Kat assured me in therapy today after reading everything out my sister’s struggles are not my fault. In 2005 I expressed anger at invalidation and ran to be in a better place but my sister blaming me later for her breakdown was not fair. It was like her saying to me ‘you always were a naughty child’ when I fought for my emotional truth. She assured me nothing I can do can fix my sister but keeping in touch is good as long as I detach from the illusion I can save anyone. Phew. She also said she thought it has been mean of my nephews not to acknowledge or include me. I cried when she said that to me.
We spoke alot about how the family victimises the alive one..they get abused and scorned or shamed and laughed at..dismantled psychologically. But they carry what the shut down dead family needs. Coming alive feels like dying cause of the fear that if we take the risk punishment or annihilation will happen so we turn against our True self too…so so sad but hard to see how this happens especially as a younger one in a family geared around narcissism.
I sat with my head in my hands at Kats earlier while the inner storm went on and said I don’t know how I’ve survived the emotional confusion. I am not ‘bad as they tried to say I am.
All of this is such a relief. Like busting out of a prison created in my own mind. There is more to share but for now I just wanted to post this as I eat my lunch awake and alive surrounded by other humans in the shopping centre..no.longer all alone in the cold dark place where a grey heavy loveless energy hovers over me threatening death.
Have you ever been scapegoated by family members? Have you ever had the finger pointed at you telling you you are the problem? There is a saying I heard in the 12 step rooms many years back… “when you point the finger at someone you have three fingers pointing back the other way towards you” (yes folks try it right now and you will see it is true.)
Many many years ago led by his unconscious and dream images psychiatrist Carl Jung had a dream that showed a psychic inner structure that he came to call the shadow. This shadow he came to believe contained all the characteristics of us we are not on friendly terms with or that our family or culture was no on friendly terms with (ie. there is both a personal and collective shadow).
Some people have a lot of darker emotions hidden in the shadow, fear, sadness, rage or anger and some others of us have a lot of gold in the shadow and we may have been the ones others in family or culture tried to project darker things upon. There is also a concept in family therapy that talks of the concept of the ‘identified patient’. This is the family member who develops an addiction or breaks down in some way or has to have treatment. This is the family member that struggles in the family to be the whole of themselves and express truths or secrets others would prefer remain hidden (eg. emotional or sexual abuse). This is the family member that may be more likely to be led on the individuation pathway, a path of trying to uncover and rediscover the entirety of the soul in them that got loss or buried.
I am mentioning this today as lately I am seeing this process play out in my older sister’s (now deceased) family. And it is interesting that this is happening very close to the anniversary of her death. As I see it in the alcoholic or traumatised family there is a lot of pain but rather than every member carry their portion of the pain, each struggles in their own way and often they will target someone else in the family and tag or dump them with things. They may even exile the person just as in mythology the scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness with the so called ‘sins’ (or wounds) of the collective heaped upon its back.
Alcoholics are most usually likely to be the ‘family scapegoat’. They may struggle with emotions that were not permitted a place in the family and come to think of it in a feeling wounded culture there are feelings such as anger and sadness which are harder to express and which people are more rigidly defended against. These emotions are often not allowed expression and so they get dumped into a kind of collective psychic waste bin that is then passed on from generation to generation. Pain then accumulates and one person gives expression to it most overtly.
People who struggle with shadow projection may find it hard to ‘get their lives together’ in a culture that venerates this. That is not to say that there are no healthy ways to get our lives on track but mostly they should involve us being able to be real and struggle, to fall down sometimes, to make mistakes, to need help and support and just possibly not do as well on financially or externally on some level as others. Does that necessarily mean such people are actually failures? Does this actually mean such people are not worthy of help? Does this actually mean that such people have less value?
Today in therapy Kat and I were discussing how and why this process of scapegoating and shame dumping in family has been affecting me so bodily over the past few days. I got to therapy today in a lot of physically based emotional pain. I pretty much started crying as soon as I got in the car and the cascade of trauma flashbacks then began taking me back to a trauma (which come to think of it now took place around this same time of year in 1990) when I had to spend hours in casualty after driving myself with severe abdominal pain in the middle of the night. Turned out I was pregnant at the time and that the sac containing the tiny embryo had ruptured. I ended up having to have a termination of pregnancy (my fourth) and it coincided with having to leave the group house I was living in and with my them boyfriend lying to his family and pretending I had had an operation for kidney stones.
After the termination he broke things off with me and I got drunk and ended up at his parent’s place crying and yelling, of course they thought I was demented and out of control and they never found out the truth as he broke things off with me again fairly rapidly (after a brief reunion) and in the aftermath the next 2 years saw some of the lowest points of my addiction spanning the years to December 1993 when I finally got sober.
Well today in the car I was back here in St Vincent’s casualty lying alone for hours and hours as they ran tests. I think too this trauma was triggered over the weekend because calls were not returned by family, Scott was AWOL and my nephew then rang telling me I needed not to give help to my other nephew who is struggling financially in the aftermath of his relationship ending. Being left all alone and waiting and missing a therapy appointment which was delayed due to Easter Monday meant that issue of having to wait all alone was retriggered for me and then the shadow projection onto my lovely nephew triggered how I was treated over the next year by a so called ‘friend’ who kept confronting me about my addiction which was nothing less than self medication in the face of ongoing trauma spanning the years 1979 to 1992.
The truth is addicts often say their addiction saved their life. We use the self medication until it no longer keeps working for us. Recovery then involves a huge and long drawn our journey of unpeeling or unravelling down to the true causes of which addiction was only obscuring or a symptom of.
For me the original trauma is about attachment traumas, wounds and emotional neglect vacancies or ‘black holes”. I now know this without a doubt. After years and years of blaming myself (as most emotional neglect survivors do) today in therapy I finally wept for my true self who so often gets beaten up by a self compassion lacking inner critic who is echoed by the outer critic lately being turned on my nephew. Only another addict in recovery may fully understand that fact unless the person had been trained in empathic attunement. Attachment traumas and wounds so often become gravitational force fields for others, in the well known process of so called ‘repetition compulsion’ what we fail to call up to consciousness will repeat until it is addressed or felt and this must happen IN THE BODY. THE CELLS CONTAIN EVERYTHING.. THE MIND CAN BE USED TO MAKE SENSE OF IT WHEN ATTUNED TO THE BODY. JUDGEMENTS WILL NOT SHOW US THE UNDERLYING PSYCHIC REALITY WHICH MUST BE FACED IN TIME AND DEEPLY FELT IN ORDER TO BE RELEASED AND MADE SENSE OF (BROUGHT OUT OF DISSOCIATION INTO ASSOCIATION OR RE-MEMBERING!)
Scapegoating the sufferer is cruel. It is lacking in both insight and empathy. It concentrates on the ugliness of the symptoms while NOT FULLY SEEING OR UNDERSTANDING THE FEELINGS OF PAIN DISTRESS AND UNWORTHINESS WHICH UNDERLIE IT. Scapegoating serves no other purpose but to bolster up the defended ego and keep in place the ignorance of the Scapegoatees. In traumatised and addicted families or families with multi-generational trauma everyone struggles, but the one who struggles a little more with hidden emotions needs support and encouragement. They need to be brought back out of the cold place of exile and embraced in their full humanity but sadly this will be almost impossible unless the Scapegoatees also face what they are blocking, projecting or defending against or finding it hard to open up to or face. Blaming and targeting others in such a way never really ends well and it blocks connected healing and embracing of the actual trauma that sorely needs recognition.
You asked me if I can open my heart to him And reveal the scars I carry inside Lonely places left Which a father and mother’s love should have filled And I break down at the question
I do not know how I would find the words to express what I carry inside And the one time I opened my heart He shut the door on me I was the flood that he feared would overpower him Holding up a painful mirror he could only deny And my hurt and anger, passion and truth was the loose cannon that he feared would blow him to pieces
How can I explain that with some people there is no way to have our feelings understood? How can I explain that some people are like rocks? We can only dash ourselves against Ending up bleeding And this is why I now just want to walk away Because there is no place where I can stay And fall to pieces In order to reassemble as me
But at least with you I can express this truth You give me a way To get these feelings out You let me scream and shout The truth I was forbidden to tell all those years ago And you remind me that the one who hurt me Blamed me and then ended up trying to take her own life Because facing the pain of what she did was too much to bear
I have stayed close and let myself bleed from these wounds while they said What’s the matter? And really you are a demon Well excuse me if I no longer seem to care as much as I did But when I walk away I will not pretend that my heart is not breaking And that I was ever mistaken about the spiritual emptiness at the heart of this family that stole so very much from me
I awoke a little while ago to a golden morning. I had such a fitful night last night. I never take any medication but last night I took a Panadol hoping it would allow me to rest. My body has been all over the place since the anniversary of my accident trauma. I was also not fully aware of how much my nephew’s visit triggered and the aftermath of feeling. I was up and down last night and had all the spasms and shock releases in my body which feels like it is trying to unwind. I wind myself up in my mind with worry over my dog and my mother. Despite the fact my relationship with my Mum is complex now she is aging so much and in pain I am full of care, this conflicts with feelings of frustration I have in longing for freedom from worry, care and trauma and anger I feel over past hurts. But the truth is way more complex than I can fully express in any blog. There are times I know she wanted to support me but since she struggles to accept her own emotions and responses (or does so under the cover of silence and protection like a lot of Scorpios) she hasn’t been able to validate me in the ways I wished, nor fully acknowledge her part.
I was watching the movie Thanks for Sharing for the second time on the weekend and I got triggered in the scene where the son of the older man in recovery confronts his Dad with hurt he caused him and his failure to apologise. The father who was a big guy in recovery circles as well as full of AA platitudes and pearls of wisdom was being hypocrite pure and simple and refusing to face it. I saw my self and how alone and emotionally devastated not getting the necessary apology leaves us. It fucks with our heads as we question the truth and fear losing the parent’s love by confronting their defences with their shadow.
I have pretty much come to the point where I know now Mum wont own her own part in ways she abandoned me emotionally. To do so she would have had to face her own history and lately she has shared that she was also emotionally abandoned, but the sorry for what she unconsciously did is never coming. Sharing about it with my therapist the other day she said that she feels to my Mum I am the child inside her she had to cover over long ago and whose pain it hurts to face, sadly. It takes so much courage and vulnerability to truly own where we fail, often due to unconsciousness. Not getting that acknowledgement from any member of my family has been painful and difficult. But at least now I know where NOT to look for it.
In a way I am glad I had no contact with my brother on his birthday. His daughter shared with me a while back how shut down both her parents are. She doesn’t blame them for her emotional abandonment and it is ongoing. I think its a big step to really feel our anger over this, as it can be prohibited. To stay trapped in anger though in time means a failure to accept and grieve a harsh reality that must be faced and grieved. I feel in time I will be able to have an honest conversation about how I feel about how he is in terms of being as emotionally distant as my own father was. He never got the help to face his softer needy side and his wife is furiously defended against her own in so many way too, but the truth is I don’t know her well. She has always kept up a cold hard distance with the female side of my family, especially after my oldest sister’s breakdown and told her children to do the same. That is another grief. I know she has reasons to be angry at my Mum and they are valid. Mum admits she was in the wrong but doesn’t really have empathy for my sister in law who lost her own mother when she was on the brink of adolescence.
Facing our grief and pain is huge work, I now see. I feel we skirt around it for so long and as I write this that poem of Emily Dickinson comes to mind : there is a pain so utter it swallows substance up and covers the abyss with trance so we step above or around it (those are not the verbatim words but it goes something like that.) The reason I think so many of us who carry abandonment trauma suffer and are sidelined by others is that they either have no idea of the devastation it causes or are so deeply invested in denying or covering over their own grief and pain that they can feel scared and threatened when we do and so do things to shut us down or shame us. Then we can be labelled as ‘ill’ and medicated to shut the fuck up. (Writing that last sentence I am also aware medications in many cases are used to soften the blow while inner work is prepared for but in many cases they are used to hide from it in the absence of inner reparative psychodynamic work and there is anger for my sisters in that sentence which I own fully!).
As I look back I see this ocean of deep grief and pain began to open up for me in 1999 when my ex husband and I were in the UK. Facing the enormity of it scared me so I ran home to Australia and then hid out. My husband and mother were trying to get me some help but I was resisting them a fair bit. I ran back to the UK and then back to Oz and then back again when I was struggling to find a way to trust and move forward. So in many ways the anger I have at my family not fully understanding is also anger of my inner child at the adult who would not take the right steps to care for her before. My grief and fear was so huge they were terrifying to face. And so much went into the fire.
It was only the ending of the next relationship which freed me for the inner work and then my older sister died and that was so hard. We got to reconnect for a short while with her sons and that opened up feeling but also more fear. It has taken until this late Mercury retrograde transit to see how strong the Uranus rebellion streak has been in me and how deep the Plutonian deluge of ancestral pain that we carry as a family really is. In many ways I am the shadow bearer for a lot of repressed energy so its no wonder I have struggled so much and been sidelined so many times by others who are ignorant, misunderstanding or misjudging. And then I judged myself not seeing how big the task was or how well I was trying, until I found this last therapist who has just been so present, so adaptable, so open and so warm and caring, things I have never received much in my life before. I come from such a constricted family that holds down so deep so much repressed life force and childlike joy and human wanting/needing, all of which I split off for so many years until now! Was it any wonder I suffered from anxiety. It was just repressed life force, wild horse energy in my beautiful body stampeding with hooves of wanting and desiring for release against huge forces of internalised repression!
Phew! Sun is literally streaming in on me at the moment and I awoke today and saw the beauty of my home, which has been such a cocoon and which I nearly discarded earlier in the year in quest of a space that was not the real me I am but the me I thought I should be to be better or neater or more in control.
On that subject last night after I got home I listened to the greatest conversation on radio with a student of ethics and philosophy on transcendant experiences. What was being discussed was how much the rational enlightenment in the 17th century has stolen from us in terms of raising up qualities of self control, rationality as supreme, making us numb and blind on so many levels to nature and inner mystical worlds that our ancestors were more in touch with. In the wake of this experiences of feeling connected to a greater power or peak experiences of seeing spirit in matter or feeling that vast overwhelming of love, luminosity and connection have become increasingly pathologised by the mainstream.
On the way home just a while before I had one of those experiences when I saw a hedge of the most glorious yellow wattle shining out at the side of the car. I was overcome with the awareness of how much love there is in nature and of how much of our suffering is man made by the heroic questing ego that seeks power over nature instead of union with it.
When we fail to see the beauty in who we really are as natural beings, when we go deaf dumb and blind to sensitivities and feelings of connection or suffering, we shut down all that is most beautiful, honest, open and true in ourselves and others. I know how many others there are out there who also suffering and in many ways our suffering in opening our hearts also connect us to each other. When we resist that suffering or try to make a illness of it we cut ourselves away from love, life and light.
I saw so much light and love in that wattle yesterday. I only saw it as I went to visit my Mum for an hour and we had a few moments of connection. I connect to the pain in my Mum that she has had to deny for so many years. Long ago as a child she was left alone without resources. I see how she coped to the best she could. It was NEVER enough for me but it was all she could do. Facing the harsh reality of that means grieving not only for her but for all of my family. It means not living in denial as so many of us do but it also involves realising the beauty that remains even amongst what at times seems to the rubble and wreckage that is left and it occurs to me as I read this back that grieving and feeling the pain is a form of transformation and birthing, it is a dying to the old past so a new present can rise up and live with more awareness of how deep losses and original injuries go.
What is most important for me at this stage of the road in my emotional recovery is self love not self denial or rejection. I don’t like what I had to suffer and I wish it was different. I know I deserved more but maybe there was a deeper lesson or learning in every single thing I have gone through. Making meaning of it, accepting what is, grieving the losses to realise what is most important, most luminous so I can come awake again and fully embodied in both my longing and my pain as well as my luminosity and joy, well to my mind that is essential work maybe not for everyone but most definitely for me.
Today I have been thinking of how it feels to be an outsider, belonging nowhere as much as to myself. I went to the dog park and connected for a while with people on the day to day level, then Jasper and I drove and then walked to our local/café bakery just along from the big Cathedral/church that was so much a part of my childhood. A friend from school who I haven’t seen for a few years drove past with her son and waved and I had that feeling of being so ‘outside’ in my casual dog park clothes, I wasn’t on the way to church at Easter because to me Easter is a far deeper festival or mythic/mythological event than what is, to my mind, encapsulated in traditional Catholic Easter service with dead men wearing frocks attended by pomp and circumstance which speaks little to me of what Jesus actually lived and spoke about and suffered in his life.
I was also thinking a few day ago of how Jesus said that in order to grow spiritually we have to leave our family of origin and that at times we will find that our enemies are those of our own household. This dovetails with what I tried to express in my post yesterday on being a family scapegoat :
It felt sad to see my friend drive by on one level, but at the same time I was grateful to be going with Jasper to sit quietly, enjoy my morning coffee, read and watch the passers by. However I was also aware of the running dialogue of my inner critic saying how I am a loser as I never had children and am not really a very active participant in society at all having never really found my place. The way things have evolved in my life and sobriety means that I live a deeply interior life in which I, in many way, feel myself to be in the world but not of the world.
This got me to thinking about how so many of the scapegoat identified individuals I have come to know are escapees from narcissistic families, or families devoted to such soulless values that are empty of meaning for the so called ‘scapegoat’. The kind of families they come from seem to be blind to the individual on a deeper level, were actively disparaging or invalidating, and failed to see deeper into that individual’s being, soul and inner life wanting them to be something they were not, or to erase entire parts of their soul. What other alternative do such individuals have, but to leave the family eventually to find their own way, truth, validation and recognition?
To me the scapegoat is often the one who sees at a far deeper level, beyond certain hypocrisies, they may be the one who is designated as ‘apart’ from the collective, they may be emotional or sensitive in a family devoted to practicalities and a stiff upper lip. This is the kind of background portrayed by Jungian therapist and writer Sylvia Bretton Perrera in her book on the Scapegoat identified individual. In this book she explains how the vulnerable member of the family comes to take on feelings of shame and worthlessness projected by parents or siblings disconnected from their own unlived, and unloved characteristics. If, like me, you have ever been exiled from a group for being too angry or sad you will know what I am getting at here. Its happened to me more times than I could count.
The other thing I was trying to touch on in my post yesterday was the fact that feeling on the outside of society often means we carry characteristics and values that have been exiled from a society that is not always spiritually and emotionally healthy, geared as it is to heroic ideals of conquest, achievement and emotional stoicism, competition and self denial. Scapegoats come to be identified as the ‘sick’ one or the one with a so called ‘mental illness’ but we may actually be carrying something that was rejected by the family or society which was problematic reaching quite a few generations back and badly needs to be recognised or incorporated. We may struggle to get it recognised in the family and our quest to do so may never be a success, which pushes us back in the end to our own resources and if on a metaphorical level if you think about what Jesus tried to get recognised and was crucified for you can see some kind of deeper parallel to what scapegoats go through, forced into a kind of exile or emotional crucifixion we may have to struggle through to the deeply painful realisation of how deeply unconscious our families are and now little they are able to nurture or recognise the nascent seeds of our truer, deeper self.
Today much more grounded into a realistic appraisal of myself once I settled down with my coffee and read through recent comments and reactions to my WordPress posts, I saw that in no way am I a ‘loser’, and in no way am I someone who has nothing to offer society. I see how I have struggled so often to find a place in places my soul did not really belong and that perhaps my lonely childhood was a great preparation for me to be a truth seeker in this world, able to see below the surface of things. I also felt infinite compassion for others who struggle with so called ‘mental illness’ definitions which don’t always cut to the heart of what the true wounding was and leave them disidentifed with all the gold these beautiful people hold in their shadows, all the gorgeous gifts that come with being outsiders or scapegoats. In a way we have to end the self judgement that is such a big part of when we identify solely with all the ways in which we don’t ‘fit in’. We need to make our own worlds where we do!
I feel so blessed that in 2013 when I was really struggling that I found the support on WordPress from other scapegoats, some of who carry so much wisdom and was encouraged to be brave enough to express my thoughts and journey here. This is the place I feel the warmth, although its a bit sad we can’t meet in person. Here is the place I connect and find my meaning, here is the place where I no longer see myself as a loser but as someone who belongs and can bear the not belonging feeling that comes when my soul senses intuitively it is not in the right place. So for today I have feel I have more than enough, cosy at home writing this now, I know there is a place for me. The truer I am and the less I identify with the remorseless inner critic so introjected from society and conditioning, the happier I will be. Here deeply at home in my heart and soul I feel that I do indeed belong.
There is something I want to say to the scapegoats out there, those of you never felt like you quite belonged in the family and it comes out of having seen my niece yesterday and knowing the struggle she has with her own family.
You probably didn’t feel like you belonged because you didn’t, not really, not deep, deep down in your soul to that particular family. Its not because of anything you did wrong, you are not a ‘bad’ person whatever they would have your believe, no matter how they dismiss you or invalidated you for being you.
Know this : you didn’t feel like you belonged because your home truly was elsewhere. Maybe you felt an identification with the moon and the stars or animals or a bird or the wind or something else, something that reminded you of softness and poetry and the music and rhythm you felt to be dancing in your soul far beyond the soulless life and existence of your family where such music wasn’t recognised.
Your being scapegoated or sidelined or bullied wasn’t about you at all, it was about the precious, unique or special qualities others could not understand or learned a long time ago to despise in themselves, things they feared. You were not put on earth to be the white sheep and to be approved of by them, but it was a real wound to be rejected, sidelined or minimised. A wound you must learn not to take too seriously!
Know this : you are a deeply spiritual being who chose to come to this earth to learn how precious and loved you really are by life. Don’t stop searching until you find those who speak the same language, there are a lot of us out there, don’t let the pain and misunderstanding others put in you become a poison that hurts, spit it out and find your own tribe and even if you have to walk alone for a time, know that deep within you are loved and are on the right path, follow your heart and never let its truth be distorted, shamed or vacated.
“growing up with narcissists, I learned fairly early on that I was not allowed to express myself in any way at all unless it was in a way the narcissists wanted me to do so (and even that could be wrong). If I expressed myself in a way which upset them (which is easy helped to do and pretty much everything can upset them, trigger them and get you shot because of it), then there was censorship hell to pay for it. They need control more than they need air, food, or other vital things for basic survival. I learned to shut up and listen (with more than just the ears). But that too could be perceived as a threat by them.”
Reading this helped to make sense of the continual questioning and deliberation that goes on within my head as I argue with myself about my right to feel what I need to feel and say what I need to say. It can all get very tangled inside my head when this is going on. So many questions about how others will react if I say something especially insights I have into the depths of things.
It was a number of years ago I became more conscious of this hyper-vigilance I experienced and then I met a narcissist and outbursts and emotional cut offs could be the consequence of expressing myself in a way that challenged him. Today I see the parallels with early relationships.
A while back after my eldest sister died I came across some letters she had saved that my mother wrote when I was a young child. The clear thing that came out of reading those letters for me was the realisation that my mother just did not get me, that her ability to empathise and link into her youngest daughter’s mind, emotions, heart and need for self expression was severely limited. I know this in many ways was a result of her own lonely childhood, a childhood in which she had to learn to be quiet, hide her fear and loneliness and had next to no validation.
Lately I have come to see, after a very long and painful journey of trying and failing to be seen by significant others that I have put in mother type roles that it was not my fault that my mother just did not get me and that that earliest relationship, as well as the one with my father who remained silent in the face of abuse set me up for painful relationships. I had no caring siblings to turn to either, in fact my closest sister who was 8 years older was fairly nasty a lot of the time. My elder sister who was kind left home after marrying and moving overseas when I was three.
Somewhere along the way growing up I came to believe I was not good enough, that things were my fault which actually were the result of a faulty upbringing and stressful and traumatic incidents occuring at key developmental transitions. I cannot note down here all the significant failures that have mirrored these earliest ones, which set up a blue print for my life and relationships and for shame. But I can say now, that after having gone through about five significant failures within the same lesson or pattern in the past three years where significant others have tried to re-shame me, I am now able to recognise what is hurtful and safe and what is affirming and frees my spirit.
Having affirmation from certain people both online and in my life over the past two years has helped me to recognise the earlier empathetic failures for what they were, outside of my power to control and not caused by me.
I must say that sadly as part of my own difficulties when I was struggling during my late 20s and early 30s I got caught up in the New Age movement for a long time. I actually now recognise that at that time I was working for a narcissistic boss within the New Age industry. It was around the time I went through the Saturn return and was gettting into more and more problems with alcohol.. I was not yet aware of the difficult part lack of affirmation and just downright suppression of who I was as an individual by significant others had played in my life, but I was being driven unconsciously by these wounds into more and more painful relationships and so I was desperately reaching for answers. But some of the answers of that movement were that I had chosen abuse for myself.
I no longer believe this to be true. I now see it as an outgrowth of multi-generational woundings and legacy. I now know that victims do exist and we can and are victimised by forces beyond our control playing out both personally and collectively. Sadly many abusers have an investment in us remaining victims and in blaming us for things that are outside of our control, we even do it to ourselves as a result of being victimised. It is part of the way abusers operate and this idea stops the victim from knowing they were a victim and getting angry enough to moblise the energy to bust out of the pattern and reclaim our own power. And at one level although I don’t believe we chose it, we can learn from it and turn the wound into a blessing.
Often for those of us scapegoated and conditioned to be submissive, taught to fear our own anger and aggressive/assertive impulses, power only comes with the capacity to get angry enough to throw off victimhood and hold up the psychic shield to poison and projections.
Quite a few years back following the end of my marriage and an accident in which I had suffered a head injury while boarding with a family who were emotionally abusive I went for an astrology reading with Melanie Reinhardt. As part of the session she told me about a book by Peter Levine, who has done extensive research into trauma in animals and how this relates to trauma in humans. The book is called Waking the Tigerand in it he calls attention to the need of the traumatised animal to mobilise aggression in the face of threat in order shake off entrapment.
A large part of depression in vicitmised people, those who have been abused or traumatised, is that our instinctive impulse to lash out has been demonised, stifled or suppressed or it is judged not as a symptom of a desire for freedom, health and recovery, but as a symptom of a disease or mental illness. I have always been drawn to the understandings of such therapists as James Hillman and Thomas Moore who see in the symptom not evidence of malaise but signs of the soul telling us about the nature of the wound and need for healing.
Recently I have been reading the book Animal Madness by Laurel Braitman. In it there are some very interesting stories of animals taken from the wild who then rebelled against the abuse of their captors, in some case taking lives or causing permanent wounds.
One of the saddest stories is of Tip, the Asian elephant donated to the city of New York by a circus owner, Adam Forepaugh. Five years into his incaceration within the Central Park elephant house, Tip began to display violent behavior directed towards abusive trainers and captors. The public began to call for Tip’s death and he was deemed to be “mad”. In the end Tip was executed.
Braitman writes :
“(Tip) was deemed mad not because he was rabid or demonstrably insane but because he acted violently toward the men who sought to control him, keep him in chains, and diminish his sensory, social, physical, and emotional world to a small barn. His badness caused his madness, his madness cemented his badness. Tip was a victim of the human tendency to punish what we misunderstand or fear.” P. 71.
Tip’s remains now lie in the American Museum of Natural History. I could not help but identify with Tip’s story. I felt an outrage for him, as I feel at times so much of a longing for the wild self within that has integrity at the core and knows deep down the truth of what is needed, what got thwarted and frustrated and which has suffered amidst psychic abusers the painful consequences of lashing : being demonised further.
I saw this pattern in my eldest sister’s life, who ended her days in an institution. I have lived the pain too of trapped immobility in which true feelings and felt needs had to be repressed and I have felt the freedom that comes with the mobilisation of expressing, assertion and aggression that when operating in allegiance to the True Self enables us to liberate ourselves from confinement.
I have witnessed silencing of his impulse in loved ones, the burying of it deep inside the belly with meds designed to blunt the truth, to numb the rebel yell that would have brought freedom as it struck fear into the hearts of those who wanted certain truths and realities silenced or extinguished.
The capacity to mobilise our own assertive impulses and express our truth which may have been buried or atrophied after years of invalidation or abuse is so essential to our birth as individuals, we need our rebel yell to break free of unhealthy enmeshment with those who may have unconscious investment in denying aspects of a self that may threat or confront them. And so, unsafe as it feels at times to say what we need to say, we must somehow find the courage to sound out our voice and challenge those who would silence us.
The price of speaking our truth may at times lead to exile. In mythology the scapegoat is sent into the desert with the sins of the collective on its head. In reality the sin of the collective may be the shadow qualities that could not be accepted or expressed beyond the bounds of what controlling forces deemed acceptable.
In a family in which feelings are denied or hidden, it is the passionate one who will be demonised. I witnessed this scapegoating caper playing out last week. I finally understood why the demonised person had needed to be as detached as she was. And why many years ago she advised me to get far away. But critical lessons have come for me with not running, with facing into the heart of the dark dynamics because enmeshment must be broken in the place we stand, and true psychic and emotional separation cis not necessarily always obtained with distance.
As I tune in with my minds eye while writing I see an image of Saturn bearing a scythe standing on the right hand side of my inner child, holding her hand. I am alone on one level and cannot return to what was once cosy because Saturn is asking for something to be cut away. The sacred cows of psychic blindness must be slaughtered and comfortable cosy enmeshment sacrificed. I dreamed this image in a dream many years ago in a deep dark meadow in England many slaughtered cows lay on the ground.
Breaking free of the fear of censure and ostracism that often is the price of living true to our core, and releasing the projection of shame that does not belong to us is a journey we who may have been scapegoated must face. Exile may be necessary for a time from places, groups and family members who cannot allow the shadow qualities a place . It may even have been our task to carry that energy. Healing comes with the recognition that exile is the beginning of a journey to a new land in which we will discover the freedom of being released from a confining straight jacket which bound us up too tightly.
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.
The family scapegoat receives the shadow projections of the family. They are the one that carries and tries to express qualities, needs, reactions and expressions which may not have had a chance to live in the family. Often if we review the family history we will be able to see a pattern or something the scapegoat is trying to live for the family that could not be expressed, or struggled to be expressed over generations. They may be the carrier of hidden sadness or pain.
There is also collective element to the scapegoat which means certain qualities in any particular culture are accepted and are seen as valuable to express where as others may be demonised. Religious beliefs create the scapegoat by dictating what is “holy” and what is “demonic” and so create splits. The pervasive spread of the Catholic zeitgeist, for example, reveres qualities of self sacrifice, meekness, chastity and in many ways a repression of essential elements of what it means to be a human animal struggling to express oneself in the world as a self who can feel a sense of balanced empowerment and know it is okay to have legtimate wants and needs and life in an organic feeling body.
The scapegoat in the family is particularly created by the narcissistic parent who, as a child, could not live the wholeness of who they were due to parental neglect, abandonment, hostility, stress or other kinds of splits. John Bradshaw in his book on shame, Healing the Shame that Binds You, and other writers have shown how in families affected by toxic shame, the scapegoat is a role that is taken on often, though not only, by the second child.
In fact the issue of shame is central to narcissistic disorders and the creation of the scapegoat. If we are truly able to develop and live, free to express the totality of who we are without shame, the shadow may not be created, thus no need for scapegoats.
Shame is central to narcissism of the unhealthy variety in that the narcissistic individual never believes him or herself to be just a person amongst persons. An inherent feeling of unconscious shame, instead leads them to identify themselves as more highly evolved and deserving of envy, as inherently superior inside. The unconscious sense of deep inferiority created by episodes of shame, humiliation, abandonment or emotional rejections in childhood gets covered over and defended against with unconscious protections and projections.
What the narcissist cannot make a relationship with inside, he projects out. The need for constant mirroring that exists in the form of needing narcissist supply from outside the self results due to the lack or mirroring or flawed and skewed mirroring in childhood. What has been rejected becomes projected.
The narcissist will attract to him or herself those with the missing qualities. Those of us set up for this kind of attraction from the other side, due to problems with nurturing, validation, mirroring and acceptance in childhood, are attracted to the narcissist like iron filings to a magnet. We have our own narcissistic issues which during the course of the eventual conflicts that develop in the relationship will come to light, often with us being rejected by the narcissist. The pain generated by this rejection forces us, or at the very least, gives us an opportunity to bring to consciousness our own wounds from childhood and understand the deficiencies that we have lived with as well as the struggles we had with our own parents and their repressed shadow qualities. An opportunity comes to find self healing, since we are no longer children, we can recognise that deep inside our inner child of the past still lives and has wounds that need to be understood and tended from within.
Through this process we can begin to identify healthy behaviours and relationships from unhealthy ones and come to understand some of the false beliefs generated by lack of emotional nurturing and attunement in childhood, as well as the hostility of the parent who could not accept expression of our shadow qualities (which often replays as a powerful theme in all of our relationships).
In the course of our journey to self awareness, particularly for those of us who may have taken on a scapegoat function, healing comes when we can begin to identify the introjects (internalised projections) of negative voices and beliefs or inner critic/persecutor that may have embedded within us from parental and cultural/collective conditioning. Parental projections or carrying of their trauma may mean we battle with negative voices, depression, addiction or pervasive suicidal feelings. Through hearing and becoming conscious of these we can gain a sense of detachment in time and find new more positive, loving, affirming voices from within which can help us to grow and heal.
For the scapegoat there is an essential task to be learned. The scapegoat will often be the one in the family that ends up in treatment or with an addiction. They may be the one who blows the whistle and begins to deal with the family skeletons. Addictive tendencies of other members of the family may be well hidden, but on some level the scapegoat fails. This is a necessary failure for the purpose of coming to know and love the entire self that could not live and find wholeness from within the family. Often family scapegoats when seeking to bring attention to deficiencies in the family will be rejected or ostracised: this parallels what happens in cultures where the scapegoat is sent away into the desert or exile with the sins of the collective on its head. Such an exile may be necessary it may be metaphoric rather than literal.
The scapegoat suffers the pain of never finding true acceptance, of feeling on the outside, exiled in some way. Healing can only come for the scapegoat when they realise the role and function they play in the family and the collective culture. The scapegoat has a supreme value and this is why they are rejected.
The Jungian analyst and teller of fairytales, Clarissa Pinkola Estes addresses this issue of wandering and banishment that internalises in her examination of the Ugly Duckling fairytale. The ugly duckling must go through rejection and a profound search to find a place of belonging and recognise the beauty of the self.
On a personal note, as one of the scapegoats in my own family, I became the identified addict. I was blamed by a mother (who valued my new found sobriety supposedly on one hand while dealing out invalidating backhanders on the other) could never own her part in the creation of this. On one level she was only a player in a far bigger drama working out across generations.
When I got into recovery feeling myself to be a scapegoat was not conscious but I was strongly affected. In healing groups with other scapegoats I was able to begin to dis-identify from the projection of badness, especially when displaying self assertion and anger. At times I played the scapegoat role in groups. It hurt a lot at the time, but eventually I grew in understanding when the pattern would play out My critical leaning was, that I must not scapegoat myself, though exile was and is necessary for the scapegoat. Alone time gives us time to introspect, detach from unhealthy and invalidating relationships and to heal. My struggle in the family to gain freedom and awareness has gone on over many years. It is taking a long time and many heartbreaking conflicts to realise what pattern was playing as well as the particular parts various family members were playing.
In her analysis of the scapegoat identified individual,Syliva Perrera (who wrote an excellent book on the subject,) makes the point that split off assertion and desire is a huge part of what creates the scapegoat. Many of us who develop addictions as a mean of coping use the substances to numb and anaesthetise our feelings around not being able to express and assert ourselves fully. Addictive relationships function in similar ways, especially when the longing and hunger we feel has complex and deep roots in earlier invalidating relationships. We enter them hoping the broken hearted child will heal. Instead that child meets her own woundedness and is sent on a journey so that she or he can heal. Healing involves finding ways which allow the wholeness of ourselves to express and find acceptance, mirroring and love in relationships, families, collectives and a culture which often do not allow certain feelings a place.
Women too, can take on the role of the scapegoat. We are scapegoated for being too angry (what a ‘bitch’), needy, dramatic or vulnerable.
The playing out of the mass genocide of the Jews during the Second World War was another example of the scapegoat complex playing out collectively, generated by the toxic shame of an individual (Hitler) who was able to mobilise the rage and hurt of many in a nation that had been humiliated. That humiliation and the identification with roles of power and supremacy saw the split off qualities being projected and “killer” energy emerge. It is interesting to note that Joseph Stalin’s father was a alcoholic and Stalin too was a victim of toxic shame.
The scapegoat is no stranger to murder and killing, their soul is the victim of a psychic murder. We scapegoatees must learn during the course of our healing and enlightenment to find freedom from the killer that can migrate to live inside of us in order that we can live free of the killer voices that block our self expression and inner feelings of love and self worth. The entirely of ourselves has a value and through embracing and becoming more conscious of the ways in which we participate in and perpetrate our own wounding we can heal and grow and make new choices that lead us down happier paths than we experienced in the past.
We can begin to understand the scapegoater that lives inside, for we are not immune either, at times, to scapegoating ourselves and others. The qualities that we may have been rejected for sensitivity, joy, exuberance, fieryness, vulnerability, messiness, passionate conviction, sensuality and sexuality are unique threads of human self expression which woven together have formed the unique and precious tapestry that make us raw and real, messy and ultimately human, a person among people with certain gifts of perception, expression and depth that may have in some way threatened or frightened those who are more defended, less inwardly and holistically attuned.