Skip to main content

fulfilling life goals after being a cast out scapegoat

art by © Lise Winne
available for sale here

I have been reading Lenora Thompson's articles for awhile and I usually respond to them, and we often have discussions about each of them. The reason why? I'll tell you.

Lenora writes for Psych Central and the Huffington Post about being the child of narcissists. She is a self-proclaimed golden child (an only child) to what would seem to be helicopter parents, parents who, according to her, would not let her grow up. You can read her stories in the articles. She has many, many articles on how she felt stifled and imprisoned by her parents, how every decision she wanted to make was superseded by her parents' decision-making, how she felt she was being groomed to please them at all times.

Every abusive family has a golden child (favored and coddled) and a scapegoat (unfavored and picked on, and often rejected). That's just a fact of life when you have Cluster B personality disordered parents who put their own feelings and dreams first, and expect their children to put their parents dreams and feelings first too (no, that's not how it is supposed to work, if you are wondering).

When she and I talk, I give her the scapegoat versions to her stories. They tend to be drastically different, opposites. But not all of the time.  Sometimes we find only nuanced differences between the golden versions and the scapegoat versions.

I have been working on a side project full of scapegoat stories (which I plan on publishing some day). This is just a teaser.

Sometimes she feels the scapegoat is so much better off than the golden child, other times she sees how painful being a scapegoat is.

So what is a common thing that scapegoats and goldens share, since most of the time there is such a huge disparity between the two roles? And let us not forget that these are roles -- they were thrust on us by our parents at a young age, perhaps even when we were pre-verbal, rather than how we define ourselves.

Gaslighting would be one of the things that golden children and scapegoats have in common. But the nuances are these:

Gaslighting of a golden child would be: "Oh, she's a little crazy, but we love it! So creative! So full of life and wonder! So cute when she does that, isn't she?" Gaslighting of a scapegoat would be "She's our crazy one. Yes, she's creative, but she has so many problems! We just can't deal with her any more! She should be put away, but that's not how the world works these days." The first one is to get strangers to admire their offspring, hoping they can cover up the abuse with great accolades and admiration and the image of being perfect parents of a lovable crazy child; the second one is to get strangers to reject their offspring before that offspring spills the beans and exposes the abuse and the parent's image.

But who is kidding who? Golden children are just as capable of exposing abuse as scapegoats are, such as in Lenora's case. Goldens often feel so suffocated and burdened by their parents that they feel spiritually squashed, emotionally squashed, physically squashed, developmentally squashed. It is claustrophobia on steroids. Goldens have been brought up to be pleaser puppets. They can't say anything at all that doesn't please their parents, and after awhile, don't even try to challenge that coding (except maybe through their own very private thoughts which they don't dare to share with anyone ... until they can't stand it any more). This is not what life is meant to be, to be an eternal child with no choices and no dreams, and only to be thinking about your parent's thoughts, feelings, dreams and image (let's not forget their image!). Our spirits really have a hard time with being shoved into Stepford child roles (after The Stepford Wives).

I see her point of view. Love is super conditional whether you are a golden child or a scapegoat. For the golden, it is totally reliant on people pleasing and competition with your sibling (if you have a sibling). The golden feels he cannot be anything else, and be safe from the abuse he sees being hurled at everyone else.

I feel sorry for the golden child in my own life who has to live this way and give up his own dreams, who is called to do it constantly, who has to be careful and terrified over everything he says, and walk on eggshells. He has been groomed to compete with his sister on everything (for the parents divide-and-conquer strategies), and since the sister gave up on the competition and left the family, he has to provide ALL of the narcissistic supply now. There are no more roles left, in fact, no other siblings to take up the lost roles. He will have to fulfill them all. And if something doesn't suit his parents, he will have to endure a barrage of shaming, temper tantrums and insults -- as though he is still a little boy who needs to be reprimanded. If he sees rage, he'll have to pretend he didn't mean what he said. He'll have to stir up a pot of excuses, fast talking, fast thinking, taking things he said back, explaining that he didn't mean what he said, saying things like "It was just a stupid comment. I agree with you" even when he might not want to agree with them, asking how to make it better, giving word salad explanations for every little hurt feeling they have that they blame on him, or on his wife, all with the most syrupy apologies. He will have to have no convictions about anything. Interests? No, too threatening. Opinions? No, he's required to have their opinions. A career? No, not one that will take time away from his parents. A sister? How dare he think to have a relationship with his sister when they have anointed him the golden child! How dare he even think about his sister!

He will have to constantly ameliorate them (and make no mistake about it: he is expert at ameliorating -- as if that is a good thing to be).

I have seen him in 24 hour rages when they aren't around, and then turn it all off like a switch and be sticky sweet with model vocabulary and wit. That's a good life??? Talk about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! He has to "go along to get along" with hair-trigger parents. That's not love! They don't love him!

And worst of all, he seems to have become another Cluster B, full of phony faces and charm just to get through life. I believe the swearing, rage-ful, disrespectful, laugh-behind-their-backs, deriding-of-others personality is really who he is, although that may be a cover-up for how scared, vulnerable, sensitive and sweet he really is. Who knows, but it is all so sad. The worse part of it is that he does the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because his parents squashed him, wanted him to be their daily pleaser. They spoiled him rotten, favored him over his sister, and tried to convince him that his sister was at fault for any rage he felt. "Take it out on her, not us!" they cried. Because, you know, all narcissists are perfect, and they can't hear otherwise, and what they did to him has to be taken out on someone, after all ...

So one of the things Lenora and I were talking about had to do with living our dreams, and how she had to put that off for so long (required to be the daily pleaser: don't forget!). Any way, here is my response to this article by Lenora about living your dreams after having them squashed by narcissistic parents for most of your life:

I'm always thinking of the scapegoat part of this story, Lenora.

The thing about scapegoats is that they are onto their NMs earlier than anyone else. If we are given the scapegoat role in our family, we're the canary in the coal mine. That's why we are scapegoats: we see the evil, we hear the evil, and we speak about the evil we see and hear. How dare us speak about it, right? How dare we want to make that better for all of us children in the household? 

And the first thing they do about it is try to shut us up and shut us down emotionally. However it doesn't work because we still see, hear, etc ... so we are punished for it instead. The "punishments" for seeing, hearing and knowing are brutal, let me tell you. They are so unethical, unjust and severe as to encode us with traumas and triggers. In fact most "other" family members don't want to acknowledge what we go through because it scares them half to death. So they only "watch" the abuse in horror on the sidelines, perhaps try to tell themselves it is not so bad and that it is "normal" in some way, hoping it doesn't happen to them. 

In fact, they are rarely singled out for abuse until we leave. And we have to leave if we are to survive. When we leave for good to fend for ourselves, the narcissists adopt another scapegoat. They always do; they always feel they have to in order to keep any kind of potential bad image they might acquire away from THEM. 

So eventually we are no longer alone when the new scapegoat appears and says to us, "I went through it too! I'm so sorry!"

But the difference between us and the golden child is that our parent's trying to disable us and our dreams by severe punishments and THE BIG BAD SILENT TREATMENT does not get internalized within us (well, a lot of us). It may get internalized in the beginning, but for many of us with long term "no contact" or living our lives autonomous from their opinions? Not at all. I think most scapegoats can attest to not feeling much shame at all over being given the silent treatment. Why? Because it almost always is over a myriad of silly excuses like a look on our face they didn't like (as though we should have a facial complex JUST FOR THEM), or because we refused to be their full time Cinderella to our brothers and sisters (as though we should really WANT that for ourselves), and a number of equally bizarre "reasons". They grasp at the most desperate of straws to make us a scapegoat. 

They do this scapegoating for THEM, because THEY feel threatened by the truth and by exposure. The more they abuse, the more desperate they are to hide it, the more they NEED some sort of  scapegoat!!  All people who see, hear, and speak of what they see and hear must be scapegoated in their eyes ... except, wait! Doesn't everyone tell of what they are about behind their backs? Aren't all people in their lives just ass-kissing back-stabbing two-facers? 

So they get ultra paranoid.

The reason why a lot of us scapegoats don't internalize their mediocre dreams for us is because we never "really" try to please them. Ever. We know the cost is too high, and nothing will be good enough. We may pretend at it at times because not every battle is worth it, and we want some peace, just like they pretend to love us, all the while slandering us to everyone they can, and throwing us away to the wolves and casting us as "crazy people".

We aren't supposed to please them anyway: they assigned the scapegoat role to us, the role that can never please them NO MATTER WHAT. We find, unlike the smooth fast talkin' always-make-an-excuse goldens, that there is no smooth fast talkin' for us to adopt. What we say, what we do, is ALWAYS vilified. So we give up on pleasing them, and decide to please ourselves instead, and we go for our dreams. 

That's one big difference between a golden child and a scapegoat child.

We HAVE to go big for our dreams to survive without a family, support, and familial approval. So many of us put our dreams first, in fact, and a lot of us (the ones who don't stay in the matrix of the abusive family to get beaten down again and again), are pretty satisfied with where we end up. There are times we might be taken in by the hoovering of our parents, but for the most part we are cast out at pretty young ages. Try 15 as opposed to 30 or 40 for you goldens. 

Sometimes there are narcissists along the way who try to trip us up, or stalk us, or slander us, and other tactics. That can set us back. But we also have been able to get back up from being knocked over since childhood when our parent was doing it.

The reason our abusive parent always goes for tactics such as hooverings and punishments is because narcissists hate our successes. Yes, I believe that. 

How dare we be successful when they have tried so hard to beat that out of us, when they have worked so hard to smash our self esteem and make us lower our heads in shame our whole lives! They can't stand that their mediocre dreams are only about narcissistic supply: spreading lies, gossip, covering their tracks, panicing over "not covering their tracks ENOUGH", fear of exposure, trying to convince others that they are model citizens who love their children when they don't, trying to keep all of these false identities and false motives together and trying to remember which false identity went with which person, and which lie and wild tale they told to whom, trying to think of top-of-their-heads excuses as to why they are estranged from their children, and continue to be, trying to think of shamings of their children that will stick like glue and permanently damage them -- what a life! 

And to compensate for a life of boredom that selfishness, insulting of others, discarding important people and unfulfillment inevitably produce, they create drama. How? Rejecting or picking on another empath from their lives, or two or three or four. "Yes, let's do that so that we have no empaths when we are sick and old!" Now isn't that the dumbest thing ever? 

So instead they find themselves surrounded by other narcissists or sociopaths when they aren't feeling well. Who envies that?

So glad we are not them and that we pursue dreams that are actually meaningful and worthwhile, while they muck around in the putrid swamp of "trying" to manipulate people all of the time. Good luck with that agenda, eh?