Tburgh’s comment over in the Mothers’ Day Mayday post was so relevant to the experience of people scapegoated by their families, I thought I’d give it it’s own blog entry:
I would like to know when you (and any of your readers) first realized you were cast as the scapegoat. What was the circumstance? What instigated the realization? What did you say or do, if anything, to the family?
For me it was like consciousness blew the back door out of my perceptions. It was a realization that I’ve carried a perception of myself as “one of them”, but suddenly realizing I’m not like them at all. It’s a redefining of what, exactly, do I believe? It gets multi-layered. False perceptions have to be peeled away layer by layer.
To add to Tburgh’s question, have you inadvertently replicated your scapegoat role in other situations?
I’m going to write about my own experience in reply to Tburgh’s question and I encourage all who are comfortable to doing so to share their own.
I first became familiar with the term scapegoat in the family/therapy sense in the 80s while reading Adult Child of Alcoholics self help books. But I thought one had to get in trouble with the law or at least in school to get that label. I was the dutiful, law abiding daughter who brought home good grades, for the most part and stayed out of trouble. So I didn’t realize it applied to me until I sought therapy as the result of the estrangement.
I didn’t recognize it as scapegoating, but there was a lot of favoritism for others and dislike for me by my mother early on. For example, before I even was in kindergarten, she told me I’d be prettier if I had blonde hair & blue eyes like my cousin instead of dark hair & brown eyes, which is my natural coloring. I was probably the only kid in school who felt vindicated when I learned about Mendel’s squares. I had 3 dark haired, blue eyed grandparents and one grandparent with dark blond hair & very dark brown eyes. Of course, I ended up with dark hair and light brown eyes! It was the rules of dominant/recessive genes at work! My mother somehow thought she was going to get a blue eyed blonde out of that gene pool!
Early on, I was expected to clean up after my younger brother, even when he got old enough to clean up after himself. He would leave things around because he knew he didn’t have to clean them up. It got so bad, I once walked in my sleep, picked up a pair of socks he’d left there, and rolled them into a ball. I then walked to his room, opened the door and threw them in his direction. I yelled at him, “keep your damned socks out of the living room.” I didn’t even recall doing this.
When my dad moved out, my mom expected me to clean up after her too. She expected ash trays emptied and cleaned. Any clothing or jewelry was expected to be returned to its place in her bedroom, or in the case of dirty clothes, placed in the hamper. I did most of the family’s laundry from 11 or 12 on. If it wasn’t done and she had to do some on a Saturday when we were with my father, she’d have one of her meltdowns when I got home.
She also expected me, when I was a pre-teen/early teen years to act as her confidant and reassure her about relationship problems with her boyfriend, work and finances. When I wasn’t adequate for the task, after all who could be with someone who likely has a personality disorder, let alone a kid, she would get angry with me. And tell me how my brother understood her better and made her feel better.
There are more incidents from my adult life, but I’m going to take a break & then come back and edit this post.