The term scapegoat is derived from the Book of Leviticus 16:8
And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel.
Azazel, meaning “for complete removal” in Hebrew, has become translated to scapegoat in English over the millennia since. The sins of the people would be given to this animal and banished to the wilderness. The other “for the Lord (the Hebrew god, YHWH)“ goat, I think, can reasonably be interpreted as the favored Golden Child in the narcissistic family dynamic. It bears mentioning that both goats are sacrificed but only the scapegoat has a fighting chance, albeit a very poor one.
In Family Systems Theory, the one blamed for family problems is called the Identified Patient and the member of the group most likely to seek therapy or be forced into therapy by family seeking to “fix” them. And, so far as I can ascertain, I’m the only one in Family (and extended family) who has, indeed, reluctantly sought therapy which Family tends to regard as an indication of weakness and admission of guilt, validating their assertion that I am the problem they say.
Rumor had it that Mother and her boy-husband, Motherfucker, had brought their adopted daughter, Adoptee, to family therapy, confirmed by Sister:
[Adoptee] is not in family therapy any more and you really don’t have enough information to make any judgements about the situation.
This is a little girl who Mother said she had to go on escalating dosages of antidepressants (Welbutrin XL, last I heard) in order to “deal with.” Who inspired Sister to tell Mother that she didn’t want children of her own. Not that it’s the kid’s fault. She’s being raised by a narcissist and an enabler, neither of whom have any idea what boundaries are or how to listen to their children in order to effectively parent them. My siblings and I basically raised ourselves.
This is a pattern that runs through the fabric of my family, the diseased cloth we’re all cut from. And I can’t help but notice that mental hospitals are a recurring theme.
The Crazy Gene
Mother used to say that her younger sister, Aunt N, inherited “the crazy gene” from their abusive (arguably Borderline d/o) mother, Grandma S, who Mother says went insane when Mother was in fourth grade (and blamed her madness for “killing dad,” Grandpa G, who passed away from cancer just before I was born).
When she was sixteen, Aunt N was institutionalized. I was never told for what. I guess it was just assumed that she was as “off” back then as she was presently. I recently connected with one of Mother’s childhood friends (having a much rosier picture of Mother’s family than Mother painted for us) who tells it this way:
[Aunt N] had this great boyfriend and she was very young. She wanted to get married, but had to get a court approval. The judge said NO. right afterward she was partying with friends , got drunk, did drugs, and something happened. [Grandma S] told (my mom and me) that [Aunt N] became paralyzed and they had to put her in that institution. I can not say for sure this is what happened, but i do remember [Aunt N] was NEVER around after that.
Two things. Firstly, Aunt N walked on her own two feet out of that institution when she turned twenty years old (when she was allowed to sign herself out) so Grandma S telling people she was paralyzed (and who knows what else) was obviously a bold-faced lie. Secondly, no one puts a person in a mental institution for four years to recover from paralysis!
I don’t know what actually happened or if anyone visited Aunt N in the “hospital” she was imprisoned in but I think she was completely fucked over and abandoned by her dysfunctional family and I do know that after four years of “rehabilitation” Aunt N suffers sever Bipolar d/o (aka. manic depression – would be Bipolar III+ if such a designation existed!) and addiction problems (self-medicating) to this day.
I tell people that I’m too neurotic to abuse drugs (including alcohol). I never got into them due to what I consider their unreasonable cost (both financial and health-wise) and fears of ceding control to a thing that could leave me vulnerable to exploitation. To the extent I self-medicate, my drug of choice is caffeine which relaxes me and I enjoy the endorphin high from exercise which leaves me with a nice afterglow, a sense of peace and tranquility.
Both Aunt N (scapegoat) and Mother (golden child) coped with their batshit crazy mother and perpetually absent father (he was a fisherman) via escape and denial, respectively. Both damaged. Both shaped by the so-called crazy gene. But only Mother had children, all damaged in different ways by this unresolved transgenerational narcissistic family dynamic passed on to us. Like destiny.
I sought neither to escape nor deny the pain. I felt that I deserved to suffer (implicit then but explicitly stated by Family who accuse me of being selfish and playing the victim now that I no longer suffer for them) and that my suffering would be acknowledged as something of a virtue, that I would be appreciated for the suffering I was taking upon myself for others.
This is wrong thinking.
I was afraid of giving up control to a drug yet willing to give it up to people who didn’t care that I hurt, who expected me to hurt for them. Falling on my sword to impress those who have a vested interest in regarding me as a piece of shit no matter what I did was a bad choice I was unaware that I was making. Fortunately, I was able to break the spell and cut them off before I did anything really dumb.
Sundials and Suicide
Uncle Joe was the middle of Father’s and his older brothers. Very intelligent, by all accounts. A quick study and something of a self-taunt savant, he left school and educated himself, pursuing many varied interests. I remember an attic full of sundials he’d crafted and still find his books on insects.
He and his wife never had children but he liked me. Incidentally, he and I shared the same birthday. On the last page of The Nutty Nature Book he gifted me when I was young, he added:
Why is there a mouth on Tarraccas? Because that’s where his talk is!
Uncle Joe never kept a job for very long. I think he grew bored easily. He wandered a lot. I’m told his last job was working as a janitor at a mental institution.
One day his immolated remains were found with his dental charts not far away. The last two weeks of his journals had been torn out and burned as well, I think.
I think Uncle Joe was more of a lost child than a scapegoat in his family, overshadowed by his more ambitious older brother and lost attention to his younger brother. And he had his own demons, his own destiny, that’d he inherited from his family. He had a lot of rage.
His and Father’s mother, Grandma J, was institutionalized, including the barbaric so-called “shock therapy,” three times, according to Father’s sister, Aunt J. A fourth visit and she would’ve been detained at the hospital indefinitely. She was diagnosed with some variant of manic depression (now known as Bipolar d/o) and when she lost her shit, she became the meanest person, oscillating between wailing self-pity and seething insults from one ranting sentence to the next. Until he passed away when I was young, her husband, Grandpa J, must’ve been the stabilizing force in Father’s family growing up. Even then, Aunt J (who was OCD, herself, and would have panic attacks anticipating calls from Grandma J) tells me that they were separated several times, probably over the stress of dealing with her mental illness.
I used to overhear Grandma J sadly sighing, “Oh, my dear Joey.” I really don’t know what her relationship with Uncle Joe was like but she was a force of destruction (who Father and I got in fight over because I was tired of her using him and treating him like crap and told her so – the last words I said to her, in fact) and I get the sense that she got more attention from his untimely, dramatic death than anything he accomplished in life, none of which impressed her more than the suicide.
I’ve struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, myself, in the past and I wonder if Mother would’ve enjoyed the sympathetic attention she would’ve received had I made the grave mistake of committing suicide more than me failing to reflect favorably upon her in life. The one time I confided in her that I was thinking about killing myself, she just stared up at me with this blank expression, nodded her head (in approval?) and walked away without a word. It. Was. Weird.
My dark thoughts would usually entail a “they’ll be sorry when I’m gone” theme, as though self-destructing would finally get me the attention I felt I was being denied and punish those who denied me; however, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy either, being dead and all. So these impulses were stupid and wrong. Additionally, given the aforementioned experience, I became convinced that rather than being punished, Mother would gladly receive the attention I wanted in my wake. I vowed to myself then that I would see to rising again another day if only to spite the living.
Disown The Messenger
Out of the blue one day, I receive a call from Cousin T, the daughter of Father’s eldest brother, Uncle J. I hadn’t seen or heard from her since I was young but our extended family isn’t that close so I didn’t think anything of it. She proceeds to ask me if I hate her? No, I answer. Baffled.
Cousin T goes on to fill me in on how she’d accused Uncle J of molesting her, it went to court, he successfully defended himself against the charges and he and Grandma J had disowned her and her family. She believed for decades that everyone knew and was intentionally shunning her. But no one ever told me anything about it. Did I mention we weren’t a close-knit family?
Do you believe me? She then asks, somewhat mournfully.
I do believe her. Later when I ask Aunt J about it, she defends her brother’s innocence and contents that the motive behind the lawsuit was money. But I think the cost of making and maintaining such an accusation is too great to be done in haste for a few bucks. Cousin T’s was a decision to stop pretending the abuse she had experienced from someone she trusted was okay. That’s a heavy choice to weigh with no good options. And I relate to that in my own decision to go no contact with Family.
That said, I didn’t have any issue with Uncle J, personally. He used to call me Tarraccasaurus Rex and I enjoyed the few brief times I remember interacting with him but he’d drive for days only to visit Family and I for a few minutes and then he’d be gone again. He was always on the go.
Uncle J was arguably Grandma J’s favorite, the golden child, whose reward was taking care of her in her final years. To entertain the notion that her perfect child could do something as heinous as his daughter alleges was an affront to Grandma J’s own almighty image and cutting off her grandchild, great grandchildren, instructing her dutiful children to do the same and wreaking even more havoc on her family was an acceptable cost.
Divide and Conquer
I’ve come to think that Mother never wanted Brother or me. I was a hotel accident (Mother would tell me this – horny Father actually believed Mother when she said she couldn’t get pregnant) that brought an end to Mother’s free love beach bum lifestyle. But I was something new and exciting.
By the time Brother came along, the novelty of a son had worn off, and he was given to me as a “playmate” and largely ignored. Mother sometimes came home with gifts for Sister and I but nothing for Brother because she forgot about him and would tell him so in front of all of us with a little “oh, silly me” giggle.
Mother wanted Sister, a little her. She would go to new age practitioners who cast spectrums on her pregnant belly with prism pendulums which, to them, indicated that she would have a daughter. And she did. Again, Mother had something new and exciting. Brother and I were old news. Sister was the new favorite and remained so until Mother dumped Father, Motherfucker came along, and we were all ignored in favor of him.
Brother seemed to learn that he couldn’t get attention no matter what he did and resigned himself to stop trying for any. He was a slob. Apathetic. He called Mother and Father by their first names rather than “mom” and “dad.” When we had chores, Sister and I would cover for him because he couldn’t be bothered to and we didn’t want to get yelled at. After I moved out, it became obvious that Brother did nothing and Motherfucker did, indeed, yell at and generally abused him.
Mother remarked on the abuse but did nothing to put a stop to it. She used to tell me how badly I treated Brother when we were kids. Again, I don’t remember her intervening. I recall fights between Brother and I – usually involving attacking each others’ forts we used to build from pallets and materials Father brought home from his job – and my friends were annoyed by him but on the whole I think I was protective of him. He may feel differently as he did not reciprocate when similar opportunities arose later between us.
I think Brother came to resent me and wanted the attention and support it may have appeared to him that I was receiving. My failure to live up to Mother’s unspoken expectations was the opening he needed to finally succeed me. Which he did.
I had never appreciated the lost child, scapegoat position Mother had put Brother in growing up until I was demoted to that position. He didn’t deserve it anymore than I do. And I didn’t like it anymore than he probably did. But, unlike him, I choose to reject the abuse (what it is) while he chooses to take part in perpetrating it along with the very same people who treated him like shit if they remembered him at all growing up but now it’s okay because they treat me like shit as I must so deserve. He started calling Mother “mom” and even Motherfucker “step dad.” I even gained the weight he lost when our roles became flipped! Weight that I’ve since been shedding since going no contact with Family, interestingly enough. But mutual acquaintances would literally remark to me that “you and [Brother] switched places.”
Family would tell me that I’m just jealous but any family that can do this to it’s children is no family to be jealous of. No, it’s a cult of disordered personality to flee for your life from! The only thing I now lack without them is the delusion that I ever had a family that loved me, who valued me as human being. A belief that is not insignificant, mind you, but that I can’t return to even if I wanted to – and sometimes I do wish I could.
Mother continues the legacy of matriarchs who destroy their families. Without me reprising the scapegoat role, someone else has to fill the vacuum. There must be a scapegoat to dump on and take everybody’s garbage out.