A rather vexing cartoon from last weeks New Yorker had this lead: “Dan and Irene’s communication problems improve thanks to Richard, their couples therapist.” The picture shows Dan with his arm around Irene, happily bonding as they call their ... read more
A person who had read my posting on what I call positive scapegoating wondered whether this was an example of “positive scapegoating.” I told her no, it’s the common garden variety of scapegoating in which members of a small group use the peverse energy of blaming another, in this case a member with special authority in a group, to bond. What happens to their couples’ therapy is anyone’s guess but I wouldn’t put my money on a good outcome. And the therapist might never know what’s really going on in the next few sessions. Clueless, perhaps, but at least he gets paid!
Parents, teachers and therapists are often scapegoats. They’re are easy to blame for children’s woes and they really do influence the problems. Parents in particular have trouble defending themselves (especially if their dead)! If their alive (and wise) they can try to just be happy that their kids are doing well and if it takes scapegoating them to do that , well, c’est la vie.
It’s called Scapegoat-Lite: when little harm is done and it goes with the job and the role. Mild abuse of authority towards a greater goal–most professionals, lawyers, physicians, teachers, etc. usually take it in stride . It’s rarely a long-term solution to conflict but it’s a big part of human behavior–endemic as it is in politics, family conflict, and almost all life disputes.
What I call Positive Scapegoating is a much more powerful process. It begins in serious scapegoating and that dynamic is strongly felt throughout the group, and especially by the victim who at first faces loss of community, comfort and personal esteem . Being scapegoated is always severe trauma, one from which most of us do not emerge easily. But some take the opportunity to get rid of the ties that bind. The “positive scapegoat” is ejected from a constraining environment which allow separation and transformation in positive directions. Many of us need that push ‘from the nest’ to have the chance to become ourselves and fly .
December 2, 2013 Leave a Comment
Dear Dr. Scapegoat: My question has to do with children. My child’s mother and my family have singled me out as being the problem in the family and cut me out. I have joint custody so my son is with ... read more
November 7, 2013 Leave a Comment
Thanks to All-American lineman Jonathan Martin, we hear that locker room culture in the NFL caters to racism, bullying to “toughen up young players," and all manner of hazing and extortion ... read more
October 31, 2013 Leave a Comment
Being a Good Victim Nicholas Kristoff quotes a Chinese saying, ‘we lifted up a rock and dropped it on our own feet.’ I think he was referring to the intelligence scandal but lately it could apply to ... read more
October 17, 2013 Leave a Comment
Dr. Scapegoat keeps wondering when our understanding of the dynamics of scapegoating will enter politics. Anthropologist tell us over and over again that scapegoating is the most pervasive group ... read more
October 1, 2013 Leave a Comment
(continued from Making a Difference I) Trying to follow the government shutdown is a case in point of the difficulty of making sense of a collective process. Our shorthand is to criticize the ... read more
July 18, 2013 Leave a Comment
Yet another revenge film about ‘settling the score.’ I love the title especially after seeing the results and feedback about my recent interview about revenge with the Pacific Sun, a local Marin ... read more