Damned Christmas, reprise: Scapegoat for Dinner
Note: Help and resources at the end of this post
True to form they are, my family; true to form. A person cannot fault them for their unending consistency, although the reasons they are consistent are certainly suspect.
Due to a very interesting parenting style, my mother has managed to instill a very firm foundation of insecurity and narcissism with two of my siblings. That insecurity, which she also has, manifests in scapegoating – of me – and has for as long as I can remember, and extreme bullying by my sisters towards certain others, often me and usually women. My youngest sister does not trust women and my middle sister makes a great show of having many female friends.
The first memories I have of me being the family scapegoat – and I obviously didn’t realize what it was then – were the foggy feelings that whatever was wrong with my mother and her relationship with my father was somehow my fault. I know now that I remind my mother very uncomfortably of my father, who she called selfish, but who was probably more self-protective. The whole basis for the beginnings of this abuse was that my mother would not acknowledge her part in the failure of her marriage and so needed something to hang it on: me. She resorted to shaming me and continued it until I was 35 (she tries to yet).
During one particularly difficult year, my mother hauled me off to a shrink. It was such a terrifying experience that I remembered only two things: the first meeting and one subsequent family "therapy" session. Later on, when I was 25, following a terrible fight with my mother (she was, among other things, belittling me, my husband and my father and trying to physically take my one-year-old out of my house, which resulted in the police coming...), I tracked down said shrink, and found out there had actually been eight sessions.
I asked for permission to read the transcripts of those sessions. I was not allowed to photo copy them, as my mother had not given permission for me to read them, but I did copy them down, by hand. Among the copious notes was a comment from the Therapist, Betty Wickens, that my mother was using me as a scapegoat for all that was wrong with her life.
In present times, my youngest sister who has had almost nothing but failure in her life until quite recently (and it is tenuous at best now), transfers her anger, guilt and whatever other negative feelings she has to me. Somehow, her blaming me for anything and everything makes her feel better – for a minute.
The middle child, my other sister, was the very innocent witness to years of my mothers abuse towards me. She was powerless and invisible and now suffers from a huge lack of self-esteem, despite being well-liked and successful. She takes anything said to her, no matter how much out of concern or interest, as criticism and reacts violently. She is unaware that she is acting out years of witnessing my mother abuse me (update: .. .being generally abusive). She is also unaware that she is trying to resolve being the witness by visiting the same horrible treatment on her son and daughter and her now ex-spouse.
As can be expected, when these people are stressed and unhappy, they go very much on the attack. Recently, my niece was visiting Paris with her mother. They met a charming man there. He toured them about the city, brought them out for dinner and made their visit quite magical. My niece, although she did not know this man at all well, and despite his being 9 years her senior (she
I have a very coloured past (A Short, True Story) so am in no position to judge her decision. I was, however, quite concerned and communicated that to my sister, who took my concern as a serious criticism of her parenting abilities. She took me so to task by phone that I had to hang up on her. She is not secure enough to hear concern; she only hears criticism. She is painfully aware that she overreacts to many things, but is also painfully unable to apologise.
My youngest sister does not tolerate change at all, due mostly to having lived a highly unstable life. Recently, she has suffered an major, unanticipated change to her work situation. She communicated her fear and frustration by lashing out at me, quite out of the blue, over Christmas dinner last night. She left the family gathering (gifts in hand, it should be noted), but the damage had been done and the scapegoating commenced in earnest, which resulted in my departure as well.
Prior to leaving, however, I did advise my mother that, after 30 years of it and of her letting it go on – even encouraging it – I was finished with being the scapegoat for my sisters’ insecurities, anger, aggression and fears.
My mother, for her part, has developed two scapegoats: anything that my sisters do or ever have done wrong is, according to her, due to my having taught them how. The great dysfunction in our family she blames on my now-deceased father. According to her, everything that is wrong with how I and my sister turned out has to do with him being a weak and absent father. Much against his personal and religious convictions, he was so abused by her that he was forced to divorce her. He would not rise to her bait in life and cannot now. It must be so frustrating for her.
My sister's marriage has recently failed. Her abuse of her spouse and her children has caused much pain in her own family. My mother conveniently ignores my sister's part in it all, alternately blaming me and my ex-brother-in-law.
The rest of the family is following a predictable path of weariness; a ‘not again’ attitude that permeates any gathering where two or more siblings are present. As my mother is what she calls “faithful,” and “evangelical,” or "born-again," there are three major family events per year, if one doesn’t include birthdays (I avoid those at all costs). All of them are, for me, painful and sad.
Scapegoating and Bullying are pretty much one and the same. My sisters have used bullying against me for years, and both have also employed shame. My next-youngest sister denied she even knew me when we were in school (we look very much alike, so the relationship was clear, despite her denial). My youngest sister also shames me by criticising my riding - but I'm a pleasure rider and I don't care if my technique isn't perfect....
What’s the point of this post? Beyond that I needed to get it off my hairy, goat chest, nothing, other than leaving it here for others who are aware, or becoming aware they are the family target.
Further information: follow any of the links in this page for scapegoat resources and help.
The Scapegoat Society
Scapegoats, Scapegoating Psychodynamics
This page is an excellent resource for people who have been and/or currently are being scapegoated in their families: Family Fun: Words that Hurt
Nasty Women: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them
Your comments are always welcome and I will be happy to refer you to other sources of help.