Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?

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Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« on: February 05, 2015, 08:31:51 AM »
Alright, I'll try to be concise. I'm feeling a bit low today, and in such times I usually either ramble at length or say absolutely nothing. So. Onwards.

Some time in December, I went LC (low contact) with my family of origin. Something happened that wasn't too dramatic in itself, but it was just the last straw. Since then, I'm suddenly able to remember and process my childhood and teenage years a LOT better. And I'm starting to wonder...

Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?

When I'm reading the descriptions of "roles in dysfunctional families", the scapegoat is often called "the rebel", and they sound like something taken from West Side Story - prone to drinking, drug-taking, high-risk behaviour, misunderstood yet courageously honest and authentic. Aaaand... I'm not like that. No drugs, no drinks, no promiscuity. Not because I'm virtuous, but because I never felt safe enough to try.

And my family isn't openly abusive. If you met them now, you'd like them. They come across as competent, generously helpful, cheerful people. And they are. They're good people, in their own ways, to anyone who isn't me. Even during my teenage years and childhood, there was no SA at all, and very very little physical violence.

And it's only now that I'm beginning to wonder about our roles. My brother is very much the Golden Child, with a bit of the Mascot thrown in. And when we were teens, I was a combination of Lost Child + Scapegoat. When I look at the function of this scapegoat role - yes, that's what it was like. The one screw-up in a family of golden people. But in mild ways, easy to miss.

(Here are details about it. Might be triggering, so I'm whiting them out. Highlight to read.) I screwed up by having all the symptoms of a depression, at first: I withdrew, I spent too much time reading and watching TV, I didn't take the initiative when it came to socializing, I was quiet, I was sad. Then, once my CPTSD began to hit in, I was absent-minded, I constantly forgot anything and everything, my room was a mess of truly epic proportions, I had so little energy - I remember one day I was relieved and glad when I reached the school bus, because it had been THAT hard to focus enough on walking through town. (Histamine intolerance plus stress, it turns out. Leave out histamine, get back your brain. I wish I'd found that out decades ago.) I screwed up by navelgazing too much. I screwed up by being indoors instead of going outside to enjoy the sunshine. I screwed up by not liking my mother's favourite kind of herbal tea. I screwed up by "navelgazing". I screwed up by not being able to find my happiness in doing my duty. (I find my happiness in happiness instead. Weird, eh?) I screwed up by being too much like a woman - women, my mother thinks, are notoriously prone to backbiting, gossipping, shallowness, and lack of backbone, so I MUST prove to her that I'm not those things, or she'd... well, she wouldn't say anything outright, but she'd hint at things, she'd give me pointed looks... the message came across very clearly. I screwed up by preferring jeans and t-shirts to ladylike clothing. I screwed up by wearing my hair long. I screwed up by not letting her cut my bangs. I screwed up by being tense and resentful during her many, many jokes she made: "Oh look, here's a pair of scissors, why don't I cut your bangs?" I screwed up by taking a step back when she'd point her fingers as if they were scissors and take hold of my hair, giving me a look that wasn't playful at all, but scrutinizing and serious and tight-lipped.

I screwed up about ten years ago, when once again I slipped into this funny, navel-gazing, self-absorbed mood: the one where I'm just lazy and un-proactive instead of cheerfully and determinedly seizing life by the horns. I told her I was diagnosed with PTSD, which disappointed her. She very graciously didn't hold it against me though, instead just saying: "Oh, you know, I wouldn't put too much truck in all that psychological stuff if I were you." ---- That's how she saw it. The truth was, I wasn't just sad. I wasn't even just depressed. I had so many CPTSD and PTSD symptoms, I was a walking textbook case. Dissociation, depersonalization, derealization, elevated startle response, defensiveness, no trust in anyone, lack of object constancy, suicidal ideation, somatic symptoms. Also, I was grieving about a dead friend, I had a years-long EF because she'd died in a way that reminded me of my father's dead, I was jobless, I'd just been through a close encounter with a narcissist who'd singled me out as a viable target for abuse (and hey, she was right!), I had no money at all, my therapist tried EMDR and it triggered a days-long EF, I had no friends, I had abysmal job prospects----


Ugh, now I'm ranting. Sorry. The point is: it's not BAD, the things she does. Not if you look at each of them in isolation. It's just the big picture that's bad. All of those little, little things taken together. And the big picture is:

She doesn't respect me. She doesn't take me seriously. Anything I say is wrong. If I argue in favour of something, she immediately argues against it. She doesn't just take my word for things. She seems honestly taken aback that I don't share her preferences, and often tries to argue me into it. She constantly warns me of danger. We had whole thirty-minutes-long phonecalls that consisted of me trying to small-talk, her responding with admonitions and warnings. Seriously. WHOLE PHONECALLS. EVERYTHING I said - she'd argue against it, she'd warn me, or she'd ask minute, intrusive questions that made me feel like I was being cross-examined.

Tiny. Subtle. Mild. This forum is full of people who'd be glad to have such a mother, right? She's functional, she's sane, she's not batshit crazy...

Ugh, I even forgot what the point of this post was. All of those things came up today, so I'm not feeling too well. Thing is, I should really go have my hair cut - but I'm afraid. Know why? Because, after growing up in my family and around my peers, I'm now deadly afraid of being less than perfect - because that will make people despise me. And that feeling told me something of what my adolescence was like. And it fits what I'm reading about being a scapegoat.

So. Does anyone else feel like this? Does anyone else have this subtle form of scapegoating and boundary-breaking going on? Or do you all have openly abusive mothers who make the hag from Disney's Tangled look sane?

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Rain

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Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2015, 10:09:54 AM »
"Sprinkler acid" all the time.   Tiny drops of constant toxic verbal and emotional abuse.   Gather all the tiny drops together, and it is buckets of acid over the years.   If abuse is small enough per incident, it can be denied.   It is still abuse, quite an ugly form of it.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2015, 11:32:38 AM by Rain »

Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2015, 10:38:54 AM »
Yes, you're right. And it's so invisible. It's like living with background radiation, or with something that's slowly poisoning you. People who are only exposed to it for a day or a few hours won't notice a thing. And it feels so churlish to get worked up about all those little things. So even just noticing what's really going on - it took me decades.

Thanks for listening. Getting this all out in the open was cathartic. I'm feeling wrung out now and grieving, but in that good, healing kind of way, if that makes sense.

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Milarepa

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Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2015, 11:31:00 AM »
Yes, you're right. And it's so invisible. It's like living with background radiation, or with something that's slowly poisoning you. People who are only exposed to it for a day or a few hours won't notice a thing. And it feels so churlish to get worked up about all those little things. So even just noticing what's really going on - it took me decades.

Thanks for listening. Getting this all out in the open was cathartic. I'm feeling wrung out now and grieving, but in that good, healing kind of way, if that makes sense.

I love your "background radiation" metaphor. It is really hard to put the pieces together when the abuse is so subtle and insidious. I liken it to the kind of low-key racism that a lot of black people face today. Overt abuse is so much easier to put a name on, just like overt racism is easy to call out and condemn; but it's the subtle stuff that will slay you even harder in the end because it makes gaslighting so much more possible.

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Whobuddy

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Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2015, 11:36:14 AM »
Yes, I feel a lot like that too. My FOO is just fine. As long as you keep the conversation light and don't let on if you have a difference of opinion.

I wonder if you have what I am just realizing I caught from my FOO. A fear of making mistakes. One mistake - that's it. Game over. If happens with a friend must end the friendship. If in a certain situation must never go there again. I am just now realizing that mistakes will not disappear me. Mistakes bring on toxic shame. No matter how small. Even when I read a message I wrote here in OOTS if there is a mistake I feel so ashamed and want to erase the whole post. What will they think of me. I don't judge others mistakes harshly, why do I judge myself like that? Because it was done to me over and over and over in my FOO.

As Rain says, like tiny drops of acid.

I hope you are feeling better. I always put off getting my hair cut too.

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keepfighting

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Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2015, 12:47:39 PM »
Cat, your mother sounds like the covert PD type to me. Invisible toxic behaviour, same devastating effect on their victims as visible/audible violence...

In many ways, overt PDs are easier to handle for the adult children of PD parents (my f is an overt NPD, m is a covert NPD) because you get more validation for setting strict boundaries to protect yourself, even if you go NC - after all, stopping contact with a parent who's beaten you up makes sense to most people whereas the covert PDs often seem so nice and even like the 'true victim' of the story to most people surrounding them. They only show their true colours to a few - their victims. It's hard to get validation for that unless you find a group of people who believe you because they've been in a similar position like you themselves - like here on OOTS.

Getting this all out in the open was cathartic. I'm feeling wrung out now and grieving, but in that good, healing kind of way, if that makes sense.

Makes total sense to me. Take all the time you need to process this new realizations and to grieve. It's a good sign, a sign that you are taking care of yourself and your needs.  :hug:

Be kind to yourself. You deserve it!  :hug:

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marycontrary

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Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2015, 01:53:24 PM »
IMHO, a scapegoat is a scapegoat.  This is a terrible role to be cast into.  One of my biggest boundaries is to severely curtail associations with empathy impaired people, period. You notice how the folks on the board tend to "get" you? You notice this person does NOT get you?

Dealing with empathy impaired people always lead to *.

Godspeed, I send good JuJu your way.... :hug: :hug:

Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2015, 05:40:04 PM »
Thanks, everyone. It's good to have people who understand.  :yourock:

Milarepa - good point. Do you think sexism would also work as an analogy? It's so subtle. "Why are you offended? It was just a joke." That kind of thing.

Whobuddy, YES, exactly, precisely, absolutely what you said. One mistake and WHAM. And it's not even like the mistake has to be big or obvious. It can be something as tiny as "something I said or did wasn't to someone else's taste".  :sharkbait:   <---- and that's what it feels like to be wired like that.

Keepfighting - thanks for pointing this out. I'm still not sure if my mother is a narcissist... but you're right, the descriptions I read were always of overt narcisissts. I'll google the covert type and see what comes up.

Marycontrary - yes, you're right. I kind of attracted empathy-impaired people throughout my life. So it's "normal", in a way. Until I have positive experiences, like the ones I have here. The contrast lets me see things clearly. So thanks for the Juju, it arrived intact and was much appreciated.  :hug:

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keepfighting

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Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2015, 06:46:50 PM »
Here's a good link that exokains overt and covert narcissistic behaviour:

http://narcissisticbehavior.net/category/revealing-the-two-faces-of-narcissism-overt-and-covert/

They need scapegoats as well: Someone strong enough to bear the shame and blame so they are never at fault...

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Kizzie

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Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2015, 08:48:42 PM »
My M is a covert N and she was/is subtle or at least I thought she was until I found OOTF and slowly came to see saw her behaviour for what it is.  I felt it certainly, I just couldn't validate why I was feeling what I was feeling. Was there a shark in the water or was I imaging it?

These days I see how crazy making and destructive her behaviour was/is and particularly because it is covert, subtle we learn to doubt our perceptions. But now when she does something N I can finally see clearly just how soul crushing it must have been for my younger self. Even though it's not blatant abuse that anyone else can pick up on, it's there - the "death by a thousand cuts" abuse that results in CPTSD.  Tough to recognize covert N behaviour but such a relief to see it for what it is and know for certain there is a shark in the water. 

 :hug:

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Milarepa

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Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2015, 01:59:31 AM »
Quote
The Secretly Mean: The secretly mean mother does not want others to know that she is abusive to her children. She will have a public self and a private self, which are quite different. These mothers can be kind and loving in public but are abusive and cruel at home. The unpredictable, opposite messages to the child are crazy-making.

This description fits my M to a tee. I remember watching her at parties, laughing and charming people, and thinking how much I wished I could take that lady home with me instead of the yelling, angry person she unpredictably became when we were alone together. As I got older, I wondered what was wrong with me that she treated me the way she did when other people got to enjoy her laugh and her smile.

::Possible shame trigger / Borderline fear warning::

As I read through the definition of the covert narcissist, I wondered just how much difference there is between the covert style of narcissism and a case of C-PTSD. AFter all, we're both described as:

  • Plagued by toxic shame and feelings of unworthiness
  • Socially withdrawn
  • Easily triggered by life's stressors

We all know that most of these cluster B personality disorders (Antisocial, Narcissistic, Borderline, and Histrionic) are associated with trauma from being raised in a PD FOO. And since these disorders run in families, I have to wonder precisely what separates those of us with C-PTSD from our PD parents? How do we know that we're not the ones with personality disorders?

I have a theory that internal personal choices play a substantial role in whether or not PTSD calcifies into a PD. I think the major components of this are Tenderness and Shame-resilience. Are we tender with own imperfections and those of others, or do we demand perfection at every turn? Are we willing to look at and soothe our own shame or do we hide it beneath layers of real or fabricated accomplishments?

At the risk of being cheesy: T and S are the difference between PTSD and a PD

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smg

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Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2015, 02:00:14 AM »
Oh, Cat,
Yes, I think that is scapegoating. Your "I screwed up by _____" list is so familiar to me. Even the repetitive structure of that paragraph mirrors my thoughts at times.

And I understand feeling afraid to try... anything. I didn't listen to music or watch tv that wasn't already approved by someone else having an interest in it. I posted here before about wanting my father to stop the bedtime backrubs that I didn't like, and my mother's statement when she got involved: "there is nothing inappropriate about the way your father is touching you. You don't know what inappropriate is." What I learned from that was that I didn't have the ability, let alone the right to determine what I did and did not like.

Apparently, my mother decided when I was born that I was "incapable of functioning in the real world," and she reveals that fact freely in her semi-annual try-to-get-the-recalcitrant-daughter-back-into-the-family visits. She seems to have no inkling that this might be problematic for me (and this despite my telling her several times that I won't be coming back while she still holds the same attitude). She calls it love, and I call it contempt. I can't see a meeting ground between those two positions -- it's so swampy in between, and I feel afraid of trapping myself in the mud if I put a single toe in.

My theory is that she's re-enacting what her father did to her, and since she can't admit that she was hurt (read "weak"), I certainly can't be hurt in my turn. I think that she was maybe born to be a sensitive, empathetic person. Two factors combined to beat that down and create a narcissist instead.
1) She was born into a traumatizing family, wherein she was identified as weak and a burden.
2) Her next youngest sibling (born with a physical disability and probably also identified as weak) died very young, and she may have feared for her life as well (she was about 2). The next sibling to be born has a learning disability, and I think she found security and a place for herself in the family by identifying the disability, "fixing" him and (maybe in her mind) saving his life. I think she never forgot the high she received from reducing the fear and pain. With repetition of the behaviour (point out other people's flaws and expect them to fix them, repeat) she got increasingly fond of the high and increasingly intolerant/incapable of sitting with her own dysphoric emotions.

I go round in endless circles of how confident i am in identifying my mother as having a NPD. Maybe I really don't know what I don't like, maybe it's my fault. I was shaking a bit writing part of this. What I always come back to is that my body won't let me spend time with her or the rest of my FOO.

smg

p.s. I have a list of half a dozen incidents that I call my mother's greatest hits. They are the most overt examples, so I think about them frequently (and repeat them here). I guess that I think they represent the tone of all those years. She only said them once, but they were never news to me, I knew they were coming because she'd been acting out those same messages every day since I was born... and i've been believing and acting as though they were true, so I won't be surprised and act hurt when I hear them.

Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2015, 08:51:28 AM »
Hi smg! We should print t-shirts or form a club. Yes, what you wrote sounds familiar, too. I actually pondered this on my way back home from my school run - how rudderless and afloat I feel when it comes to making judgments and knowing my own mind. The reason was, I'm now beginning to wonder if my mother could have Asperger's. Not sure. Then I thought: "oh... what if I have it too? It runs in families, doesn't it? I'd better make sure..." - and I just couldn't tell. I couldn't make a statement about myself, for the sole reason that I'm so used to always being contradicted, to always be argued out of my opinions and certainties and preferences, to always be needled and doubted and second-guessed. It left me shaken, realizing that. I'm in my fourties, I've been places, I've done things, but I've got this very limited ability to even know what I like and don't like. Knowing that you have a similar problem is such a relief. Which - obviously, I'd prefer you to not have it and be happy instead - but you probably know what I mean? That "thank GOODNESS, I'm not alone in this" feeling.

Lack of practice, maybe. All this is a learned attitude. So I can unlearn it. And maybe I'll never fully make it, but I think that doesn't matter. What matters is to keep on trying.

Did you visit the "Café" section of this forum? There's one thread about this very thing. Let's see... this one. It's about the way so many of us are slowly discovering who we truly are. So Rain suggested starting small, and simply talking about what kind of soda we enjoy. Just that. It was great fun. But it proves that you and I, we're not alone in this.

I went LC with my FOO recently, and paradoxically, it's reconnected me with this old mindset, the very one you mention: feeling unable to determine what I like, feeling like I should really just leave that to others who are competent at knowing what I like, feeling afraid to try anything because what if someone else disapproves... UGH. It's making me more and more determined to never be fully in touch with my family again. That boat has sailed. I'd only be getting more of those messages. And I've lost patience with that kind of behaviour. If someone can't respect that I do have opinions, preferences, and boundaries, then okay, bye-bye, end of story, basta, tschüss, over, out, finis, DONE, end of story, I'm walking away and shaking the dust off my sandals.

Your mother reminds me of mine. She's constantly giving me messages that question my very right to form my own preferences, constantly warning me of danger like I'm stupid or incompetent and need Mummy to take care of me (I'm in my fourties, for goodness' sake), constantly needling and hinting and giving pointed looks. But it's because "mothers worry about their daughters". She cannot see how it's affecting me. I tried to tell her. I tried to explain. I tried to set clear boundaries. I tried to be fair, to be understanding towards her position, to word it in very clear-yet-friendly terms. No use. It's like using a typewriter that has no ink: you can hack away at it all you like, the piece of paper is going to stay as empty as it was before.

The interesting thing is: I've started to make a similar list to your "greatest hits" list - just so I can have something real and tangible that I can hold in my hand and look at and say: "YES, it was all real, I'm not just imagining things, all of this happened." Heh. We've got coping strategies, haven't we? High five!
« Last Edit: February 09, 2015, 08:53:15 AM by schrödinger's cat »

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marycontrary

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Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2015, 12:34:52 PM »
Tell you what, SC.  When I started determining what I inherently liked and wanted, I realized I was a much different person than I thought I was. I had been ignoring ALL of my life my very strongly internal signaled proclivities, and boy when they came busting out, it was like a tsunami. For instance, I really, really dislike Dallas and Houston. Just nasty cities, nasty traffic, disgusting climate, alcoholic populace, soulless cultures---life long Texas resident here, I am not speaking of ignorance. When I have to fly into Dallas, I get the * out of dodge the fast as I can.   

Here is an embarrassing one I like. I will just blurt it out. I like men, from a female stance. Give me a hot sexy manly man who knows what he is doing, and I am as happy as a pig in slop.  ;D I would actually like to become a Buddhist nun one day, but i don't think I can do the celibacy thing right now.

I would have never consciously admitting these thing a few years ago. And this are just my own, and nobody elses.

Re: Do you think there's such a thing as a low-key scapegoat?
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2015, 05:51:34 PM »
Yes, I had such epiphanies too. Some of them were just as... what's the word: in-depth, essential, close to the bone? Big things, not just little details. I wonder what my life would have looked like if I'd known all that in my early twenties (at the latest).

But if feels so good to find those things. That's the positive side of it. When our peers complain that they already know everything and the joy of discovery has gone out of the world, we'll just inspect our fingernails and whistle.