, and anyone else here who cares to join us…………..meet by a ‘hypothetical lakeside and skim pebbles…………………What can we do …………….no point looking too far ahead, certainly no point in looking behind. I rather like the idea of us all standing in our own respective space, along a shore line, standing on firm ground, and choosing to focus on a pebble that is propelled by the power of individual intent.
        Glynis…………….ripples in the pond propel so far. You are gifted in the art of inviting others to stand on the shore line, pick a pebble and throw it. I do not expect this message to be viewed on your page. I am taking pleasure in the simple belief that you may read this and smile……. Nothing better than being able to find yourself alongside ‘someone who gets it’.
        I have no idea what brought you to these ‘shores lines’ ……nor do I need to. I am just grateful that you found a way to cause a ‘splosh’ in my particular pond. Hope that makes sense and may your God bless you and yours.

        • Thanks darlin’

          • Pipkins2t

            Your most welcome Glynis. Just a thought but perhaps birth families offer the possibility of holding up a mirror to reflect what we hope to see. What we see reflected back is imperfection that is based on a cracked, warped and distorted image. No one person is to blame, reality is distorted from which ever angle you look at it. Time to find a new ‘looking glass’ ……………..best of all choose to look with your own two eyes.
            Yes, reality does hurt at times, however we can choose to embrace honesty as it allows us to see the truth. Once we face the truth, we then have choice.

          • Pipkins2t – Yes, being able to ‘see’ reality, as hard or limited as that can be, is both the hallmark and the path to psychological well being.

          • Pipkins2t

            Not the easiest option Glynis, you know that, we come to accept that as being a hallmark of freewill. I continue to dream about my birth family most nights, waking unsettled. A sense of reality does not distinguish between daily living and evening dreams; in each instance I feel that I am standing alone. I am learning to feel okay with standing independently, observing life around me, contributing what I can to each day based on what I believe in, who I am.
            I have found ‘safe ways’ to reach out to others, to feel connected to the wider world whilst protecting myself.
            What am I protecting myself from?
            I have nothing to fear.
            I have lost who I was made to be and in doing so found the person I am meant to be.
            I wish that my birth family accepted me for who I am now. Perhaps this evening I will dream that they do. I can no more accept them back into my life any more than they would me or mine into theirs and that is okay, we have gone our separate ways.

          • Pipkins2t – So well said. It seems that for your birth family to accept you, they would have to be different people. People with eyes and hearts and souls intact so they could truly appreciate the treasure that you are.

          • Pipkins2t

            You know the story of the Velveteen Rabbit Glynis…………what makes one individual ‘become’ while another can end up with so many sharp and broken edges that they can never be repaired? What makes some of us real and others incapable of ever becoming real?

            “Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

            ‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

            ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

            ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

            ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
            ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

          • Love this beautiful story.

  • Anthony Goodwin

    Really well articulated look at scapegoating. Like how you finished by saying ‘break the cycle’. Reading so many other heartbreaking stories here that I resonate with in one way or another. My story is similar to many in terms of the repeated and enforced emotional and physical trauma suffered. I was the middle child in a large family, a father with chronic mental illness and a constantly overwhelmed mother. I managed to keep enough balance in my life to avoid some of the self destructive behaviours that go along with deep shame, anger and loss of self. I managed to find a spiritual path in life that helped me immensely. However, when both parents passed away, I moved close to my siblings with my wife and two young children and there was a falling out reignited some of the deeply seeded scapegoating that went on when I was younger. It was quite a shock to me, having wrongly assumed with my own personal growth, that my other siblings would be free of these maladaptive behaviours. But they emerged uglier than ever, when my partner and I decided to get married in a private small ceremony, without my siblings. Soon after, a lot of old wounds were made fresh for me…maybe not fully healed to begin with…… and so I am estranged from my family. How can I show them the truth of these toxic dynamics? I’ve tried to talk, but I get a brick wall, further emotional abuse, shame and anger towards me……:(

    • Anthony – Thanks for your positive feedback on my article. Glad it was of helpful. You have obviously done a lot of work to build the life you want, in spite of your family. This brings me to my point – the only person you can change/influence is yourself. Like most other folks who’ve been scapegoated, you find yourself dealing with ongoing hostility and hurt when it comes to your family of origin – what you describe as a ‘brick wall’. You can only connect healthily and happily with family if they let you. I’d encourage you to focus on protecting yourself, as your family seems to not want to allow you to get through to them in any kind of a positive way.

  • Anonymyth

    I am the family scapegoat. I refused to be abused by my father and was labeled a troubled child at age 11 I lived with my mom after my parents divorced. She was an addict and though my fathers family knew this they did not protect me. Instead they turned a blind eye until my mentally ill father decided to take me from her. They were very affluent and didn’t believe in airing the family laundry in public. When I reported the severe physical and psychological abuse to the judge, my father disowned me and told the family to do the same. I still see a lot of them but never get invited to family events and nothing I do ever measures up. If there is a problem in my life, they will almost always assume that it is my fault. Recently I graduated nursing school and never received one remark of congratulations. The only thing said was when are you going to get a job! When I reminded that family member that I had worked the entire time I was in school and had put in enough hours during a 6 month period to pay my entire car loan off ($12,000) my remarks were still dismissed! I know now that I may be the only person functioning normally, but it still hurts to be treated as if I don’t matter while my father who was the culprit is welcomed by the family! He has another daughter (born after I was disowned) with my stepmother who has many of the same interests that I had growing up. I was told that I shouldn’t even try because I wasn’t good enough while everyone encourages her in the same areas. She just got a Facebook account and I sent her a message, telling her that she has a sister who loves her and prays for her. And that if she ever felt like she was in danger that she could contact me and that I would help. I know she received my message because her profile appears in my newsfeed frequently now. I share statuses publicly now, so that she can feel connected to the sister she never knew. If she did know about me then it gives me an opportunity to allow her to see into the world of the “evil stepsister” and make her own judgments based on reality rather than brain washing. I’m sure that my life is quite a contrast from what she has been told (if anything). Maybe one day when she is old enough I can help her deal with all of the dysfunction that she experienced and show her what normal looks like. do know that she is kept in a tight little box away from family members a lot of the time, so that he can abuse her without interference and keep up the image of perfect father who just had a bad daughter the first time around.

    • Anonymyth – You have been betrayed by your family, especially your father, so this is bound to hurt. Congratulations on your accomplishments and caring attitude, in spite of lack of family acknowledgement or support. I think it’s admirable, though not easy, that you are reaching out to your sister so she can see the person you are for herself.

      • Anonymyth

        Thank you for your reply and your article. I have a couple of friends who have had similar family experiences. I shared your article and two others for them and anyone in my family who has been riding the fence being careful not to directly call them out. In my efforts to reason with my family who I feel should have been protecting me over the years I have found that now I have been labeled “crazy” or the one who “just can’t get it together” etc. etc. etc. A couple of years back I met a family members new spouse. I noticed that she seemed slightly unnerved and while we were having pedicures she simply asked about what was bothering her. I suppose that because the person she was sitting beside didn’t seem to fit the profile of the story she received in my absence it made her feel the need to correct her confusion. She said, “didn’t you used to be a drug addict?” I was shocked told her no and asked where she got such an idea. She explained that prior to truly getting to know me but having awareness that I didn’t come to family gatherings she inquired of my father as to why. His response was that he had to cut off contact with me because I was a drug addict and had frequently been incarcerated! I have always had a very anti drug attitude and will barely take an NSAID paid reliever until I have exhausted all other options of natural treatments such as heat, rest etc. On top of that I have a degree in Criminal Justice as well as nursing! I did explain the truth to this girl and she said it explained a lot because my father was very rigid and had unusual behavior and seemed especially watchful over my younger sister. I know that behind closed doors this child is experiencing many of the same things I did and that without any place to see normal he has likely groomed her with the fear of speaking out. I feel so terrible that no one is protecting her innocent young mind from the terrors that she is experiencing! And that once she is on her own she will have to discover that normal isn’t what she thought it was! I fear that she will suffer greatly and since there is already a genetic predisposition to mental illness. All I can do is pray and ready myself to help her hold it together if she reaches out to me!

        • Anonymyth – Unfortunately lying, and doing what I call “accusing the target of their own behavior” aka Projection, is a central feature of scapgoating, especially by narcissistically disturbed people. I hope you are able to connect more closely with your sister, as it seems like this might be of great benefit to both of you. Hang in there!

  • antigordonandjustin

    Wow, what an enlightening article. I see a lot of myself in this role, but not with my birth family. In fact, I feel like the SG in my married family (and among my in laws).
    My wife is in a very dysfunctional family; her parents are both 90+ and divorced for 30 years plus. One brother lives locally and is stable; the other lives out of state and is broke (he recently divorced an NPD & BPD sufferer). He is broke as a result of that divorce and poor career choices, although he does work (but not consistently, and often under the table). He has 2 children, 1 of whom is suffering from cancer. Her mother lives with us and her father lives in his own home (and wants to die in his own home). My wife refuses to contribute to our household expenses & wants to continue to live with her mother; she does not want a home with me. She even said if she did get one she would not contribute as she ‘needs to look after her (broke) brother and nephews’. She does not a car & expects me to drive her & my stepdaughter everywhere; she had been saving for a car but put that money towards a house for her brother. She has been supporting him for 7 years. I have taken our family to Europe and California on more than 1 occasion; my wife does not contribute to these (or does so minimally). She expects me to help her look after her father & mother and do their heavy labor, even at the expense of my health. When I damaged a shoulder 4 years ago I was still expected to help bathe her father; a ‘NO’ was met by an angry diatribe followed by the silent treatment. Her mother is the same; there is no time for hobbies or sports as ‘there is always something that needs doing around the house’, and I am expected to do the dirty work. Her mother believes that no one should say no to an elderly person. And in every single instance, my wife backs her mother and father. Even my 13 year old stepdaughter, who I have raised as my own, gets in on things, calling her mother, herself, and grandmother ‘a team’ against me, and I am to carry out their demands. Attempts by me to assert my rights or dignity are swiftly rebuffed, ignored, or met with rage. I attempted to move out and when I did, I was accused along with my family of causing all sorts of problems for us. My wife either ignored or denied the role that her own mother, father and herself played in all this. It’s all about ‘what will the neighbors think?’. Now I fear what is coming next, as I will soon need surgery and my wife and her family do not respect the fact that I will need recovery time. I fear that business as usual will be the expectation, and that her mom & dad will need this, that or the other and I will be expected to provide it.

    • Antigordonandjustin – What a tough situation. Sounds like it’s time to set some limits. Projection – accusing others of your own behavior/feelings is a hallmark of scapegoaters – so unfortunately you can expect this when you ‘dare’ to assert your needs. I wish you the best, and hope you will stand up for yourself, even though your wife and her family won’t likely respect this.

  • Crimsonite – I’m so glad to hear that you are making plans to break out of the’jail’ that is your family home. You deserve the peace of mind that will come from getting your own space away from that atmosphere of controlling disrespect. I wish you the greatest success in breaking free as soon as possible.

  • MayneMan

    This was a great article. In fact, this article has inspired me to write a blog about how I was the scapegoat child in my family. There was a lot of what you said that I could identify with to the tee (being the whistle blower, I was abused and bullied by a family member and my parents, and most of the discipline and blame was placed on me). In short, #2 – You are attacked and disbelieved if you tell the truth and ‘blow the whistle’ on negative and/or inappropriate family dynamics <- That was me during my childhood. My sister was the golden child growing up (and to this day, she can do no wrong). I'm trying to break free with counseling (it was told that I have PTSD in 2008, and that I have Aspergers in 2014), but it seems like I'm running around in circles as the therapists are not dealing with what I need (to force me to not scapegoat others and shift the blame – although I was forced to take the blame for everything to include the abuse – was even chastised for not telling that I was growing up though) and taking my money. So much for the health system (but that's another topic). I struggle with anger, retaliation and depression/anxiety (of course it stems from the childhood I grew up in as well as from Aspergers and PTSD).

    Now as I am on my own and in my 40s, I see many who have suffered abused and in the AA community (which I'm a part on), we live under the philosophy of "what goes in the house, stays in the house," or just straight denial. It breaks my heart that they have been scapegoated and now they end up scapegoating others. I know I can't do much to help them since they fool themselves into saying "I don't need help," or "I'm over my past." The truth is, their pain is really real. How can I address this (in a blog) about how to deal with the goat in the mirror so we all can be free in our minds, bodies and spirit.

    • MayneMan – Thanks for your positive feedback on my article – glad it was so helpful. Good luck with your blog post. If you’d like to send the link I can post it here so that others can share in your thoughts.

  • Lady Hannah Norris

    Brilliant. My toxic family are still trying to scapegoat me, though I have stopped contact since my daughter’s unexpected death in April. They came to the funeral, but they ignored me, no-one even said a kind word to me. Thank God I have great friends!

    • LHN – I’m so very sorry to hear of your daughter’s death, and that your family treated you in such a callous manner at her funeral. It seems like stopping contact may have been the best option for your heart and soul. Glad to hear you’ve got support from people who treat you more kindly than your family. Wishing you the best.

      • Lady Hannah Norris

        Thank you, I have no regrets!

        • Pipkins2t

          My sincere respects Lady Hannah, your friends know your true worth, It sounds like you do too.

  • Sue

    Thank you for sharing this information! This is my family to a T. Problem is my Narcassistic mother has just committed my Dad to a home and has had him deemed incompetent for health and finances…the second I stopped falling into her trap that dad’s dementia was out of control, she stopped calling or talking to me and even threatened to call police when I went to pick up my lap top I lent her. She has dad totally is collated and telling friends and family that we were not allowed to visit for 4 weeks. No, we did not comply.
    Congratulations Ontario Canada, you just let a sick woman separate from her husband by using the medical system…imagine, she doesn’t get half of what they worked for for 59 years of marriage, she gets it all!
    I am always the one there to help them and pull the family together but now none of her or dad’s family will talk to me. I just need to help my dad at this point and don’t know what to do!

    • Joni

      I discovered the term Scapegoat several years ago speaking with Glynis Sherwood. I still have not actually done any sessions with her even though it is my plan. There is such a part of me that confuses scapegoat with black sheep and I felt if I had to accept the first term then had to accept the second. Actually, I was the opposite of I would consider the black sheep and for some reason my family finds it easier to deal with and accept my idea of black sheep. Glynis was the first to introduce me to the term and at the time I also couldn’t afford the specific counseling, a situation that has changed and I do plan to actually spend some sessions with her. But in the time trying to understand the complete abandonment by my family not wanting to accept it, I started running across the narcissistic mother when searching scapegoat. I almost didn’t watch any of it because my mother is so classic passive aggressive. The more i watched the more my mother fell into this category which was a shock to me. I had always seen my father as the real cause of all this. He is a big part, but would have never placed this label on her, even though I ended up married to a full blown narcissist and a pro at being passive aggressive. This is the first time I have heard anyone on Scapegoating mention the narcissistic mother. My father was just more vocal about the scapegoating and everything being my fault but my mother’s passive aggressiveness hid that part until I was much older and now see how she was even more responsible for all the stuff that went on than I ever realized. Because I also saw her as a victim of my father’s disrespect and anger, I always put all the issues on him. Who knew? Are there others that have had this type of experience?

      • Sue

        I know that this can be very confusing. The scapegoat is where they use to for anything and everything. When I finally told my “mother”. I set barriers between her and I, even though she blamed me before, it has gotten even worse. The black sheep is the same as the scapegoat because they make you out to be the black sheep since, even though you are helping them, when they do the opposite of what you suggest, they paint you as the black sheep and they are so manipulative that people believe them.
        Just returned from trying to get POA over dad’s health. Me against 3 lawyers. What a shit show. She hired a lawyer, probably cost her $5000 and I found out that da d is still capable of making power of attorney for his health. So, I am heading to see him tomorrow and se if he will appoint me POA over health. She had the paper that explained that but still went through it to upset me. Once a narc is done with you or you are on to them, they totally toss you aside and that is when you become the black sheep.
        I was told by the Police, my therapist and my Doctor to have no contact with her as you cannot fix it and they will not change. This makes it difficult for me as I still want to have contact with my dad and even though she has put him in a home (which he is not there yet), she is now stalking me. She has the home call her whenever I go up to see dad and she is there within 5 minutes. She is trying to paint me as a troublemaker to the whole family. Way I see it, if they believe it, that is their problem, I don’t need people like that in my life anyway.
        Hang in there! You need to get help for yourself before you do for both of you, because they are manipulators and play the victim, take no responsible for anything. Do yourself a favour and get yourself help first.

  • Leeanne Mary Rose

    Thank you Glynis. True description of what living in these family are like. Unfortunately this happen a lot in families and members are permanently damaged because they hide behind a false self, a perceived perfect self. Very sad for the scapegoat who is most likely to wake up, get healthier and move on to live an authentic, happy life.

    Just because my family is toxic. I still care what happens to them. I hope they find healing also. Do I let them drag me back into dysfunction? No I walked away. It damages too much and we all deserve to finally be happy.

    My advice to others. Its painful, transcend through that pain. Find you true divine authentic self. No contact or very limited contact.

    • Leanne Mary Rose – So many words of wisdom here in your post that I know others will appreciate hearing and benefit from.

  • Ceunei

    Thank you for this. It was very painful reading due to the fact I match. I am done being scapegoated, but haven’t yet learned how to wipe a lifetime of it off of my face. Both sides of the family went in on me; it started very young, I had no idea what was happening, and found a way to disappear.

    I understand my ancestors passed down a legacy of truly hurtful parenting and I, like my mother and father before me, was merely the next first born in line against which much parental and grandparental vengeance is wrought, but that buck ends here, with me and I still don’t understand how my mother did to me what she did even though we do have a relationship. My father was/is mentally ill in the way I read so many men his age are, and he treated his family as viciously in private as I’ve read happens to to many who are born to those in the older generations, so his behavior (backed by his Christian faith, of all things), I do understand. But, my mother mindlessly passed on the cruel parenting of her parents even after they hurt her so much, I don’t get it.

    Now, if only I can wipe that from myself, whatever it is that shows to some, I am nothing more than a doormat. Luckily, the moment I see that happen (those that abuse get a certain look of ‘triumph’ once they think they’ve hooked a live one), I am now strong enough to say “Have a great rest of the day,” and walk away walk away walk away. I have no desire to tell grown mean women how to act because they do not back down, they eventually avoid me, but I know the next encounter, they will try, again (but not if I see them first, LOL). Right now, my MIL is trying her darnedest, but she has already ‘won.’ I will no longer attend any holiday gathering with my spouse’s family as they don’t love me or want me around anymore than my own extended family did. See how we just attract this stuff, we the family scapegoats? How do we stop attracting the vampires, or are the majority of humans in the USA, today, merely looking for victims?

    • Ceunei – Closing the door to abusers is an extremely important step to peace of mind. It signals that you are no longer available for target practice. Keep up the good work honing your assertiveness skills.

  • KB

    Reading this article was like reading my own story! I’ve always felt my family were against me; this has recently reared its head again now I’m married. It started again a few months ago when I got angry at my sister for being harsh with me, and now I’ve had to withdraw some contact for my sanity. I spent years trying to win their affection and approval – now I don’t care anymore.

    • KB – Sounds like you’ve been driven to make the tough decision to withdraw from abusive family, like many people here. I wish you peace and hope you have good support as you get on with the life you deserve.

  • Pipkins2t

    I never walked away from my birth family,
    I simply made the decision to never walk back.

    Knowing this helps me stay sane.
    I am sane enough to stay back from a dangerous situation.
    I do not need to rescue anyone.

    I rescued myself the day I chose to say ‘no more’.

    • Joni

      This is such a healthy way to look at the situation. I did walk away but must admit I truly held on to the belief that they would one day actually wake up and realize I was the strong one who held things together and did everything the “right” way but never understanding why they were so accepting of my siblings and later nephews that were involved in drugs, stealing from them, bailing them out of jail, buying them new cars after they just crashed the new car they had just received, paying off thousands of dollars in tickets to keep their license….. I never needed anything or help like that and I became the strong one even to the point of letting the never ending battle of never being good enough make me strive for perfection in every part of my life. That is not a bad thing but a hard thing to keep up and know that I have become sick and unable to work, even though they are not the least bit concerned, sometimes I feel they are happy that finally I failed at something in their eyes. I will never understand this family dynamic but at 59 I had to, because of my health realize not only never to walk back but to stop thinking they were going to walk back in. It had become a dangerous situation for me and any contact only causes me pain. A few days ago I finally was able to send them texts to say the things I never said out loud, letting them know that if they wanted to contact me that they knew where I was, but I would no longer set myself up giving them the chance to reject me or remind me of their abandonment of me. I know they will never respond because if they ever have to admit to one error, then there are so many they would have to face and they would never do that. So they continue to support the broken ones and included them as family, including one that ended up in prison. But for me, their lack of response made me realize they don’t care that I am hurt by feeling like I am no longer part of the family. So I guess it only gave me a bit of peace. Your words are so short but so important and I hope others don’t wait until they are 59 before they can say “no more”. Because it is not only emotional scars that hurt but all of this has destroyed my health. I had no idea what a level of years of stress could actually do to your body.

  • Joni

    I have read through so many different accounts of people suffering from the same family dynamic as mine. So strange I spent most of my life thinking that nobody could possibly understand this underlying thing that goes on so well hidden from the outside world. The rule that no matter what happens one day, the next we are to act like nothing happened and worse appear to the world as a “Leave It To Beaver” family. I played into this role because I didn’t want anyone else to know what really went on in my home. I do now suffer from anxiety, health issues including non epileptic seizures, unable to work after years of teaching school and running different businesses. The big underlying problem was caused from spinal meningitis when I was 5 but I truly think it wouldn’t have taken over my body by the age of 59 if I had actually dealt with this problem long ago. Once i went to college, I considered myself free and was able to be the person I always was, even though my parents really never knew me at all. They should have been paying more attention to my siblings and what they were actually doing rather than practically sitting on ready hoping I would stumble. So instead I would actually get punished along with my siblings if I was watching them and they did something wrong. Thanks to time spent with my great grandmother who actually loved me so very much, I always knew things were just wrong and removed myself as often as possible and just pretended it was not real. But as I have seen others mention, there was never the choice to speak up or tell the truth because my situation would get worse or whatever was going on would suddenly be my fault. From college on, I did have relationship problems because I just refused to love anyone since my mother always used that excuse for my father’s behavior-“you don’t understand what it is like to love someone so much”. Well if that was love I didn’t want it. But I did know healthy people when I met them and was fortunate throughout my life to attach to healthy families and many friends. Never good at the boyfriend or husband relationships and would actually stop dating someone I started to have feelings for because I knew those were the ones who could really hurt you and from that I had always seen emotional pain. I broke my rule and got married and ended up back on a “compound” with my narcissistic, passive aggressive husband who I didn’t love when I married him but felt safe since I would never be able to walk away, but didn’t realize these qualities until years later after my child was born. Then my father developed a compound and convinced us all to move on it. I knew it was a mistake but my passive aggressive mother would buy whatever she had to so my son would want to stay out there. She already was raising my nephews and wanted my son and it was a constant battle. Then even worse I worked for the family business. Needless to say this is when the scapegoating and abuse got so out of hand. Between my mother -who I didn’t see it coming-my father and my x husband I lived a daily nightmare that left me in a helicopter after an overdose. I don’t suffer from depression and had a healthy self esteem, I think, and never suicidal but got to where I couldn’t take it anymore after another family out lashing at me. It had become so bad that literally everything was my fault and was told if I would just leave the compound everybody would be happier. The truth was I held most of it together but even though I knew about the drugs with my nephew I couldn’t tell anyone because that would be my fault because I was causing problems. He is now in prison but I am the one left alone. If you have ever read “The Black Swan” that is how I felt most of my life with them, like my father took me out for a walk and left me on a rock and never came back. After she makes her way back she looks in the window and sees them laughing and eating and having fun as if she never existed. It is like being an orphan but surrounded by what is “family”. I even had a counselor tell me once she thought my life would have been so much easier if I had just followed the “crowd” and had addiction issues or school issues or lied or whatever it appeared to me that they accepted while rejecting me as I did everything they ask, not just out of fear but because thanks to my great grandmother I knew differently. Even worse I made a conscious choice at a young age to never be anything like any of them. Little did I know even though I never said it out loud, it seemed me doing the “right” choices was not only ignored but seemed to make them angry like I did something wrong when my nephew was stealing from them. It didn’t just seem that way, it was actually said out loud. Thankfully by that choice I had healthy friends and almost too honest and good work ethics and compassionate and accepting of others regardless of who they were or their past-but that is opposite so I guess even in silence it angered them that I knew. I never realized how many people have been through this, but if their was some way to reach children young enough to be able to live through it without adapting these parents behaviors to survive I would think it would be wonderful. I have thought of writing a book of my experience or something that could reach these children through the internet allowing them to talk to someone and have someone to understand so they don’t reach for the bad behaviors or the bad person to feel the void they don’t understand. I am not saying I have not been affected by all this because I have. I was not like them and raised my son exactly opposite of how I was raised just pushing his father aside. Being a narcissist made that easy since he only cared about himself. But in the end I am still alone now that I am too sick to keep up with my friends. So if I could ever spare any person at a young age to skip the wrong way to get through this stuff, but even spending my life doing the opposite and the most good I could I still ended up with emotional scars and now even health issues beyond repair. So doing the opposite meant I held it all in and was always perfect, but you can only be strong and perfect before you break. So either way this needs to be addressed at a younger age before more people suffer. And in today’s world there is so much bad out there to turn to it makes me sad to see what a child in my situation may do today. Even though I was blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life I still suffered in silence. It is like having an invisible disease. After reading so many posts I don’t know why Glynis Sherwood seems to be the most aware of this family dynamic. I have searched and it is not addressed in a manner of the devastation I see in myself or read in posts. Running across narcissistic mother videos or books seems to be more common, which in my family I just recently realized it was my mother. I always directed the problem towards my father since he was so vocal and physical but my mother’s passive aggressive behavior hid one of the bigger problems. I physically disconnected over 5 years ago but am still coming to terms that my own family doesn’t want me. I am 59 and have spent a lot of time working on it, and finally sent a “break up” text to my parents because I was still being blamed for being the “one who left”. Can everything be one family member’s fault? I am sure the texts had no effect on them but maybe I can finally put it to rest because I at least said some things i wished I had said out loud so many years ago. In the text to my father I told him I was sorry about the suicide attempt but I was more sorry that I kept quiet for so long because I was scared to say anything that I let it build up to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore and do something to myself that normally I would never do. The final straw was when he literally beat me up in the hospital as we watched my nana die. I was just standing there and he looked at me and called me a name and jumped on me knocking me down and was kicking me and I guess hitting me in the face since my mouth was bleeding-being able to remove myself from reality with him became a specialty to me but that was the first time he had gone after me with his hands and I don’t think he would have stopped if my bigger brother in law had not been in the room. Then I realized why I was so scared of him, but in her own way my mother was worse. So whatever the underlying reasons for becoming the scapegoat in a family, it is real and can be dangerous. It is a silent hate that no one can see and can erupt for no reason. I was 53 when that happened and they still say I was the one that left which justifies the abandonment even though I can no longer work and am really sick. One reasoning is if I want them to take care of me, I need to come to them. They are very financially stable and could easily help me from a distance. Even though being alone is so hard, going back would only shorten my life quicker than it is now. Nothing would be different, actually I think it would be worse. If I had walked long time before understanding this type of dysfunction rather than spending years in therapy trying to figure out what was wrong with me, even though the only people I had problems with was my family, I would have been healthy and strong enough to just start over. Now, my health keeps me from doing that. I just hope everyone that listen to Glynis and reads these posts actually takes the necessary action, even though it is the hardest thing you can do, and breaks while they are still able to begin a new job and life in another place, and my suggestion it be thousands of miles away!!!

  • Joni

    I have made several comments about this situation and even though I have not received any feedback I hope this comment will reach anyone still struggling with wondering the questions of “why me?” or “what could I have done differently?” or “were they right and I was the problem and not the person I know myself to be?” or “did I have some hidden disorder that only reared it’s head with them?” or “should i be so thankful for the good things that I should be willing to look over all the other stuff?” or “am I really just selfish or jealous that no matter what else went on in my family I was the brunt of the anger?” or “do i just remember everything wrong and they are right about me?” or the millions of questions I continue to ask myself through the years, even though I knew better. In my family the truth is not an option and just makes things worse. No matter what came at me, I never stood up an defended myself or even told them the truth that I knew about what was really going on. I just took it feeling no reason to drag anyone else into it. First I was the strong one that did what I could to protect the ones I could or pretend it wasn’t as bad as it really was. As I said before I spent 4 years with the most wonderful priest, who was the first person I trusted enough to open up and actually tell the truth and how I really felt. He was unlike any therapist or priest and was very insightful and very truthful and forced me through writings that I had to read aloud to him each week to open up to things I din’t know I even remembered. He called it the “child within” which I will say I thought was silly but when he taught me how to start writing and not be concerned with spelling or sentence structure or what I was saying and just write, then as I got better at it I learned things about my life I had buried. He would have me read it aloud to him, which at first I found almost impossible. But later realized I was so unaware of the things I was writing that if I hadn’t read it aloud to him, I would have just written and never even realized what I was saying. He would listen and often stop me in mid sentence to ask me about what I had said. Truthfully, when he stopped me I didn’t even realize what I had written or was reading out loud. This stuff had just gotten to be so routine in my brain, I guess I didn’t hear it anymore. I really went for him to figure out what was wrong with me and why I had so much trouble with my family, since my entire life my father had always said I was the problem. It took years for him to convince me that they had the problems, not me. But when so many my parents, who are supposed to love you no matter what continue to say and do things that convinced me I had a problem I just started to believe it. Even though I had no relationship problems away from them, but I continued to believe I was flawed. It actually took over a year before he broke through to me and had me begin to realize that I was actually the healthy one. But I still wanted that family life I saw on television or through families of my friends. I continued to go back over and over thinking it would change. I knew when I left for college and was free that I never wanted to return and from graduation on, they had no power over me. Even though I did return to the same town, I always had my own place so I was always free to leave so I couldn’t be controlled anymore. From a distance, the relationship was fine. It was not until moving on the compound that I have spoken of, that it came back full force but this time I was stuck. Father Ernie got me past the anger mode which did seem to be the emotion I was stuck in, but after his death i began questioning myself again. I am sure I drove several close friends crazy repeating the stories wanting the same reassurance I had received from him. These were friends from college that knew me how I really was and until that time had no idea what I had dealt with in my family. The contradiction for me was it was if there were two sides to my parents. I really focused on my father because he was so verbal so I felt he was the one I had the problems with. There was a side to him that was mean and scary and he could say things to chop you at your knees. But there was a side to him that was love and kindness and generous. He paid for me to go to college and graduate school, we went on ski trips every winter in places from Colorado to Austria. Even in high school when he was his meanest, we still took 2 week vacations that were fun and he would stop everywhere along the way so that we saw everything there was to see. If we were in Texas, he would drive us down to Mexico just so we could see a bullfight so we could always say we had seen one. Back then my parents didn’t have the money they have now and he rented a motor home and we traveled those weeks, seeing everything and he was a different person those two weeks. As we got older and their money situation changed, he took us on these great ski trips and paid for everything. We always stayed in the best places and the trips were amazing, again it was as if he was a different person for those weeks. But when home, you never knew when the other shoe would drop and he would come at me verbally and would say the meanest things you can imagine and always attacking me at the very core of what was most important to me. But because of the good side, I continued to let this go on. Later, it was my mother that got worse. Her passive aggressive narcissistic (a term I just became familiar with) became even more difficult for me. Before this emerged, my sister and mother and myself were close. She took us shopping in Atlanta or New York and we did almost everything together. They bought a place at the beach and a boat and we all spent so much time together. There was a time all of us did almost everything together. But moving on that compound just tore our family apart. All the behaviors from growing up returned but worse and now my mother’s true personality became a huge problem, even more than my father’s. I had a child with developmental delays and all indications of autism, I focused on him. This did cause more problems with my controlling mother since I wouldn’t let her take him over as she did my nephews and my life on the compound was pretty miserable. But I still remembered the good times, just knowing they would come back. Just as I stayed with my x husband waiting on him to be the person I married. One day Father Ernie ask me how long I had waited for him to go back to that person and as I said 18 years, I realized how dumb that sounded. I fell for the trick many times of my father saying he wanted to mend our relationship and then within a month something would happen to pull the rug out from under me and I would drop back into that pit of darkness wondering what was I doing wrong. How could all the stuff going on around me be acceptable but he kept attacking me. Reading all these posts have shown me that it is just a family dynamic that if you can’t handle, then you just have to leave. There is not enough money or cars or whatever to fill that times between what I considered love. My brother and nephews played the game and didn’t care as long as they got what they wanted, which was most anything they wanted. I would never play that game and looking back it seemed that is what made them the angriest. So if anyone is reading this, you may think what others have said, “why didn’t you just play the game? how can you complain about the bad things when your parents did so much for you?” Maybe that is true, but I still wanted to be loved for who I was and even more recognized for all the good things I had done as opposed to all the wrong that was going on. It included drugs and alcohol abuse, stealing, telling lies, terrible work ethics… It seemed the more “wrong” they did the more they were accepted and given. I have spent several years wondering why I never spoke up about things said to me that were not true, why I didn’t defend myself, why I just sat there and took it. Yes, I was afraid of my father and my mother was what you would call a fire starter under him and even though it was invisible I was aware of it. I was the one who knew everything about what went on in the family. Whether it came to me by a stranger or my nephews or I was just standing there when it happened. I watched my mother’s games with my brother and his children when I was single and spending so much time with her and the boys that I knew exactly what she was doing. But because it was a silent thing to everyone else, no one could see it. I had to overlook that too because protecting my son from all this craziness was my only concern. She goes to Mass everyday and in charge of almost every committee at the church so she presented herself totally differently than I knew her. I just continued to be myself and keep all the knowledge to myself and allow them to live and believe the lies they told themselves. I recently wished I had spoken up long ago and maybe I could have actually saved my family from themselves and we would all still be close instead of barely speaking to each other. I am gone, but my sister and brother who still live on the compound can’t stand each other and don’t even speak. They still continue to pretend it is one big happy family and have totally rejected me. So after a reading at Mass, I decided to do my part and make the first move. It was difficult to have these feelings for my family and especially my parents, feeling I was not following the “honor your father and mother rule” which to me whatever went on it was my responsibility to do that. I had tried to stay in contact with my mother for years and letting her know about my health. No matter what I said or told her, she would return with cold answers or lack of concern of what was going on with me. That is tough, I would think a mother would always be the one to care no matter what. A few weeks ago I tried for what was going to be my final attempt. I sent a long text about myself and how much I loved her and how much I needed my mother and then ask her for help with cab trips to Mass, thinking if there was anything she would do it would be that. She basically ignored the entire text and returned that she called the church I was attending and that there was a bus that came here and would pick me up on Sunday morning. That was all she said. I returned to her saying that I could have done that but due to my health issues, mornings are hard so I go on Saturday night. But that was the last I heard. So I decided to also do the same thing with my father. I hope someone reads to the end because what I discovered is so important and answers to all those questions that always circled in my head. I sent my father a long text also telling him all I ever really wanted from him was for him to love me and want to protect me and when I was sick want to come and check on me to see I was okay, I guess that rescue thing I always thought a father was supposed to do. It was a long text and telling him I didn’t understand his problems with me but willing to apologize for what ever if he told me what it was but to mend the situation. I didn’t want to go home or want anything from him and really don’t want to see him, but I wanted the peace of not total rejection for reasons I just couldn’t understand. Neither of my parents really know me. I never told them things I did in my life or accomplishments from college or battles I dealt with dealing with abused children when I was teaching. I never told them all the visits to my grandparents or the many other things I did. There just never seemed any reason to. First it would seem as if I was bragging or it would make the others look bad and they didn’t seem to notice or care so I just did what I did and they never knew. So I proceeded to tell my father about many of them, the things I did in the family that were so important. I seemed to always be around when something was going on and I would speak up and they would do what I said and it always turned out to be a good thing. But it seemed like they didn’t even remember any of it and didn’t know a lot of it. So the point was to finally say the things I wished I had said many years ago and defend myself to them rather than the bad habit of feeling I had to defend myself to others in my life even if it wasn’t necessary. I just carried that with me way too long. I didn’t even know if he would answer but he did. This is the important part that I hope helps anyone or someone with the constant wanting to be a part of a family that doesn’t want you and thinking you could reason with them or what ever. He came back at me with such anger attacking the very things he would know would hurt me the most. Everything he said was the complete opposite of the truth I had told him. I told him I knew the truth is something my family doesn’t do but for once I wanted to tell him some truths about me. He pulled out a few of them and just trashed me turning them around and saying some very mean things. Sadly he was completely wrong about every single one. I don’t know if he just hates me for some reason or truly believes the things that he said. But for the first time he was only able to speak through a text and not sitting in front of him which took away the fear of him or the fear of being rejected again. So his words just seemed ridiculous and with no fear involved and just words, I realized no matter what I had ever said would have never mattered and he would have just become violent years before he actually went from verbal to physical. I was 53 before the physical came out but if I had spoken back all those years before I now know his anger would have escalated. With just words, he has no power over me and I can see how he really thinks and must believe what he says. It did not upset me this time but I still responding correcting his statements including things that he couldn’t possible know that i knew so he would have to realize that I really did know all the truths about the family. I corrected him on the things he said with the truth. Of all the things I have read, it appears the word “truth teller” is the one these families turn on. Even though I never said anything before, I felt safe hundreds of miles from him and figured what did I have to lose-he would just hate me more? I discovered from Father Ernie that the “truth teller” never even has to say a word, just my presence would make them angry because they knew I realized the behaviors were wrong. I didn’t even have to speak, just standing there. If I did try to offer any help or assistance it just got worse, so I just kept everything to myself. Even though I knew what my nephew was doing and it wasn’t being addressed, I kept that to myself and he is finishing a 7 years sentence in prison. I always wondered if there was something I could have done. But now i know for sure there was nothing I could ever have done. For some reason I am the last person they wanted an opinion from even though I was the only one not participating in all the dysfunctional behaviors. I did spend years angry. Every time I drove through the gate of the compound, my attitude would change. As long as I was off the compound, I was happy and had friends and was respected. The main point I would like others from these family dynamics to know is that there is and was nothing you could have done to change the situation. You can’t be grateful enough or good enough or strong enough or anything. The ending would always be the same. It is true that trying to stay or return can actually be dangerous physically or mentally or to your health. Their opinions or attitudes don’t change even after 5 years of no contact. Actually, it is even worse. This was the best thing I ever did because I could finally say things I wanted without the fear and even though it ended up in a verbal attack of things that were untrue, the words were just words and even sounded ridiculous. When I returned the text with the truths that I know he knew but many he had no idea, he still came back with attacks. His final message was that I needed to look in the mirror and see myself for the person I was and I only ever talked about things on my terms. The truth is I never talked about anything really. But what I do now know what he or mother thinks is just what they think and believe. They will never take any responsibility for anything they did and continue to feel it was all me and I am the one with the problem. Even this text did not bother me, it actually gave me the final closure at 59 I finally needed. It was not my imagination and there was nothing I could do to change it. I hope this reaches any one that struggles with this to allow them to realize that putting it aside is just about all you can do. I am sick and they will long outlive me and their thoughts have not even changed, and there is no concern about my health. It took me confronting him without him sitting in front of my yelling to say just some of the things I always wanted to defend myself. Now I can stop thinking the love is there, or the caring, or they would actually show up to check on me. I will keep the happy memories in my head and the pictures I have around me are from the times when things were good. I don’t live in the past, but I just keep the memories in the good places. This type of family dynamics is a lot worse than I ever realized and thanks to other’s posts and realizing how the stories are the same over and over did I start to realize I was not alone and even that took years of reading them. I will send him one last text telling him I love him, I forgive him and that I am sorry he carries those things around about me that are not true. I told him enough truths in the last text, he has to know I know what I am talking about. I am not a therapist but it appears to me that people in this situation pick on that one person because if they continue to tell me how awful I am and how much trouble I cause everyone then it makes them feel better about themselves, which is the real person that needs to do the work. Father Ernie explained long ago that these personalities will never do the work because they won’t tel the truth which would make the work useless. I have some problems with a guy that tried to be friends with me and there was some reason I just couldn’t get along with him. His moods changed and sometimes the things he said sounded just like my father. I thought I was carrying my past into the present and being sensitive to him but he wasn’t the one who said all those things to me in my life. But in the end, he was just like my father. It wasn’t from the past, it was my instincts to not be around that behavior ever again. He was the one who had plenty to be remorseful about but some days he would be all supportive telling me what a good person I was and change and verbally attack me on the very things he had said good about me earlier. I finally stopped the communication and now realize it wasn’t dragging my past into my present, it was my inner self recognizing the behavior and knowing it wasn’t right. I will say though I put up with it longer than I should returning to the thinking that I must be the problem. But the situation was the same, I think he would put me down on his “off” days to make himself feel better about himself. I really think that is how it works. My father will continue until the day he dies to believe what he wants and that I am at fault for everything and I am the one unwilling to take responsibility for whatever he thinks I should. My mother is just as bad but her passive part hides the rest and it is just that my father is more verbal and doesn’t care what he says. Either way, I can now put it to rest knowing I lived my life as I wanted with different views from them and did not succumb to their thinking of me but used it to become a better person. And even though I am alone now without them, I am at peace and never have to listen to it again or wish I was back or even think I should go back. As always, I just never belonged but that was my choice and a healthy choice. I don’t wish I had been “broken” by them to follow the crowd just to have them in my life. So it was important not only for me to finally know that the truth I knew was correct and the truth they believe isn’t even real. He wouldn’t even discuss the things in the text that were true and he couldn’t deny, just more attacks on my character. I hope this saves someone or anyone any additional pain this stuff can cause. I hope someone can move on, keep healthy relationships and find “family” wherever you can. But even if you are like me and older and with being sick it is difficult to just start over but I still would rather be alone than be with someone that just hurts me. I am only alone due to the health issues and I can’t get around to spend time with friends and keep up the relationships. I still have contact with old friends but I will not settle for new relationships just to feel a void left by them. So in the end they didn’t win and I hope my latest experience helps someone to move on and be happy. From what I just experienced, the happiness will not come from this type of family and unless you are willing to walk back in and agree to their opinions about you and allow them the control again, then it can’t. happen. Not for me anyway. It is not in me to do that when I know who I am and not worth the stuff I would have to put up with. It is not selfish to take care of yourself and that is what is important.

  • Gopi

    I needed to read this 10 years ago…….

  • LesAnonymes – Sounds like you have some complex issues to sort through. I hope you have support as you welcome your new baby into the world. Best of luck.

    • LesAnonymes

      Yeah it’s very troubling. I don’t even know how to deal. I just want to be free of how they make me feel.

  • HJL – You have been through a very tough time and I hope, like others here, you will discover the peace that comes from distancing from people who don’t value you.

  • suzie q

    First off, congratulations on the baby! May your relationship with your child be a better, loving environment since you know how unloving your environment has been with your family. I feel you 100%, they can mess with us, we act angry, we’re the bad guy. Will always be the bad guy. Seems like you already know, they’ll react crazy to your baby news-maybe your therapist can help you with a plan in telling them. You deserve love and happiness-This baby is your blessing and see how you are already protecting your child by even saying how you wish to shield them from your negative environment-you should be proud of yourself for that-I heard that we scapegoats are stronger than we think-we will prevail! 🙂

  • Armani

    Wow.. this really helped me.
    Always been told that I have issues and I need help etc; but all those “issues” have never been a problem to anyone except family. Just reading that I was the pawn in everyone’s game makes me feel much better already, to have an explanation as to why I was always the one.

    I always wondered what I did so wrong to them, and how I deserved to be treated horribly, but the other kids didn’t get treated half as bad or be left with the responsibility I was left with.

    I’m too outspoken to let stuff go unseen and unheard. If someone did something wrong I was saying it happened right or wrong. Guess they didn’t like that.

    • Armani – So glad my article helped you realize that the problem lays in the shaming family system, and that you are not to blame. All the best to you.

    • Joni

      It is odd to read words that I could have actually written. All my life I was told I had issues or an attitude and if I tried to get my father to explain the attitude so I could “fix” it, he would get really angry. But going through a lengthy program based on “child within” I found I overheard my father using the words “I can’t stand her sometimes, she has an attitude just like your grandmother”. It was my great grandmother and who I had lived with when younger-she raised my mother because her parents didn’t want to-but I not only loved her very much but my first memories are with her. So I don’t know what happened before her, my “child within” wouldn’t go back that far. The thing that also seems to run throughout these posts is each person seems to have no trouble with anyone but their family. I, like, you spent too much time in the wrong type of therapy trying to figure out what I did wrong or what was wrong with me. I am gone but they still have huge issues, yet if I try any contact it returns to their version of everything and that I am the problem. I even went as far as to let them convince me I was bi-polar and take about 8 different medications until a doctor caught it and told me my problem was the meds and I wasn’t bi-polar. I would have done anything to just be accepted. I also didn’t understand how crazy the stuff going on around me was so easily accepted but nothing I did was good enough and worse the stuff they were doing would somehow end up being my fault. I read in Glynis’s article that it can just be a “look” from the child that knows the behaviors are crazy. I used to say I could just be standing around and something be my fault. I thought if I kept it to myself then I couldn’t bother them, but it appears there is no such thing as “not bothering them” if you are this person in a dysfunctional family. So being outspoken would really be a problem for them. I did try through the years to bring things up but was always yelled at, so sat back and watched it but still the one thrown away. I still need a lot of support with people that understand this but not sure how to connect with them. I do understand your situation and am so sorry anyone else has to feel the things I do.

  • Caryn Hallquist Wilson

    Love your article as it totally describes my position in my family and I have finally come to the conclusion that I need to distance myself from the hurtful emotional abuse as I am so tired of feeling so unhappy! I have talked to many counselors who share the same belief that I need to stay away from this sick kind of treatment by my family . Most difficult thing is that I just have my husband and we get lonely on holidays with just the two of us, but we make due. Also, the grieving process is just like losing a loved one to death. I’m not turning back though because I want to spend the rest of my life with some normalcy and sanity, and to be free from all that false guilt. I hope to meet new people that will allow me to be who I really was meant to be!
    Healthy and whole:)

    • Caryn – Thanks for your kind words about my article, and glad it’s been of help. Yes, it can feel very lonely not having a supportive family. A lot of people tell me though that it feels lonelier remaining in contact with family members who continue to mistreat them. It’s good that you recognize the need to grieve this loss, and that you have a husband and counsellors who have your back. Sounds like you are on track, and I wish you all the best.

      • Caryn Hallquist Wilson

        Thanks, very painful though! I have Christian friends that are my family now, they offer love and forgiveness unlike my family of origin. Not looking forward to the Holidays though. All I ever did was love my family and they just don’t get it!

  • There is not enough space or time to explain what my family has done to me, but being the scapegoat or being scapegoated is a tough pill to swallow. I am now 30 and after a few years, I am able to let go and move on. Still, I visit my family, but I keep my guard up. I chose compassionate Forgivness and empathy.

    The term is very cool, look it up if you don’t already know its origins.

    • Maria – Sounds like you’ve found a perspective that is really helpful for you to stay detached and not get tangled up again in family scapegoating. It can be challenging for some people though who find themselves in extremely abusive situations to choose forgiveness and empathy. How did you do it?

      • I put myself in the shoes of the person who is hurting me and I see that they too are usually victims of he same pain. I end the cycle right there and forgive them.

        • toni

          The best healing is staying away from the narcissist and other toxic family.

          • Pipkins2t


            Maria, Glynis, I know you are right, that staying away is the path towards healing. I was thinking about the term ‘dysfunctional’ and my thoughts are that my birth family are highly functional in their behaviours, however their behaviours are self serving and extremely painful to be on the receiving end of. Although it is can be very difficult I try to see myself as an independent adult who is choosing to function in a very different way. I choose to behave in ways that I can be proud of.

            I’m not sure if forgiveness is the word that springs to my mind. I think the word acceptance of differences is an expression that I can be open to. My hope is that by coming here, reading this page, other peoples experiences & thoughts, people who have ‘chosen to be different’, can pause and say to themselves ” I am proud of you”.

            Walking away takes courage; staying in the hope of change ………………..well, it takes a whole host of attributes and qualities,but please, please please, know when to walk away with your soul intact.

          • Joni

            Your last sentence may explain my struggle with acceptance. I did not walk away with my soul intact, so now have to figure out how to heal that if possible. Not only was my soul not in tact but it gobbled up my health, too. You are right though, you have to have the strength to leave while you are still independent and can move on because if you wait too long like I did and the stress consumes your health, then for me it has been so difficult because I can’t just move on to a new job and new friends and new connections like I used to. Good to hear that walking away takes courage but I think deep inside I thought walking away would wake them up, but it only made the situation harder for me and easier for them. Now to the outside world they can say “See, she had all these problems and just left and we don’t know where she is. We are fine, it is her that was the problem”. Seems either choice, they won.

          • Joni

            The best thing but the hardest thing for some reason. I am still struggling with my family actually being able to just let me go. When I reconnect with someone that knows them, they had no idea I was even still alive. My family seems to make it sound as if I just disappeared or chose to just leave. That is so not the story and my mother has known exactly where I was and how sick I was, but it really hurts when someone finds me and thinks I ran away like some teenager and just disappeared. First I am 59 years old and second why doesn’t anyone wonder why my parents weren’t looking for me if I just disappeared. Staying away is not the hard part-keeping them out of your head is the hard part for me. It just keeps me isolated.

          • digitalrambling

            I totally understand. I am 49. I wish being excluded did not bother me as much as it does. Mostly, I can push the feelings away, but when under a lot of stress, it all bubbles up and I feel so isolated and worthless. I am fragile and easily thrown off. I refuse to live live this way. I will have to find a way to create distance.

          • Tami

            I can relate to your pain. I’m not included in family functions. They don’t even invite me down for Christmas. It still hurts sometimes But I have good friends and that has helped a lot. I think it’s a lifetime struggle but have realized they have a mental disorder and that has helped. Good luck.

  • Joni – If parents have character disorders – such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder – they are hard wired to be dysfunctional. Addiction and denial can also add to the problem. Other people align with scapegoaters because of the ‘benefits’ – i.e. currying favor, the comfort of not rocking the boat by refusing to see reality, fear of being the next target, etc. You are right, much of this behavior doesn’t make sense because it is neither rational nor sane. However, you sound like you have your feet on the ground. Hang in there!

  • Love – Sounds like trying to navigate this ongoing family dysfunction is naturally very distressing for you. Culture or not, I hope you can find a way to get some distance from this troubling situation with your family.

  • MargaretPaine – How very painful for you. I hope you can give yourself credit for trying to reconnect. There gets to be a point though, as you are describing, where reality needs to be the guiding principle, so you can focus on getting stronger and protecting yourself from further heart ache.

    • margaretpaine

      Yes it’s hard because for a while I raised my brother when my mom was drinking a lot and things were chaotic. When I confronted her with her abuse I was seriously shamed and I think my brother split his personality then and never looked back. I can remember the day when he rejected me to survive and took up placating mom. He was told threatened to never listen to me again. Both siblings became trauma bonded to mom and I was lost and shamed. So later in life during crisis they turned on me again when I had a spouse who was going to beat me. Sis said I was the abuser. I became homeless and ever trying to plead my case. I became confused and depressed. I went to psych crisis center that Christmas and they helped me to see my family dysfunction and that I would only connect some but to never mention to them that they needed help. Did I listen? No. I still ask for apology but just get blocked. I go to alanon detach but still can’t give up the brother bond (trauma bonded to my brother?). I think inside he’s furious but won’t see or give up his double personality and sis too. Very dangerous sometimes for me because they have spouse protectors who are abusers too. My brother tries to connect with me like nothing’s wrong. It’s strange. I’ve gotten better by detaching but holidays I connect just to get the yearly beat down I guess. Or I challenge the shame monster mobster that ate my family to give up my siblings souls. They hate me so for still wanting them back. It never changes but I check in yearly and ask for that apology and for their return to selves.

      • digitalrambling

        It is really scary to allow oneself to accept how deeply we will always be excluded. I think that’s why we keep going back expecting them to accept us. The need for an apology is a desire to receive empathy from them, but it is likely not a realistic expectation. They probably feel completely justified and have no idea how hurtful they are being. I am just going to keep reading this article and let it sink in.

  • margaretpaine

    I’ve been struggling today with the pattern of scapegoating my brother does. Also my sister. We are all in our 60s. I think it’s gotten to the really end point where I see it so much tell them and then it gets worse. We all exchange birthday cards and Christmas cards and try to connect but it never is right labored and fake. I think I should sever all ties because they no longer see me or hear me and haven’t since childhood. It’s hard because it seems like connection sometimes but the last 10 years of my dad’s sickness and death were so awful. If I try to connect it just goes terribly and I get damaged. I have PTSD. Just thinking about this my PTSD is causing insomnia tonight. I think it’s time though to sever ties and end this fakery and hurt. Thanks for helping with this perspective.

  • Joni – The pain of grief you are experiencing is legitimate and hard. Perhaps you could try and connect with others in the comment section to see if they would like to form an online support group?

  • Pipkins2t

    I hope you can help me Glynis. I just spent three days with my father who has latter stage Parkinson’s and dementia type behaviours. It was lovely to share time with him however, I have returned home deeply upset. Why? I am not too sure, other than I selfishly hoped that the three days away might be the first time my dad and I would have an actual conversation. A conversation in which he asked something, anything about my life. I have sought such a conversation since I was a child, and here I am again aged 49 upset that I failed to engage him in any dialogue that had any meaning other than , can I get you anything dad, another cup of tea etc etc. My dad had a very difficult marriage with my mother, very painful relationships with his children. His relationship patterns continue at this late stage of life.
    I consciously sat alongside him on quite a number of occasions, watching wildlife, trying to soak in the time together.I can not recall a time in my life when he has ever asked me about anything that relates to my life, work, opinions, beliefs, hopes. Not once. Never an offer to help, never a hint of any interest as to any needs that I might ever have had and how he might have a part to play in meeting those needs. How? Express even a hint of interest in me. Sounds pathetic. Selfish. Immature.I know he loves me, so why be upset?

    Why do I feel so deeply upset? What am I feeling because I don’t know ?

    • Pipkins2t – Sounds like grief to me. Grief over the father you did not have and now – given his health problems – will likely never have. You say you know your father loves you, but it sounds like you don’t feel loved. Love is a verb, reflected in caring actions that make a child feel like they matter and are invested in by a parent. You are also judging yourself harshly. Could this be contributing to the upset you are experiencing? If you can direct some of the compassion and understanding you extend to your father towards yourself, notice how that makes you feel.

      • Pipkins2t

        Thank you Glynis, you are spot on as reading your words offered me the answer I needed to hear.
        I’m sure most of us who post hear can relate to understanding the concept of self compassion, but to be honest I really have not been able to apply that to myself.
        Something to focus on, work on.
        I deeply appreciate your wise words Glynis.

        • Pipkins2t – You are most welcome. I think most of us who have been scapegoated struggle to get past the Inner Scapegoat, who makes it difficult to care for ourselves in the way we most need, and have needed from family.

  • Kell

    Ms. Sherwood, I just had the pleasure of reading your insightful article- I was pleased to find I have already been “on my way” by utilizing some of the tactics in my own accord already. What led me toward your article is that I’m currently visiting my family, my mother is abusive & narcissistic, my younger brother is the “golden child” who usually stays silent but sometimes sides with her, and farther is “brainwashed” to some extent, and also abused… but he will acknowledge her abuse towards me (only when she is not around) and tells me to “try to ‘get along’ with her” as she continues to abuse, accuse, and create a less than favorable environment for everyone.
    My mother is a hoarder to some degree, and whenever she misplaces something I am blamed for either being the most recent person to use said object (and supposedly lose it, or worse- supposed to have stolen it…) I’m not a thief, in fact, it was recently proven when mother lost a string of pearls for over a year and constantly blamed and abused me “for stealing it”, well, two weeks ago they were found and it took her a while but father got her to mumble an ‘apology’.
    Now that it’s been found, she keeps trying to pin something else on me and I’m in constant fear of what I’ll be accused of next- and worse, that if I try to stand up for myself she screams so much and pushed buttons to make everyone in the household miserable if I do try to stand up for myself so that everyone tells me to apologize for standing up for myself just so she will stop being mean- they call it “a bad mood” though. (It’s so horrible that we warn eachother she’s in a bad mood so everyone can avoid her… Until she chases us around the house…)
    What do I do? I want to stay close with my father so I still wish to visit. But, how can I stand up for myself with how she is?
    (also, just for reference, there’s so much more she does other than accusing me of being a thief- which I’m not, by the way. I moved out at 18 after running away a few times because I couldn’t take it anymore. But, she attacks me for my appearance, my lifestyle, she used to beat me as a child, has used my identity, told me it was MY fault I was raped, everything)…

    I don’t know what to do, it feels like my hands are tied but this has gone on for too long, if you can, please help.

    Kell <3

    • Kell – Difficult situation. You can’t stand up to a narcissistic person because they won’t let you. Better to focus on self protection, by setting limits, even if you quietly make them with yourself. I’d also encourage you to consider counselling as you feel so stuck.

      • Tami

        So true Glynis. My brother thinks it’s funny when I stick up for myself because he knows he got to me. My mother just says I’m being to sensitive. You can’t rationalize with irrational people. I have distance myself from them and have found out who I am. Kell surround yourself with normal,good and fun people. Life will get better for you

        • Tami – Thanks for sharing how you cope with difficult family dynamics. Great advice.

  • Hey Folks – Please check out my newly published article on Scapegoat Relationship Problems: https://glynissherwood.com/scapegoat-relationship-problems/

  • Kathy

    This is life changing for me. My parents never tolerated bullying. Once they died my three pussy-whipped brothers and their bullying wives made me the scapegoat. I’m a single mother with a kid with a number of special needs, but I’m so much better alone.

  • Cynthia – So much pain in your story. I’m glad you have such a good relationship with your son. Sadly it seems that your mistreatment has been ‘normalized’ in your family and handed down from one generation to the next. I hope that you are exercising as much control of the terms as possible as caregiver of the mother who continues to abuse you.

  • Cloris Ellis

    Thank you for the article- I’ve been coping with abusive family for decades. It is debilitating at times. It’s taken me over 50 years to finally stay away for my own sanity.

  • KellyGee

    This has been my life for decades now and I have recently decided to cut ties with my abusive, alcoholic brother and his equally dysfunctional wife. It was a decision long in coming but it feels like such an immense relief to have them out of my life. My family has had so many issues of abuse – verbal, emotional and physical – and I am the only one who wanted to clear the air and move forward for years. Everyone else wanted to stay mired down in avoidance and denial, calling me a trouble maker for speaking the truth. My point was not to accuse but to heal, for all of us, so that we could have a better, healthier relationship with each other. instead, my brother’s idea of keeping my father alive has been to take on his worst traits and carry them forward. He is gruff, rude, apathetic and controlling. He yells, he insults, never has a good thing to say about anything I have ever done, and he drinks too much. His wife is bipolar and she drinks as well. She has called me vile things and he supports it. I have put up with him because of my mom but that is in the past now. I am over it and as far as I’m concerned, they are both dead to me. I don’t wish them ill, but I just want them to stay out of my life. They deserve one another. I am choosing to surround myself with positive, loving people. Life is too short to put up with nastiness when there are so many good people out there who value love and support.

    • KellyGee – Seems like the only thing you can do here is to put your foot down by withdrawing from this difficult situation, as you’ve clearly had enough and and unable to get through to you sibling and his wife. By withdrawing you are sending your brother a message that you are no longer available to be abused, whether he – and his wife – are willing to recognize this fact. Best of luck.

  • LisaRose – You are welcome. Glad my article helps you understand your situation with your family better. Knowledge is power.

  • JT

    Great article.

    I have a theory that this stuff is inter-generational. My father’s family was like this, mine was, and my siblings’ families show signs that they are turning out the exact same way. I wonder if this stuff is more common in big families, or if it just seems more complex.

    Still trying to shake off the characteristics that make me an “easy target” for abusive types. It’s very difficult to succeed in a world that rewards narcissists to thrive. It’s difficult to forgive people who looked the other way just to save themselves, especially when you were the smallest/youngest/weakest– name it.

    When you’re told you’re being “paranoid” or “silly”, or told that you “deserved it” by people you’re supposed to trust, people who are supposed to love you, how do you become a fully functioning human being?

    If anyone is a scapegoat, they need to realize that trying to “win” anybody in their family is a lost cause. The only real “cure” is to cut off most ties, to try to keep as much information about you from them as possible, to always be on guard. Do not try to persuade them, it’s a lost cause. The only ones who will recognize what you’ve gone through are those outside your family who were burned by the same people within your own family. I think those who like to scapegoat within their families often “burn” those on the outside, whether it be their friends, co-workers, etc.. It’s a habit they can’t break, and most certainly won’t for their own family members. They don’t recognize their own faulty behavior.

    Remember that even “good” relatives from extended family will most certainly be tainted by hearing bad gossip about you, especially if you somehow present an obstacle to those within your immediate family who chose to target you the most. Relatives within your immediate family who seem trustworthy and supportive can also be the biggest back-stabbers. If you have any doubts, do not share personal information with immediate family. If they seem to gossip a lot about other people they know, do not talk to them– If they’re super affectionate when you are alone with each other, but let you get thrown under the bus when in a group situation, do not trust them at all. Don’t trust them with your children, either, under any circumstances. They will try to encourage your own children to hate you or disrespect you.

    It’s unfortunate that some of us have to live with this reality, especially when we get the whole “family values” trope shoved down our throats 24/7. Sometimes people need to protect themselves, full stop.

    • JT – Yes, scapegoating is inter-generational. Where it is usually most damaging is when it occurs to the vulnerable children of troubled parents. You have shared many valuable – though unfortunately hard earned – survival strategies here. Thank you for your insight!

      • Here’s JT’s Post, which for some unknown reason I am able to publish directly:

        Great article.

        I have a theory that this stuff is inter-generational. My father’s family was like this, mine was, and my siblings’ families show signs that they are turning out the exact same way. I wonder if this stuff is more common in big families, or if it just seems more complex.

        Still trying to shake off the characteristics that make me an “easy target” for abusive types. It’s very difficult to succeed in a world that rewards narcissists to thrive. It’s difficult to forgive people who looked the other way just to save themselves, especially when you were the smallest/youngest/weakest– name it.

        When you’re told you’re being “paranoid” or “silly”, or told that you “deserved it” by people you’re supposed to trust, people who are supposed to love you, how do you become a fully functioning human being?

        If anyone is a scapegoat, they need to realize that trying to “win” anybody in their family is a lost cause. The only real “cure” is to cut off most ties, to try to keep as much information about you from them as possible, to always be on guard. Do not try to persuade them, it’s a lost cause. The only ones who will recognize what you’ve gone through are those outside your family who were burned by the same people within your own family. I think those who like to scapegoat within their families often “burn” those on the outside, whether it be their friends, co-workers, etc.. It’s a habit they can’t break, and most certainly won’t for their own family members. They don’t recognize their own faulty behavior.

        Remember that even “good” relatives from extended family will most certainly be tainted by hearing bad gossip about you, especially if you somehow present an obstacle to those within your immediate family who chose to target you the most. Relatives within your immediate family who seem trustworthy and supportive can also be the biggest back-stabbers. If you have any doubts, do not share personal information with immediate family. If they seem to gossip a lot about other people they know, do not talk to them– If they’re super affectionate when you are alone with each other, but let you get thrown under the bus when in a group situation, do not trust them at all. Don’t trust them with your children, either, under any circumstances. They will try to encourage your own children to hate you or disrespect you.

        It’s unfortunate that some of us have to live with this reality, especially when we get the whole “family values” trope shoved down our throats 24/7. Sometimes people need to protect themselves, full stop.

  • grhysman

    Awesome article, thank you for providing such a thorough explanation, I didn’t want to stop reading!

  • Notorious Lee

    I am the scapegoat of my entire extended family. Following the recent passing of my mom I have gone through this sort of awakening. During the last few months of her life, after years of being made to think something was wrong with me I finally started to see things more clearly and I realized that not only am I not the person they say I am, but they are the complete opposites of what they claim to be. I realized that since I don’t fit in with their image of perfection, and I don’t kiss certain people’s asses, I have become the bad guy. I was blamed for just about everything and I was in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. I can think of specific examples for each of the bullet points made above, for instance, one of my aunts who was closest with my mom texts me one day in this condescending tone telling me I “better keep the drama out of my mom’s (hospital) room.” She then went on to explain an incident that took place but she had the facts completely wrong. When I tried to give her the correct version of events I was then told that I was focusing on the wrong things! She brought a topic up to me, didn’t get the response she wanted and then gets angry that I’m talking about it? How does that make any sense? from that point in I decided to go no contact and keep to myself. Something I am still doing and I have to say, my life and stress levels have drastically declined since. Great article.

  • Sara Ibrahim

    I’ve spent years being ostracised by my family, being told I’m sick and my brain needs “fixing”. I finally left 2 years ago, only to be overcome by grief because I constantly yearn to have a loving family. I felt guilty for leaving, guilty that maybe I wasn’t deserving enough of love, and if I was different they would have loved me.

    I am constantly going to my parents and begging them to love me, literally. Their response is always “Well if you can’t see the love people give you that’s on you”. In fact, they’ve actually said if I was to change and do the things they want they would love me more. Any time I go to them, trying to get them to understand, I end up suicidal because of the way they make me feel about myself.

    I finally looked up scapegoating in families, and everything in this article, to a T, is my family. My mom tells me I’m the only one who complains so much and I’m the one that treats everyone else badly, and just like this article said, it’s because I’m the only one who calls out the abuse. And just like you said, when I try to explain why I feel the way I feel, I am further blamed. I recognise the abuse and the disfunction, I just need to fully grasp that I will never have a good relationship with them, and I need to essentially give up, because every time I engage with them, with the best intentions, I somehow end up being blamed for “causing drama”.

    Thank you so much for this, it’s something I will discuss with my current therapist in depth. The advice you give is literally lifesaving, and clicking on this article was the best thing I could have done at this time.

    • Sara Ibrahim – I’m so glad my article has given you the clarity to understand your pain realistically, and to make the decisions about family that will protect you and – even if your family refuses to see it – lead by example of not going along with abuse.

      • Christine

        My biggest pain and challenge is watching my children unknowingly get used by the scapegoaters (their lovely granny and aunties/uncles – my mum and siblings) as weapons when I started keeping minimal contact (following years of abuse and once I learned about why I had suffered for so long) How on earth does one deal with this. The children are now young adults I can’t tell them who to/not to associate with.

        • Christine – Such a difficult situation with your children. Now that they are adults, would it be possible to have a frank discussion with them about the family dynamics that have led to you being ostracized and continue to poison the well?

          • Christine

            Glynis, I tried talking to them for the first time just this last Christmas, a very difficult thing to have had to do because the scapegoating is both from my family and that of their dad (now my ex-husband) – because their question is ‘how come both families treat you almost alike!’.

            It is only last year that, I decided to research to understand the mystery as to why I seem to attract deception, manipulation, misuse, abuse, rejection …especially by the people I completely love or am close to. My nature is that I am very polite, honest, jolly, loyal, giving giving giving but always mis-presented! It is when I came to understand the family dynamics of narcissism, triangulation, scapegoating and that I was my family’s scapegoat and ex-hubby’s family’s scapegoat (I was wife to the golden child and in every sense of the word faced NM’s covert very well articulated wrath for competing with her for his love. She made sure my ex-hubby and his siblings never saw anything good in me).

            After a very draining divorce process scapegoating was done through my children.The children after almost ten years, one day came home and refused to go back to their dad (flawed legal system granted him full custody during the divorce).

            And just when we were beginning to heal, bond, my family started on them – it is like they were happy when I didn’t have the children and so I had no one to be with and now they want to make sure they destroy that as well. It is a horror movie my children and I have been through. .

            Taking little steps in faith …

    • Pipkins2t

      Sara, reading your words felt like an echo in my own soul; “yearning to have a loving family”. “Begging them to love me”.
      Sara, imagine your family as small vessels that hold as much ‘self love,self interest, self protective defense mechanisms as possible. These vessels will do everything that can to protect each and every drop of what they contain.These vessels have no more room to take on board anyone of anything. They are fighting to protect what they already have.

      Then there are people like you and I and others who are readings this. We are large vessels, holding a small volume of self love, self interest, our defense mechanisms are open, transparent because we have plenty of space that we openly offer. Space that we hope to fill with love. Acceptance for self, others and life as it is.We are fighting to protect hope and to receive what we know we deserve. LOVE.

      Please do not blame yourself for ‘being different’. Yes, we are different but only because we have space in our hearts to grow.

      Such space is never empty. It is a space that remains open to receive. Be patient and let go. Make space in your heart. Cherish your open heart.

      • Sara Ibrahim

        It’s hard not to cry when I hear those words. I’ve been told the same thing by my therapist, although a little different. As people, they don’t have the capacity to give me what I want. She said although my expectations of them are VALID, I have to accept that they are impossible.

        I try to love the part of myself that constantly gives love and attention to others, but sometimes it feels all that does is hurt me. When I’m not around my parents, I realize that kindness is much more fullfilling than hatred and denial, even when it doesn’t feel like it. I’m starting to feel at peace knowing I loved them fully, and did everything I was capable of. What else can I do? I can walk away confident in myself.

        Thank you for your encouragement, at the core, my family makes me feel alone, and getting support from a complete stranger shows me that I’m not the only one, and there are people who ARE willing to give love and kindness.

        “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.” ❤

        • Pipkins2t

          Sara, start where you are at this moment. Start with bringing some love and compassion to yourself. Accept the pain you feel on understanding the reality of your situation. None of us can change the behavior of scapegoaters. All we can change is our own perspective on the experience.
          Give some of that love and attention to yourself, open your own heart to receiving your own love. Start with you and the love you give yourself with come back to you through others.
          Find space to know what you feel, and find your way to accept what you feel. Once we identify our grief, anger, pain, joy, relief, etc, we are then able to find ways to ‘self heal’.
          We cant change the past Sara. No point in worrying about the future.
          In each moment we can choose to breathe deeply, pause and choose our response to a situation/ feeling/experience.
          Sometimes the reality is that there is no logical answer. There never will be.
          Don’t waste time trying to figure out ‘the impossible’.
          Life is waiting for you.
          Life is waiting for you to ‘turn around’ and notice the incredible gifts it has waiting for you each and every day.
          If we can breathe with an open heart, then the Universe, (or whatever greater being or science you believe in), will gladly fill our hearts, little by little. We can learn how to live each day with a sense of gratitude. Something our scapegoaters never taught us.
          All we are required to do it trust that everything is happening exactly as it ought to and that we are each capable of receiving love.
          Keep your heart open Sara, but start with offering yourself the gift of acceptance. You are perfect just as you are. The emotional scars you carry are a sign of just how courageous skilled and strong you are. You survived. You walked away from ‘the impossible’.
          Choose your battles. Fight for you. Fight for love.Be grateful that you have this opportunity xxx xxx

          • Sara Ibrahim

            I’ve been told many times by my therapist that I need to stop treating myself like my parents treated me, and getting stuck on their opinion of me. You’re 100% right about everything, and my primary goal right now is to show myself love. Thank you for seeing the strength in me!! You’re right life is waiting for me and I haven’t been living. I deserve to give myself the opportunity to be happy.

          • Pipkins2t

            You also deserve to grab that opportunity to be happy !! Grab it with both hands and make this life that you have your own Sara. xx I wish you and all of us who find ourselves here each and every blessing our opening hearts can hold. xxx

          • Sara Ibrahim

            Much love ❤❤❤❤❤❤

        • Christine

          I feel you and all others who have been through this. I have been through it almost all my life – misunderstood misjudged , anything I do is criticisedl, they really hate it when anyone gives me compliments (it should be mum to get the compliments and be recognized for being the mother of a brilliant girl – I have excelled in a number of things- compliments should not be for me!) my children are gathered and informed of my shortcomings as a mother (literally turned against me), even when I practice things related to my faith as a Christian (eg. fasting, contributing to community service, ) I am doing it wrong I should read the Bible well!! Mum wants to know which verses of Bible I read, tells me to pray because she doesn’t feel like! She hates hates it when I look happy, hates hates it when I have a friend/s, hates hates it when I do something without having discussed with her first especially if it has to do with something that may be praised by others…….have cried prayed, depressed at times…I thank my God for leading me to learning about NPD, scapegoating, these articles and these sharings by people who have taken the bite, it is very painful to be rejected and despised by people you have literally poured yourself for/to, it is painful when they turn even your children against you, it is very painful wanting a relationship with those you love who can never love you back, it is painful when everyone around you believes the lie, it is very lonely wondering if I should relocate to another far far place. Considering this odd situation but apparently it seems we are many are there any physical forums where the scapegoats meet, share, encourage one another?

          • Christine – There’s so much loss in your family situation that you need to grieve. And it seems you realize you need to pull back to protect yourself, though understandably unsure of the logistics just yet. In terms of a forum for scapegoats, I am not aware of any but, it’s such a great idea that perhaps you and others here could put your heads together and start one?

          • Christine

            About the grieving I honestly wouldn’t know how/where/for what to start….for the loss of my birth family or my
            marital family or for lost time with my children when they were young,
            or for the loss of trust in sister-ship after both my sisters had
            affairs with ex-hubby and it was my fault for not taking ‘good care of hubby’ and had to be me to understand because after all am also a mother and have to understand ‘sibling competition for same things’, or…?

            I have had to become numb because anytime i feel like i need to grieve I
            get dizzy, my brain refuses to ‘walk into the actual memories and prefers
            to stay sublimate’ and my body feels like it will break off into pieces.

            I really wish there was a physical forum some place just to physically share, ask and hear first hand from others – especially for judeo-christians – how do we continue to live and respond so that it is not disobedience/rebellion – because ‘love bears all things”honor your parents’ etc.

          • Christine – The grieving process is necessary if you are to heal. Otherwise the pain you have experienced remains trapped inside, keeping you feeling anxious, low and stuck. I’d recommend you search for a pastoral grief counsellor for support. In terms of a forum, as I mentioned in my last comment, I’d encourage you to either start one on your own or reach out to others here to see if there might be interest in making this happen. Best of luck to you.

          • Christine

            Thank you much Glynis for your helpful responses. ‘Anxious, low, stuck’ you are right about that because it has been the struggle lately including insomnia. I will try the counseling. I realize the physical scapegoats meeting may yet be a future thing because not many people in my country understand the dynamics of what they are going through. Although, well, someone has to take the initiative and be the channel of enlightenment.Thank you once again.

          • Christine – You are most welcome. All the best.

  • JuWu

    Wanted to update my experience–I left my family of origin for 5 years when my 5 year old was physically hurt by my brother and I was told it was my fault. it was the final straw for me when I saw my son was being blamed, too. It was a truly good choice. My mother who was borderline died last year and when I knew about her terminal diagnosis I stepped up and helped her to the end. She hadn’t changed one bit, if anything she was more toxic than ever! The thing that had changed was me–I could really see how it was all her stuff and had nothing to do with me, which was a great experience. However, the family dynamic has remained the same: I am the different one (though on the face of it I am also the highest functioning one). So even if your scapegoater dies, the pattern doesn’t necessarily stop. The time away (and therapy) was key, and coming back to the same old abuse was actually weirdly freeing. I heartily recommend loving yourself first!

    • JuWu – Thanks so much for the update. Sounds like you have come a long way in freeing yourself from the inner scapegoat. Your family’s dysfunction – though painful to witness and see that nothing has changed – no longer has to define you because you have learned how to truly love and care for yourself. Wishing you continuing growth and happiness!

  • Cece

    Thank you so much for this article. I’ve been able to build myself up over the past few years, despite having feelings of low self-worth and a lot of self-hatred after growing up as the scapegoat. I never really thought about how this system was one that I could not be successful in and that I was set up to fail in my life. All these years I have thought that something was horribly wrong with me. I am the nice one in my family and have tried so hard to keep everyone together and have tried to establish a caring relationship with my parents as an adult. I always thought that if I could become successful, my parents would actually love me. Now I have become more successful than the golden child, both in my career and in my hobbies, but cannot and will not receive accolades or even acknowledgement of my success from my parents. The golden child has followed my career path even though she is older, and my parents have even gone as far as tell me that she’ll be better at it than I am. I was very sick as a child. They let my health suffer until I was irreparably ill and I am still paying for it physically and financially, but they still help my sibling out financially, despite her and her husband’s extremely stable financial situation. The golden child is in denial about being the golden child and plays into the part by living her life exactly how they want her to, so my relationship with her is very strained. The effects of growing up as the scapegoat have followed me into my adult life, relationships, social life, etc. and now that I see the situation for what it is, I am hoping I can kick these feelings of low self-esteem, self-hatred, anxiety, depression, and guilt and move on with my life without looking back and feeling bad about myself.

    • Cece – You are welcome. I hope that recognizing that you were “set up to fail” helps to free you from the stigma you have internalized over the years. Most scapegoats are kind, thoughtful and talented. They can also be ‘whistle blowers’ or people who refuse to remain silent while being abused. This tends to accelerate scapegoating by family members who are threatened by the truth and want someone to blame so they don’t have to face themselves or the dysfunction within the family. Now that you know the truth, you are free to create the life you want and deserve. I wish you all the best in your healing journey.

  • Patrick

    Thanks. You have no idea how helpful this has been for me to read.

    • Patrick – You are most welcome. All the best!

      • Gina Thompson

        Thanks for this article. I currently have the same problems in my family. It’s truly painful in so many ways.

        • Gina – You are welcome. I have written several articles on Scapegoating that you can find here that I hope will give you some additional support.

  • Susan

    Thanks so much for this article ! When my sister was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, several of my extended family told me I should have taken her to the doctor earlier, even though she was an adult and had a husband. Why it fell on my shoulders, I still do not know. I am so familiar with guilt, self blame, and am highly critical of myself. I have printed this article and will re-read it when I am having a rough time. Thanks again !

    • Susan – You are most welcome. I have written several articles on scapegoating that you can find under the “Scapegoat” Blog Categories on the right side of the page.

    • Janet Witt

      they put that on you so THEY had no blame in it. That projecting. They as family members would be just as responsible as you for taking her.Even though none of you really are. It was up to her. Not anyone else.

  • Melissa Johnson

    its disgusting. Ive been scapegoated horribly in my 20’s- my family destroyed my life and that’s the grounds they’ve used to keep abusing me. Oddly they all have friends, married, kids- i still seem to be the one who’s ‘alone’ and stuck, no husband kids despite being a beautiful pretty woman. Being a victim causes others to abuse you too…im trying to figure out how to get out of this mentality and take yourself back. I hope these people rot in hell where they belong–theyre the worst people.

    • Kelly

      I was scapegoated my WHOLE life even as a child! It’s a shame adults do this to their children. It’s no wonder I could never fully form a true, loving relationship.

    • Janet Witt

      I know I can’t wait till judgement day. But now with all I have been through I prayed and prayed no help at all. I am almost 60 just recently found out it was my psychopathic family.Yes quite a few are full blown psychopaths.Even holding a couple of family members hostage. Under the name of taking care of them, So that the psychopath does not have to work.She gets free government money and it’s not even coming in her name.

    • Mermaid-ing

      I agree with you. I feel the same way.

  • Kelly

    I was the family scapegoat since childhood. I always knew I was the least favorite by how I was treated. My Dad was very abusive and never showed emotion. He blamed me for EVERYTHING. My brother cursed at him, he blamed me. The dog ran away, he blamed me. It’s no wonder I’m 36 years day and have never had a real loving relationship. 🙁

  • Note Regarding Blog Comments: I am unable to publish comments naming alleged perpetrators, due to privacy and libel issues. I am also unable to publish comments disparaging the counselling profession. Although I am aware there are therapists out there who don’t understand scapegoating, and are therefore not very effective, as a psychotherapist I am committed to assisting people to the best of my ability to understand and heal from this abuse. Thank you for your understanding.

  • MindFury

    Wow, Such a good read. So much makes sense. I still get that treatment from a sibling. Lived with a scapegoat for 10 years adding to my confusion. The final straw that broke me was dating a narcissist. Reading this article removes a lot of self doubt I had. Thank you so much for posting it.

    • MindFury – Thanks for your positive feedback. Glad my article helps to cut through the self doubt, so you can trust your instincts. I have written multiple articles on Scapegoating that you can also access here on my website. Hope those articles will assist you in understanding your situation even more.

  • Danielle McCullock

    This article made a lot of sense.
    Thank you very, very much.

    • Danielle – You are most welcome. I have written several other articles on scapegoating that you can find on this blog under the Scapegoating category.

  • Diane Lewis

    Thank you for such an enlightening article.
    I realize that I have been scapegoated by my family of origin. (parents , mostly my mother and sister) and this has continued on into my 60’s. It has really escalated over the past 10 years. My father just passed away in Sept and it has increased incredibly.
    Without going into a lot of personal detail, I have stood on my head to shift things and improve my relationship with my family, but they have all refused. Recently there was a big blow up with BIG lies told about my husband and I when we were away on vacation, and my 87 year old mother buying into this and ripping a strip off me in a public place around something that did not happen.
    I asked that we get together as a family for some counselling because of the unhealthy communication pattern and deep anger, but no one has even responded. I have finally let my family know that I will not be part of the family without some outside intervention. I feel a sense of relief.
    I thought that my Mother at her age might respond, but she has not.
    Do families that scapegoat ever get back on track? Do any families ever go for counselling and move forward?

    • Diane – You are most welcome. Sounds like distancing yourself from family is a protective stance of last resorts. It’s good you are looking out for yourself. Sadly, families who scapegoat rarely get back on track, and likely have never been on track. This is usually due to either personality problems – such as narcissistic personality disorder – in one or both parents, and sometimes siblings, or problems with addiction. Hang in there, and please check out my other articles on Scapegoating, especially the one on going no contact.

    • J Cedife

      I feel your pain. It got worse for me when my father passed away 8 years ago. It’s the worst when your mother tells you, while you’re mourning your father, that he couldn’t stand you and that you were a horrible daughter. I live with those words in my head every day. It sucks to have to resort to cutting contact. But you know what? We have to live too! We deserve to live stress free, peaceful lives and dammit I’m going to go live mine. Keep your head up.

  • J Cedife – You have been terribly mistreated by your family, but the good news is that you still respect and care for yourself enough to say ‘No More’. It’s very positive take yourself seriously, as a person of worth who deserves better. Scapegoating families often retaliate/’defend’ themselves by accusing the scapegoat of their behavior or pathology – it’s called projection. I wish you all the best and peace of mind as you rebuild your life, free from this abuse.

  • Honesty

    I read your article and was like why didn’t I do this a long time ago. I am sixty and I have living the nightmare from hell. I have three brothers and am the only daughter. All my life I tried so hard to get my mom to love me. She blamed me for everything including my dad divorce her. I was only 21 at the time and carried guilt for years. My mother was emotionally and physically abusive with me one time. She always insisted I was her only daughter and it’s expected of me to do things for her etc. she’s always tried to control everything I do or say. My brothers did not do anything for her except blame and name call me for years. I don’t like drama or confrontation, now she has dementia and five years ago I was named her POA. All the drs appointments and everything I did for her to protect her best interest has been stripped from me. The hard work long hours etc I have invested. My brothers did not like this and my one daughter is on their bandwagon. So I have lost my daughter through this process six years plus ago. She is close to my brother and my mom. She is her favorite grandauhter no doubt. My mom would call her and her my mom anytime there was a disagreement, I begged for my mom to step aside while I would try and heal our relationship. Never happened. My mother has said you both need to talk it out and fix it. For six plus years this crap went on. My mother I describe her as narcissistic personality disorder. My brothers called me mental. Names etc. my niece filed for emergency hearing for conservator ship, judge asked my mom who she wanted as her POA. She said my daughter. I was devestated. She keeps telling me it’s only temporary and court is next week. The guardian ad litem contacted me and she said my mom and my daughter still want it this way. I was physically attacked by one brother,and will not do this anymore. I have had sleepless nights over this crap. It’s taken a toal on me. I go to court to find out judges decision next week. I don’t care anymore. I just don’t understand how my daughter and mother are both against me, along with brothers. My mother lied for the last time today too me. I am sick and frustrated over this. Why would a parent do such a thing.? Why would my daughter do this? I have been the exact opposite than my mother. Always loving, giving caring etc. I feel now I have been the scapegoat of my family. I guess I will never get how I have been there so much for both of them to get this treatment from them. I feel I need to walk away from this. I will never see the grandson I miss as she said I will never see him again. My heart is broken from this. But in my body, mind and soul I know I did nothing wrong. I will grieve the loss of this toxic family. My daughter hurts me the worse in all of this. I still have my other daughter and grandkids. As the family does not talk to her either. Not even her sister. I had cancer twice in the past two years and my daughter was rarely around for this. Only one brother and aunt was. But now my brother got physical with me after I excercised my POA. He is angry about it along with the rest of the family. What do I do now?? Heartbroken

    • Tracy Steel

      omg o m fn god….this is my situation almost to a tee….but it is :
      1, narc mom
      2 sociopath step dad
      3. my son
      4. my brother


      I am now 48………………..and have severe———–>PTSD / ATTACHEMNT DISORDER….

      Im so so sad and lost..I have prayed…went to school…( almost have my PHD)



      I am forever–heart broken / lost /





  • Unlucky no.7

    Following death of both parents in quick succession. Relations with family quickly unravelled. Youngest of 7 I always strived to ‘impress’ elders.. But when it came to aging parents, was kept at arms length..or scorned because I’d chosen long before to move intestate and advance my career (thought they’d be impressed!). Shutout of divisions about mum & dad care, funeral, memorial, estate matters.. I became vocal in my opposition to eldests’ (executors) administration. Clearly concocted self interested outcomes were imposed without consultation . Most upsetting was no others backed me even though privately they agreed things were wrong. So I was ostracised on the premise that I was a ‘troublemaker’, a ‘spolit brat’, who wanted a ‘legal stoush’. All the extended family too were given this impression. I experienced severe health issues as result. Since then I’ve isolated myself, but people say I should try make peace offerings. They automatically assume its an argument about $$. They dont understand its about recognition, equity of say in what legacy applied .. So since 1-2 siblings have murmured about visiting to “see how I am”. I’ve made excuses not to see them. Too disappointed in their complicitness but I’m torn between maintaining some contact (going from 6 siblings to 2 i figured was gentler then 0) and sending all an angry rant (but I know this reaction just makes them laugh & ridicule me more..eg ‘tantrum by baby of family who didn’t get their way’.. So…What to do from here? So validating to read your article Glynis… Very true…I started to see the patterns right back into childhood..l signs were there..I guess just chose to ignore them in constant march for acceptance & to prove your worthiness as ‘grownup’ to them .. Lessons learned I suppose..

    • Leetay

      Omg unlucky number 7 you have basically described my situation , I’m one of six , I spent a lot of time with my dad before he died and he told me about some money that was to be shared, when it didn’t service I questioned my big brother about it and now I am the trouble maker a gold digger, crazy, i have delusional disorder , that’s just the tip of the ice burg of the treatment I’ve had, and I’m struggling to deal with it all as we were so close. Please if you have any advice I would appreciate it .

  • disqus_EuDQfEy1c0

    I have read all the discussions, and I know what the scapegoating treatment is like, as I too have falling into this category since my birth. I am the youngest child of 6 and several years distance between my siblings with the eldest being 10 years older than I. There is one main sibling in charge and makes all the plans to this scapegoat scheme, and I found since this has being complecating my life since my childhood years, and now been over 50 years since, the scapegoating delimma has not ended. I know that my elder siblings have mentla disorders, with one of them only being diagnoised. I know that one of their diagnoisis psychopath, because they have a tendency to find out who I am closest to and make friends with that particular person only to cause a disturbance in my life; and believe me the older siblings get many people involved, even to the fact where physically violently beaten; meaning they get other people to beat me. There are worse case scenario’s in my life that has happened, but one would think, what could be worse then violently beaten? I just learned not to give out my phone number to any family members, only my children, and they know about this situation, because their dad and their dads brother would verbally express in a sarcastic behavior, because their dad and uncle are one on my older siblings tool to destroy my lifel They even took it as far as demfaming my reputation to my father to hurt him, because they were jealous of my dad and my close relationship. Then they would turn around and say bad things to me about my dad, then turn around and visit my dad as if they never said nothing bad about him. This was extrememly ill, the siblings were attacking both ends because that was their only way to try to seperate our close relationship between us two. My dad dies January 2016, after he died, my older siblings went through disfucntional grieving, and after they found out I was talking to my dad’s sister, they got ahold of someone that had connections to my aunt only to tell her to say certain things to me, then told my aunt to call them back to tell them what I said, they do this to almost everyone I know. then my siblings say things to people which I don’t have the exact words, but they same some aweful things about me, because everytime my aquaintance has spoken to my so called friend, they begin treating me different. At first I was in denial, but the same or similar incidents keep happening to my life, there is no such way that anyone could possibly have such bad experiences in life time after time again. My siblings even go as far as going behind my back to get me kicked out of my own childrens birthday party’s, it is so disgusting how they operate, they are in their 60’s years of age and still do these types of ill manered schemes to hurt my life. And just like I read in the other post, after my mother died, my older siblings got worst, they teamed up and were emotionally attemping to play head games with me, but thank goodness I had studied nursing and worked in locked pych unils, today I have over 20 years experience working in psychiatric care, so I am on top of the game. At times when a birthday party is here (last one the two main lead sister’s attended my son’s bday party) the two schemem lead role siblings left early because they found out that my ex-husband was not going to attend the party (two of my siblings had an affair with my ex-husband at the time of my marriage with him, this was thier way of getting even for taking my dad away from them, as they tend to think), but they left early, one of the two sister’s said to me, “I don’t know anyong here at the party, we’re going to leave” it was so disgusting, because my children were there at the party, and I introduced them to other they had already known, but one of my sister’s said, “I don’t know them”, but she had met them before. It was weird because the entire time they were at the party, they sat at the same chairs at the corner, never got up to talk to other people. there is so much more ill disturbed inappropriateness I could go on and on I can write a book.

  • klpg

    hi glynis..very useful article..i am really feeling happy and relived after reading it. now i know why i am sad so far..facing this issue since last 10 years..
    my family started scapegoating me ..each and every word in the article is applicable for me..now i am feeling sad for my family. i was outspoken becoz i wanted to save my family from external damaging members. but my family never understood me..ok…let it go now..
    and i am thankful for advises u shared. i will certainly follow it. i will recover myself from that ugly situation and will never repeat when i will start my family.
    i have no regret now about why i dint adjusted family..it would have gone worse ..better there is no contact now. what a toxic it has spread in my life!!.

    so now instead going in past i am accepting whatever has happened to me.( notice my overwhelmed behavior ..lol)
    and not expecting anything back from them. god bless them with happiness and i deserve to be happy again.

    • KLPG – Thanks for your positive feedback. So glad my article was of help to you. Best of luck in your healing journey.

  • the dudette

    Thank you for this article.
    I still feel terrible guilt for going NC with my family. To be honest, it was just supposed to be my NM, who has always ignored me/treated me like dirt, but who’d occasionally throw money at me, and then tell everyone about it. What a generous mother, what an ungrateful daughter – this was her go-to mantra.
    But she’d never tell people how she’d tell me she loved me less than my GC brother.
    Anyway, I don’t care about going NC with her, but my enabling father and my GC financially-dependant & emotionally stunted brother, always take her side; this is what makes me so angry, I can’t seem to get over it.
    Part of me feels that THEY KNOW, so how can they treat me like this. I guess I will never accept it, and just have to learn how to live with it.
    The only pleasure I get from going NC, is knowing that my NM suffers way more than I do. In her shallow ‘everybody look at my perfect life’ world, having a daughter who doesn’t want to have anything to do with her, must torture her, even though she’d never admit it.

  • Kelly – Sorry to hear your experience with therapy has been less than satisfying. There does seem to be a shortage of mental health professionals who understand and deal effectively with scapegoating. I provide counselling around the world by video. Feel free to get in touch with me personally if you would like to follow up https://glynissherwood.com/video-counselling/

  • Pipkins2t

    Grief. What are we grieving for ? I know that my sense of grief can wash over me like an unexpected tidal wave, while at other times my grief lies calm, still reflecting back to me the lessons I need to see and can choose to learn from.
    My grief is for people I deeply loved. People who inexplicably changed as I changed. We changed into people that now longer belonged together, yet my desire to express and receive love from them has never diminished.
    I cope with my grief by trying to learn that love shows itself to us in many guises during our life.Love lets go.

    “Grief is the last act of love that we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief there was great love”.
    I hold great love for who we were, what we were. We were a family. We were a family that loved one another in the only way we knew how. We were a family who did a good enough job, that enabled me to grow into the person I am today. A person who is able to say with conviction that love can be and is so much more than we were taught to believe. That is my truth.

    My final act of love is to acknowledge the intense grief that I see reflected back to me in the still calm waters of truth.

    If you are reading this please know that eventually the pain you feel will shift into some other type of emotion. An emotion that let’s you know that you are enough, just as you are. That you have always been enough. Nothing will ever change the truth of what you see reflected back at you. Nothing.

    Grieve for what has been, what will never be. Thank whatever you believe in for showing you that you have a choice.
    A choice to stay,stuck waiting for the impossible to happen. For the truth to change and present itself to you as you wish to see it. That is not going to happen. Or a choice to accept what is, simply is. Let go of unrealistic hope. Such hope tortures our soul. Such hope is not coming from a place of love for self or others.

    We hurt because we are able to truly love. We love truly because we hold truth hope and love in our hearts. We always have.

    We have a choice in what we do with that truth.

    Much love and light.

    • Pipkins2t – Good to hear from you again. Your thoughts resonate deeply “Where there is deep grief, there was great love”. It’s so important to grieve for the love felt and never returned or lost. Others will find comfort in your thoughts, especially knowing their grief is legitimate, and that the pain will (usually) soften in time as they come to see their own true value. Thanks for your eloquence and your big heart.

  • Janet – You have a lot of insight. Counselling might help you gain confidence regarding the independence you long for.

  • Nick Fraser

    What struck me in 2016 was the realisation how I have been ostracised including scapegoated for most of my life.In the workplace, friends and worst of all by family; aunts/uncles/cousins.
    In the workplace I am told i am not liked/accepted and then some time later my boss, whom I got on very well with, sides with the others and I see it is time to go. I have noticed that one person influences others to shun me, meaning at the end of the day some people are sheep with no gumption and I don’t matter enough for any kind of support. Much easier to shun me than to tell the back stabber where to go. And that is life.Just look around the world. This has happened with friends, who were influenced by others to unfriend me. Doing others favours which cost me money and then treated badly/cast aside; they got what they wanted.
    When my mother went into a care home I decided to start a new life to be near her. I had to overcome my panic attacks to travel and thankfully got an awakening; the feeling of joy was in me; a higher frequency where it was easier to deal with panic and tensions. I found work within a week and visited Ma every day to boost her spirits. I enjoy being my true self; creating harmony and living with gratitude and did any work I was asked to do.
    One day on visiting my mother an official approached me saying he had received proof from an aunt (mother’s sister) that I was a bad person and not to be trusted. As always I never stood up for myself and let him scold me. I hadn’t seen my cousins and aunts/uncles in years but I did notice there was a change in their attitude towards me; some ignored me .
    In one fell swoop this aunt had managed some how to have the whole family go against me and those who weren’t said nothing. Out of all these witnesses not one stood up to the plate to challenge the false accusations or nip it in the bud. I stood totally alone. In the whole 7 years, my mother was in the care home ,I did not hear from anyone; no friends no family to ask how my Ma was.
    My older brother sided with the aunt; I know my brother very well and he likes disharmony and knew he would betray Ma and me.
    Just before Ma died, her youngest sister called me and begged forgiveness for the terrible way I was treated. After 7 years???
    I have had 4 awakenings in my life and they were all short lived; not having strong enough foundation to protect myself. My youngest aunt , who apologised , is the only person in my whole life compared to those who have done me wrong, to say sorry. Unusual éh. My youngest aunt was special, angelic and very caring; it is very sad that she was drawn in with the prejudice against me… the tensions in me began getting worse again and I was in decline and eventually lost my job as I was told I was not liked and this time more difficult to find work.
    What I wished for was taken from me: as a kid i did my best to protect my Ma from my father, who would beat her up, leaving me to clean up the mess. At age 15 I was strong enough to fight my father and throw him out of the house. My mother did not say “are you okay son”, she said that i sounded like my father and yet here I was helping and protecting her and this is what she saaaysssss… that is her appreciation??. Again as always I said nothing in retaliation.
    At age 16 my older brother did not want responsibility and left home and my mother left to work in another country and it was depended on me to look after family home and run family business.
    I believe I may have picked some traumas as a kid; unable to have relationships due to fear and also triggering tensions for no apparent reasons.
    At the end of the day my wish was to bring Ma, brother and self closer together as family, after all these years, so that Ma would be proud having her 2 sons caring for her. That to me is sacred.
    It would have been a tremendous HEALING/BLESSING for us all , but my brother made his choice by
    calling me the enemy.
    The pain does not go away, but in 2016 after the realisation, I decided to cut ties with certain people
    also stopped going to church as i find it a huge insult when the priest says the problems in the world is caused by the West, also stopped facebook and listening to the news.
    I recently decided to see a therapist and after quite a few sessions i am wasting my money. He does not say anything other than ” oh there is a pattern there” and “oh , you are angry”
    If I did not have a fear of a relationship then that is all I need is one partner/wife who loves/respects/appreciates me as i do her, then I would have been much more emotionally stronger to deal with these people situations and got on with our lives.
    You may heard some lovely women say “how on earth do I keep attracting abusive men”, just like me wondering why I keep attracting these situations. Even after all these prayers ;;no answer.
    I thought going to church to give thanks I would in turn be spiritually awakened and taught how to purposefully pray, but to no avail..there is no substance nor respect there either

    • Nick – You have been terribly mistreated by both your family and at work, and understandably discouraged. Therapy can help for sure, but only if it is with someone who truly understands these abuse dynamics. It’s important to not only build up one’s sense of self esteem, but also to be able to recognize the warning signs of potentially abusive people, and to protect oneself accordingly. These are tricky tasks for scapegoats to learn, but certainly not impossible. Please check out my other articles on scapegoating for some additional ideas about rebounding. All the best.

  • Chris Wilson

    I was adopted into a family with 3 blood children and I’ve been labeled the bad one who does terrible things I’ve never done because the others are guilty of them. Being adopted I always felt a sense of owing my parents honesty and making them proud for taking me in but now I am looked down upon by all of them. It’s heartbreaking but I’ve cut my ties and am now alone most of the time with little self confidence. Thank you for the article I was able to validate that I’m not crazy for thinking everyone was wrong and I was right. Loneliness now and picking up the pieces are my next challenges. Such a shame this happened.

    • Chris – I’m saddened to hear you were mistreated by your adopted family, who were lucky to have you. Their negative attitude towards you has undermined your confidence and made you feel alone, but you are on the right track breaking free of family who don’t appreciate you. There are many people out in the world who will be much kinder to you than your adoptive family. I wish you all the best as you find the people who will truly value who you are.

      • Chris Wilson

        Thank you for your kind words and quick response. Your an awesome person. Thank you.

  • JuWu – Always good to hear from you, and I see you haven’t lost your sense of humor. 🙂 I think others will feel bolstered knowing that No Contact can lead to greater peace of mind, in spite of the grief , especially at the beginning of stepping back to protect oneself. All the best.

    • JuWu

      Thanks Glynis! You are providing a platform for worldwide healing with your website– that is very profound!

  • Pipkins2t

    Thank you for sharing JuWu, your honesty gives me strength to continue with no contact and remaining hopeful for now and the future. Wishing you continued peace.

  • Bee

    I was physically and mentally abused by my siblings (I am the youngest of 4) and it was from when we were young, even through the time they became adults and I was still a child – I was 9, my oldest sister 18 and so on throughout my pre-teens and teens. I think of an 18 year old physically assaulting a 9 year old now and it makes me sick. So, I have to understand that the extreme dysfunction and scapegoating in our family is inevitable (our parents had been fairly absent and/or also explosive). In fact, I am almost 40 and my sister physically assaulted me a few years ago at a holiday party. All my siblings hate each other, and have spent years on and off not talking, but have come together recently to shun me (my super-nutty sister has made it a part-time job to spread lies about me over several years, while I had cared for her and spent countless hours getting her out of bad situations in her life). If I ever hit a low in my life, they use it against me (both my husband, friends and in-laws are shocked about this and have seen what they say to me). The truth is though, I know that I am the most mentally together of the group. I have put the hurt aside, dropped any possibility of closeness with them and realized that I am so much happier without them in my life (I get hurt when I hear of them hanging out because I know they don’t like each other). My other sister actually bullied a friend for several years then assaulted her at their 20th high school reunion (people that know them, know they are crazy). The thing that I realized is that there are really awful people in the world and if you are related to them (and there may be a lot of them because the nuts don’t fall far from the trees). you DO NOT have to have them in your life in any way at all! Also, I realized that I attract these relationships in my life and have attempted to recognize that and move away from it. While I only have a few friends, I feel like they are quality and good people. I haven’t perfected this yet, but “know when to walk away, know when to run,” should be the theme of these relationship woes. “Fixing” is not an option.

    • Bee – Your confidence, insight and realistic attitude regarding family abuse really shines through here. I’m glad you have been able to move on and find the people you deserve who treat you so much better than your family ever did or, likely, will. Wishing you all the best for a bright future!

      • Bee

        Thank you, Glynis and thank you for your insight in this article because it made me realize a lot of things and was very helpful. I also don’t find it too ironic that you share a name with my sister (which is not a common name really), but it is weird to type it after cutting her out of my life!

  • Connie man

    This article was such an eye opener. My mother has made me the family scapegoat my entire life. I had childhood cancer and was handed my role. My mom was distant, mean to me, neglectful, abusive, manipulating and got my siblings to treat me as the scapegoat. When my dad died of lung cancer due to smoking my mom blamed me for bringing cancer into the house. My two oldest sisters are mean to me, gang up on me and ostracize me during family get togethers. The only reason I go is because I have a son and he actually likes my mom and wants to see his cousins. As he’s getting older and more aware, I don’t want to subject him to the abuse or to see me being treated poorly. I don’t know what to do. My son’s dad was a narcissist who left us when our son was born. This article explains why I gravitated toward him. I need help on how to detach from the abuse. My family is way too ignorant and dysfunctional to change. You can’t change stupids.

    • Connie Man – Glad my article is so helpful to you. You have good insight into the problem and, like most people who have been scapegoated since childhood, deal with ongoing emotional challenges and complex family dynamics, especially once children come into the picture. Counselling can be very helpful to assist you in detaching from the abuse. Feel free to contact me via the ‘Request an Appointment’ button in the upper right corner of my website. All the best.

  • Connie Man – Sounds like you have done a good job as a parent, in spite of a lack of positive role models. As this is a comment section for my article, and the situation is complex as well as personal, I am unable to give advice on whether detaching would cause resentment from your son. However I can say that it is extremely important to not allow your son to witness you being devalued and abused by your family. As per my earlier comment, you are welcome to contact me if you are interested in exploring the possibility of counselling.

  • Pipkins2t

    Imagine the volcano, it has not erupted for over fifty years and elders in the village at the foot of the mountain recount tales of the mighty and devastating fury which decimated the lives of their ancestors so many years ago. Can you imagine that? What do you feel when you look at the volcano that is waiting to erupt?I believe that all of us that relate to Glynis’s scapegoating page grew up living in the shadows of such an ‘eruption’, we always will.

    The most frightening realization for me is that the magma that lies at the heart of the mountain is my own anger. Anger that first began to bubble and boil when I was a a few years old and experienced just how helpless I was, how invisible I was, how vulnerable and terrified I was. An anger that bubbled and boiled in an attempt to protect me, to warn off the dangers that surrounded me.

    Like the volcano, I contained my emotions, and ‘any rumblings’ I had to appease at all costs. So here I am , fifty years of age, with a father who is receiving palliative care and who is estranged from four of his five children. His ex wife, my mother an active volcanic mass, that has been spewing out her toxins and rage for over 75 years. Four of her children have chosen to live under her shadow with 11 of her grandchildren,they try to appease her the best they can, but to what end?

    The legacy that I have from living in her shadow for 46 years is that I really struggle to express anger in a constructive way. My anger is blocked inside me and I do not have the ‘tools/skill set’ to know how to release it. Well meaning friends /counselors advise that I should punch a pillow, scream at the top of my lungs while standing in an empty field/beach, chop wood, dance to loud music. A million and one suggestions that they hope will appease me.

    Do they understand my rage? Can they feel how hot it burns? Do they have any idea the damage that such anger inflicts on others when it erupts?

    That is the child in me expressing fear. I witnessed the results of my mothers anger first hand as did all her children, as did my father. Her anger was volatile, unpredictable, terrifying and totally uncontrollable.

    As an adult who chose to go no contact I accept that I hold a responsibility to myself and others to manage my anger in a constructive and healthy way. Otherwise, the anger and the fear of anger that I hold will continue to eat away at my from the inside out, manifesting in physical and mental exhaustion, depression, high levels of anxiety and high blood pressure.

    Please help me find ways to release the anger that bubbles up inside of me from time to time.
    Please do not suggest I punch a cushion, or scream into a pillow.
    If you have read this far then you understand just how red hot the anger is.
    I know that this particular volcano inside of me holds the potential to ‘rumble’ from time to time, perhaps I fear an eruption that is never going to happen. After all I am not my mother and I no loner live in her shadow.

    • Pipkins2t – At the core of any healthy relationship with ‘challenging’ emotions like anger is acceptance. Acceptance says ‘I no longer fear this feeling, and know I am not ‘bad’ for having it’ . This usually runs counter to the scapegoat’s experience, where her/his feelings – often of righteous anger – are denied, minimized or pathologized by punishers who do not wish to hear the consequences of their actions. These sanctions cause the scapegoat to believe that her/his feelings are illegitimate, inappropriate, unimportant or destructive. Anger is a healthy response to mistreatment. It’s the body and mind’s way of saying ‘No’ to mistreatment. In therapy I work with my clients to break past their own inner sanctions against anger, and other hurt feelings, and stop repressing their natural emotional tendencies. The ending of this repression helps people feel more alive and free to not only be themselves, but to understand their own needs better and to advocate for them, as they are taking themselves seriously. Something they usually did not experience with their first family. Contrary to what they’ve been taught, experiencing difficult emotions is constructive. So I’d encourage you to just experiment with not judging or fearing your anger, and being open to what happens as a starting place. And if you would like more help, you are welcome to contact me for a session. All the best.

      • Pipkins2t

        Thank you Glynis, I do appreciate your wise words and will trust that what I am feeling during this time is constructive. I am scheduled to see my counselor over the next few weeks so I will talk this through with them. Thank you yet again for pointing me back in the right direction.
        Deep gratitude to you.

  • veruc w

    Thanks Glynis for this article.
    I planned to move out of my family of origin for 2 years cause of too much crazy-making. I live and work now already 2 years 800 miles away. My “God-like” parents choose denial of everything I asked about the past. They just never made a mistake in their lives. Now I have a problem; there is a great amount of anger without a final target – I mean, every time I was angry to my parents, every wrong thing that they did was deniable, so they never took responsibility for anything. Now all that anger stayed within me. I also am afraid of acting-out of that anger at other children, sometimes when some child is around, I feel this urge to scare him, not hurt him, but my eyes channel some anger that waited so long. I can’t really explain where it comes from, but like I said, a lot of unexpressed anger towards my parents stayed in me. Is there anything I could do with it?

    • Veruc W – Unresolved anger at having been mistreated does tend to stick around, and can knaw away at us. As you are struggling to not misdirect your anger towards your children, then I would highly recommend that you seek counselling to help you come to terms with your own emotions. All the best.