In biblical tradition, Aaron chose a goat on behalf of the whole tribe, cast upon it the sins of all members, and then banished it alone into the wild. The members of the tribe were then very much at ease, having been freed from their rejected sins, whatever those sins may have been.
Everyone felt better, even though they had neither identified their specific sins nor atoned for them. They had simply agreed to hang them from the goat. While this false logic was obvious to anyone, it was not discussed. Why question an agreed way to make everyone feel better?
Now about this goat. He was chosen from the flock and sent to the wilderness for reasons related to the sins of others. The goat had done nothing to merit banishment. But once the ashes were cold over the rituals of her expedition, the goat found herself alone in the desert, isolated from her herd, in unknown territory, suddenly forced to fend for herself. He faced the dangers of predators; difficulty finding food, feed and shelter; and he experienced the constantly lamentable insecurity of a herd without a herd.
This is the story of scapegoat.
In dysfunctional families, for reasons similar to those Aaron conceived, there may also be a nominee chosen for the role of scapegoat. In a family system, the selection process is less open than that of Aaron. It is more of a consensual and habitual rejection that becomes an unspoken code of conduct: one person is chosen to bear the brunt of any psychological discomfort experienced by the whole family. It is justified by the repetition of stories that create and then reinforce the image of the scapegoat as a person worthy of disdain and disparagement.
Like the strong goat Aaron selected, the target of the family scapegoat is also often the strongest and healthiest member of the family. At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive. But think about it a little more. In Aaron’s case, there would be no group fun in banishing a weak animal that could easily die anyway, because it wouldn’t satisfy the tribe’s need to send their sins on a sturdy vehicle, a strong goat who was up to the task of carrying the burden. This is the case in families: the individual targeted is often the most accomplished. She – and for the sake of narrative cohesion, our scapegoat is a woman here – must be strong enough to support the weight of reluctant voices that could easily and quickly knock down a weaker person. The scapegoat would fail if the weight of sins killed the goat even before it was kicked out of town. Catharsis is the goal. The goat must be strong enough to suffer so that the members of the tribe do not.
Just as the goat was blameless despite his lonely death, the human scapegoat is innocent of all charges. She might not be a perfect human being, but she’s no different from anyone in her lineup of flaws. It was not his character or his actions that directly caused his banishment. This is how his character and actions, and often his accomplishments, were experienced by dysfunctional family members, who for their own unexamined reasons must kick that person out of the family realm in order to avoid staring. in their own consciousness. They must punish the scapegoat for causing by its very existence the discomfort that family members feel which is in fact the result of their own unresolved issues.
If you are a scapegoat in your family, please seek professional help. You are unlikely to be able to intervene in a dysfunctional system that is treating one of its own members in this way. You may continue to experience futile attempts to explain yourself. You may not understand the way you are being treated. You may begin to doubt your own side of your life story. The price is too high.
Can a human scapegoat die like the goat of old? May be. If not physically, certainly emotionally. It’s hard for the scapegoat to believe that her family would treat her in this unacceptable way if she wasn’t guilty of a grievous sin. She digs her head and her heart to understand, but she cannot. Her reasons for being abused seem superficial, petty, and incomplete. It is difficult for him to believe that these small transgressions can justify such a severe condemnation.
She begins to doubt her own version of reality, as the consensus in her own family supports a different narrative than hers of who she is and what she does or has done. She learns that if she tries to solve this problem, she will be accused of “playing the role of victim” or of being. self-centered, or be a “drama queen”. She is able to keep in mind that this assessment and treatment is not right, until one day, completely discouraged, she gives up. All the weight of banishment weighs on her. She is alone. She no longer tries to understand or explain anything. She has started to come to terms with a fate that doesn’t make sense to her.
Good sanity at this point suggests that she make peace by leaving behind the family that abandons her so completely. And if she’s strong and well supported by friends, she might be able to do it. However, she will pay the price of her life for sins that she did not commit, as it is difficult and painful to extricate herself from her family. It goes against the most basic human needs of home, shelter, membership. It is a cruel and inexcusable enterprise for a family to make a scapegoat.
If you examine the research regarding the plight of individuals who have been relentlessly bullied, you can draw conclusions about what happens to family members scapegoating because the scapegoat is bullying with focused and long-term intensity. Some children who are bullied become bullies themselves. Some are developing social skills to deflect and challenge bullying, although the scars of being bullied can linger in their lives in many ways for many years to come. Others, however, do not survive, driven to suicide.
If you are a scapegoat in your family, please seek professional help. You are unlikely to be able to intervene in a dysfunctional system that is treating one of its own members in this way. You may continue to experience futile attempts to explain yourself. You may not understand the way you are being treated. You may begin to doubt your own side of your life story. The price is too high. Please find an advisor which can help you unravel the fictions that subvert the truth about your life and who you are. Good psychological support can help you break free from the constraining bonds of pain, guilt, and shame that you did not create and that are not justified.
You were not born to endure the sins of others, any more than Aaron’s goat was born for such a fate.
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