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April 2019 Question: “What Can I Do About Siblings Who Scapegoat Me?”
Q: I’m 66 yrs old, the daughter of a narcissistic mother who chose me as a scapegoat, when I was a small child. I believe being the first daughter she was jealous of me and the attention I was getting from my father. She died 3 years ago and I still go over in my mind the many situations she set up for me to bear her negative projections.
Pondering the situation has helped me figure out what was going on in the past but now I want to move on. I had no contact with mother from 2009 till 2016. Since her death I have also had no contact with her golden child, a sister and another sister who was the baby of the family and stood in as the family scapegoat when I wasn’t. I feel they are continuing my mother’s narrative related to me, and I want nothing to do with it, so I have no contact with either of them.
My baby sister in fact broke off ties with me for 18 years based on a lie of my mother. She has cancer now and said she was sorry she hurt my feelings in an effort to reignite our relationship but, other than that, I feel she only wanted my support and was totally silent on anything to do with mother.
My other sister in fact wrote a lie about me in her memorial which I got an apology for, but I haven’t gotten in touch with her since, and don’t want to. My two brothers being much older were not part of our dysfunctional family in a big way and the oldest gives me a lot of support. The other tries to be supportive but keeps a distance since I’ve been speaking out about my mother.
So even though mother is dead she lives on in her other children. I believe I paid a huge price being the family scapegoat and my two sisters benefited greatly. Now I want to move on. I don’t want them in my life with their negative views of me, and I don’t want to waste my time thinking of the many situations I was scapegoated. What do you think would help at this stage of my life?“
A: Thanks very much for your email. I’m very sorry to hear that you were not only victimized by your mother as her scapegoat but that you’ve had to endure this abuse from your siblings. Sadly your story is not uncommon. Parents teach their children how to treat each other, and it seems that ostracizing you became the norm early in the life of your family.
It sounds like your mother may have had narcissistic traits, as it is not normal for a mother to feel highly competitive or jealous of her child, but rather protective and nurturing. Your siblings may have likely learned that love and support were in very short supply in your family of origin and that the children had to vie amongst each other for the limited adult attention that was available. This would further set up a competitive dynamic amongst the children that work against familial loyalty, support or love.
I completely understand why you felt the need to go No Contact with your narcissistic mother, and to distance from most of your female siblings. This seems like the healthiest decision you could have made with sisters who will not admit that the problem of family abuse exists, and are determined to keep the mistreatment going. I hope it’s given you some peace of mind having made this choice. It may be hard to believe but the golden child, and other complicit siblings, also suffer from the pressure put on them to meet the unfulfilled and unhappy parent’s needs. Complicit siblings also experience emotional abuse by witnessing the scapegoated child being abused. It sets up a frightening and harmful situation for all children, even if they falsely pretend – meaning defend themselves from reality – that the problem rests with you. It’s very hard to break through this denial and willful blindness. I agree with your position that self protection is definitely the most important focus.
Regarding your baby sister, who was also scapegoated, do you feel you have anything to work with there? Although your mother convinced her to side against you, it seems like she may be remorseful now. Does this seem genuine in any way? I can certainly understand that you feel circumspect about this though, given that she was never really there for you regarding your mother’s abusive behavior. Could you go slow with her, and see what, if anything, might be possible between the two of you? I say this because it can be so incredibly heartbreaking being in a No Contact stance with family, and important to figure out who, if anyone, might be on your side. Only you can know if she might have something to offer, or if you feel emotionally up to finding out.
I’m glad to hear you have the support of your brother. That’s a real blessing as family scapegoats frequently receive no support from other siblings. Sounds like your other brother may be fearful and avoiding the truth, so it’s hard to know whether he can manage his anxiety about family enough to be willing to attempt reconnecting with you. Could the brother you are close to facilitate reconnecting with any of these sibs? Is it worth a conversation? Again, only you can know, and I’d encourage you to trust your instincts and intuition.
Family scapegoating dynamics live on in your sisters, but you have broken the chain. Good for you for having the insight, strength and self preservation instincts to be able to do this. You are setting a positive example to yourself and your family about healthy boundaries, even if they don’t seem able or willing to see that.
In terms of what else might help at this stage in your life, it depends on what you mean by “help”. Do you need emotional support to heal and find greater peace of mind? A sense of completion? Help figuring out how to approach family? Help to recover from being the family scapegoat? If so, these issues can certainly be addressed in therapy. Feel free to get in touch with me should you wish to pursue counseling. In the meantime, I wish you all the best 🙂 Glynis
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Glynis Sherwood – MEd is a Counseling Therapist specializing in recovery from Childhood Abuse and Neglect, Family Scapegoating, Chronic Anxiety and Grief, Relationship Problems, and Love Addiction.
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