Please listen to my audio journal about scapegoating here-
The origin of the word scapegoat:
The concept of scapegoating dates back to ancient times when a sacrificial goat would bear the burden of the community’s sins and be banished. In dysfunctional family systems, scapegoating serves a similar purpose. The scapegoat becomes the target of blame for the family’s problems, shielding other members from confronting their issues and responsibilities. This role is often assigned arbitrarily and is not based on the scapegoat’s actions or character.
“And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering….Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.” (Leviticus 16:5,7-10)*
Who is the Scapegoat in Dysfunctional Families?
Growing up in a toxic, narcissistic family as the scapegoat, can leave deep emotional wounds that persist into adulthood. I have firsthand experience with this process, please listen to my audio journal above. I was and am hated by my some of my family of origin and told repeatedly that I should not have been born. About a month ago, I got an email, unprovoked from a distant cousin, riddled with obscenities, reflective of the toxic family’s vitriol and targeting.
Being the scapegoat often involves being unfairly blamed, criticized, and marginalized, leading to deep, lifelong trauma, self doubt and low self-esteem. Unhealed, we can have the strong tendency to recreate this again and again in our adult families or community. I sought out unhealthy communities and dynamics and recreated these patterns for years. However, healing is possible with awareness and insight. Let’s explore the origin of scapegoating and dysfunctional family systems, followed by ten essential steps to begin the journey of healing from this traumatic experience. Additionally, we provide below, a powerful guided healing meditation to find inner calm as we progress with our recovery process.
Dysfunctional family systems are characterized by unhealthy patterns of communication, emotional neglect or violence, lack of boundaries and abuse. Narcissistic parents and entire family systems, may exploit and manipulate family dynamics to maintain control and power over a targeted child, as that child becomes the human garbage receptacle of the family shadow. The scapegoat often emerges as a convenient target for the narcissist’s projection of their own inadequacies and insecurities. The harm can be generational trauma, unwholesome patterns and indeed, secrets.
Ten Steps from Survivor to Thriver:
1. Acknowledge the trauma: The first step to healing is recognizing and acknowledging the deep, emotional wounds inflicted by being the family scapegoat. Understand that you are not to blame for the dysfunction, and it is okay to seek support and healing.
2. Set boundaries: Establishing healthy boundaries is crucial in breaking free from the patterns of scapegoating. I heard somewhere that you can not simultaneously heal from trauma and be continually exposed to it. Learn to protect yourself emotionally and limit or even cut interactions with toxic family members if necessary.
3. Seek therapy or counseling: Working with a qualified therapist or wellness coach experienced in trauma and dysfunctional family dynamics can provide a safe space to explore and process your feelings, gain insights, develop coping strategies, and eventually, resiliency.
4. Practice self-compassion: Be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion. Understand that the negative perceptions ingrained by the scapegoat role do not define your worth or identity. Forgive yourself if you have recreated this role again and again, and make an aspiration to evolved out of any victim mentality.
5. Challenge negative beliefs: Challenge the negative beliefs instilled during the scapegoating childhood. Replace them with positive affirmations that reinforce your strengths and worthiness. E.g. “I am a good person, and loveable and I forgive myself for my mistakes.”
6. Cultivate a support network: Surround yourself with supportive and understanding friends or a chosen trusted family member, who did not participate in the scapegoating, who can offer empathy and encouragement throughout the healing process.
7. Identify healthy coping mechanisms: Engage in activities that promote emotional healing, such as journaling, creative expression, mindfulness, and physical exercise. Humour also dis-empowers toxic people, and families!
8. Practice forgiveness (if and when ready): Forgiveness is a personal choice and should only be considered when you feel ready. It does not mean condoning or excusing the abusive behavior but freeing yourself from carrying the burden of resentment. Knowledge about how and why these patterns emerge generationally helps to heal, and, indeed knowledge is power.
9. Focus on personal growth: Invest time in personal development and pursue interests and passions that bring you joy and a sense of fulfillment. Create a vision board- make an aspiration list for today, this week, this month and even year.
10. Embrace your authentic Self: Reclaim your identity from the scapegoat role and embrace your authentic, heartfelt, strong and healed self. Celebrate your uniqueness and make choices that align with your values and aspirations. Every day is new, and we can recreate our lives and shed old patterns. One of my teachers once said “joy is our birthright.” May it be so!
Guided Healing Meditation:
[Trigger Warning: Please note that this guided meditation and discussion about scapegoating may bring up strong emotions. If you find it overwhelming, take a break and return to it when you are ready.]
1. Find a comfortable and quiet space where you can sit or lie down. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, releasing any tension with each breath.
2. Visualize a golden light surrounding your body, emanating warmth and protection. Imagine this light expanding with every breath, forming a cocoon of healing energy around you.
3. Focus on your heart center. Visualize a small, wounded child version of yourself standing in front of you. This is the inner child, carrying the scars of the scapegoating experience.
4. Approach the inner child with love and compassion. Embrace them gently, letting them know that they are safe now and no longer alone in their pain.
5. Listen to the inner child’s feelings and thoughts. Validate their experiences and assure them that they are not responsible for the family’s dysfunction.
6. Imagine a beam of healing light emanating from your heart and enveloping the inner child. As the light touches them, see their wounds begin to heal, and their pain transform into strength.
7. Reassure the inner child that they are worthy of love, acceptance, and happiness. Encourage them to let go of the burden of scapegoating and step into their true, authentic self.
8. With each breath, feel the connection between your present self and the healed inner child strengthening. Know that you carry this newfound strength and resilience within you.
9. When you are ready, slowly bring your awareness back to the present moment. Feel the support of the healing light and the presence of your inner child within you.
Healing from the trauma of being the adult scapegoat in a toxic, narcissistic family requires courage, patience, and self-compassion. Remember that recovery is a gradual process, and seeking support from professionals and understanding friends can provide immense comfort and guidance. By following the ten steps and engaging in healing practices like the guided meditation, we can begin to transform our experience, embrace our authenticity, and pave the way for a more fulfilling and empowered life.
All my love,
Origin of the Communal Scapegoat From The Torah: The traditional reading for Yom Kippor morning focuses on the offerings that Aaron is to bring before God as atonement And from the Israelite community he shall take two he-goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.
16:6. Aaron is to offer his own bull of sin offering, to make expiation for himself and for his household.
16:7. Aaron shall take the two he-goats and let them stand before the LORD at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting;
16:8. and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the LORD and the other marked for Azazel.
16:9. Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the LORD, which he is to offer as a sin offering;
16:10. while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before the LORD, to make expiation with it and to send it off to the wilderness for Azazel.
16:11. Aaron shall then offer his bull of sin offering, to make expiation for himself and his household. He shall slaughter his bull of sin offering,
16:12. and he shall take a panful of glowing coals scooped from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of finely ground aromatic incense, and bring this behind the curtain.
16:13. He shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, so that the cloud from the incense screens the cover that is over [the Ark of] the Pact, lest he die.
16:14. He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger over the cover on the east side; and in front of the cover he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.
16:15. He shall then slaughter the people’s goat of sin offering, bring its blood behind the curtain, and do with its blood as he has done with the blood of the bull: he shall sprinkle it over the cover and in front of the cover.
16:16. Thus he shall purge the Shrine of the uncleanness and transgression of the Israelites, whatever their sins; and he shall do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which abides with them in the midst of their uncleanness.
16:17. When he goes in to make expiation in the Shrine, nobody else shall be in the Tent of Meeting until he comes out.
When he has made expiation for himself and his household, and for the whole congregation of Israel,
16:18. he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and purge it: he shall take some of
the blood of the bull and of the goat and apply it to each of the horns of the altar;
16:19. and the rest of the blood he shall sprinkle on it with his finger seven times. Thus he shall cleanse it of the uncleanness of the Israelites and consecrate it.
16:20. When he has finished purging the Shrine, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, the live goat shall be brought forward.
16:21. Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat; and it shall be sent off to the wilderness through a designated man.
16:22. Thus the goat shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.
Image from Pexels and