Whenthescapegoatquits's Blog

A Blog about scapegoat recovery & daughters of narcissistic mothers

Giraffes, Sheep & Scapegoats

Posted by whenthescapegoatquits on September 25, 2011

If you haven’t had a chance to read this Psychology Today blog entry by Karyl McBride, it’s well worth a read.  In addition to addressing the grief which can result from estrangements and/or limited contact and/or no contact, she talks about how this shapes the dynamics in families with Cluster B Parents and about the scapegoat’s role.

Many men and women are beginning the painful discussion of the losses in the narcissistic family. When a family is not emotionally connected, and there is a superficial flair to all conversation, one learns to interact on a shallow or surface level. In families where emotional intimacy is not practiced, there is little to discuss. Feelings are denied, judged or criticized. Successes are not celebrated. Painful events are ignored or discounted. What is left to talk about – the weather, aches and pains, or perhaps just criticize the neighbors?

Ha, this fits my family of origin to a T.  I would add in local sports teams as well.  In my neck of the woods, it’s “How about those Yankees?”

Unless it was her feelings or the golden child sibling’s feelings.  Those were ok to talk about!   Usually in a context of blaming someone for making her feel that way.  Honestly, that’s what makes me feel sad for Cluster Bs.  When we blame others for emotions, we don’t learn how to manage them and work through them, so we stay perpetually sad, angry, or whatever other emotion until we get distracted. They either can not or will not do the difficult work of working through their feelings so they are condemned to be stuck in them.

For adult children raised in narcissistic families this creates a sense of loneliness. They look around at other close families and say, why me? Why is my family not like that? How did I get existentially thrown into this particular family where people don’t talk about real things? Why is there this sense of disconnect and lack of caring in the family I grew up in?

When people are not asking about each other and what is going on in their important lives, the conversation seems to turn to talking about the other family members behind their backs. A common communication pattern in narcissistic families is that of triangulation. This means that one person talks about another to a separate family member. The conversation eventually gets back to the person it was meant for. That person is left feeling betrayed and violated. Can you imagine the drama this creates? It is like that childhood game called “Telephone.” You know, the one where a person starts whispering in the ear of the next person and it goes around the circle and comes out at the other end. The result is a distortion that makes no sense. Things get messed up in the game of “Telephone.”

Things do get very distorted.  And this is one of my mother’s favorite tactics.  Since there are plenty of enablers and apologists in her circle, it’s an effective method.    As part of healing and recovery, I’m forcing myself to confront conflict directly with the person involved.  As a legacy of growing up with a Cluster B mother, I hate conflict.  Because in my mind, conflict=me being blamed unfairly for things I have nothing to do with.  But as I’ve learned how to negotiate conflict respectfully, I find there is less of it and drama in my life.  I have started to tell people who try to drag me into their drama, “perhaps you should discuss that with [person being talked about]”

What if you are the one in the family who has called out the dysfunction? You saw the elephant in the living room and you said “hey there is something wrong here!” What happens to that person in the narcissistic family? That person will likely become the scapegoat and the one in the wrong. If other family members, including the narcissistic parent, stay in denial… the person seeking health and truth will likely be ostracized

This is what many of us have experienced.    But Dr. McBride has an interesting way of looking at this:

Many adult children of narcissistic families see themselves as the proverbial “black sheep” of the family. They feel different and left out. Changing this image to a giraffe is a new picture of health. In the meadow of many, many sheep all doing the same thing and following the sheep ahead, stand a few giraffes. These giraffes with long necks and tall bodies can see horizons, rainbows, and sunsets at the treetops. They see things the sheep don’t see. They see personal growth, opportunity, and visions, all unseen by others in their families.Change the picture for yourself. Be a giraffe. Stand tall. Stand in your truth. Have the courage to move forward in your growth and know that sometimes being different can be the best thing you can do for yourself. “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.” Amelia Earhart

The Amelia Earhart quote is especially poignant.  It does take courage to make the changes we’ve had to make.  But there is peace as a reward for it.    I love the giraffes analogy,  because it’s so open and positive.   Also,  literal sunsets are one of my favorite things.  Here are a couple of sunset photos I took this summer:


15 Responses to “Giraffes, Sheep & Scapegoats”

  1. Thanks for linking to that article. The more I read about narcissism, the more I’m coming to see some of my mother’s strange behaviors as narcissistic. Lots to chew on here.

    • whenthescapegoatquits said

      Glad you found it helpful. My mother displayed a lot of both NPD & BPD behaviors when we were in contact. Not sure which one she may be or if she’s both. Last I heard, she was seeing a therapist, but it’s unlikely the therapist got a full picture of what’s really going on due to how she distorts facts.

  2. tburgh said

    Thanks for posting this. I am now interested in reading about the narcissistic family and NPD. Found the giraffe analogy to be especially helpful. Will remember that one. Wrote a blog some time ago titled “Goats and Tigers” — basically about the same thing.


    Thanks for this post. The article is so appropriate — I am fascinated with reality programs, i.e. American Idol where the contestant who is given a ticket to Hollywood bursts through the doors to a supportive family full of emotion and happiness. I relate to the mention in the article about triangulation. A popular, pervasive and extremely destructive “sport” among my family members.

  3. tburgh said

    Thanks for the reading material. I have learned a lot from this post and have ordered Lawson’s book. Very helpful stuff.

    • whenthescapegoatquits said

      Glad it was helpful! I’ve found learning about Personality Disorders to be very helpful in realizing it wasn’t me, it was my mother’s likely Personality Disorder. It wasn’t my fault and I didn’t deserve to be scapegoated.

  4. NON said

    I can really relate to the part about children of narcessistic parents grow up with a sense of lonliness. I felt very lonely for many years. At first I thought it was all about me being a middle child, and then I thought it may be because I was the only girl in the family sandwiched between two boys. It wasn’t until after I was grown and away from the house did I realize that my loneliness was a result of how my family interacted with each other. My brothers and I did everything we could to avoid rocking the boat, or even be noticed by “the Dragon.”

    When I was older, and began to visit my friends homes, I realized that my family was very different than most (from an outsiders view– I realize inside view and outside view are two very different things). What I learned was my friends family’s made me feel VERY uncomfortable! I’d ask myself, why are they always up in each other’s business? They are awfully huggy and kissy aren’t they? Do all mother’s treat their daughter’s like they care about them? and why is mine different?

    I thought it was all very normal until I was able to see what normal really was. My learned response- to step back, not rock the boat, don’t ask, etc.- is something I struggle with every day. I make it a point to be warm and affectionate with my kids, to ask how they are doing, to let them know I love and care about them every day…. it still feels a bit awkward at times… but I know THIS is right, and the relationship I had with the Dragon was wrong.

  5. sheisnotme said

    … the loneliness and “freakish” feeling … not being like “the other families” is devastating. As i child i never wanted to go home … i would stay away as long as i could. There’s nothing worse than the icy, coldness of a narcissistic family.

    THE TRIANGLES … that is the ONLY way my family communicates. For 10 years i completely stayed away from the entire family except for a few phone calls here and there around holidays. I felt PETRIFIED to go home.

    Now that i am working my relationship with my family … my brother HATES me. HATES. My mom and dad love this game. Jeff will say something to them … I will something to my parents … and all of a sudden no one is talking about anything — EVEN MORE! Mind-screwing.

    • Roxy said

      i am with you
      i LOVED going to school, i HATED going home. I would stay out with friends, whose parents must’ve known that something was wrong at home but were very gracious and always let me stay, eat dinner and even do my homework at their houses. I am very grateful and it is thanks to them I have a good education and a very decent life.
      To these people who were only in my life a short time, I am eternally grateful and use the lessons I have learnt from them- how to have a good relationship, how to handle myself, how to act like a lady everyday.
      I often feel upset with myself for concentrating my feelings on my NPD family and not the wonderful people in my community who helped me so much.

      I moved a continent away from my NPD family, but I didn’t do the work that was required for me to have a thriving internal life.
      And without it, I felt lonely.

      I am now NO CONTACT with my NPD family. I am not interested in scapegoating, golden child syndrome or anything of that matter.

      I knew I had to find a normal family to marry into, as I wanted a normal family life, but before that- I had to do the work on myself.
      Otherwise I would just be disruptive to their family dynamic.
      The baggage of being the scapegoat is heavy.
      And it does require work, not just introspection but learning to manage conflict and manage my feelings effectively.
      I have no dramas in my life, unless it is due to me reacting badly to something… which generally stems from the fact that I did that someone is telling me there is something wrong with me.

      I do miss aspects of my NPD family like the fact that I am an absent aunt, and I do worry for niece and nephew.
      But, they are not MY children. And my ‘golden-child’ sister has become a full blown Narcissist, in mother’s footsteps.

      I tried ‘a working relationship’ with them, until I discovered they only wanted money from me. Even using the aunt relationship on me.

      They just use people, and move on. I mean nothing to them.

      Difficult to accept, but they have NPD and they will never change

  6. tburgh said

    So true the descriptives of living with/coming from NPD family. I’ve experienced: being petrified among family, the unconscionable acceptance of vile behavior from “the Golden Child”, unaltered hatred from siblings whom I have challenged, triangulation, triangulation and more triangulation along with smear campaigns. My siblings are a pack of thugs and like most thugs, are cowards.

    Someone recently told me that my “opinion” of my Golden Child sister was a matter of perception even as I was shaking uncontrollably from an unavoidable contact with the sister. I told that naive Someone that if I had had a black eye from the sister, would it still be a matter of perception? I’m receiving treatment for PTSD. Also came to the conclusion that no contact is the only way to personally thrive — even if it means being alone holidays. Hard to accept, as Roxy says, that I mean nothing to them. Been told by a sister more than once, “Just go away. We don’t even want you.” Finally realized she actually means it.

    Read a book on scapegoating in families and learned that the scapegoated child is often the most healthiest. Certainly true in my case. I know this to be true because my friends are wonderful respectful people from wonderful respectful families.

    • whenthescapegoatquits said

      Yeah, it’s the gaslighting that can really make us crazy. People try to pretend family members don’t mean us harm when they do. One thing I’ve become aware of is that if 2 honest, relatively functional people have a problem, they don’t need to drag third parties into it. Because they can talk through the differences and either resolve the problem or work out a compromise.

      In contrast, if at least one of them is unreasonable, then nothing gets resolved. My mother’s words to my brother and sister-in-law were very different than her actions to me. She would tell them she wanted a closer relationship with me. She didn’t tell me though. Probably because had she done so, I would have told her snide, nasty comments and screaming at me were not ways to build a closer relationship. She probably figured out that’s what I was going to say. I’m taking some leadership classes at work. We are being mentored by different managers. The ones I respect the most say they will offer suggestions on how to resolve conflict and mediate it, but the first suggestion to someone complaining about a co-worker is “have you talked to him/her about it?” I really wish my brother and sister-in-law had done that instate of just blindly believing my mother.

      I’ve started doing something similar in my family. One of my aunts does something similar to her daughter, smears her to the family as not doing enough for her when she does quite a bit. When other relatives try to involve me, I point out we haven’t heard her daughter’s side and I think that’s quite telling.

  7. Larcy said

    Oh, my gosh. I can’t believe I finally found your blog & this entry in particular.

    I’ve only recently realized that mom probably has hpd (tho she has a number of other cluster b traits). I’m the one who didn’t fit in to our family. I’m pretty sure I was scapegoated (I always got a lecture from gma about what an awful daughter I was when she was visiting), but all of this is relatively new to me. And, dammit, I’m 50. I can’t believe I bought into all of mom’s crap for so long.

    I’ve read several of your blog entries & couldn’t believe there’s someone else out there who has experienced something similar. But, I LOVE this entry about giraffes & sheep. It really speaks to me. I’m a giraffe. Wow.

    I started my own blog about my discoveries, but have mostly kept it under wraps & use it to journal & work through the realization of life lived under a mom who saw me as competition & not a child to love. My therapist suggested I look for blogs of women with pd moms. I did and found a ton of them that were dark and unhealthy. I’m glad I kept looking & found yours.

    Thanks for the straight forward look at life & what you’ve figured out. And for the feeling of hope I have as I read.

    • whenthescapegoatquits said

      I’m glad you found this helpful. I only started realizing what exactly the situation was when I was 43. Better late than never! 🙂

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