Scapegoating (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 3)

29 Aug

Some families can only be united when they have a common enemy. The way scapegoating works is the family as a group starts blaming one person for all their problems.

“If only this person would forget what happened.”

“If only this person had not told the truth.”

“If only this person was not here, we would all be so much happier.”

Scapegoating dovetails with not taking responsibility for your own actions–but instead of blaming the boss, the bank and the doctor, scapegoating blames just one family member. Over and over. It sucks.

When dysfunctional families talk, they like to talk about people. Scapegoating takes this to a new level. By laying all the blame on the scapegoat, no one takes responsibility for their own mistakes and they all feel pretty good about themselves. Of course the problem is still there. Blaming one person never fixes anything because it always takes more than one person to create a conflict.


I recently received a message from a family member who read my Aunt Jemima blog and also lived in the motel with me for nine months. This happened when I was eighteen and they were twelve. Obviously our memories of the experience would be influenced by our ages. This person called me the problem and said all the rest of the family would have been fine without me to complain about the situation.

Hmm. Let’s see, I was 18, had no high school education, no driver’s license and I’d been completely isolated from other kids my age. I felt I was old enough to leave home, but how could I when I didn’t even have a social security number?

Even though I wanted to move outside the motel room walls, I was completely unprepared for life in this world and I had no one looking out for me to help me. So no, I reject the idea that the misery in that motel room was my fault–that situation was the combined result of my parents not being able to make a living and not preparing their children for the future.

When I write about my childhood and teen experiences, I feel no bitterness toward my parents.  I have compassion for them because they learned from their parents and sometimes circumstances were not what they planned.

At the same time, I just wish instead of defending themselves, parents could have compassion on their children. Their choices have affected their children’s lives, their careers, who they marry and even how some of us eat today. While parents are not responsible for their adult children, they do affect their choices.

I’ve said this before, but we are the grownups now.  Part of growing up is to find our voices, stand up for ourselves and get the healing we need. No one else will do this for us.

Don’t let people hurt you if they make you the scapegoat. It’s a common theme among those who are not in recovery. It’s hard for them to understand those who are. Recovery is not always fun, but the alternative to go back and suffer through our addictions and never talk about the painful experiences would be even worse.

The most important thing I have learned about scapegoating is that scapegoating is simply a fantasy. It’s a waste of time because it never allows a family to heal from the real issues. I guess some people would prefer to keep their heads in the sand and scapegoating is one way to do that.

Therefore confess your sins to each other
and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
-James 5:16

Traditions of Dysfunctional Families Home

Anger (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 1)

Secrets (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 2)

Isolation (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 4)

Triangulation (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 5)

Silence (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 6)

Disrespect (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 7)

Violence (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 8)

Victim-hood (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 9)

Mind Control (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 10)


5 Responses to “Scapegoating (Traditions of Dysfunctional Families 3)”

  1. Lana August 29, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Wow on no social security number. I’ve met several homeschoolers or other conservatives in that boat. Funny for a while I hated that I had one, but now it just makes my life easier.

  2. Cherilyn Clough August 30, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Yes, many people think SS numbers will cause them to be more vulnerable to the government and at one time people thought of them as the mark of the beast–which is ludicrous. I love your blog Lana! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Lana August 30, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Lol. I had not heard the mark of the beast theory exactly. But I’ve heard that the government is trying to take us over and turn us into communists.

  4. Cherilyn Clough August 30, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    Yeah that too! I think fear of the unknown is one of the worst enemies of a healthy family. 🙂

  5. One Escaping Goat July 28, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    From a fellow Scape Goat, yes, to the finding our voice bit! And . . . so difficult coming out of a family that worked to suppress your voice and convinced you your voice was inherently wrong. But such an essential piece to healing! And totally agree on your motel story! An eighteen year old, the problem? No.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s