There are so many overlaps, outliers, and anomalies in the narcissistic realm that we can rarely speak in absolutes. However, there is an exception. Every single person with a narcissistic personality on the planet earth has a scapegoat. 

This incessant need for a scapegoat originates from their well-being being dependent on their ability to project their suppressed negative emotions onto a scapegoat. If you’re unsure what I mean by that, go check out our article Why Do Narcissists Need a Scapegoat, where we dismantle this need much more thoroughly.

But for this article we’re going to speak about how a narcissist chooses their scapegoat because it’s important that you understand that narcissists don’t randomly choose their scapegoat. 

A narcissist will decide who their scapegoat is based on their own fears, feelings of jealousy, sense of inadequacy and insecurities. From a narcissist’s perspective, a scapegoat is someone who somehow triggers their fears, feelings of jealousy, sense of inadequacy and insecurities.

Because of a narcissist’s need to dominate others, always come out on top and win, they become very, very hostile towards individuals who unknowingly trigger their suppressed negative emotions. Meaning that the scapegoat essentially becomes a repository for their negative emotions because of the narcissist’s need to fulfill their sense of superiority.

A narcissistic male fulfilling his sense of superiority by being abusive towards his scapegoat.

This article is going to focus on scapegoating in a family setting because people with narcissistic personalities are so emotionally stunted that they’re incapable of regulating their own emotions the same way that non-narcissistic people do. So, if you’re in an intimate relationship with a narcissist, you’re automatically their scapegoat because they have no other option.

So, by focusing on scapegoating in a family setting where there are different personalities in the mix, you can really grasp a comprehensive understanding of how narcissists choose scapegoats which can give you an incredible amount of insight about narcissistic behavior patterns in general. 

Scapegoating Through Insecurities

In some way, shape, or form, every single narcissistic behavior pattern that you can think of originates from the fragility of the ego of someone with a narcissistic personality. This is one of the most difficult concepts to wrap your head around because society’s traditional definition of narcissism aligns with an individual who is confident, cocky, charming, charismatic, and often successful.  

While this may appear to be true, narcissists are actually some of the most self-loathing, terrified, inadequate, and insecure individuals on the planet. You see, narcissists spend their entire lives fabricating a falsified identity to suppress all of their negative emotions. 

They devote their entire existence to maintaining this falsified identity out of the fear that they’ll be rejected or abandoned by society if their true identity were to be revealed. This fear is actually quite problematic because their emotional immaturity prohibits them from being able to have both of their identities coexist simultaneously.

What do I mean by this? 

This essentially means that while they’re living a lie, they’re incapable of acknowledging it. It’s almost as if they’re unable to differentiate the characteristics of their falsified reality from the characteristics of their true identity

What ends up happening is that their well-being becomes vitally dependent on their ability to not only convince others of the falsified reality but themselves as well. So, they take all of the characteristics of their true identity and suppress them deep within their psyche. Unfortunately, all that does is hide their insecurities, vulnerabilities, fears, sense of inadequacy and other negative emotions.

A narcissist burying all of his negative emotions in his psyche to protect his falsified identity.

So, when it comes to choosing a scapegoat, if someone were to accidentally trigger one of their insecurities all of their suppressed negative emotions would explode out of their psyche. But because of their emotional immaturity, they’re incapable of regulating the intense shame that comes with this explosion. So as an alternative they go into a narcissistic attack mode by targeting the individual who triggered their suppressed negative emotions.

When a narcissist has their falsified identity contradicted they feel all of these negative emotions but they also feel dominated. Under these circumstances, a narcissist views individuals who triggered their insecurities as a threat so they target them for scapegoating to essentially eliminate the threat.

It’s very much a psychological version of a kill or be killed mentality. They need to feel as if they’ve regained control to protect themselves from having to acknowledge that they’re living a lie.

 Scapegoating Through Fears of Inadequacies

Fears of one’s own inadequacies is another driving force of narcissistic behavior patterns. It is quite ironic because of how self-centered people with narcissistic personalities are, but one of the biggest weaknesses they have is their obscured awareness. 

What do I mean by this?

When a narcissist is in the presence of someone who possesses good qualities and characteristics that they lack, it contradicts their sense of superiority. 

For example, a narcissist may be disgusted by someone who is emotionally free because it serves as a constant reminder that if society were to look past the superficial identity that they’ve created for themselves, they would be rejected, and abandoned immediately. 

Another example of this fear of inadequacy could be found in a work environment. If a narcissist were to have a quick witted co-worker that consistently outperformed them, it could contradict the narcissist’s sense of superiority by making them feel inadequate. 

Randy, a survivor of 8 years of narcissistic abuse who has agreed to share his story with us, was his step-father’s scapegoat and believes it had to do with his step-father’s fear of his own inadequacies. 

I like to consider myself as an empath. I’m pretty self-aware, attuned with the emotions of others and all the other bells and whistles of an empath. It is just how I was raised. My mom and dad were both really caring people. A few years after my dad died, my mom remarried and my siblings and I moved halfway across the country to be with them. 

He would constantly be making jokes at my expense, blaming me for anything and everything he could, and making me feel like less of a man any time I showed the slightest bit of emotion. It was the most degrading 8 years of my life but I still did my best to remain compassionate and loving on a daily basis. 

One night when I was 12, I had a horrible nightmare and woke up in a puddle of my own urine. It was so embarrassing so I quietly tried to wake up my mom for help but my step-father woke up as well. At first he was furious that I woke him up, but as soon as he found out why, he burst into a humiliating laughter. He took pictures of the bed, said he was going to frame it on the wall, and refused to let my mom help me clean myself up.

I had to clean everything up while I was sobbing and being videotaped. I had to relive that night every single time my step-father got angry with me because he would pull out the pictures and videotape and force me to watch it. I always used to wonder why I got the worst of my step-father’s abuse. Why did he adore my older brother, who was the star pitcher for the high school baseball team, but hated my sister and I.

It wasn’t until I started going to therapy that I realized that I was the scapegoat in the family and after talking with my mother more honestly, I figured out that my step-father’s hatred for me was most likely because my emotional freeness was something that he could never have, since he’s narcissistic. He hated everything about me because it was everything he wasn’t. So, I was somewhat of a constant reminder of his inadequacies. Randy, Survivor of 8 Years of Narcissistic Abuse

Scapegoating Through Jealousy

Scapegoating through jealousy is a cross between scapegoating through insecurities and scapegoating through fears of inadequacies. 

What makes it different is that it tends to circulate around a narcissist’s need for narcissistic supply, the validation and admiration of others.

Narcissists have a tendency to focus on their external world and neglect their internal world. As they get older, they have an insecure need to be validated and admired by those around them because they’re unable to reassure and validate themselves.

Therefore, when they are in the presence of someone who “steals” the spotlight or excels at something they can’t, they become consumed with rage. 

A narcissist being furious over the success of others because it challenges her sense of specialness.

Under these circumstances, a narcissist is likely to try to set limitations for their scapegoat, on top of the disproportionate levels of abuse they’ll subject them to. 

Miguel, a survivor of 15 years of narcissistic abuse, was his older brother’s scapegoat and has decided to share his story because he believes the reason his narcissistic brother chose him to be a scapegoat was because of jealousy. 

My brother is 2 years older than me. He was like a superhero to me. I wanted to do everything he did because of how much I adored him. It was cute for a while, then I got to the age where it was cool if I did the same things as him, but if I was better at it then it was a huge issue.

I really saw how abusive he was my freshman year of high school. I had made the varsity basketball team and he was still a swinger (plays both junior varsity and varsity) as a junior in high school. It just made him really cruel towards me. Him and his buddies at school would humiliate me all the time. At home, he was just a bully. He destroyed my self-esteem and I spent years chasing his approval.Miguel, Survivor of 15 Years of Narcissistic Abuse

Scapegoating Through Hatred

Scapegoating through hatred is a very malicious form of scapegoating, yet like many of the horrifying aspects of narcissistic abuse, it offers us a deeper look into the complexity of narcissism. 

If a narcissist were to label someone as weak or undesirable, they’re very likely to use them as a scapegoat. The reason being that narcissists value power, control, and appearance above everything else. 

Therefore, if they have a child who doesn’t conform to their criteria of attractiveness, or they have a partner who’s getting older, or even a co-worker who doesn’t conform with their standards in the workplace, they have a disproportionate level of disdain towards them. 

This goes much deeper than a narcissist’s tendency to gravitate towards power, control, and appearance. Their hatred for those they consider as weak or undesirable is actually a twisted form of projection. 

If you’re not sure what projection is, check out our article Why Do Narcissists Use Projection for a comprehensive grasp of it. But if you don’t have time, projection is a defense mechanism where someone takes aspects of their own identity that they don’t like and projects them onto someone else. 

For example, if a narcissist were to cheat on their spouse they’d project their shame onto their spouse by accusing them of cheating.

So what does all of this mean?

Circling back to the obscured awareness that narcissists have that I mentioned earlier, narcissist’s are undoubtedly the most self-loathing individuals on the planet. Yet, as we know, they spend their entire lives fabricating an identity that they believe is much more suitable for society’s standards. Therefore when they’re in the presence of someone who they unjustly define as weak or undesirable, it triggers their fear of their own weakness. 

From here, their inability to regulate their own emotions causes them to lash out at the individual by using him/her as a scapegoat to avoid addressing their hatred for themselves.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Scapegoats are not randomly chosen. If you take the time to grasp a comprehensive understanding of all the different aspects of scapegoating, a lot, and I mean a lot, of the hidden aspects of narcissistic abuse will begin to reveal themselves to you.

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      This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care. Please consult a health care provider for guidance specific to your case.