Who becomes the scapegoat?

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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.

Feeling like I dont belong may be the price of belonging to myself.


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For a long time in my life, although I was not aware of it, I was wandering the world hoping for understanding and comfort.  As the youngest I felt very much like an observer and an outsider in my family.  There are huge age gaps between me and my oldest siblings and so in some ways living in my family was like being an only child.

I wrote in an earlier blog about finding a cache of letters written during the year I was four which outline the context of our family life.  What came across were two parents who were very involved in their own life and little involved in mine.  A conversation with my mother midweek revealed little memory, on her behalf of this time, only the observation that I was a “difficult child”.  It wasn’t only me who was difficult, the dog was difficult too.  What I am beginning to see is that we were probably both really bored and so, as lively beings do, we began to get up to mischief.

Its interesting as it has been coming into my mind this week that I need to write some blogs on the family scapegoat.   I am actually intrigued by the concept of the scapegoat and felt so grateful to come across the most wonderful book on the subject by a Jungian analyst Syvlia Bretton Perrera around the time my marriage ended.

The fact was that I became a scapegoat target for my husband’s family and eventually, towards the ending of my marriage when I was trying to bust out of my false self and reclaim my true self, an alignment took place between my husband and my mother who seemed determined to keep me in lock down by scapegoating me further. I wish I could say, that at that time, I was strong enough to break out, but I wasn’t.

If you have spent a life time being told that who you are, isn’t who you are, that what you feel isn’t what you feel, its not so easy to break free.  In my case I needed others around me who actually saw who I was and the person I was struggling to be, that got buried so many years earlier.  I also needed to be part of a group of others who were determined to bust through facades and come clean about the true reality of their deeper selves, all the ways in which they had put on fronts, consciously or unconsciously to hide the secret of who they were.

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If you have spent years locked in an addiction, as I had and then get into recovery the point is this : that the false self has to crack.  As I recovered and reviewed my history it became clear to me that my addiction began to escalate around the time I was forced to follow a career of my father’s choosing, rather than pursue the one was dear to my heart. Along that path part of me went into a deep freeze.

I looked to substances and other outside sources of soothing and comfort that would help me to unfreeze and liberate some of the buried energy I had locked down deep inside.  At my Saturn return the pain of the distance between my true and false selves began to squeeze and cause me a great deal of pain.

Prior to finding recovery and dealing with my addiction I make a conscious effort to make a move away from what was imprisoning me.  Thus began a journey that led me to recovery and along the way as things began to thaw I had to navigate some fairly powerful emotions.  Emotions that most certainly were not acceptable to my spouse or my family.

In her book Perrera makes the point that the scapegoat carries, for the collective of which it is a part, energies that have been placed in the shadow and are so necessary for wholeness.  Rather than accepted these energies are exiled to wilderness, that wilderness may lead the scapegoat to the acting out of addiction.  While engaged in the addiction the scapegoat is expressing the pain of their entrapment and exile.  Once consciously navigated this pain can act as the motivation for spell breaking, for finding ways to explore and release the repressed and trapped energies which so long ago were exiled, but only to the degree that we reach an understanding of the role we have had to take on, of necessity.

Its interesting to me that as a child I was expressive, strong, outspoken and emotional.  By the time I was an adolescent I had turned into someone who was awkward, insecure, shy and uncertain.   It is obvious to me now that I became that way as my true self was never mirrored by the collective of which I was a part.

The exception to that was my eldest sister.  A scapegoat herself, she saw me, she got me, but unfortunately she had a cerebral bleed when I was 18.  Perhaps the powerful underground message that I absorbed from this tragedy was that it was dangerous to be strong, to be independent, to be expressive and to try to break free.  Indeed my sister moved away from home when I was only 3.  She returned when I was 17 and things rapidly fell apart.  The consequences of her trauma causing rifts in a family which was set to undergo it own transformative splintering.

In the end my sister suffered exile to a home, where most members of my family had little contact with her.  I was lucky enough to witness the entire collapse, her attempt to take her life and then diagnosis and drugging that followed and kept her trapped in that role.  I am sorry to say that I was “lucky” enough, but I was having this conversation yesterday with a close friend, who is himself the youngest in a large family about the gifts of being the younger.  We get to witness and learn a lot.  In my case, being an outsider came with gifts.  And I made the choice not to have children and have them carry my own pain before I could process it and become conscious of it.

At times in different groups I have been aware that I have taken on a scapegoat role, being exiled or thrown out of the group, due to the fact I was suffering emotionally.  As an active addict I was an easy target for others scapegoat projections.  What was so important for me during the course of my recovery was to break my own identification with both scapegoat and victim.  I have just been re-reading Eckhardt Tolle’s power of now and in it he makes the following comment:

There is a great deal of unconscious ego investment in pain and suffering.

I had a bit of an ah-ha moment when I read that comment.  My exile is only painful to me when I identify being part of the group as a cherished ideal.  In truth, though at times it can be lonely, not feeling apart of things brings a far greater freedom.  Its amazing how the unconscious process we undergo also brings insights at certain moments, from deep within when we have been elaborating on certain truths.

Last night I had powerful dream that the group of which I have been a part for some years, told me that I was no longer welcome there. “You are just too outspoken” they said.  I walked away feeling there was nothing I could do, that I most certainly did not belong, that who I was in my deepest self had been rejected and that I was now on my own.

On waking I was aware of a very powerful underground grief and a dull headache.  Over the day it has passed.  I am not totally sure what to make of this dream but it was no surprise when I looked into the ephemeris to see that the Sun had passed into 00 degress Leo today and that I was undergoing my annual solar opposition to Mars Saturn Moon in Aquarius.

Yesterday following a conversation with one of the leaders of this group I had a knot of pain in my stomach telling me that what had occured during our conversation was all about invalidation.  I had been aware of this before and not honoured my true feelings.

Deep in the twelfth house the Sun is transiting.  Energy has been low, but I am feeling the rumblings of that slumbering Lion.  Currently Venus and Mercury are behind the Sun and we are heading in a few days towards the dark of the Moon prior to the annual Leo New Moon.

Maybe the Lion roars too loudly at times, but what if its trapped cries have been imprisoned for ages.  The thorn in its paw hurts and it may be taking some time for it to heal.  Still I am glad of the Leo/Lion energy and find a great primal beauty in it.  It appears to me such an antidote to the loaded Aquarian energies of my own chart.  With my Sun’s ruler Uranus in the sign of the Lion and in the first house opposing the seventh, was I ever really going to feel like I belonged in the group?

In a conversation with my Mum last week she said “You never wanted to do what everyone else wanted to do”.  What I do remember is that at times there were very painful things going on, I just energetically did not want to be a part of.  It occurs to me that over later years I pretended that I did and even came to believe there was something wrong with me for feeling this way.

Apparently this is not an unusual situation for empaths.  Sadly in the past, the price of being outcast just seemed too expensive to pay.  I am beginning to realise now that maybe at times, its better to be able to be alone in that and be real, rather than pretend and loose my self, my way and my authentic voice and feelings.  If others like it or lump it is that really my business?  As I continue on this ongoing journey that is my life I pray for the strength and courage to be true to me. And to find the power and strength in times of aloneness.

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Death brings healing

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I have been studying eclipse periods for some years and have noticed that significant deaths often accompany eclipses. which is not unusual since eclipse seasons rule endings and new beginnings. My sister passed away at 3.30 am Eastern Standard time on Easter Sunday morning, 20th April.  Two other friends have lost their fathers prior to today’s solar eclipse and following the full moon lunar eclipse and one of our dog park visitors sadly lost his 14 year companion, Muriel and was grieving today when his owners bought him out on a gorgeous, sunny autumn day. As the world turns towards a new season, souls have gone home.

My sister died of a deep seated and untreatable lung infection.  She was sixty eight years of age.  Her family were gathered around her over the final 48 hours of her life.  Her four sons had only been together with her twice in a 30 year period and were with her until two hours before her death.  I had sat with her for most of the two previous evenings and I felt deep in my heart that it was time to let go and say goodbye at 1 am which is when I left the hospital.  She had been removed from life support at 11.30 pm and seemed to be rallying, however that was just my wishful thinking.  Despite her tenacity, she finally let go.

My sister knew a lot of suffering, betrayal, loss, tragedy but she also loved life.  Although wheelchair bound and bed ridden for much of the past 8 years, she was a creative and vibrant spirit who bought laughter and love into the lives of so many of the beautiful people whose paths crossed hers and who cared for her in her later years.

It was so touching at her funeral to hear such happy stories of the joy she but into some of the carers lives and witness the amount of love pouring out from their hearts to hers.  It made me realise that death, although sad is such a profound passage that possibly brings gifts to our lives.

My sister was separated from her four sons, several years following a massive cerebral bleed. The two youngest did not know that their mother did not choose this separation but was in fact removed from their lives by their father.  The two eldest were abandoned by their father and had to survive on their wits.  It developed a toughness and resilience in all of the boys and despite the pain, it was so inspiring to see that part of them remained forever non corrupted by the challenges of their past, although deeo scars remain, they have worked to grow in love and understanding.

When I lost my own father I never had the experience of being supported in my grief.  I went over to the other side of the world alone and the grief became buried and acted out in addiction, until I began to stop self medicating and chose recovery.  Subsequent deaths have presented opportunities to feel what was too difficult to feel all those years ago due to lack of support.  It may be a strange truth but we actually need permission to grieve.  It is harder to grieve alone and a grief process can be actively blocked especially in certain families.  I have experienced a lot of problems in my own life due to repressed and somatised grief (grief buried in the body0>

I felt incredibly blessed during the brief time that we all had to say goodbye to my sister and over the following week that led to funeral, that I was supported and could support my nephews in their grief.  I cannot tell you the healing that has come to me during this time, a time in which we have been able to talk about some of the traumas we endured.  I have been witness to the struggles of the younger two who now have loving partners and are well on the way to establishing beautiful families of their own.  And although my sister is dead her amazing gifts now live on into the next generation. These include: generosity, creativity, resilience, intelligence, wisdom, penetrating insight, love and care for others less fortunate, artistic talents, ingenuity.   The darker traits are there too: powerful self will, a huge appetite for alcohol, stubbornness, intractability.

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My sister was a Sun sign Capricorn. Today I was re-reading some of Sylvia Bretton Perrera’s book The Scapegoat Complex and could not help but think of my sister when I read the following paragraphs, for following her breakdown and rejection by her partner she was exiled by part of my family, who though living less than 10 miles away never bothered to visit her. When family events occurred, birthdays, weddings and other celebrations she was in later years often excluded, a fact which used to cause me a lot of pain.  In witnessing this exile and the suffering it caused I could not help but think of the exiled goat which Perrera talks of who is cast out by the community with the sins of the collective on its head.  In mythic parlance this figure is given the name Azazel, The Goat of God.

Perrera writes:

Azazel was originally, a divinity symbolised and embodied in the goat, that lively, swift, high-climbing, yet earthy, sexually potent animal with a strong odor.  It is an animal both combative and nurturant, able to lie in inhospitable terrain and willing to be domesticated.  As horned god, the goat is an image of primal creative energy of the generative and destructive force of desire.  As ibex, its form appears on an early Sumerian cylinder seals, ritually rampant with the figure of the Great Goddess: the kid with the Mother.  There it suggests the instinctive forces of the Great Round, especially those which can be somewhat tamed for human benefit.

The goat was also sacred to a large number of other divinities,… All these divinities are associated with the ecstatic depths.  They compel, and sometimes mediate, the awesome truth of reality through passionate encounter with affect states that grip the soul and are experienced as transpersonal dismemberments and renewals. They are the states which the laws of Yahweh sought to order and limit.  Thus Azazel was posited as the divinity of the place outside Hebrew collective life.

Azazel then was once a horned and herdsman god of nature, a fertility daimon, a healer, an expression of the creative process in art, and a consort of the Great Goddess, alternating in his office with the farmer god.

All these aspects of the goat have been lost to Judeo Christian culture, although they have remained in pagan and folk tradition.  Within the dominant stream of culture in the West the goat is identified with Satan and the demonic energies of the accusing Azazel.  This has ensured repression of the qualities the collective rejects.  The goat god himself has been made to stand against very life forces he originally mediated into collective life.  As demon an punisher, his image warns away those who would seek him.

In scapegoat identified individuals’ material, the goat often appears after the complex is partially worked through. Awareness of the complex forces a particular set of relations to the horned goat god, as one rediscovers for the modern culture the enormous creative energies symbolised in the image.  Initally, the goat appears as an ambiguous figure.  On the one hand it is felt to be excessively wild and untamed impulsivity.  On the other hand, it holds creative and erotic potential.

Perrera goes on to explain how this complex played out in the life of one client with the Azazel figure forcing a repression by a judgemental inner figure against her own needs and assertiveness, while at the same time making her a victim of violent eruptive rages.  This was a complete mirroring of my own sister’s story and some of the incidents in which this occurred where told to me by my nephews following my sister’s death.  I knew these erruptions well, our mother with a Capricorn Moon had them.  I have experienced them myself.

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The aggressive instinct within during the process of this woman’s particular journey over time became humanised. The anger and rage which were in fact an explosive expression of an assertive drive split off in childhood as a result of dynamics with both parents and grown huge with the subsequent repression, could slowly transform expression over time, as the repression was lifted and the impulsive raw energy regulated over time.

In my sister’s case, without the benefit of this kind of therapeutic intervention and after years of medication, sadly my sister’s eruptive rage could not be totally tamed and integrated into concsicousness and yet its energy fuelled a vast creativity that was able to find avenues of expression even though she had, over years become totally dependent on others for care and could not be moved without mechanical assistance.  Her destructive choice of partners was her Achilles heel.  The last alcoholic beat my sister and left her only to return when her circumstances had improved and he could prey on her again.  Due to my sister;s lack of self protection she attracted this destructive force into her life and bore the consequences and yet she never blamed him, for on some level the need to be associated with someone who had gone through wounding experiences and had turned toward booze for comfort was too powerful.  .

On her birthday in January, a group of us gathered to celebrate with my sister, she received many beautiful gifts.  At one point as she was unwrapping a necklace, she burst into tears.  “I don’t deserve any of this.”   I will never really know exactly what thoughts went through my sisters head.  On collecting the clothing that she would be buried in one of the carers said to me.  “Your sister was a very tortured individual.”  Did she know her history?  Did she understand all my sister had been through?  Yet I knew there was some truth in those words.  And yet there was more to her even than this.

The Great Round chose to take my sister home on Easter Sunday.  As autumn leaves are falling here and we pass into winter, yet another leaf has fallen from the great tree of my family.

New connections have been made over the funeral time.  Healings have begun in my family, unravelled threads are beginning to be tied back.  Spending time with two of my nephews has opened up a dialogue around their wounds, the manner in which one, himself seeks comfort from alcohol.  We even had our own mini explosion of energy in the early hours following my sister’s funeral which, rather than creating a rupture opened up deeper insight into how energies that could not find a new balance in my sister’s life are now seeking a new balance in the lives of the ancestors who remain.  During this time as Mars has retrograded through the sign of relationship and balance, Libra new balances are being found and the entire experience around the funeral, the way in which we were able to support each other and consider each other’s vulnerabilities and factor in care has been an amazing process to behold.

On the eve of my sister’s death as I sat in the ICU and watched each person saying their goodbyes to my beloved sister tears fell. I cannot begin to express the profound welling up of consciousness and healing that came, for what I understood was, how even in the darkest of times there is a light that shines within, that life is a blessing even with all the challenges it presents, how innocent we really are and how impersonal life really is and yet, at times we take it so personally.   In the end although I grieved, I actually felt a lightness, joy and peace at my sister’s passing.  She will be missed and yet I don’t feel she is all that far away. She lives on all around me and our journey goes on with the memory of all we shared which will be a light to guide us forward into the next chapter of the story that is unfolding.