About Arthur D. Colman

Dr. Arthur ColmanI came to this work naturally, as it turned out. As a kid, I was the perfect scapegoat for schoolyard bullies: I was small and I was smart, a potent combination at a time when children are developing and establishing their place and ranking within the many peer groups — the cliques — that arise in this period of intense  socialization.

Invariably, some children, and I was one of them, don’t fit in. For a myriad of reasons they’re seen as a threat to the prevailing group — and they’re bullied out of the social loop.

While I didn’t specialize in scapegoating initially — I got my medical degree from Harvard and completed my psychiatric residency at Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, University of California, in San Francisco, both places of deep privilege and belonging — my childhood experience stayed deep within me and came into focus when I was drafted during the height of the Vietnam War.

‘At War’ with Scapegoating

A major in the U.S. Army, I was a staff psychiatrist and led a medical unit at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, D.C. I would see and treat soldiers who had been excluded and marginalized by their peers, often, as it happened, for being  dangerously enthusiastic about combat.

The military is a hotbed of scapegoating and for good reason. In the military, survival depends on groups of soldiers who must be able to work together. They are trained to be interchangeable parts of a precision machine. And the smooth running of that machine is literally a matter of life and death.

Just as the military abounds in instances of scapegoating, it is also equally well versed in how to deal with it, for the benefit of the troops and the nation it is protecting. And how does the military deal with scapegoating? Through treatment of the individual, re-education of the group, and a quick return to duty.

While it may seem like a strange “cure” to send people back into the fray sooner than later, it works for the benefit of all, including the scapegoated. Men and women who are scapegoated never recover fully from this devastating insult without understanding what happened and, importantly, to be given the opportunity to deal with it head-on, as quickly as possible.

A World of Scapegoating

After the Army I moved from hospital work to teaching, joining the psychiatric staff at the University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco. Much ofmy professional life revolves around scapegoating. I counsel individuals  and I lead seminars and workshops on scapegoating within groups. I’ve worked withgroups and leaders in academia, government agencies , NGO’s  and businesses. I’ve lectured worldwide and have worked closely with groups including  South Africa, where apartheid is another word for scapegoating.

This website takes its name from the title of my 1995 book, “Up from Scapegoating: Awakening Consciousness in Groups,” one of few books on the subject and the only work to look at the dynamics of group scapegoating from the viewpoint of Jungian psychology and group process , my twin specialties as a depth analyst.

While the book is academically focused (I’m flattered that it’s on the reading list at my alma mater, Harvard, among other universities), it does speak directly and universally to the issue at the very heart of scapegoating. Scapegoating — through its many forms, bullying and hazing, torture and genocide — is endemic within society because it is a naturally occurring, pervasive aspect of human psychology.

Scapegoating plays a primary role in how individuals develop and groups bond and thrive, for the good or the bad. We are all part of the scapegoating process, whether we realize it or not. And we must both accept our responsibility for the scapegoat and do something about it — but first comes knowledge, which is why I launched the Dr. Scapegoat website. Between my research and your input, together we can begin the work needed to eradicate what fuels this ancient and persistent social evil.

Arthur D. Colman
Sausalito, California