This is Part II in a three part blog series on scapegoating.
In my first blog post on the topic of the scapegoat, as elucidated in Murray Bowen’s Family Systems Theory, I explained the general principle of scapegoating. I also gave the concrete example of blaming my small daughter instead of accepting my own responsibility for my being late for work when my children were small.
While it would have been easier to continue to blame my children, that never would have resulted in a long term resolution. To address the issue honestly and fairly, I had to take on the much larger task of readjusting my entire schedule, beginning with early afternoon the day before.
This general principle, of taking the easy way out and blaming the wrong thing for our hurts and anxiety, is also something that we must all watch out for as we attempt to address the causes of conflict and anxiety in our workplaces, families, schools, and church congregations.
Therapist and blogger Kellen Von Houser has written several helpful, short articles on scapegoating. In one such article (click HERE) he gives the example of a child in a family who ends up being denounced by that family because the child is the only one willing or able to speak the truth. It is easier for the extended family to believe that the child is irrational than it is to accept and fix the truth that the child is naming. In another article, entitled “The Problem Child, Scapegoating, and the Family System, Von Houser gives an example of this played out in an alcoholic family.
Whether this phenomenon is played out in a dysfunctional family (blaming a child), in a dysfunctional work organization (blaming a secretary), or in a church congregation (blaming the pastor), the pattern still holds, that the basic anxiety in the system is diverted to the scapegoat but the problems creating the anxiety are never addressed, thus perpetuating the cycle.
Not only must a mediator attempt to become aware of these patterns, but also knowledge of the patterns can help the participants begin to see the forest instead of the trees. Any increase in understanding of the dynamics of the conflict will aid the participants as they seek to gain understanding and empowerment to find a better solution than the solutions which are so obviously not working for them.
The third and final post in this series, HERE, will suggest a few strategies for overcoming patterns of scapegoating.