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The Scapegoats of a Narcissistic Mother

Updated on October 30, 2018
Gail Meyers profile image

Gail is a mother, grandmother, JD and advocate in Kansas City.

Narcissistic Mother's Scapegoating

Scapegoat quote by Gail Meyers
Scapegoat quote by Gail Meyers | Source

Narcissistic Mother's Scapegoating

In toxic, dysfunctional families where alcoholism, childhood sexual abuse, or mental illness are an everyday reality, the children are often assigned rigid roles. The assignment of these roles often happens early in childhood, long before the child could possibly have any idea what is truly happening or why. However, even young children quickly understand the toxic, unwritten family rules.

These rigid roles and toxic rules are taken very seriously because they are required in order for the closed toxic system to survive and continue. Scapegoating in a family says, "We're fine or normal; he or she is the problem." So when or if you try to get out of your assigned role, to shed the false image that has been projected upon you, the whole family system will often go to extremes to put you back in your place.

It is a very unfair situation, but there is nothing about being assigned the scapegoat role that is fair. Expect some members of your family of origin to be more insightful into the dynamics at work, but generally speaking those who have not sought recovery will continue to respond in accordance with the rigid, unwritten rules of the dysfunctional family.

Truth Telling Scapegoats

The scapegoat is the truth teller in the great pretenders sticky web of secret, lies, and pretense. - Gail Meyers
The scapegoat is the truth teller in the great pretenders sticky web of secret, lies, and pretense. - Gail Meyers | Source

Why a Narcissistic Mother Needs a Scapegoat

The scapegoat and the golden child are two of the most widely discussed rigid, toxic family roles. Neither of these children are loved or valued for who they truly are, but for the purposes they serve for the narcissistic mother.

The Golden Child

The golden child's role is assigned to reflect all that is good back to the narcissistic mother. He is showing the world she must be a good mother to have such a child as this. Narcissistic Mom will twist reality beyond all recognition or rewrite history to cause everything this child does to be deemed exceedingly wonderful. This is Mom's mini-me, a narcissist-in-training. This reflection of her grandeur is one of the real reasons this child can do no wrong in her eyes.

Of course, this extreme favoritism causes anger, strife, and even severed relationships between siblings. That's fine with narcissistic mother who wants to be the hub in the middle, dividing and conquering her children in order to maintain control and the flow of information. She will intentionally pit the golden child against the scapegoat child by manipulation. She may even use the golden child, as well as the other children, to inflict abuse by proxy on the scapegoat child. Then, she will garner as much pity as possible by proclaiming how she must endure these contrary children.

The Scapegoat Child

Narcissistic mother chronically avoids personal responsibility and accountability, thus scapegoats. The scapegoat is the truth teller in the midst of this great pretender's sticky web of lies, secrets, and pretense. The scapegoat child can do no right in the eyes of the narcissist, and often can do no right in the eyes of the entire family. So it is for the truth lovers among pretenders!

e other children quickly learn it is okay for them to blame the scapegoat too. As the cunning narcissistic mother manipulates every member of the family, she will twist reality beyond recognition or rewrite history to be sure this child takes the blame. This is in order for the narcissistic mother, as well as the entire family, to maintain a facade of normalcy and health while pointing at the scapegoat as the problem. It is smoke and mirrors, a distraction directing attention toward a symptom of the issue rather than the real culprit. The scapegoat provides a distraction, a sleight of hand.

The Scapegoat Child of a Narcissist

Source

How Do You Know if You Are the Scapegoat?

You may have long ago realized the scapegoat role has been thrust upon you or you may be just beginning to realize the reality of the situation. Either way, some indications of being the scapegoat child are:

  • You are the truth teller.
  • You are blamed for things you have no control over or are not your fault.
  • You are the target of false accusations - accused and the topic of gossip.
  • You are labeled the troublemaker.
  • You may be left out of the loop.
  • You are always the one required to forgive and apologize, even when the other person owes you the apology.
  • Your accomplishments are ignored, sabotaged or invalidated.
  • You are accused of being selfish if you display needs or wants or put your own needs or wants before the narcissist. You are accused of being selfish when you take care of yourself.
  • You may be accused of being unstable, dishonest, or crazy.
  • You may be shunned or ostracized.
  • Even so, you may be the one everyone runs to in a crisis.

Scapegoating: Chronic Avoidance of Responsibility

Source

The History of the Scapegoat

Most of us have heard the term and understand the popular use of the word, but the idea of scapegoats has a long history. There is some mention of a scapegoat rite in Ancient Greece. However, our current use of the word comes from the English translation of the Hebrew term from the Bible. Our current usage literally means "an individual, group or country singled out for unmerited negative treatment or blame."

The Bible documents the use of a scapegoat dating back to the accounts of the children of Israel in Leviticus 16. The scapegoat was an actual goat, the sings of the people were ceremonially placed on the head of the goat, then the goat was cast out of the community and into the desert alone, to symbolize the removal of sin and guilt. If you are the scapegoat son or daughter, you may know just exactly how that feels!

In the Bible the forgiveness of sin required these animal sacrifices before Christ died a sacrificial death on the Cross, but that requirement ended at the Cross. The New Testament (after Christ) states that Christ took the sins of humanity on His own head. The law was given, not that any man can keep the whole of the law, but for man to come to the conclusion he is unable to. Thus, the law points to the need for a savior. Christ is the Savior who fulfilled the law, placing us under grace. He is the only One who can wash away sins. Hence, there is no longer any need for scapegoats as we each are accountable before God for our own sins.

If Was Never Your Fault, Scapegoat!

It Was Never Your Fault, Scapegoat!

A scapegoat allows someone or an entire family to project everything that is negative onto the scapegoat in order for them to continue to appear normal. It is a distraction, a red herring. The whole family can then point at the scapegoat as the problem and focus the attention away from the true core issue. This can be reinforced in many overt and covert ways. It may be verbally being told your family wants the best for you, but their actions do not match their words. For example, telling you they support you getting an education, but then actively sabotaging or undermining your attempts to do so.

There is a heavy investment in keeping you in your assigned role as the "bad" scapegoat. So you might think you will become an overachiever to prove to your family and the world you are not "bad." However, narcissistic mother needs a "bad" scapegoat in order to support the denial and facade. So when you start to excel it actually makes narcissistic mother uncomfortable because it threatens her assessment of you. She may very well also become jealous of any success you have. So narcissistic mother may actually reward the scapegoats for floundering, falling or getting in a mess. This can be done in very subtle ways so as to remain deniable and undetected, while she also undermines any success in every way she is able to.

Scapegoating: Hostile Social-Psychological Discrediting Routine

Scapegoat's Accomplishments Ignored

When I graduated from college in spite of all of the undermining and brow beating efforts, the accomplishment was completely ignored. If I brought it up, they changed the subject. No one in the entire extended family even attended my graduation or celebrated the accomplished. I was getting out of my scapegoat role by being the first to graduate from college in an extended family of origin of high school dropouts. So while others were enjoying cards, presents, and celebrations, I was actually being shunned and punished for graduating.

This is only one example of how a toxic family turns virtually anything the scapegoat does and reframes it as negative or spins it into an accusation. Simultaneously, my late narcissistic personality disordered mother decided to get her GED. When she passed the test, she threw herself a party inviting the younger siblings but not inviting me.

This is only one example of why I am of why it is futile to think you are going to prove yourself to a toxic family who has assigned you the role of scapegoat. When I was younger I often said I could find the cure for cancer and the response would be it was the wrong kind of cancer, hardly anyone gets that kind of cancer, it really should not even been considered a cancer. She thought of that cure years ago, but it was so obvious she thought everyone already knew. Everything a scapegoat does is spun to fit the role.

In my experience, the toxic family system will always and forever require scapegoats unless or until the entire family seeks recovery. While this may happen with an alcoholic or drug addict, psychology as a whole does not even profess to be able to effectively treat narcissistic personality disorder.

Scapegoat Bullying

Source

You Selfish Scapegoat!

This accusation is so often made when the scapegoat draws a boundary or does anything to interfere with the narcissist's needs and wants. This is a profound, often deeply ingrained message to the scapegoat. It is imperative that a scapegoat realize the truth of this brainwashing. It is not selfish to draw healthy boundaries, protect yourself and your children from abuse, or to refuse to be the family whipping post or slave.

Narcissists chronically project their own negative behavior, character traits, and deeds onto the scapegoat. My narcissistic mother often accused me of the very thing she was guilty of or doing. You are not selfish, she is. Also, notice how the terms are defined according to whose behavior is being considered.

Invariably, narcissistic mothers redefine terms and have double meanings depending on who they are being applied to. A great way to expose these double meanings or toxic, unwritten family rules is to switch the characters of the golden child and the scapegoat.

If the golden child was doing this or that would it be considered selfish? If the narcissist was doing this or that would it be considered selfish? No, selfishness is redefined for the scapegoat in order to reinforce your continued silence and participation.

What Happens If the Scapegoat Leaves?

If the scapegoat leaves, the discord in the rest of the family often increases without the scapegoat there to buffer the friction. The other family members may turn on one another as the tension increases, or someone else may be assigned the role. However, if you are the scapegoat and you leave the family that does necessarily mean you will be let out of your assigned role.

A narcissistic mother may let you go, too easily, way too easily. This is to convey a devastating message that it does not really matter to her or that is the way she prefers it anyway. Watch your back for the smear campaign in this scenario because she is thinking about the situation completely differently than what you probably imagine. Her mind is likely on her image and making sure no one believes you and the real reason for the separation. On the other hand, everyone may be exceptionally nice, attempting to lure you back in, but the scapegoat should not fall for this deception.

Scapegoating in Narcissistic Families

Source

Conclusion

There is some mention of the use of scapegoating in Ancient Greece. However, our current use of the word comes from the English version of the Hebrew term in the Bible. Our current usage literally means "an individual, group or country signaled out for unmerited negative treatment or blame."

There is no longer any need for scapegoats. Jesus Christ died a sacrificial death on the Cross in order to pay for our sins, and He opened the way for personal one-on-one relationships with the Father. Jesus took our sins upon Himself.

The very presence of a scapegoat role in a toxic family of origin signals there is someone who is chronically avoiding responsibility for their actions. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and God held each one of the accountable for their own sins.

© 2018 Gail Meyers

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    • profile image

      Mary Lonergan 

      11 days ago

      Excellent article, I'm a scapegoat, comforting to read about it and gain knowledge but the hurt is very real.

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