ACoAs being Scapegoated – GOWTH (Part 1)


this toxic victim role!

PREVIOUS: Scapegoating #6


Emotional damage: Scapegoats (SCs) are forced undeservedly to carry the family’s burden of disowned defects. They drown in the pain of those closest to them, & later in the collective pain of the society – with no one to comfort or understand them

In the process SCs are robbed of experiencing their own pain, denied the opportunity to learn how to contain, endure & grieve the suffering they’ve had to ignore & bury. (What is Scapegoat child abuse?)

No matter what our toxic family role was as kids, many of us tried to bring attention to the family’s dirty laundry,
so it would get corrected, but in most cases that never happened. (This is true even if parents or siblings eventually get into 12-step Programs, but still have not done their own FoO work).
We assumed that if we could make the adults own their emotional baggage, our torment would stop & life would be great.
And so we pushed & pushed – but it only got us more abuse.

• ACoAs desperately want justice / fairness! Failing at this childhood goal, some continue trying to ‘fight injustice’ as adults, especially those of us who were scapegoated. We may become ‘expose´journalist, prosecuting attorneys, ‘church ladies’, public service advocates or whistle blowers….

However, most of us live more conventional lives, with little social or political clout. Even so, we compulsively insist that dishonest & hypocritical friends, relative, mates, bosses (& elderly parents)…. admit their flaws. It didn’t work at home, & rarely works in the adult world either. It still brings negative feedback & so another layer of abuse

Ask: “Am I willing to do whatever it takes to give up my Scapegoat role?” That’s not always an easy Yes, but do-able. Remember, if you continue to be :
😠 belligerent,  demanding, controlling
😔compliant, over-agreeable, too silent, submissive or unclear
👎🏽 it’s easier for others to end up avoiding, making fun of, manipulate or attacking you
That’s even true coming from people who are not usually scapegoaters!  It’s a normal human reacpull out toxic roletion toward someone acting out their WIC’s damage.
BUT – as you heal the inside, you’ll get better reactions from others! Who knew??

• Once you acknowledge this toxic role that was forced on you, & truly believe it was not your fault (Al-Anon‘s 3 As), you can observe how you perpetuate the syndrome, & slowly change the pattern

❇We can bear to re-feel our old pain IF & when we’re comforted, understood & treated with respect by one or more safe & caring people. Then apply that treatment to ourselves.

a. BOUNDARIES: • Don’t expect others to respect your boundaries. You have to set the standard that’s right for you. “This ____ works for me, this ____ doesn’t, I want to do this, I don’t want to do that…..”

• Practice saying NO – at first in your head – a lot! Then try it out on small things you don’t like or don’t want to do – with people or situations that don’t feel TOO ‘dangerous’ if it doesn’t work out the way you hoped.

• Don’t over-give. Offer a little, & then see what & how much the other person can reciprocate. If the can only give 10%, you give only 10-15%, etc. It’s up to you to not get taken advantage of

b. PRESENTATION: ✦ Walk into every room with head held straight, look at people directly, don’t slouch, walk ‘confidently’ – as if you believe you have a right to be here – even if you don’t feekind peoplel like it.
✦ Dress appropriately for the situation you’re in
✦ Look around & notice what’s going on, notice who’s NOT safe (using your inner radar) ….

c. RELATIONSHIPS: Whenever possible, stay away from the people who originally set you up, or who still treat you as the black sheep in any situation.
Look for people who are already kind, or at least respectful.
If you aren’t getting any of your needs met or are treated shabbily, you can walk away.
We MUST keep the focus on ourselves – owning & correcting our own character defects, AND appreciate & cherish our talents & skills.

NEXT: Scapegoated GROWTH #2

ACoAs ‘FEELING SORRY For’ (Part 3)

but my first responsibility is to my own!

PREVIOUS: “Feeling Sorry For” #2

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

1b. For OTHERS – Negative

FEELING SORRY for oneself can be healthy or unhealthy.

HARMFUL, coming from others
When we express genuine pain, we often hear cruel reactions 
from ‘authorities’, family or so-called friends (some 12-step members, religious communities, various self-help gurus / books), saying :

“Get off the pity pot , You’re JUST feeling sorry for yourself , Don’t wallow in your pain , Don’t live in the past , That was a long time ago , Are you still going on about that? ….”

These comments come from wounded people in denial about their old wounds (even some in Program) & not working to heal them. Instead, they’re clinging to & protecting their own defense mechanisms & don’t want to be reminded of their damage by our sadness.

we have our own version of “feeling sorry for”, in 2 forms.
a. Negatively (self-pity) endlessly rehashing old traumas, as a way to :
• not care for ourself & stay in damaged-child modeself-pity
blame others, instead of focusing on what we can do now
• stay in the anger – which is ‘safer’ than feeling the pain underneath
• not have to grow up & ‘leave home’ (S & I) — escaping the responsibility of being in charge of our life.

b. PositivelyFirst & foremost, we need to have great compassion for ourself – for what we endured as kids, & also as adults. Feeling sad for & comforting our WIC is NOT selfishness, as we were told. Gaining the trust of our WIC is the main way to heal.

As kids, our suffering was ignored or punished & we were expected to suck it up. Even then, ‘they’ said we were being a baby, too sensitive, over-reacting, making things up, being crazy….

This left us with a tragic inability to be kind & understanding toward ourself!  We’re as unsympathetic as our family was – indeed, just as cruel in the way we talk to & treat ourselves! (Self-Hate)

SO, ‘healthy’ feeling sorry for -ourself- includes:
gain WIC's childrenclearly understand exactly what happened to us in childhood. As long as we don’t / won’t identify & acknowledge it, we’ll keep repeating it
• having others validate our experience, without blame or judgment, because we never got the right kind of mirroring growing up (a crucial aspect of our damage)

• going over & over the traumatic events of childhood in order to get to the emotional pain which they caused – to process it & get it out of our body
• crying, raging & mourning – in safe places, with safe people – so we don’t have to carry it around anymore or take it out on others

This process can take a long time, because there’s such a huge backlog of pain which can’t be accessed quickly or easily, plus our resistance to change.

EXP:  Rob was working on connecting with his Inner Child for several years.  While sharing in an ACoA 12-Step meeting, he suddenly visualized his kid sitting on the floor, hunched over – with knives sticking in him, all over. That’s what all that early verbal abuse had felt like! Rob started to cry.
compassion for WICIn that moment he saw & felt the terrible distress his kid was in but which he hadn’t been allowed to object to or express.
Now his Loving Parent self was able to feel a great rush of sorrow & compassion for his younger self.
After that he couldn’t allow himself to linger in cruel self-talk from the PigP or WIC any more.
It was a turning point in his Recovery.

• Remember : The only source of self-esteem is unconditional love. Having a strong, positive identity means treating ourself with loving kindness, patience & perseverance.
We do need to ‘feel sorry for’ our wounded part – the real-life child we were, who suffered unfairly & alone thru endless days & nights, in our home, school, church & neighborhood – without people noticing, caring or helping!

• If we – as the Loving Inner Parent to our WIC – can feel genuine sorrow for what we endured, through no fault of our own, we can begin healing those wounds.  The child part of us is waiting to be heard!

NEXT: Fear of commitment- #1


I GIVE IT ALL AWAY & have nothing left for myself

PREVIOUS: Fear of Responsibility (FoR)  #2a


🧍🏽‍♀️🧍🏽 AS ADULTS (cont)
1. UNDER-RESPONSIBLE – as “Leavers” (cont)
a. re. OTHERS – Part 2a

b. Re. US
Being aleaver’ includes leaving ourself – not just putting ourself last, but barely enough to survive, or to make life worth living.

We do NOT:
• take care of ourself – appearance, health, living space…..
• acknowledge the damage done to us, & get the right help
• stand up for our rights, provide for our personality needs
• use our inborn talents, so don’t contribute our best to society
• prosper, perpetuate general ‘anorexia’ – such as under-earning, bad relationships, isolation, no fun ….

Most ACoAs do not show outward signs of our underlying wounds, but all of us suffer from it to some degree, even in Recovery.
• We didn’t learn self-care from our family, having been neglected & mistreated, thus given the message that we didn’t deserve any better, and
• This left us with a lack of information about self-care, so we don’t actually think in terms of what we need

At the extreme, the self-neglect of some ACoAs is more visible (deprivation / anorexia in many areas of life).
Gibbons (2006) defined it as: “The inability – intentional or not – to maintain a socially & culturally accepted standard of self-care, with the potential for serious consequences to the health & well-being of the self-deprivers, perhaps even to their community.” (Wikipedia) (MORE….)

Some overt symptoms of personal deprivation include hoarding items & pets, a compulsive need to isolate, living in a dirty  environment, poor personal hygiene, neglecting household maintenance, unwillingness to take needed meds, unkempt / sloppy appearance, eccentric behaviors……

2. OVER-RESPONSIBLE = the “Stayers”
Being ‘over-responsible’ toward others includes our children & grandchildren (small or grown),
BY: • doing too much for them
• people-pleasing & not setting boundaries
• letting them get away with unhealthy behavior, spoiling them
• giving in to unhealthy requests or demands
• not holding them responsible for bad behavior
• not teaching them the best ways to live in the world

As long as the WIC is still running our life, we focus all our attention outside of ourself. We’re looking for someone to take care of us – to give us permission to even be alive, much less be our True Self

• We do too much for others, & most of the PPT we pick to ‘help’ are just are incapable of being there for us as our family was, with a few exceptions.
Also –
• Because our parents were so angry, depressed & unhappy, ACoAs are convinced (unconsciously) that everyone else is the same.  We project how our family treated us onto every situation we encounter in our daily lives, whether it’s similar or not.

That means we react & behave in the same way we did as kids = that we have to be responsible (R) for others’ feelings & needs, to ‘help’ / fix everyone we deal with, whether important to us or not (lover, parent, sibling, OR “butcher, baker, candle-stick maker”…..) & suppress our own emotions, hopes & dreams.

We BELIEVE that:
• without our intervention – others we meet will also fall apart or put out firesgo crazy, which would be our fault, so we rush in to put out other people’s fires
• if we don’t take care of them they won’t have any need for us, & ‘leave’ us
• by rescuing / saving…. others we will finally become worthy of getting our needs met (‘earning’ love)

⚡️ For prolonged rescuing, we stay with those:
• who are more wounded than we are (assuming we’re not), so we can feel useful, appreciated, even superior
• who don’t want to take care of themselves & could, but live in Victim mode – so would rather we do it for them, since we’re so good at it (& desperate to please)
• who are intensely narcissistic, using us to feed off of, which we agree to, at least for a time, because it makes us feel needed & important

AND, we automatically stay away from anyone who is reasonably healthy – competent, self-directed, doesn’t need or want rescuing…. because they don’t ne-e-ed us & we wouldn’t know how to interact with them as equals!

 Fear of Responsibility – #2c

Healthy HELPING (Part 1)


As long as I take care of myself in the process

PREVIOUS: Rescuing (#2)

REVIEW: Hero Family Role 


ACoAs:  Many of us were trained from birth to be helpers, regardless of our native personality style & interests. There’s an ironic saying in recovery circles: “ACOAs are born with an MSW (Masters in Social Work) and then get their Birth Certificate later”!

• This is most common with the child who has the Hero role, which is usually the first-born in a dysfunctional family.  They’re supposed to pick up the slack where the parents leave off – being the little adult to make the family look healthier than it really is, but at the expense of the child.

• This caretaker role becomes so deeply ingrained that it’s usually carried into all of our ADULT relationships.  It requires unceasing effort for the benefit of others, instead of caring fully for ourselves. (See ‘RESCUING – False Helping’).

✦ On the other hand, there are ACoAs who, by their very nature, are meant to be in the helping or service professions, like people born with strong Water & Air Sign influences in their astrological chart – such as Pisces, Cancer (the healers), Aquarius & Gemini (the teachers).

✦ For those of us so designed, the goal is to be of genuine help to others, as a way of expressing our Highest Self – without being motivated by the toxic patters of co-dependence, self-hate, boundary invasion, fear of abandonment & over-control.

GOAL of Heathy Helping (HH): Encourage someone to take care of themselves the best way they can, in their current circumstance
OPPOSITE of making / keeping someone dependent on you!

1. OVERVIEW  – before HELPING someone, ASK:
a. What do I know about the person I may help?
• are they responsible & self-caring?
• did they ask me directly & specifically, for something?
• will they be OK with me if I can’t do what they want?

b. What exactly do they want?
• can they truly do it for themselves?
• is the request ‘clean’ (emotionally & verbally honest)?
• how many parts to the request are there, actually?
• what are the consequences/ price TO ME?

c. Can I Comply?
• am I really able to do this? (it’s not beyond my ability, OR it’s not something impossible)
• do I WANT to do it?  If ‘Yes’ – what’s my motive?
• what does it require of me – specifically?
• will I be angry if I do it, or remorseful if I don’t?
• do I want anything in return? What are my expectations?

2. Prerequisites for H.H.
a. In ME – I need to:
• be able to keep the ‘focus on myself’ – not get enmeshed with the needs & emotions of others
• have basic self-esteem, a sense of identity that not dependent on others
relaxed• have developed real boundaries, not needing to be symbiotic
• know my individual human limitations, without judgment or self-hate

• not have to use people to feel good about myself
• KNOW what’s real, in the recovery process, about:
— emotions: each person is responsible for their own, & they can learn how to managed them
— the growth process: it’s slow & has to be experienced personally
— what Mental Health is (from ACoA website)
— what can realistically be dealt with: what’s possible or not. ACoAs tend to get the Serenity Prayer backwards!

b. In THEM
✦ I can help – if they :
• are actively doing self-care, & communicating with their inner childInner Child (personal responsibility)
• actually ask for the help they want or need
• are clear about what they need (direct & specific)

• apply to their lives what I give them & use it to grow
➼ “Give a man a fish & you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish & you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese proverb
• IF they’re truly ‘dis-abled’ in some way (ADD, PTSD, depression, illness…)

✦ I can help – as long as they DON’T :
• blame me for for that they can’t do, for things that don’t work, or for disappointing outcomes
• expect me to be perfect, know everything, take care of them
• need to suck me dry / cling, use me as a parent substitute
• try to copy my personality, instead of forming their own

NEXT: Healthy Helping, Part 2

RESCUING – False Helping (Part 1)

I can take care of you, but not myself

REMINDER: Use ACRONYM page for abbrev.


RESCUING – In general terms, it’s any form of helping someone to not take care of themself, when they really can. It may be —
— in the form of not doing or saying something when we see others hurting themself, OR
— actively providing the means for them to continue being irresponsible (directly or indirectly) to themself, their loved ones, their job….

EXP: Lying for others / making excuses when someone shirks their responsibility, is selfish or mean / clean up after a user / cover the addict’s bills / never stand up for ourselves or object to abuse / never notice or point out lies, inconsistencies, broken promises…..

ENABLING is another term for co-dependent rescuing of others, in place of taking care of ourselves.
In Al-Anon terms, it’s our compulsion to save the addict or any other kind of unhealthy person from the consequences of their own self-harming behavior (MISUSE of money, drink / drugs, exercise, gambling, food, fun, sex, work….)

A person acting out self-destructively has little reason to change if they’re never forced to experience the outcome of their compulsion. If they don’t have to pay any price for their behavior, they’re encouraged to continue practicing their addiction.
“Helping someone be self-defeating is co-dependency – not supportive & not Loving.”

ACoAs IRONY: Enabling / Rescuing is in itself our addiction (emotional, psychological), a compulsive pattern of interacting with others. On the surface it gives us a sense of control & superiority. Underneath, the real motivation is to suppress our own abandonment anxiety.

ORIGIN: Growing up in dysfunctional families, ACoAs were not allowed to fully develop our own personality & identity, attend to our own needs, or have our own feelings – about anything. We had no choice but to focus on wounded parents & their needs, moods & demands. (see ‘Toxic rules’)

• We were expected to grow up too fast – not have normal child needs –  but only so we could relieve them of the burden of caring for us, and so we could be there for them
• Any attention to our own tastes, opinions, & way of doing things was considered selfish, stubborn, overly sensitive, stupid and bad!  (I was taught: S.P.S. – ‘Self Praise Stinks’ !!)

Result: ACoAs developed a ‘false persona’, one version of the co-dep triangle – to be The Rescuer:
a. for many of us, this is a very active role – doing, doing, doing for others OR using others to motivate our actions
b. for some ACoAs, who seem to do ‘nothing’ for others – this role is passive. It’s a way to ‘take care of’ the family by asking for very little, not trying for anything, not risking, not being a bother… obeying the Toxic Rule “Don’t Need”

➼ The unspoken hope is that if we do a good enough job of rescuing (fixing them), they will, in turn, be able to take care of us.  THIS NEVER WORKS.

DEF:  A way to seem like we’re helping others BUT with hidden motives
a. from our grandiosity
🔸 Doing for others what they CAN & SHOULD be doing for themselves
🔸 Being ‘one up’, giving the illusion of being powerful and benevolent, at the same time
🔸 Assuming others n-e-e-d us (a not-always conscious belief that they’ll fall apart or even die – without us – based on our family experience)
🔸Assuming we know better what others need / want / should have, or not
🔸 Wanting to spare someone pain – by preventing them insecurefrom having to take responsibility for the consequences of – their actions, & so preventing their growth!

b. from our inferiority
🔹 Using others to feel better about ourselves (to cover our self-hate, that feeling of worthlessness)
🔹 Trying to ‘fix’ a wounded person, so they can be there for us
🔹 Trying to have an effect on the world, since no one listened to us as kids
🔹 Wanting to use our talents, skills & abilities – but not allowed to use them for our own benefit
🔹Minding other people’s business rather than our own (not allowed to focus on ourself)

NEXT: Rescuing = False Helping  (Part 2)