Another post that I wrote just over a year ago that never made it out of drafts:
The phenomena of the scapegoat and scapegoating fascinates me deeply. Many years ago I was intrigued to come upon a book The Scapegoat Complex by Sylvia Bretton Perrera.
At the time I had been recovering from addiction and was learning that addictions are often an avenue the family scapegoat or scapegoat identified individual uses to cope with the relentless inner self criticism and pain of disconnection from and love of the True Self, that dogs those of us who were not able to fully express and develop the wholeness of our living being and emotions in a damaged family.
The family described in Perrera’s book is one that very much identifies with external collective mores of perfection, appearances and collective ideals, it is not one that allows for the reality and expression of deeper emotions such as sadness and anger. This type of family demands of its members that they repress some of their psychic reality in order to belong and receive acceptance. It is not okay to express intense emotions of anger or pain but other ways of being are highly validated, ones that do not threaten the parent with their own repressed feelings (the shadow).
There are those of us who are more likely to develop addictions due to the fact we have a higher level of sensitivity to the inner world and to intense emotions. In the scapegoating family these emotions are ones the parents had to repress and which confront them with their own repressed shadow. The scapegoat individual is one who sees beneath the surface to the repressed feelings of the parent and by a form of participation mystique (exquisite sensitivity and attunement) begins to express them or act them out. They may become the identified patient or “sick” one, really they are the one that has the most potential for wholeness.
The parent defends against the realisation of deeper truths and is confronted by the emotional honesty and attunement, or vulnerability of the child. The child is punished by an accuser within the parent which is then internalised (taken within the self). This is called an introject. The parent denies the reality of the child which is invalidated. This leads to the child beginning to doubt the self and its perceptions.
The psychologist R D Laing was one of the first to realise that such parenting can lead to schizophrenic conditions, a hearing of inner voices. The further work of Robert Firestone has shown how the internalised critic with its destructive voice operates to wall the sufferer off from happiness, connection, intimacy and love.
Many years on the parent may be long gone from the scene but the accusing voice remains. The remorseless critic who invalidated the psychic reality of the True Self of the person and led the person to live as a False Self. One cannot live within the psychic entrapment of the False Self for long without beginning to experience depression. If one has been taught not to know and asserts one’s own true needs and feelings due to neglect or downright repression on behalf of the parent a feeling of lowered energy and vitality will occur.
In addiction when abused and criticised the self feels an outrage that may not be permitted expression, which is then internalised as further feelings of despair, powerlessness and depression. In depression such as this is the longing for the True Self, the way to which is barred by the accusing voices.
Addictions can be a way we reach to self soothe. Unfortunately addiction also numbs and masks the pain and arrests our emotional and psychological development. Abuse is traumatising and trauma tends to make us want to escape. Eventually if we want to heal we must learn to face and feel what we have been running from. We cannot do this without love and support and validation.
In order to heal we need to learn about how the True Self within us has been invalidated. What messages have we received that are not true, the lead us to hate ourselves, doubt ourselves, neglect ourselves, punish ourselves.
I have shared elsewhere that after my marriage ended after 11 years of sobriety and I went into a voluntary retreat due to abandoning my first attempt at therapy I began to hear the voice of the accuser talking to me. I did a piece of writing called Destruction 11:11 in which the voice told me of its hatred, and that it wanted me dead. It was an important piece of writing as it woke me up to many realisations about myself. Reading Sylvia Bretton Perrera’s book at this time helped me to understand further.
Lately I have tried to address some issue with my abusers around lack of sensitivity, invasion of boundaries and invalidation. It was a learning as I was yet again demonised for my anger which was seen to be wrong and attempts were made to shut me down by a number of means, emotional blackmail was used. This encounter has firmed up my understanding that expression of self assertion and differentness in our family is not valued. One is expected to toe the line and is rewarded for making sacrifices. When one asserts any hurt attempts are made to deflect attention from the hurt. In invalidating the anger the self is invalidated.
Usually I would buckle back under after one of these incidents. Thank God for good therapy. Understanding the impact of the scapegoat psychology and issues of shaming and repression has helped me to heal. I am sharing about it here in hopes it can help others.