Scapegoat Going No Contact – WIFM?
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Ask the Therapist – August 2019
I’m an almost 60 year old female that lives about 1000 miles away from her immediate family. For the past few years, I’ve been in Low Contact mode. I suspect I went to low contact first because, like most scapegoats, I kept “trying” to have a mature conversation with the scapegoater (my mom) in hopes of her seeing how damaging her low opinion of me and her name calling is to me. The more I “try” though, the more ill treatment, abuse, and name calling there is. So, it looks like I’m heading into the No Contact zone here.
As contact has been so minimal lately, it won’t be such a big leap to go No Contact with my family now, and if it can help me get my health back and have the energy to pursue the things I want to do, then it will be worth it. (I especially want to start my own business but my health keeps getting in the way and preventing me from getting it off the ground)
I have been battling health issues for a good 20 years now (chronic fatigue, hormonal issues, autoimmune disorders, and nerve pain from a serious fall 5 years ago) and I’ve tried EVERYTHING to get better, except to break up with my family, which seems to be what I’m now doing. So, while I do have my “days” where it’s sad and lonely to not have family in my life, for the most part, I feel like I’m reaching the other side.
Being that I feel this storm is about to break, I would like to ask if you could let us scapegoats know what ‘exciting’ times are in store for us such as in terms of what positive things we may experience overall when we heal ourselves from the abuse that we have endured. I’m talking with regards to health, career, lifestyle, etc. (If we do the work, that is)
I can’t imagine having to have such a huge life lesson (scapegoating) without reaping some huge gains, once the wounds are healed from such a traumatic experience. I would love to know what you have seen happen when scapegoats are able to free themselves from their abusers and fully heal.
I’m very sorry to hear how tough it’s been with your mother and how, in spite of your best efforts, she is determined to mistreat you. Under the circumstances, I completely understand why going from Low Contact to No Contact with family feels like your choice of last resorts.
As you’ve indicated, most scapegoats keep trying to get through to abusive family members. This is a normal and healthy motivation, up to a point. Scapegoats are frequently the mentally healthiest members of their family, and I do believe it’s a sign of mental health to attempt to establish and maintain a positive relationship with your mother. The problem is though, as you have pointed out, that you seem to be the only one capable of this, and it takes two people to have a satisfying relationship.
Clearly, your mother is unwilling and, likely, unable to self reflect or learn from mistreating you – her adult child who has hung in there with her all these years – so you don’t seem to have much to work with. As I imagine you are aware, most parents who scapegoat their children have some degree of Narcissistic disturbance, and are projecting their own problems, and disavowed feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, onto their children. I often say ‘scapegoaters accuse their targets of their own bad behavior’. This chronic blaming and shaming is indicative of all personality disorders and reaches its zenith in narcissistic personality disorder. Also, and I don’t know if this applies to your mother, some narcissists engage in deliberately sadistic behavior, which they rationalize to themselves as ‘deserved punishment’, as they falsely see themselves as victims.
Since dealing with your mother is a demoralizing and consistently hurtful experience, I’m glad that you have decided to pull back and say a firm ‘Enough’ to her bad behavior and betrayal of you, the child she chose to bring into the world.
Most people who do the hard work of going No Contact with family report mixed feelings, but almost always gains. First and foremost is the benefit of retrieving psychological energy that gets siphoned off by harmful and fruitless interactions with abusive family members, like your mother. This energy is now available to you to invest in yourself, in ways that are meaningful and fulfilling to you, without the stress and heartache of navigating the emotional minefield your mother keeps laying for you.
Over the years I have found that a significant number of my clients who’ve been scapegoated and abused, especially since childhood, are vulnerable to autoimmune disorders. In fact, studies have confirmed that a causal link exists. It’s very positive you are taking the time to say ‘No’ to the abuse and ‘Yes’ to yourself, so you can work on getting your health back. You need to remove yourself from the constant bombardment of emotional distress in order to calm your nervous system and begin what is likely going to be a lengthy recovery process that you will need to maintain and protect for the rest of your life.
You may feel lonely at times, but how lonely does it feel to be repeatedly mistreated and belittled by your mother? Most people who go No Contact with narcissistic family feel less lonely over time, though there can be ongoing mourning for the family you didn’t get to have and will likely never get. Use this ‘estrangement grief’ time to be very gentle and patient with yourself. You have been through decades of abuse and deserve to be treated with compassion.
‘Exciting times’ are certainly subjective, but if you truly take yourself seriously, do the hard work of maintaining No Contact, even if attempts are made to ‘Hoover’ you back by your mother, then there is much to look forward to. No Contact with your narcissistic mother is truly an act of courage, liberation and self respect that usually pays back multiple dividends with regards to healing and self fulfillment. You will likely experience both personal and interpersonal gains.
Imagine how great it will feel to know that you respect yourself so much that you will never willingly subject yourself to mistreatment again! Your sense of self identity, self worth and confidence can only go up from this simple, though challenging, act of liberation. How much easier will it be to sleep at night knowing you no longer have to put time in catering to an uncaring, abusive parent?
Your stress hormone levels will also likely go down significantly having withdrawn from the battle field that was your relationship with your mother. The latter is particularly important in healing from chronic health problems. As you reclaim your life, and your time, you can invest it where you want to, unhindered by toxic false criticism that there is something ‘wrong’ with you. It’s an opportunity to learn more about who you really are, as you emerge from under the weight of hurtful lies and slander that your mother has undermined you with.
Over time, you will likely experience greater peace of mind and contentment being away from ongoing abuse and devaluation and going No Contact with family. This will follow you into whatever endeavors you undertake, be they health, career, lifestyle or relationships. When you are no longer tolerating abuse of any kind, it sends a clear message to yourself, and others, that you are a person of dignity, morals, and conviction. Becoming a positive role model for healthy boundaries, even if your mother doesn’t appreciate it, sends a message about your integrity which should help you feel better. In time, how much easier do you think it might be to look yourself, and others, in the eye, knowing that you are no longer a victim of brow beating or harmful false narratives? I suspect it will get much easier the more you treat yourself like you really matter.
If you find yourself struggling with estrangement grief or self esteem challenges, or if you’re learning how to go no contact with family, feel free to contact me for a counseling appointment. In the meantime, I wish you all the best on your healing journey.
Photo – Priscilla Du Preez – Unsplash
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Glynis Sherwood – MEd, Canadian Certified Counselor, Registered Clinical Counselor, specializes in recovery from Family Scapegoating, Narcissistic Abuse, Low Self Esteem, Chronic Anxiety, Estrangement Grief and Relationship Addiction.
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