She handed me a black, three-ringed binder filled with several sheets of paper. I opened it, and she explained its contents.
This was a binder with pages describing the different roles children take in a dysfunctional family, roles assigned to them by parents.
She asked me to read through them, and then she asked me a question I didn’t expect.
“Which one of these is your brother?”
That was easy. I picked “The Family Hero.” Some psychologists also refer to this child as “The Golden Child.
” This child can do no wrong, is praised by the family and commended no matter what the child does.
This child is usually given special treatment, due to the way he or she takes on the assigned role without resistance. The Family Hero is a distraction, a way to say, “We are a normal family.
Look at this child. This child is great and has no issues. This child turned out just fine.”
Then she asked me which role applied to me.
I knew. I had known for some time, but for some reason this was difficult to admit.
Shame washed over me like a tidal wave as I gave her the obvious answer, a painful truth I had known for years but had been forced to deny. I told her I was “The Scapegoat,” and she agreed.
Emotions stirred deep within me then: pain, hurt, anger. I might as well have been Mount St. Helens because vehement sobbing and a wellspring of tears gushed out of me like an erupting volcano.
Questions I'd had for years about everything from my childhood flooded my mind and heart, and I stared long and hard at that painful realization.
Entries from my diaries and journals now gleamed in luminescence.
They became puzzle pieces, quickly assembling before my eyes, painting a picture I knew existed by I had been quick to deny most of my life.
My family was dysfunctional.
I wanted to know why this had happened, how a particular child is targeted and chosen to bear the brunt of such living hell. So many things that had eluded me made sense after that session.
But the biggest question of "why me" remains unanswered. It’s an answer I can’t have. I asked my therapist about the future, what I was to do henceforth and how to process this.
Her response, "It's just too toxic. There is nothing you can do."
I sat in the car for 20 minutes after my session, unable to drive home. The 35-year-old woman who had walked into therapy was not who came out or who sat in the car sobbing that day. She was different.
She was that little girl from almost 25 years ago, the girl who wrote in those diaries about her loneliness and despair, begging to be rescued.
When I finally made it home the tears came again and so did the anger. Once that dissipated, one truth remained.
I was the scapegoat. A professional had confirmed it.