Another possible way that Scapegoats make themselves targets is by expressing forbidden emotions within a relationship system.
If you haven't read previous articles about the Scapegoat Role allow me to provide a quick recap.
You can read the entire series at Scapegoat Role.
(I always advocate strongly for individuals to think for themselves and make their own assessments of who they are and what they need. If this topic makes sense to you, take it and use it for all it is worth. If you feel this doesn't apply to you, it doesn't. Trust that and move on.)
The Scapegoat Role does not exist in every family. It often exists in dysfunctional families, but not always. The family's level of dysfunction does not determine whether the Scapegoat role exists. It can be found in both severely dysfunctional families and only mildly dysfunctional families. A person raised in the Scapegoat Role in their family of origin tends to replicate this role in their adult relationships; i.e. marriages, friends, colleagues.
Every relationship system has rules. They aren't posted on the water cooler or the refrigerator, but they exist. These rules govern how people are expected to behave within the system. Different systems have different rules for what is and is not tolerated and expected. Sometimes these rules are mostly suggestions and the system is fairly flexible and tolerable of personal differences. Sometimes these rules are taken very seriously and breaking them will bring dire consequences.
Making Yourself a Target by Expressing Forbidden Emotions
Most relationship systems have rules about which emotions can be expressed within the system, but each system is unique. A particular family system may not allow members to express fear or sadness, but will allow anger. A particular office system may not allow emotions which communicate hysteria or emotional instability, but may allow, or even encourage, anger and aggression.
I had one client who worked in sales for a company which encouraged employees to be very aggressive in getting manufacturers and distributors to lower their prices. Getting on top of the desk, jumping up and down, yelling and screaming were not considered inappropriate in this system.
Relationship systems may adopt norms established by the culture. A system of male friends may endorse socially allowed male behavior such as aggression, but may disallow emotions typically denied to males such as fear or crying. Likewise, a group of female friends may allow crying and hysteria, but may not allow direct expressions of anger.
Enter the Scapegoat
The perfect way to become a Scapegoat is to express emotions which are taboo within a system. If your family considers fear and crying a sign of weakness, displaying fear and crying will get you labeled a "crybaby" or a "wimp" and the scapegoating begins. If your family does not allow displays of anger, and you express anger, you may be labeled as having an "anger problem" and it may be suggested that the family has to "tiptoe around you" or that you are volatile or unstable.
(Unfortunately, many people confuse anger and aggression. They are not interchangeable. You can be quite angry without becoming the least bit aggressive, violent or threatening.)
If this is one way in which you are scapegoated it's important to realize the dynamic. Crying, fear and anger are normal human emotions. If you come from a family which scapegoats you for experiencing these emotions consider the possibility that it may be their rules which are "abnormal", not you.
Be aware of labels that are attached to the emotion. If something has to have a negative label, name calling or insults attached to it, there's a good chance that behavior is being used to scapegoat you.
Also check your own behavior. If you have been cast in the role as "the angry one" you may find that you substitute anger for all emotions, especially other emotions which may have been considered "weak". You may express anger when you are hurt, embarrassed, scared or sad. For instance, a male who comes from a family which does not allow anger to be expressed, but who is also culturally blocked from expressing "weak" (i.e. feminine) emotions like sadness or fear may express anger for all of those. He is then labeled as having an "anger problem" by his family and possibly by society.
(I wish we would stop labeling violence and aggression as an "anger problem". It's not an "anger" problem. It is a violence or aggression problem. Anger is never a problem. It is an emotion. How you choose to express that emotion is the problem.)
Check for Scapegoat Spread
You too may find that your "reputation" as a problem has spread beyond the confines of your original family. It may be passed to in-laws, your spouse, your friends, your colleagues if there are interactions between your family of origin and these people. If your family does not allow fear and a child is showing fear and is accused of acting just like you, meet the next generation's scapegoat.
Stop the Spread
You cannot control other people's behavior, only your own. I've written (and will be continuing to write) many articles about stopping the perpetuation of the Scapegoat Role in your own life. You can read them in the Scapegoat section of this blog. The main goal is to stop the behavior which casts you in the Scapegoat role in other areas of your life. Once this is done you can try to address the problem with your family of origin. They may or may not be willing to retire the role. It's important to remember that the Scapegoat role serves an important function. It allows the other members of the family to get off scot free, and they may not want to give that up. They may also fear being made the Scapegoat themselves. If your family refuses to let you out of this role, you might have to limit contact with them.
If you see the Scapegoat role being passed on to the next generation you may or may not be able to stop it. Be very aware of the Scapegoat's tendency to take on other people's battles and check your motivations for wanting to take this on, especially if it involves other people's children. If your own child is being set up as the Scapegoat, forbid your family from doing the things that result in the perpetuation of this role. Name calling, negative labeling, insulting or identifying your child as "the problem child" when they engage in normal behavior is a sign this might be occurring. (It's important to recognize whether the family is scapegoating your child or whether there really is a problem. Some parents deny their child has a problem such as violent or delinquent behavior.) If your child is being targeted in the same manner you were, and these behaviors are considered normal elsewhere, that is a pretty good indication that scapegoating is occurring. If your family refuses to stop their behavior you might have to make some difficult decisions about allowing them contact with your child.
If it someone else's child being scapegoated, all you can do is introduce the idea to the parent and see if they are open to it. If they aren't, you may have to walk away. Remember, you can't change other people. If you find yourself getting quite self righteous about it, you might want to check yourself. You may be falling back into old Scapegoat patterns.