SCAPEGOAT Family Role (Part 1)

they won’t have to!

PREVIOUS: The Placater #2

SITE:  The Scapegoat Who Changed Her Family Role


NOTE: This is not the same as the being scapegoated – where parents pick out one child to blame for all the family’s trouble which they themselves are causing.
HERE, the Scapegoat role seems ‘voluntary’, in the sense that this position is being held as a self-sacrifice.

Provide a change of focus by allowing everyone to think they are the source of the family’s problems

For Self: take on the ‘bad-guy’ role to protect the addict or other main trouble-maker from having to face his/her pain, their sacrifice given as a love-offering
IMP: An in-your-face refusal to comply with a parent’s direct or unspoken demand for perfection-ism 

For Family: serve as the “pressure valve” in the family when tension builds. They misbehave to draw attention away from the ‘problem’
parent so the family’s ‘issue’ is anything other than the addiction
• also to protect the family from any outside interference (cops, social workers, shrinks, social services….)

• try to show family what’s defiant_girl-1really going on, hoping they’ll learn from it & change BY acting out the tension & anger in the air that everyone ignores, & doing things the ‘wrong way’

BIRTH ORDER: Usually the second child, sometimes the first boy if an older sister is the Hero
Academically borderline or failing, they drop out, get suspended or kicked out, may not graduate

Family makes them the ‘black sheep’ & then feels ashamed of them. Because they’re the blunt ‘truth-tellers’, one or both parents may dole out harsher & harsher punishments, trying to ‘break’ them for not going along with the program.

They’re compared negatively to older, well-behaved / compliant siblings, sometimes considered ‘mentally ill’, & may be taken to therapy to get ‘fixed’.
Targeted to be Scapegoats, either because they’re:
a type: hyperactive or sick, so are easily bullied, and/OR
b type: the angry, rebellious, problem child who has the guts to say or do what no one else will, & so is easily ‘set off’ / reactive

Personal: IRONY – they are the most sensitive, caring & emotionally honest family member. Scapegoats are actually the strongest ones, since they carry the “sins” for the entire family.
Their sensitivity causes them intense pain when mistreated, making them self-hating & self-destructive. They are the romantic who becomes very cynical & distrustful from being the “target” of the family’s dysfunction. Will leave home as soon as they can

Family : Rebellious (constant trouble with authority, won’t follow directions), They make a lot of noise, diverting attention from the addict & his/her need for Recovery on to themselves. They won’t go along with the Hero who pretends everything’s alright. For a while will try to compete with the Hero for status, but lose & then stop trying to please
Because they have thick walls built around them from fear & outrage, their relationships will often be superficial & inauthentic – except when they can bond with another equally angry, bitter peers.

Often act out in front of others, putting on a tough act. In reaction to the family chaos & abuse, they become the troublemaker – argumentative, attention seekers, blaming others, disruptive, intrusive,  negative leader
AND/OR secretive, sneaky, verbally dishonest, unwilling to take personal responsibility

Defiance, withdrawal, hostility, sullenness, acting out, ‘don’t care’ facade. Strong connection to their peer group (same type) or totally isolated

Inappropriate expression & use of anger, intrusive, won’t follow directions, self-destructive, defiant, irresponsible, underachiever, social & legal problems at young age (truancy, teenage pregnancy, high school dropout, addiction, suicide attempts), can lead others into trouble.

NEXT: Lost Child Role

HERO Family Role

hero mom
& of course I can!

PREVIOUS: Childhood Roles

“IF ONLY MY FAMILY UNDERSTOOD ME” by Don Wegscheider, 1979

❧ HERO’s
To provide the damaged family with some self-respect & a semblance of stability, shifting the focus from parental failures to the child’s successes

For Self: to make order out of the chaos, feel useful, make the home bearable, keep anyone from killing themselves or going crazy. Believe if they’re helpful enough, the ‘sick’ parent will be cured

For Family
:  make the family look good & seem ‘normal’ to the outside world, by acting as if the rigid roles don’t exist, & prevent anyone seeing the severe dysfunctionality. Genuine desire to provide a measure of group esteem through their accomplishments

BIRTH ORDER: Usually the oldest child, or the oldest male or oldest female
IN SCHOOL : Get superior grades, teacher’s pet, sports star/ Valedictorian or Prom Queen. Classmates admire, envy or use them as help. Are involved in several extra-curricular activities

Highly regarded, expected to ‘do the right thing”, but may not be praised directly. Held up as a shining example to prove what good parents & good people they are, the one who other relatives dote on

Personal:  Main FOCUS is perfectionism.
Inflexible, extreme need for control of everything, great fear of making mistakes, intellectualize & disregard own emotions

In the Family: Ignore the real issues.
Often forced to take on parental position & responsibilities at a young age, AND be self-sufficient, feel ‘old’ & burdened (“10 going on 40”). Keep household running. Compensate for sick, drunk, depressed, crazy or missing parent’s inability to cope

Can be highly successful, self-sufficient & seem well-adjusted. Seen by non-family adults as trustworthy, conscientious, mature & capable. Have good relationships with authority figures, volunteer often, over-involved in activities. Into everyone else’s business, a know-it-all, may have lots of friends, pets & ‘needy projects’controlling hero

DEFENSES – Main one: Denial
Overly serious, mature & responsible, high achiever.  Very dependent on outside approval & work hard to get it. Also, feel special/ superior, don’t need anyone, compulsive @ cleaning, gathering info, appearance, career….

Confusion, loneliness, guilt, hurt, anger. Extreme shame, shown by compulsivity ‘helpfulness’
• Deny a wide range of emotions, intense sense of inadequacy – fear of being found out as a ‘fraud’, & an over-all sense of failure – mainly for not fixing family’s problems
Trouble with
: being a follower, taking suggestions or advice, asking for help, relaxing, having fun, being spontaneous.  Not allowed to be weak, needy, scared, vulnerable, helpless

• are extremely judgmental of others (but may have learned to be subtle about it), and super-critical of themselves
• are driven to develop ‘better’ lifestyle than family, make lots of money, master a profession, totally invested in getting & keeping success at all cost, have lots of positive hero responsibilityattention but don’t believe or value it
• marry an alcoholic or other ‘problem’ type they can continue to focus on & fix, in lieu of parent
• are cut off from inner emotional life & True Self
• secretly know something’s ‘rotten in Denmark’, but have the hardest time admitting anything needs healing
• will only get help to give up Hero role when emotionally overwhelmed & physically ill from years of stress, have severe substance abuse themselves or a tragedy breaks thru the denial

TO: Be ok with making mistakes, & develop courage to be imperfect, decrease need to be responsible for everyone, learn to concentrate on self instead of accomplishments (Being vs Doing)
BY: Stressing the value & enjoyment of cooperation & sharing, learning to value Self. Help them accept mistakes gracefully, since it’s never about their identity

FROM: “I must stay in control of my feelings”.
“ If I don’t do it, no one will.”
“If I don’t do this, something bad will happen, or things will get worse.”
TO: “I am of value just ‘being’, not only for ‘doing’
“If I don’t do it, someone else will & that’s OK”
“If I don’t do it a certain way,  it’ll be done differently & that’s OK”

• learn to ask for & take what’s needed, accept imperfections & occasional ‘failurs’ to relax, just BE
• let go of perfectionism, need to control & rescuing
• develop ability to listen, follow, be flexible, relax & have fun

• attentive, caring, good listener to others’ troubles, nurturing, thoughtful
• appropriately responsible, decisive, focused, goal oriented, organized, self-disciplined
• Have leadership qualities, can be successful, initiator, loyal, good at motivating themselves & others, study & work hard to achieve

NEXT: Placater Role