Toxic family systems are strange. Members are not treated as individual human beings but assigned roles. They are then treated in line with those roles. Some are allowed to abuse others, while those abused are expected to endure the abuse and accept that they deserve it. The system is inherently codependent, everybody is a parasite to someone else.
But for some, the role they are assigned is so unpleasant that they end up leaving. These are the scapegoats. Yet, the system doesn’t let go off the scapegoat psychically even when the scapegoat is no longer physically present. The system continues using him or her to protect itself from grasping its own toxicity. That happens especially if the scapegoat starts speaking up about his or her experience of being abused by members of the system.
Confronting the toxic family
The scapegoat might as well be the most emotionally healthy person in the family, the one who in spite of being raised on ‘planet disorder’ somehow maintained the capacity to understand normalcy. The scapegoat finds it difficult to accept the irreparable toxicity of the family system and the level of dysfunction of the ‘loved ones’ and usually craves reparation. I certainly did. I craved for the family to acknowledge what had been going on in my childhood and how much that damaged me. I wanted them to feel remorse. I wanted them to want to make things right. I craved for them to care about me and wanted them to want to fix the relationships. But they did not. The only thing I was offered was some form of being part of the system in exchange for shutting up and not speaking about the abuse and neglect of my childhood ever again.
I have been called mentally ill by people in the family system who were the chief enablers and apologists of my abusive deranged father and my mother who has an alcohol problem and related behavioural issues. Facts don’t matter. The actions don’t matter. The fact that in the case of my father there are witnesses, other people’s children who also ‘deserved’ to be whacked for saying something that displeased him, doesn’t matter. For his enablers, I am the mentally ill one. It is really quite unbelievable.
Why cannot they see the truth?
So why are they so invested in defending a mentally ill abuser and vilifying me? Why cannot they see the truth?
There are several explanations. The dysfunction in these systems may go back generations. It may be that some of these family members were themselves used as emotional punching bags in their childhood. It may be possible that some of them were yelled at, cursed, beaten and bullied under the pretext that they had deserved it, when it fact, they were being used as a release valve by a mentally deranged person. Because as children they knew nothing else, they were indoctrinated to accept dysfunction as normal and interpret abuse as a valid method of child-rearing. They then tried to replay this scenario with younger members of the family system, passing the punching bag role to them and acting as the persecutors. The powerful mechanism of projection then makes them believe that the scapegoat deserves their abuse.
Sometimes, it may be their inferiority complexes that are triggered by someone in the family system. I believe that was a part of my story. I was an unwanted child but at the same time I was incredibly gifted and driven. They just had to stomp me down and prevent me from fully developing my talents.
For me, the proof that this may indeed have been the case is that no matter how far I have gotten in life, no matter how much I have overcome and achieved against the odds, I am still being assigned the ‘mentally ill’, ‘diffucult’ label, by people who don’t have a fraction of my life experience. It sucks. Your family should cheer on you and celebrate your successes with you. But if the family is full of small-minded, resentful and bitter individuals, they will not want to celebrate your successes. They will want to downplay it and deny the value of your achievement.
If they considered that you might be right, they would have to face their guilt
They are simply protecting themselves. They are protecting themselves from facing the truth about themselves and the abusive nature of the toxic family system that sustains them. They are in denial and they are too weak to face the reality. They are so dependent on the toxic family system that they have to protect it at all cost, even if that means further psychologically abusing the scapegoat. Gossiping is abuse. Spreading lies about someone is abuse. It is actually a very cruel and cowardly form of psychic abuse. They hijack your life story and turn you into a character that fits their sick needs. It’s absolutely terrifying to be on the receiving end of this.
Can they ever see the truth?
So what would have to happen for them to see the truth? I think the toxic family system might crumble when one of the excused abusers crosses the line. In my family, the pattern is for toxic dysfunctional men to be excused. Maybe one day, one of them crosses the boundary into sexual abuse and maybe, one day, the truth comes to light. But even then, will those enabling dysfunctional females be willing to face the reality? Will they feel sorry? I doubt that. Many wives and children of the worst Nazi monsters remained in denial about the true nature of their ‘loved ones’ even when there was no way to escape the truth.
I still find it triggering that these people are controlling the narrative about who I am, driven by their toxic, self-protecting agenda.
But I am choosing to own my voice and own my story. I am choosing to be scientific. I am choosing to describe the experience of having been raised amid a deranged family cult as accurately as possible with the hope that something positive will come out of it for someone else.