You couldn’t brace yourself because you never saw it coming. Your sense of safety and security is shattered in an instant, and the shock is then imprinted on your body-mind permanently. Your heart breaks. Time seems to stand still as the realisation of treachery sucker punches the air from your lungs. The pain is so raw, consuming, and overwhelming that you find yourself dissociated, hovering outside your body, dazed and confused.
Someone close to you, possibly a family member, partner, friend, or colleague, just pulled the rug out from under you. You tumble out of a web of lies you so easily believed and actions you dismissed, because it never even crossed your mind that the one you trusted the most would ever hurt you. You thought this person had your back. You thought the two of you were honouring the same rules, sharing the same moral code, and respecting the same beliefs. This was a person you loved, trusted, and believed in. This is what it feels like to be blindsided by betrayal.
Betrayal hurts so bad, on multiple levels. It is one of the most devastating experiences in life, and one that is difficult to comprehend. It shatters the trust you had in others and leaves you feeling as if you are all on your own. To make matters worse, during times of betrayal when we most need support, we may find the ones we would usually turn to first are actually the betrayers. When a person close to you violates your trust, it calls everything you believed about them into question and, unfortunately easy answers are not forthcoming.
“Some people are in such utter darkness that they will burn you just to see a light.
Try not to take it personally.”
― Kamand Kojouri
Violation of Trust
The reason that betrayal is the most devastating kind of loss is because most often it is a loss that didn’t have to occur. It only occurs because of someone’s deliberately hurtful behaviour, or their carelessness, or their own personal weakness. Unlike a loss such as death or illness, there is usually some sort of choice involved. The person who was betrayed believes that this choice was wrong and preventable. Trust is the bedrock that all relationships are built upon. If that rock is chipped away by deceit, secrets, and duplicity (or merely lack of personal accountably), the foundation begins to crumble. When something more serious happens, such as infidelity in a marriage, the trust and foundation are broken in an instant. Broken trust forces us, first, to acknowledge a painful reality we may have chosen to ignore. It is then up to us to make some difficult decisions.
In any relationship where trust is broken, both parties must be willing to work through the damage in order to heal the relationship. It cannot be a one-sided process. When the party who has been hurt does not want to reconcile because the hurt is too deep, the relationship cannot be restored. Likewise, if the offending party does not want to own up to whatever they did to break the trust, the relationship cannot be restored. Both sides must be willing to come to the table and be open, honest, and vulnerable. They must also care enough to want to put forth the effort that is required to make the relationship work again.
Relationships, by their very nature, do not work when they are one-sided. Before you embark on restoration of a relationship, ask yourself: “Is this person and the relationship worth the emotional effort?” If you answered yes and the other party also said yes, then it is possible to build an even stronger foundation which includes greater closeness, improved transparency, sincere vulnerability, and open communications that create a healthy, rewarding, life-long relationship.
“Often people that say they “don’t care” actually do. The moment they discuss you with their friends and family, compete with you, bad mouth you to others or react to anything you do or say is when they give themselves away. You can either be saddened or flattered that you effected someone so much. The perspective is yours to determine.”
Does Your Trust Program Need an Upgrade?
Did you grow up having doubts about your self-esteem or personal worth? When things went wrong in your family, did you tend to be the fall guy? Did one or more members of your family (especially a parent) routinely criticise, blame or shame you as if you couldn’t do anything right? Did other family members go along with this treatment or join the blame game? Do you find yourself encountering recurring disrespect from friends or colleagues? Do you feel unsure of yourself or have difficulty experiencing trust in relationships? Are you drawn to people who repeatedly hurt you, act irresponsibly or let you down?
If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of these statements, then you need to hear this: you may be the family scapegoat. The term ‘scapegoat’ refers to a family member who takes the blame for difficulties in the family. Scapegoating is a form of bullying. Scapegoats are repeatedly subjected to belittling, humiliation, abandonment, betrayal and outright hatred by family members, who make them the ‘bad guy’. Family relationships profoundly impact our identity and how we view ourselves. People who have been subjected to scapegoat abuse since childhood may absorb and believe these disparaging messages which causes them to question their worth and lovability; even worse they may grow into adults who seek out scapegoats to avoid their own childhood pain.
“There’a a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth; “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognise the difference.”
Intergenerational Patterns of Abuse
While it’s happening, family members are totally unaware of what they are doing and would deny it if confronted with their behaviour. Often, scapegoating begins in childhood and continues into and throughout adulthood. So, why would a family choose a loved one to bully and scapegoat? The answer has a lot to do with the concept of scapegoating and the purpose it serves. Scapegoating is often a way for families to hide problems that they cannot face. The dysfunctional family must keep their image unmarred. This is why they choose certain members of the family to take the blame for any problems that arise.
There’s no way these dysfunctional dominant family members will allow responsibilities to be allocated in the right way. It’s about covering flaws to the point of ridiculous measure. The Scapegoat does not get picked randomly or by accident. Usually they are either sensitive, unhappy, gifted, vulnerable, ill and/or the outspoken child or whistle blower. Whatever the circumstances, the scapegoat is almost always the child who refuses to look content or stay silent in the unbearable atmosphere created in the family home.
“Abuse manipulates and twists a child’s natural sense of trust and love. Innocent feelings are belittled or mocked and she learns to ignore her feelings. She can’t afford to feel the full range of feelings in her body while she’s being abused—pain, outrage, hate, vengeance, confusion, arousal. So she short-circuits them and goes numb.”
10 Signs You Are The Family Scapegoat
“You can’t do anything right. Everything is your fault.” This kind of early training breeds insecurity and debilitating self-doubt. Know that this simply isn’t true. You were just a convenient receptacle for someone who was incapable or unwilling to take responsibility for their own faults.
1. You were ignored
If you were part of a dysfunctional family, you may have noticed that no one wanted to listen to you. Most of the blame was placed on you, and then you were ignored when trying to set things right. Your truth could destroy their illusion.
2. You were dismissed
There is no reward for good behaviour. In fact, your proudest achievements and accomplishments are belittled, ignored or all-together dismissed. This is where many scapegoated children give up and resign themselves to the negative characterisation assigned to them. The family scapegoat wasn’t complimented as a child because this would contradict their flawed and always responsible position in the family.
3. You were verbally abused
“You are so lazy, stupid and irresponsible. You’re useless!” You wore every negative adjective they could summon. No matter how hard you tried to disprove these labels, they never missed an opportunity to belittle you.
4. They say you should change
Honestly, everyone can change for the better in some way. However, the family scapegoat is expected to make changes every day. Dysfunctional families will dish out lengthy reasons for a change. Of course, this change always falls on the scapegoat. When changes aren’t made, it’s just more reason to blame them for everything that happens.
5. You were magnified
The only deeds that are ever highlighted or broadcasted are the bad ones. Your family is happy to share anything that affirms their negative characterisation of you. You may even find that the worse you screw up, the kinder you’re treated. Your scapegoater won’t take proactive steps to help you succeed but they are happy to provide a safety net when you fail. This is because the scapegoater thrives on “I told you so…” They are affirmed when your actions begin to reflect the negativity they’ve planted.
6. You were labelled
The scapegoater has trained the entire family, by example, how to treat you. Once you have been labelled as the bad one, you are fair game for siblings, spouses, relatives, even family friends to pick on. When people came around, your family members warned them about your behaviour and told them to stay away from you. Scapegoated children often find themselves in adult relationships and situations that mimic this dynamic.
7. You were isolated
Just as you were being ignored, you were also being isolated. The goal was not to isolate you from all of the family; just the one person who might stick up for you. Their system hinges on keeping you small and marginalised. They are threatened by anyone who might interfere. As the scapegoat starts to feel better about themselves, the family will quickly isolate them from their ally and put the scapegoat back in their place. Imagine someone firmly placing their foot on someone else’s neck, then you correctly visualise what it’s like for the scapegoat.
8. You were demonised
If you think the insults vaulted toward you in your presence were bad, then the insults behind your back were even worse. Dysfunctional families will not only attempt to convince you of your negative character, but they will also try to convince others of the same things. This was done to further enforce isolation from other people who may have taken your side.
9. You became the punching bag
No matter what you do, or who’s around, you were the punching bag. You act out the negative ‘expectations’ of scapegoating such as not living up to your potential, or getting into relationships with abusive people because it ‘feels’ familiar and your self-worth has been damaged.
10. You are minimised
You may be successful and accomplished career-wise and/or academically, especially in comparison to the rest of your family. However, your achievements are dismissed, belittled, minimised, criticised and rejected by family members.
“An abuser can seem emotionally needy. You can get caught in a trap of catering to him, trying to fill a bottomless pit. But he’s not so much needy as entitled, so no matter how much you give him, it will never be enough. He will just keep coming up with more demands because he believes his needs are your responsibility, until you feel drained down to nothing.”
Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed
Family relationships built during the growing up years determine your success in adult bonding. They set the tone of how you interact with the world at large. In family scapegoating, a single person (some may call the black sheep) is chosen to carry the burden of family guilt, secrets, anger, and frustration of the entire family. During childhood and adolescence, many scapegoat children may struggle with the following issues:
- Low self-worth.
- Increased anxiety symptoms.
- Reckless behaviour (substance use, self-harm, unprotected sex, shoplifting).
- Poor academic performance.
- Issues with authoritative figures like teachers, neighbours, or the police.
- Aggression and bullying other people.
- Disordered eating.
- Limited or no motivation in outside hobbies or interests.
“The world isn’t fair? What a huge revelation! Some people in power abuse those they have power over? Amazing! When did this start happening?”
The Legacy of Scapegoating
With family scapegoating, the behaviour often reinforces itself. For instance, a child may receive a poor grade in school. The dominant parent with narcissistic tendencies explodes and tells them how dumb they are. The child internalises that they are dumb and that it’s not worth even trying. As a result, they continue to receive poor grades and “prove” the narcissist’s claim to be true. Without healing, when they grow up, scapegoats may experience the following:
Difficulty expressing their needs: From a young age, the scapegoat child learned to hold things inside. Anything they said could and would often be used against them. As a result, many scapegoat children have difficulty expressing their needs and feelings with others. On one end of the extreme, they may come across as cold and insensitive. On the other end, they might be seen as overly dramatic or irrational.
Excessive people-pleasing: Many scapegoats grow up assuming that love is conditional. Therefore, they spend a great deal of time trying to keep other people happy. They assume that if they keep the peace, they will be liked.
Difficulty forming secure relationships: Many scapegoats struggle with emotional and physical intimacy. They may find themselves attracted to other narcissists or abusers because it’s familiar to them. If they end up in a healthy relationship, they may unconsciously sabotage the dynamics.
Substance use and other addictive behaviours: Scapegoats often try to escape their pain in various ways. They may turn to certain vices like drugs or alcohol in an effort to numb their feelings. Likewise, because they’ve often been told they’re “bad” or “useless,” they may assume they’re doomed to addictive behaviour.
Problems with real-world launching: Scapegoats may struggle in many settings, including the workplace, school, and in social interactions. They might try to defy authority or argue when they disagree with something. Or, they may be so used to being perceived as a failure that they don’t even try to succeed.
Impaired self-esteem: More than anything, almost all scapegoats struggle with a damaged sense of self. They may feel entirely worthless or burdensome to others. This low self-esteem can act as a launchpad for poor decision-making and impulsive behaviour.
“Memories demand attention, and these memories will have teeth.”
Welcome to Earth School
On this planet, abuse is intergenerational. Many parents who abuse their children were also abused when they were young. Additionally, abused children are at a greater risk of inflicting harm on their children. Family Scapegoats often desperately want a sense of power and control over their lives. After all, they have spent so much time being belittled. On a subconscious level, they understand that narcissists gain attention and validation. They may believe those narcissistic methods are the only effective ones.
If you are the family scapegoat, the first thing to recognise is that, it is not your fault. In fact, being the family scapegoat gives you the opportunity to break this generational curse and heal your ancestral line. Know that the most powerful souls must go through the greatest lessons. Your family training can lead you to develop special gifts and exceptional emotional maturity if you choose to heal your childhood wounding.
Scapegoat strengths include, but are not limited to:
- Justice seeking
- Highly sensitive
- Emotionally reactive
- Highly empathic
- A caretaker for others
- Questions authority
- Different in some way
- Protective of others
- Alchemises blame and guilt
- Creative genius
“Don’t judge yourself by what others did to you.”
Your Mission – Should You Chose to Accept it
Whether it’s life-long, or a one-off event, betrayal leaves us at a fork in the road. We can choose to act in ways that either favour or impede personal growth: we can become stuck in a bad moment forever or we can put it behind us for good. We decide our path. When trust is shattered, one of the most challenging aspects of rebuilding trust is rebuilding trust in ourselves.
Acknowledge instead of avoid
Healing often requires you to first come to terms with what happened. When you don’t address the betrayal, your turmoil can spill over to other areas of your life. You can’t erase it, so no matter how carefully you try to suppress what happened, you might catch yourself replaying those memories when you’re with friends, caring for your children, or driving to work. Leaning into a trauma like infidelity might seem too painful to even consider. In reality, though, acknowledging it allows you to begin exploring the reasons behind it, which can help kick off the healing process. Instead of getting trapped in an unrelenting cycle of self-doubt and self-criticism, you can begin coming to terms with underlying relationship issues, such as lack of communication or intimacy, and explore ways to resolve them.
Practice accepting difficult emotions
Plenty of unpleasant emotions can show up in the aftermath of betrayal. It’s common to feel humiliated or ashamed. You might also feel furious, vengeful, sick, or grieved. Naturally, you might find yourself trying to avoid this distress by denying or trying to block out what happened. Although hiding from painful or upsetting emotions might seem easy and safe, avoiding or masking your emotions can make it more difficult to regulate them. Putting a name to specific emotions — anger, regret, sadness, loss — can help you begin navigating them more effectively. Recognising exactly what you’re dealing with can make it easier and less frightening to sit with those emotions and slowly increase your awareness of them. Greater emotional awareness, in turn, can help you begin to identify strategies to cope with those feelings more productively.
Turn to others for support
Opening up about betrayal isn’t always easy. You may not want to talk about childhood trauma or your partner’s affair. Plus, once someone has betrayed your trust, you might have a hard time trusting anyone at all. Yet people need emotional support, especially during stressful times. Your loved ones may not need to know exactly what happened, but they can still offer companionship when you don’t want to be alone, and distraction when you can’t get away from your looping thoughts. It’s perfectly OK to politely let your friends know when you’d like guidance and when you’re just looking to share feelings without any well-intentioned advice. You may want to step carefully when discussing the betrayal with mutual friends. Gossip can make a difficult situation even more painful, so you may want to save the in-depth details for your most trusted loved ones.
Focus on what you need
After a betrayal, most people need some time to decide whether to end the relationship or to repair the damage. This isn’t something you should feel pressured to decide right away. As you begin to recover from the initial shock of trauma, pay extra attention to your needs: Instead of lying awake cycling through distressing thoughts, try aromatherapy, an Epsom Salt bath, or soothing music to relax and improve your sleep. Instead of skipping meals when you feel nauseous or have no appetite, snack on energy-boosting foods and keep yourself hydrated. Favourite movies and familiar TV shows can calm and comfort you, and get outside into nature. Nature heals and balances you on every level.
“In the quiet moments, listen to your heart; where it wanders is where your truth lays.”
8 Pillars of Trust
Corporate scandals, terrorist threats, office politics, and broken relationships have created low trust on almost every front. However, the ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is not only vital to our personal and interpersonal well-being; it is the key leadership competency of the new global economy. Trust impacts us every single minute of every single day. It underpins and affects the quality of every relationship, every communication, every work project, every business venture, and every effort in which we are engaged. It changes the quality of every moment and alters the trajectory of every future moment in our lives – both personally and professionally. Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create.
This is the cornerstone of trust. It’s simple. Clarity creates trust. Ambiguity erodes it. Leaders must be crystal clear about expectations, their vision, what they stand for—really, anything and everything. As a leader, you are always in the spotlight.
Show others you care. Consider a salesperson who is willing to forgo a sale to ensure the customer gets what they need, rather than what the company has to sell. That’s proof the salesperson, who represents the company, cares more about the customer than making one sale. We are each the leader and that’s a form of leadership.
Do what is right, rather than what is easy. Every once in a while we come to at a fork in the road that presents us with two options: the easy way and the right way. The easy way probably isn’t wrong, but it’s not necessarily the best option. Leaders do what’s best, not what’s easy.
What are you committed to? What do you stand for? Where do you choose to stand during adversity and tough times? Your character (#3) is the backbone of your commitment.
People want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. We’ve been talking about trust; “knowing” and “liking” is about connection. People want to be around “friends.” Not just personal friends, but collegial friends with whom they work or do business.
How do you contribute to the success of your organisation and everyone in it? People expect their leaders to positively contribute to goals and outcomes. When they see this form of leadership in action, it builds confidence and trust.
Anything less than consistency erodes trust. Your actions, behaviours, and even your moods need to be consistent. Consistency creates confidence and confidence is essential to creating trust.
“I will never compromise truth for the sake of getting along with people
who can only get along when we agree.”
Daring to Trust
Do you feel like you are a trustworthy person? Do you say what’s on your mind? Do you speak about people the same way to others, when they are not there, as you do when they are present? When you tell someone that you’re going to do something, do you follow through with your word? Do you find yourself early and on-time to meetings and commitments or late and sometimes canceling? Do you tend to avoid difficult situations or confront them head on? When something goes wrong do you find yourself looking for someone to blame or find yourself looking in the mirror? How you trust yourself manifests in how you understand trust, live your life, and lead – both in your company and in society. Trust in self affects how you trust others, how others trust you, and how you deliver on your commitments to self and others.
The idea that trust has a profound impact on all areas of our lives is inarguable. Stephen Covey taught us that trust also increases the speed and efficiency of how we get things done. For example: if you ask a trusted friend to look after your dog while you’re out of town, that would probably be the end of it. You wouldn’t have to worry, consistently check in, or deliberate with them about it. However, if you had no choice but to ask someone who you only partially trusted, then it would slow down the entire process. You would worry, second guess yourself, check in frequently, and certainly deliberate with them about the whole thing. Trust leads to speed and peace of mind.
“Trust is actually stronger
because it’s been tested and proved through challenge.”
— Stephen M. R. Covey
The One Thing that Changes Everything
There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organisation, nation, economy, and civilisation throughout the world. This one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. That one thing is trust.
“In a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing, and people will still get your meaning.
In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured,
even precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.”
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