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« Books Written For and About Men | Main | 10 Questions to Ask Your Next Therapist (or Your Current Therapist) »

August 04, 2009


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Another excellent post in the scapegoat series. I recognized myself quite a lot, both in the unconscious repetition of thinking, behavior, and experience, and in the application of insight and awareness as a means of changing the patterns. Thanks for continuing to explore and share this material with us.


I too recognize myself in this. Growing up the scapegoat I've spent most of my life learning to stop replicating this role and these lessons are only a few I had to learn. And despite having studied psychology most of my life and being a licensed therapist, I too had an impossible time finding information about this particular role. I'm happy you found the information helpful. Thank you for your kind remarks.

WOW ~ thank you for this posting! I can't wait to read more of your articles about the scapegoat role. I am dealing with an abusive family member (a sibling who I see 1-3 times per year) who has targeted me ~ and the only information I can find is about their behavior (addict) and how I might be enabling them. The enabling part feels under control; at least the definition of enabling an addict that is generally accepted. But there is more to this debilitating dance my sibling and I are participating in, and your article is extremely helpful in revealing the behaviors I am exhibiting that perpetuate it. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful insight!

You're very welcome. I am finding a lot of people want to know more about the scapegoat role, so I plan to write more about it. Since I was the scapegoat it is a subject dear to my heart. It pleases me to no end to know that anything I write helps someone else get out of this very difficult role. Thank you for your feedback.

Your post is extremely helpful for getting behind the though processes of scapegoat. You just described my boyfriend to a T. An my best friend... I myself am the hero of my dysfunctional family. Clearly. I am now trying to figure out why I am so drawn to the scapegoat?? I feel that a large part of it is how refreshing their honesty is and how big their hearts are. I, being a hero am far from a truth teller, but a peace maker at all costs. My boyfriends conflict making rubbed me the wrong way alot but now I see why he does it. Still don't know if I can deal with the negativity he holds onto and the sarcasm that his truth telling turns into... Been looking for what roles attract one another? Do you have any info on that? Like a how a Hero and Scapegoat would seek one another out? All I can think is that we are basically opposites? Thanks for all the great info.


We are drawn to what is familiar. You probably grew up with a sibling as a scapegoat so that is a familiar pattern. Opposites attract and a scapegoat nicely compliments a hero. I love what you say about admiring his honesty and his big heart. Its beautiful that you see that in him for that is what a scapegoat is all about. Im also amazed by your insight into his sarcasm and negativity.

The secret? You each hold what the other needs to learn. Thats the attraction. He needs to learn to build bridges and wear a facade sometimes. He needs to learn to pick his battles and to keep the peace. You need to learn to screw up and be OK with it.You need to learn that there is a time to get real and be honest, a time to grab your sword and shield and fight injustice. The world will not come to an end if you fight back or speak up. Nor will the world come to an end if your boyfriend doesnt speak every truth or fight every injustice.

What if you played a game of switching roles for an hour, or a day? That might be fun and insightful.

Kellen, you made very good points. I've seen my role in some situations, but there are other time I can't imagine what I do to generate this pattern. For instance, I can barely walk into a classroom and the teacher picks me as her scapegoat. (I've gotten expert at telling them to knock it off.)

A sadder pattern arises in friendships. Things start pleasantly but eventually blow up as my friends turn into critics and unsolicited condescending "instructors." When I call friends on it --as respectfully as possible--my friendships fall apart--maybe because they don't me to set boundaries.

Any thoughts on this family curse I can't shake?

I just had a rough day at work, and was trying to figure out what is going on. I was already partway there; my New Year's resolution was to be more positive at work, and stop "venting" about things that bug me to co-workers. It is too easy to slide from "venting" to gossiping, and I was really beginning to dislike the way I was behaving. Moreover, when something really DID bother me, and I "vented" instead of dealing with the person involved, the issue never got resolved,and I never felt any better. So, today, I tried to be direct, and asked some questions about something that was bothering me, of the co-worker involved. It was pretty much a disaster; she became defensive, and said "I don't understand why you're so upset about this," "It was ONLY..." and similar non-information things. In searching the internet to try to find more information about defensiveness, I found this site. Good grief! ALL of this applies to me. When I was a Senior in High School, I defended a Freshman against bullying. I haven't been in High School for over 20 years, and my co-workers are adults, not helpless kids, yet I'm still doing this! My constant railing against injustice, and persistent "naming the elephant," probably contributed a lot to the defensiveness!

P.S. I hate personal growth. It always feels lousy until it's over. Plus it's difficult.

I've identified my role as the scapegoat and I wish my family death. I cannot stand the way they used and fed off me to deflect from their own personal issues. It kills me that my mother watched while her husband beat me and convinced me I was NOTHING. It floors me that my dad tried to kill me, but only twice, so who am I to bitch and whine about justice? I literally attend their funerals in my mind and feel nothing for them.

For decades I tried to get help for childhood abuse issues and was told to go to aa, like that's a healthy hangout for the mentally distressed. I was told by my now therapist that talking about childhood memories only serves to retraumatize so it's not done that way. Retraumatize? Are you kidding me? All my life I've suffered the indignity of instrusive, unwanted memories and the fricking therapists of the world can't be bothered to spend an hour a week helping to reframe them? Are they mad? This is self-help BS gone amok. I cannot stand the self-helpers of the world, like spouting the party line of "take responsibilty" is the responsible thing to do. What nerve, what ignorance. Anyone who survives trauma will most likely suffer - to one degree or another - from POST TRAUMATIC STRESS. And in my case it is now a disorder. Treat the whole gd world for PTSD and WE JUST MIGHT get somewhere. Until then keep your, "take responsibilty" BS mantra far away from me.

PS - I do not have plans to kill my phony family, lest my rant incites a do-gooder to action.

So I don't know why I obsess over this, but when I was in high school I was the scapegoat at a school that had a lot of cliques and bullying. I did something that annoyed a lot of people and instead of being able to fix it, I was bullied. This makes sense because that was the culture at that school. I didn't want to be the scapegoat, and I don't have a lot of black and white thinking in my life. I never meant to do the thing that I got blamed for. Basically, I was backed into a corner by a teacher who lied to me--but most of the people there didn't give me a second chance. Because of being bullied or excluded and taunted about unrelated things I would argue with the people that bothered me, and this didn't help me make lots of friends or at least get along with certain people. I think I got over this, and I really learned to not tell the truth all the time, and go after causes that are important (but not all of them). However, last year was a tough year, and I went back to my reunion to just see how everyone was,and to try to move on from the past. There were people there that still were bitter towards me, and I reacted in a very counter productive way...again. I kind of think I became the scapegoat again to fill that role at the reunion even though I am not like that any more. This is funny because all I ever wanted was to get a long with everyone. At the reunion I managed to draw attention to myself, and this lead to someone yelling at me in front of a large group... she was a bitch but still. I was able to figure out that she had spread rumors about me from that experience, but I didn't really want that abuse again. I don't know why I repeated the same pattern again when I was around the same group of people. I really am not the same person anymore, I am confident successful, loving, and aware of the audience I am speaking to(most of the time). It bothers me not just because after 11 years I wasn't able to change my standing in this group, but I also found that a long time has passed and haven't moved on from what happened. Part of it is because I wasn't completely at fault for everything that happened, and I was never given the opportunity to fix the gray area that I was at fault for. Another reason this was hard was because I had dreams about what I wanted the high school experience to be like, and they didn't come true, especially when it came to my social life. This also is on my mind because as an educator I am learning about bullying and group dynamics. How do you move on from something, when you were never allowed to make amends or take responsibility for the part of the mistake that was your fault? Especially when you never meant to harm anyone? Also it is the age old question, I can't make the people that hated me forgive me I can only change myself. Which, I did do but it is strange that when I was around the people that disliked me again, I just repeated the same role again, said I didn't have a boyfriend because it felt easier to agree with someone that wanted me to be alone, or agree that my life isn't where I thought it would be when in fact I had no idea where my life would be in 10 years just because it was easier to agree and fall back into the defeated role. That didn't help me at all on the day, and I wonder if anyone else has found this happen when they see people from their past.

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