Although the work of freeing yourself from the painful and damaging role of ‘family scapegoat’ isn’t easy, it really is possible to reclaim the truth of who you are so that you can go on to live a self-empowered life that includes love, respect, serenity, and clarity.
Scapegoating as the Promotion of a False Narrative
One of the most important things that happen when I begin to work with clients who are determined to recover from the mental and emotional anguish caused by scapegoating abuse is helping them understand that they have been imprisoned in a role common to dysfunctional / narcissistic family systems. This sad and destructive arrangement invariably benefits the power-holders in their family-of-origin (often one or both parents, but not always).
When educating my clients on what I have named family scapegoating abuse (FSA), I explain to them that their personal narrative, (i.e., their unique life story), has been co-opted and distorted by those empowered to do so as part of a macabre and complex intergenerational systemic ‘dance’.
In place of the truth of who they are, the child or adult child victim of FSA has been assigned a different, intentionally negative and shaming story in its place: A twisted, distorted, false story that is repeatedly told about the targeted family member so as to discredit them and damage their reputation.
This is why releasing the ‘scapegoat story’ created by your parent(s) and/or other family members is a critical component of recovering from the betrayal trauma associated with FSA. Remember, this is just their story about you – their distorted version of reality – and their portrayal of you likely has little to do with who you actually are. The fact that a family member would make you out to be “bad” and “defective” is a reflection of them and not you. Nobody has the right to malign and define you or make you question your value or worth, including and especially your own family.
Reclaiming the Truth of Who You Are
Reclaiming and asserting the truth of who you actually are (and aspire to be) is a critically important aspect of recovering from family scapegoating abuse. To ‘reclaim’ means to retrieve, redeem, recover, return to, reform, recall, to cultivate, to cry out against, to tame, to save. If you are trapped in the role of ‘family scapegoat’, you will be required to do all of these thing – and more – as part of your recovery and healing process, beginning with the decision to release the scapegoat story and become the author of your own life, versus remaining trapped within a dark and dehumanizing narrative created by the power-holders in your family-of-origin.
One of the most powerful healing tools available to FSA survivors seeking to shed the false ‘scapegoat’ narrative is sharing the truth of what happened to them with sympathetic and supportive others. This can be done in well-facilitated ‘adult survivor’ recovery forums or via working with a qualified trauma-informed therapist or counselor, one who understands the damaging nature of the ‘family scapegoat’ role.
I find as a clinician that using a trauma-informed approach incorporating SAMHSA’s 6 Key Principles is especially important because it has been my experience that adults who were (and perhaps still are) targets of family scapegoating abuse often exhibit symptoms of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to having been chronically maltreated by their family.
Meditation and Mindfulness Practices
Meditation and mindfulness practices can be very helpful for clients who would like to free themselves from the ‘family scapegoat’ narrative that has stuck to them like tar for some or most of their life.
After a lifetime of being a living projection screen for other people’s erroneous assumptions and damning conclusions about them, such practices can result in a calmer mind and nervous system. It also can aid you in accessing a deep, still place within, free of egoic reality constructs, including inner and outer narratives.
In fact, research shows that meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system and quiets the sympathetic nervous system, making it ideal for those clients struggling with strong trauma responses due to C-PTSD (Nidich S. et al, 2009).
Lastly, when discussing the unique challenges associated with healing from family scapegoating abuse, I like to emphasize that there is no ‘one path’ to recovery. As the saying goes, there are many rivers that lead to the ocean. Each adult survivor of FSA will find that their journey of healing is unique, although they may share much in common with other FSA and C-PTSD sufferers.
To sample a meditation designed to free you of egoic narratives (both yours and others) try the American spiritual teacher Adyashanti’s guided meditation, “Who Are You?”
Description of the “Who Are You?” Guided Meditation: “Who are you without referring to any thought to tell you who you are? Adyashanti guides you to see your true nature that exists beyond description. When all thought or the movement of mind falls away, you can rest in the light of being and simply be.”
Nidich S. et al. A randomized controlled trial on effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on blood pressure, psychological distress, and coping in young adults. Am J Hypertens. 2009 Dec;22(12):1326-31. Epub 2009 Oct 1