« Trauma and Numbing | Main | Escaping the Scapegoat Role: Expressing Forbidden Emotions »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

*nod* I am an adult and am still very much the scapegoat - in fact, now more than ever. Was never a problem child, though I've made many life decisions the rest of the family clearly disapprove of.

Big perfectionist, to the point of OCD now, and am very, very hard on myself. Always have been. Excelled in school, gave 150% to every endeavor. Family was hard on me, too, but in a much different, less tangible, way.

And nobody who knows my family would believe me - they are model citizens, and I must be crazy or lying.

Thank you for addressing the topic. It's particularly painful around the holidays.

Wow, thank you for bringing up a very important point amourin. Family dynamics are so much more powerful (and potent) during the holidays. I wish you all the best.

I have just discovered this page and am reading up on all your scapegoating articles. Your last paragraph here really speaks to me. I am 30 and have only discovered "scapegoating" within the last year. I come from a very dysfunctional family and was always the scapegoat. Some of your other articles label the scapegoat as someone who did bad things (such as sexual promiscuity) and received their scapegoating role as part of that behavior. That has never described me. As a child I was always a good kid. Made good grades, always super responsible (started working at 12 yrs old), never experimented with drugs, smoking, or alcohol (still haven't), have never been sexually promiscuous (only been with the 3 men I was in a 'relationship' with - I use that term loosely now as I have come to realize the dysfunction of said relationships). Despite being a good kid, I was labeled "the bad kid" in my family and anything that didn't fit into that designation was quickly swept under the rug and unmentioned. My parents would often make up things to punish me for, when all their efforts to find legitimate reasons to punish me failed. And I was punished to very extreme extents, having everything removed from my room, down to the musical posters on my walls, taking away any form of transportation from me, physical and verbal abuse was quite normal. But what always stood out most for me was that my younger/only sister never endured any of this. She was never abused, was allowed privacy in her room, my parents spent lavish amounts of money on her for things that I was always denied, and the things she could get away with were always far worse than I could ever imagine doing and knew that if I had done I'd be punished severely for. Yet she was never once punished, in her entire childhood, in any way whatsoever, not even simply grounded. Nothing. I remember always wondering, as a child, why I wasn't good enough, why I wasn't lovable, and why my parents didn't like me but cared for her. That feeling was far worse than the physical abuse I endured.

I have been working on abuse recovery for over 2 yrs now. I have had to limit contact with my family quite a bit but they still try to suck me back into this role every chance they get. I have been such a perfectionist in life due to never being good enough and always trying to gain their acceptance. I have always pushed myself to extremes. And in the end I became more successful than anyone in my family. I now have a great federal govt career, after putting myself through college (something I was told I'd never achieve), drive a late model Cadillac, own a historic house, etc. Yet it is still not good enough for my family. Whatever my latest/biggest achievement is, that's what they will attack, criticize, downplay, etc. It is my entire family, immediate and extended that take part in this. I am trying to drastically change my life by limited contact with them and the types of people that I used to allow into my life as friends and boyfriends and make the changes within me to start attracting the opposite kind of people into my life. It is a very long, hard, and drawn out process. But I thank you for these articles to help me with this journey.


Your story is very touching. You and I are two different people, yet you've depicted the story of my life. I had to endure the abuse from my entire family, due to their jealousy, envy etc. It took awhile, but I went no contact with them. That was the best decision that I've every made. Maybe you can consider that option. Do not be afraid of being alone, the reason you endured is, that God has a plan for your life. When you finally cut the cord from those sucking your energy, you will find that God/the universe will replace them with the type of people you like.
Stay seems as though you are on the right path.


I'm from Malaysia. I'm turning 19 this year and I'm studying in college. I think that there's a possibility that I'm a scapegoat. I was never a bad student. In school, I was almost always the top performer. I continuously ranked first in exams in high school and I was very active in extra curricular activities. However, since I was about 6 years old, I have always been labelled as the bad kid in the family. I use to go to a babysitter as a child. The babysitter and the family used to point fingers to me whenever anything wrong happens, whether something is spoilt or someone gets hurt. My mother does this too. Although I'm very capable in my studies, I'm very lazy in doing house chores. Partially because my parents will still scold me even if I did the house chores. They always told me that my efforts are not enough. Whenever something is not done in the family, all of them will say that I'm the one. I have other family issues too. At the age of 14, I start to realize that I had symptoms of depression. When I was 16, I was sent to a psychiatrist and was treated for major depression. I do not think that I am fully recovered. In fact, I think that I'm still in a big mess, but my parents wanted me to stop seeing the psychiatrist when I was 17 because of financial problem and because they heard of the side effects of the medication. I stopped the medication quite abruptly, I'm still fighting against a whole heap of emotional problems now without any professional help. My results are now far behind from the days of my secondary school. I also always fight with my parents because they are not understanding. My sister thinks that I'm the black sheep of the family. She told me that I hurt my mom a lot and she's not like me. However, she's just neater and more peaceful and quiet than me. I had always performed ahead of her in my exams. Even my relatives think that I'm the black sheep. They knew some things that were going on in my family. Once, I overheard a conversation between 2 of my aunties. One of them said that she doesn't want the child, my cousin to be like me. The other aunty who understood me most of the times asked, 'why?' as I was one of the best students in the whole extended family. Whenever I meet my relatives, I can always sense something awkward, I do not think that they like me.
Could I be a scapegoat? How can I get help when my parents do not want to bring me to professionals? They think that I can handle my problems without seeing the psychiatrist.

Hi Zhen Bi,

We have a saying in America, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck - it's probably a duck!"

If everyone in your family is saying you are the black sheep, it is probably true. I am wondering if you work so hard and make such high grades in an attempt to prove to them all that you are a worthy person?

IF your depression is resulting from this position in your family, medication will not fix it. It will require counseling. If your parents refuse to get counseling for you, you may have to wait until you are an adult to seek help.

I'm wondering what purpose your scapegoating is serving in the family? It is usually to distract people from someone else's behavior. Is this the situation in your case?

Are there other black sheep in your family? What things do you have in common with them?

Do you end up being the black sheep in other situations, like your friendships? at school? If so, what are you doing in those places to replicate the role?

The comments to this entry are closed.