Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Did I mention that I am a scapegoat...

First, let's start out with some definitions:

The scapegoat was a goat that was driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. The rite is described in Leviticus 16. The word also refers, in modern parlance, to one who is blamed for misfortunes, often as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.

Scapegoating in psychoanalytic theory

Psychoanalytic theory holds that unwanted thoughts and feelings can be unconsciously projected onto another who becomes a scapegoat for one's own problems. This concept can be extended to projection by groups. In this case the chosen individual, or group, becomes the scapegoat for the group's problems.

Well the family drama unfolded in Colorado this week. My mom and her husband went to visit my brother and his family in Denver. All went to hell. There was arguing, blaming, and my mother took ill and retreated to the guest room. This is her M.O. and it is the way she deals with having an emotion. Her husband is a hateful man who has never been able to look at himself in any way. He has no friends, no hobbies, complains all the time, and hates me. He's hated me since I was 17. At 17, I was a normal teenager with angst, drama and a bad attitude. This guy still defines me by the 17-year old girl he met. Therefore, he hates me. He likes dogs and toddlers because they are controllable. It would take years for me to talk about this piece of work == but let's move on. The dynamic duo headed to Colorado in hopes of having some illusional family brew haha. This has never happened as "Dick" (the husband) never likes anything or anyone and makes everyone nervous. My mom is a total codependent so she tries to manage him so he doesn't get upset and then acts weird most of the time. My brothers' kids are 3 and 5 and a little bit hyper. This was just too much for them to handle so they wanted to leave. The little 5 year old told his mommy that he felt weird around them and didn't want them looking at him funny. (Hmm, if a 5 year old says something like that, I tend to believe it).

So, they wanted to leave early and my brother's wife made some curt comments to them because she was protecting her baby cubs. Well, she told me about this and then my mom called me and told me her side. I didn't take sides. I just listened and provided an ear. IN the back of my mind I thought, these people have always said that I was the "ruiner" of every event because I was emotional. So, for the past year I haven't gone to any "events". I've seen these people destruct over and over again even thougth the "ruiner" wasn't around. But, they are used to thinking I'm the problem.

With that being probably know where this story is going. Things heated up today as my mom called me and told me that the mamabear left her a message that basically said my mom was a horrible mother and that's why her kids are all fucked up and that she was very hurt by the way they acted around her cubs. Earlier in the day, mamabear had called me and told me she had done that. I understood that she was distraught because her kids had been affected by this visit. The kids were so excited to see Nana and Poppy, but Nana and Poppy were displeased with their kid-like behavior and decided to leave early. Mamabear got real pissed at this. So, the scenario is that I know both sides. I talk to both and don't offer anything about what the other said. But, lo and behold, I am an instigator supposedly and caused this entire catastrophe. Now who's hurt? ME!

However, the important part of the journey for me is that I'm in San Francisco and no where near them. I have always been the Identified Problem and Scapegoat and even though I am miles and miles away, they found some insane way to blame me for the problems they are all having.

It's insane, I tell you ...Insane. What is it about coming out of a suicidal depression and getting abstinent that makes people turn into assholes. I just don't get it. First, I had the idiot friend who dissed me and I let go of, then we had the drama with the family, and now I'm being blamed for something I had no part in. I was so angry when I heard this and really wanted to rage at all of them. I felt myself going toward that same suicidal place that only my family seems to help me get to. I am holding on. ONe thing I liked about James Frey's book, A Million Little Pieces, was the term "hold on, just hold on". I'm holding. I'm still taking care of myself around food and trying to tend to my tasks that keep me on the road to recovery but this dynamic of scapegoating is becoming intolerable.

Am I supposed to just walk away from these people? At a time when my friendships aren't quite a family, and I'm jobless, and very tender due to new abstinent behavior and coming out of a deep clinical depression, am I supposed to walk away from them?

Maybe some of you are wondering; what does this have to do with Fat Girl Camp? It has everything to do with Fat Girl Camp. It is a known fact that eating addictively is merely a symptom of much deeper problems. I am recovering from a hopeless state of MIND and BODY. My reaction to food AFTER I take the first bite of an addictive substance is out of my mental control. I believe this wholeheartedly. However, when emotions come into play it is required to rely on a power greater than myself. I'm having problems in this area.

I've always said that I should have been born into a crazy Jewish family from NYC. I would fit in so well. But alas, I was born into a broken Irish Catholic family who are so disjointed and fragmented it has made me physcially sick and mentally shattered. I wonder how I can use a higher power in this? Will a higher power even help me? Is there even a higher power at all?

These are the things going through my mind right now. I still can't believe they are blaming me for something that happened 1000 miles away....unbelievable but predictable.



Vickie said...

I don't know if this will help -

I listen to Dr Joy Brown on the radio all the time - she also has a show on TV (perhaps TLC channel).

This type of question comes up all the time - I wasn't even there - now somehow it is all my fault.

She says that when the first person starts to tell you the story/her side - you should STOP them and say - "Mom - I will talk to you about the weather, movies, books, whatever, but if you have a problem with Sally - I am not getting in the middle - I don't want to hear about it". Dr Joy says if they continue - then just get OFF the phone - don't listen.

Then you can't be in the middle and you aren't caught in something that you can't do anything about anyway.

check out her website - I think you can listen to shows through it. You probably won't agree with EVERYTHING she says - but she is pretty practical.

Lori said...

I'm watching a friend go through something a little bit similar (not as much dysfunction but a lot of immaturity and things involving MONEY). She hears everyone's side of things and everyone wants to draw her into the drama (and she does get involved up to a certain point). She has managed to keep them from blaming her (like I said, they are just more immature than really dysfunctional).

(Do these people have email? Maybe you can send a collective email and point out you are just the person that they all bitch to, not the instigator. I doubt that they will listen to you but for once, you can say what you want to everyone at once without anyone hearing it from someone else.)

Just keep taking care of yourself and in the future when they want to bitch about things that the other one has done, just say, "This isn't very constructive for me because I wasn't there and I'd rather not know about it. You should talk to mamabear, Icebergmama and Insanebrotherbear." I think really any way you try to deal with this, they are going to TRY to blame you. What would they do if you don't get upset and calmly say, "You can try and blame me, but I wasn't there and all I did was listen to the three of you bitch about the other one. I'd rather not continue this conversation if that's how it's going to be."

I worked with a woman who had a really hateful boss. And this woman would come in and scream at her. And she would sit there and take it and go away later and cry herself. We would say, "Just get up and leave the minute she starts screaming." (I know, easier said than done.) The next secretary did do that and said to the screamer, "I'll talk to you when you are calmer." And you know what? She stopped screaming. (She was still a bitch but some things you can't change.) Just change how you react is all I'm saying. Don't get caught in the same old family games by reacting the same. It doesn't do you any good.

Maybe when they are going to visit each other, you should not answer the phone for a week or two until the drama winds down. I think they mistake you listening to meaning you agree with them. (I know that's not what you meant.)

Hang in there and keep doing what you need to do to take care of Michele. Don't walk away from them but don't sit there and take a lot of crap off them either. I think they count on you being their whipping boy. Surprise them by just sticking up for yourself in a different way. This is a bit long-winded but I do understand how emotions play a part in this. I'm sorry you had to go through this.

I think you might consider that you being abstinenet and getting better might be a threat for some people. You won't be the same Michele who lets people run over her. You'll be stronger and not put up with this dysfunction.

Vickie said...

Michele -
What Lori had to say followed right along with what I was saying.

After I thought about it more, and read Lori's note - is it possible that THIS is why you are "labeled" in your family - that just listening and RESPONDING to the Other's problems has built up over the years to the point where ALL they remember is that you are involved in the aftermath each time - even though you actually weren't involved in the original conflict???

My guess is from reading you here is that you are a verbal/articulate person - you say what you think. Do you have a strong personality? - Is it possible that in trying to listen and support - you are putting the "stamp" of yourself ON each issue?

I have to be very careful at meetings because of this - too much emphasis is often placed on what I way because I speak in a strong/forthright manner.

Instead of being just another voice - with my opinion weighed in with the rest - sometimes TOO much emphasis is placed on what I say.

My 12 year old is like this too - we have to be very careful not to BE TOO MUCH.

On the flip side - I get wonderful service most everywhere I go - in a sense - no one "messes with me".

I still think you might try listening to Dr Joy for a couple weeks - she might help you see the dynamics of what is going on.

Michelle said...

Hey Friend,
I just wanted to wish you well. I wish I had some really great advice, but I don't.
I just wanted to you to know I'm out here in cyberland wishing you well and saying a silent prayer that everything will work out for you.
ps.I beleive God exists.

Rowan said...

After reading this and the follow-up post my first thought was - get the hell away from these crazymakers and FAST!
I agree with the tactic Vicki described. I have had to do that to my father on numerous occasions by saying 'I'm hanging up now, bye!' after he tried to lay some guilt trip on me. It really was effective and he's never pulled that crap on me since. I was scared to do it, scared he would be mad at me but once I did it I really felt strong - empowered even! I wasn't mean to him I just told him in so many words I was done listening to him.
These people in your family need a scapegoat so they don't have to look at themselves. I could fill an entire blog of ways my parents tried to blame everything that happened to them on me.
Being angry at them is a good thing, it means your healing instead of letting them heap their stuff onto you. Anger can be turned into action - you can rise above this, say you've had enough and claim your right to peace!
Be well friend!

angela said...

i love that suggestion about not listening, saying that you will talk about many things but not about family members. i think it would be hard to give up being in the loop, family gossip is involvement, but the cost is really high.

i'm sorry you had to go through this!

hey! reading your blog (and careening towards bottom at the same time) helped me to choose abstinence. i'm on the kay sheppard food plan, again! five days and i'm feeling really so much better. thanks! what you write matters.

daisyk said...

better yet, when there's family gathering coming up, send that group email a week in advnace to say that you don't want to hear from them unless it's about the movies or lebanon for the next 28 days.

cut `em off at the knees before they've stood up.

AND: that power bigger than you gave you a forum & people who love your pain & process, as well a the intelligence to figure out the dynamic & put it in coherent english.

so there.

buddha_girl said...


Many wonderful insights and responses to your post here. Surrounded by such support is a remarkable thing, no?

You don't have to continue being their scapegoat. Through whatever means, change your role in the family. You don't have to continue in the same bit part that's been assigned to you.

Perhaps, in their own ways, they enjoy when you're depressed, outraged, withdrawn, and defenseless. People with those characteristics are easy marks.

Love yourself a little more each day by choosing to continue talking here and with anyone else who shows you love and support.

By becoming better and healthier, mentally, physically, and emotionally, you've put your family in a precarious position. They're used to you one way...and are scrambling to keep things consistent.

I know they love you. Family is family. But you don't have to allow past behaviors and choices to dictate where you are going TODAY.

Much love,

Lori said...

Are you feeling better? I hope so.

Miss Michele said...

All of you are so wonderful and I have taken everything you've all said. Thank you for taking the time to read my stuff but also the time it took for all of you to leave such thoughtful coments.


Anonymous said...

Solution - get tooled up with a Kanone Achtzehn and rain down Blitzkreig on the mofos! Check out the track "Kopfschuss" by Eisbrecher (on Youtube) for inspiration (banging German industrial metal) :o)