How to Speak Scapegoat

I’m continuing with the Chinese year of the goat theme with this post.  I went through my notes on the last three visits with family and friends of origin and since I journaled during the visits it was eye-opening to see what I had written down after some time had passed.  One aspect that I have been focusing on is my own behaviors that fuel my false self (scapegoat).  As I re-learn how to speak, I tried to answer questions more in line with my true self than with my scapegoat – a trying habit to break.

I use the phrase “I’ve been Goat’d” as such:

Goat’d!: refers to someone placing you in the role of Scapegoat without your assistance

Facts versus Feelings: What’s the difference?

Friend: “How are your father and mother doing?”

Me: “My father’s illness is slowly getting worse and my mother is taking care of him.”  (non-ACoN friends only know I’m not close to my family and nothing further)

Friend: “Well, ya know, TR, it is really difficult to take care of someone who is ill and it is really a burden to them.  Your mom must be having a rough time.”

I’ve been Goat’d!

As much as I struggle with the relationship I have with my parents, I know that I am very careful in how I speak about them.  I aim to answer honestly without oversharing.  I usually stick to “We are not close” or “We don’t have a healthy relationship”.  People may ask me and I am open to a discussion but that has never been the case so our relationship is open to interpretation.

Opinions are either Right or Wrong?

After a dinner with friends, we were walking to our cars and a freight train moved through the middle of the town.  In my opinion, it was going fast and I blurted out loud: “Oh, that freight train is going really fast through a residential neighborhood”.  My friend’s response: “Oh, come on, it isn’t really, it’s normal on a Sunday evening.”

I’ve been Goat’d!

My opinion could have been based on four years of working with freight transport, having been inside and on top of freight railcars, inside barges, etc. (Btw, that is 100% true).  And my friend’s opinion could have based on his knowledge of the town’s ordinance for freight transport (as he lives near that town).  Nobody is WRONG, yet the goat’s opinion had to be wrong.

Your Answer is NEVER Good Enough

This one is hard to ‘catch’ because it comes across as an innocuous question and all roads lead to a trap door.

Friend: “Where are you planning to go for holiday this year?”

Me: “We are thinking about either area A or B.”

Friend: “Isn’t that a luxury problem to have?  To sit here and contemplate two places to go on holiday while others can’t.”

You guessed it, I’ve been Goat’d!

I love it when you can answer a question and it doesn’t matter what you say!

What Happens in Your Head, Stays in Your Head

I went to a wedding last year where the bride and groom were having three weddings (in three different cities).  We were invited to the first one and I asked the best man (in front of friends after he started to explain the other weddings and how much work he had to do):

Me: How big is the next wedding?

Best Man: Well, we are having a wedding in the area where a lot of our cousins and distant relatives live.  We are actually not that close and haven’t seen them in a while.  We are actually not that close of a family.  So, yeah, to answer your question, we aren’t really a big happy family.  (His monologue was really, really long that it seemed my question was forgotten but when he ended with “to answer your question” that was telling)

I’ve been Goat’d!

Focus on the Pain, Not the Gain

When sharing my story (during these visits), I tried to share both the positives and the negatives in my life.  For example, I shared that I had started a new book club and I had failed my language exam when asked “What I had been up to lately?”.  I am okay with focusing on my struggles if the intent is to truly help however, when an Q&A session starts about why I failed an exam and nothing about the book club, I realized that letting go of my scapegoat role is nasty business.

It’s nasty business because somewhere along the way I learned that the only way to get my story heard (attention) was to tell my worst, most pitiful story.  Being the scapegoat seemed to serve everyone’s purpose – including my own.  I engaged others by engaging in my own pain.  I learned that my successes would never be acknowledged (with my family and friends of origin) and how to interview for pain.

Other examples of being Goat’d?