When I first suggested the idea of writing a blog on Family Scapegoating to the founder of Psych Central, I had one primary goal in mind: To validate the experiences of those suffering from a form of psycho-emotional abuse that is both insidious and subtle, and often goes unrecognized and untreated. With Healthline’s recent purchase of PsychCentral, this blog is now moving…
The Family Scapegoating Abuse Recovery blog will continue! This week I learned that Psych Central has been sold to Healthline, and that no new blog submissions are being accepted for the time being. I admit I felt very sad hearing this, as I have greatly enjoyed connecting with so many of you here.
If you’d like to continue reading my articles on ‘Scapegoat Recovery’, you are invited to subscribe to my ‘Scapegoat Recovery’ WordPress blog (click on the black ‘subscribe’ box on the top right side-bar after entering your email address).
A Recap of the ‘Scapegoat Recovery’ Blog
I’ve been teaching on and writing about child psycho-emotional abuse for the past 20 years. Prior to starting my private Psychotherapy practice in 2006, I served as Director of Family Programs at a well known Addiction Treatment center in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was clear to me when working with inpatient clients and their families that the client struggling with addiction was often 1) Highly sensitive and 2) In the Family Scapegoat role.
Despite an abundance of literature on ‘family roles’ within Family Systems and Recovery circles, there was little in the way of education or research on specifics related to family scapegoating dynamics at that time, nor did it appear to be properly labelled as mental and emotional abuse within the scant peer-reviewed research that existed. I decided to do all I could to change that, beginning with research I initiated on what I eventually named family scapegoating abuse (FSA) while serving as Core Faculty at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now known as ‘Sofia University).
If you’ve been scapegoated by your family (particularly if the scapegoating began when you were very young and is chronic), you may be suffering from a variety of life challenges and mental health symptoms, including relationship issues; impostor syndrome; generalized anxiety; depression; addiction; codependency; and even complex trauma (C-PTSD).
If you’re in the ‘scapegoat’ role, you also might have had no idea that the mental and emotional distress you were experiencing was due to your being trapped in the role of ‘identified patient’ in your family until you came across this blog. Alternatively, you may have known for years that you are in the ‘scapegoat‘ role but weren’t sure how to change these dysfunctional family dynamics so you can be seen for who you actually are.
In each of my articles addressing family scapegoating, I repeatedly stressed that scapegoating is a form of psycho-emotional abuse which can cause tremendous suffering to the targeted family member. I’ve described clinical symptoms common to the FSA adult survivor as revealed by my research on family scapegoating dynamics; FSA’s relationships with complex trauma (C-PTSD); and basic recovery principles that have worked well for clients in my Psychotherapy and Recovery Coaching practices over the past 20 years (specifically, dis-identifying from the family ‘scapegoat story’).
A Hearfelt ‘Thank You” to This Blog’s Readers
It has also been my intention to increase insight and understanding within the Mental Health field regarding the painful reality experienced by those who find themselves in the ‘scapegoat’ role in their family-of-origin. I am therefore incredibly grateful for the comments and emails I’ve received from clinicians and researchers located all around the world who have let me know they have found my Psych Central articles helpful.
I’ve also had more than one University department contact me to invite me to participate in some current research endeavors addressing family scapegoating, betrayal trauma, and C-PTSD, including a highly regarded institution located in the United Kingdom. This is exciting news, indeed, as such research could benefit FSA adult survivors and the clinicians who treat them.
A number of readers have written me to express the intensity of emotions they experience when recognizing themselves as family scapegoating abuse survivors. Typical comments include, “I didn’t know there was a name for what I’ve gone through – it’s like you’re writing about my life!” Also, “Now that I understand what may have happened to me, I have hope that perhaps there’s a way for me to recover.” I’ve also been asked, “You’re a therapist, how could you know so much about this?”
My understanding of family scapegoating and it’s damaging effects is based on countless hours spent working with both individuals and families in residential treatment settings and in my private practice, as well as my qualitative research on family scapegoating dynamics (as mentioned).
This blog has also been informed by my experiences of being in the ‘family scapegoat’ role myself – a role ‘inherited’ from my mother, who shared with me that she was severely scapegoated by her maternal grandmother in early childhood during an honest and revealing conversation we had recently.
I have also benefited from reading personal messages and comments in response to my articles and social media posts on FSA. These painful and honest sharings have also illuminated every aspect of my work. To each and every one of you who took the time to comment or write me, I deeply thank you, and I’m sincerely heartened to learn that my identifying, defining, and describing family scapegoating abuse (FSA) has aided you in your journey of recovery and healing.
Also, a special ‘shout-out’ to a private Facebook group I formed last year that I somehow lost access to as the group creator and administrator: Your comments and suggestions for Psych Central articles on scapegoating were tremendously valuable. I have re-established a different public facebook page if you’d like to reconnect (and if anyone knows how to reach a real human at Facebook for assistance in being reinstated as administrator of a private ‘closed’ group, please let me know in a comment here – I’ve had absolutely no luck thus far).
Lastly, I am extraordinarily grateful to the founder and staff of Psych Central for accepting my offer to create a blog to help adult survivors of family scapegoating – John Grohol and Victoria Gigante, especially.
The Painful Reality of Being Scapegoated By Your Family
While disagreements and interpersonal conflicts are common in even the healthiest of family systems, family scapegoating goes far beyond this, making recovering from its impact and effects difficult. For example, more than half of those who responded to an FSA survey I conducted recently have been described as “mentally ill”; “emotionally sick”, or “a liar” by a parent or other relative when there was absolutely no truth to this whatsoever.
Naturally, being spoken about in this way can be confusing, angering, and even traumatizing to the target of such hostile and defamatory statements. It is likely difficult to wrap your head around the fact that one or more members of your own nuclear or extended family could treat you in this way, but for the scapegoated family member, such baffling and hurtful experiences are common.
In addition to the challenges related to dis-identifying from the family ‘scapegoat story’ and attendant distorted narratives, it has been my observation that many FSA survivors are suffering from symptoms of undiagnosed, untreated Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) as well as Betrayal Trauma. Thus, trauma is an area that must also be addressed if one is to fully recover from the negative effects of being scapegoated by their family.
One last important point: While being scapegoated within one’s family-of-origin is recognized as being harmful, the damage done is most often categorized as mental and emotional. However, being in the role of the family scapegoat can result in the targeted child being physically bullied, sexually abused, or denied medical care. We as a society need to acknowledge this and stop putting our heads in the sand so as to avoid overwhelming and unpleasant realities.
This Blog Will Continue!
It’s been a tremendous privilege to be able to write on a topic close to my heart, and to be able to interact with you all here via the comments and private messages. If you’d like to continue receiving my blog posts via email, you may do so by subscribing to the ‘Scapegoat Recovery’ blog at WordPress at scapegoatrecovery.com/blog (click on the black ‘Subscribe’ box over on the right sidebar). I hope to see you there! – Rebecca C. Mandeville, MFT
Photo by Stephen Brace