Originally the scapegoat was a human/animal victim chosen for sacrifice to the underworld to appropriate God`s anger and to heal the community as a healing agent. The sacrifice brought a transpersonal dimension to aid and renew the community, as the community was dependent on spiritual forces. “used to enrich meaning, a call to attention to other levels of existence … as it incorporates evil and death along with life and goodness with a grand, simple unifying process.

Today we tend only to see the material, secular framework to our actions and ignore the spiritual dimension we initially connected to. The scapegoat ritual has been trivialised with the deeper aspects and meaning underground and unconscious, where we believe humanity is omnipotent, capable of adverting evil without any recourse to the spiritual forces of destiny greater than human will. The scapegoat today is the person who has been identified as evil or the wrongdoer, cast out of the community to leave the members feeling atoned with their collective behaviour and beliefs—the idea where the collective is then inoculated against future misery, disturbance or failures.

In Jungian terms, scapegoating is the way to deny the shadow of both man and God.

What is deemed unfit and unworthy to conform to the ego ideal, repressed and denied, or split off into the unconscious? The scapegoat feels inferior, rejected and guilty, unable to atone and confess to their sins and wayward impulses. We feel guilt when we fall out of wholeness, away from our higher path, alienated from God and the regulating centre of the psyche. Social guilt for deviating from collective standards and behaviours unacceptable to ourselves, immersed in conflicts of duality that divide us. We are forced to participate in crimes and omission and commission, away from the spiritual self.

Two primary modes of unacceptable cultural norms
  1. The more rational mode that enables guilt and shame, anything that transgresses the superego demands
  2. Less rational with shame towards the less conscious but habitual standards of cultural, emotional and aesthetic forms.

The scapegoat (Blacksheep ) is unacceptable to the community, set apart, tabooed, and alienated from maternal figures, left with the primary feeling of guilt. The carrier of evil, shameful behaviours and attitudes that disrupt relationships, rationalised by the collective superego, which is deemed threatening, selfish and hateful. Punishment for being different or unique left with deep-rooted guilt and existential anxiety. Inner guilt against the higher self for living within compulsive bondage to a collective role, to be redeemed by the community (family). Unable to develop their inner authority and integrity to establish an individual conscience. The three combined levels of guilt

  • Against the cultural superego
  • On a matriarchal level
  • Towards the higher self

This combination prevents the development of any coherence in self, chronically regressed and scapegoat identified. The libido has been split off from consciousness, broken off from any unitary transpersonal-based structure. The archetypal field of energised symbols and images is disconnected and unseen, radically broken apart. Because the victim’s ego cannot live up to collective ideals, they feel unworthy, surviving in a deadened state, fragmented, clinging to a secret longing for atonement, acceptance, renewal and rebirth.

Therapy will stir up bouts of neediness and hatred as old wounds are ripped open with new interpersonal dynamics. The libido and spiritual energies can erupt impulsively, releasing pent-up sexual and aggressive forces, which are experienced as scary and guilt-ridden. The alienated person had learnt to function in the world with varying success, adapting to external circumstances and seeking worth outside oneself. Therapy will show how one has placated, confirmed and submitted to the collective norms, selling their soul to belong to the community, away from alienation or confrontation. The scapegoat, however, walks into the wilderness, condemned into righteous martyrdom. Their ego cannot find or trust a value system higher than that of the collective accusers. They hide the collective shadow beneath multiple roles and facades. They live within these makeshift containers to mediate the transpersonal forces, keeping them from falling into the unconscious’s terror, anxiety and richness. The wilderness is a place beyond the collective, filled with great potency and danger, where one connects the transpersonal, the new spiritual energy with power, vitality and authority.

Without any inner guide, the wilderness feels like a wasteland, arid and overwhelming, a place of dazed confusion and misery.

The place of paralysed apathy, meaningless and abandonment anxiety. A sense of living in hell, the underworld, where one can unite with their higher self. Unable to focus on their consciousness and willpower, they continually dwell in chaos, disconnected and alienated through omnipotent identification. The collective denies This hellish swamp, where no one wants to see their shadow and experience disconnection. The arrested ego is where the instinctual energies are split off, denied and deemed frightening. The collective superego holds them to strong cultural standards, striving to be pillars of society and role models. They tend to have an aggressive and vested interest in their persona, social mask, that fits the collective standards of virtue, dependency and validation.

They use roles, practicality and impersonal issues as buffers between themselves and others. Propriety and duty supplant personal feelings and responsibility in relationships and work. Competence, the appearance of coping and success are primary values, whereby emotions such as expressing pain, vulnerability or fear are belittled and ignored. There is always a practical solution to every problem; intellect is superior to the emotional/spiritual, even if one is stuck in concrete magical thinking.

Being caught within a scapegoat complex effects

  1. Perception and consciousness. how one sees and forms experiences
  2. Ability to contain and endure suffering
  3. The capacity for need gratification, impulse control and sense of entitlement.

An individual remains fixated at the early magical levels of perception and intensity, where one`s needs and desires are discarded whilst being shamed and rejected for any signs of self-assertiveness. A rational confusion developed from an empathic bond with an abusive parent also experienced as loving and caring. Evil, therefore, can’t be seen objectively, whereas reality is seen through a distorted lens, rigid and undifferentiated. They have little trust in the validity of their direct perceptions and experiences, where facts, affects, and thoughts are habituated towards the collective norm.

They forgive in others the same sins and shortcomings; they feel to be despicable in themself.

The scapegoat can seize upon a particular attribute of their body as the cause and justification for a sense of alienation. The secret body shame, the reason to avoid touch, intimacy and closeness, and the focus of extreme negative attention. The incapacity to endure discomfort seems to be directly related to the early experience of contact, of being held intimately with love and care. The symbolic experience of being held permits the pre-ego to learn to suffer and enjoy its experience. The child is contained within a healthy vessel that can assimilate and integrate at appropriate phase levels.

Lack of contact and intimacy will create adverse reactions and increase sensitivity and vigilance. The child cant survive with emotional depth, unable to grow and contain their suffering and frustrations. Splitting denial and impulsivity are the norms where ego-consciousness can`t develop, and the experience is evaded and avoided. A disturbance in body image and atrophy within the body follows them throughout adult life: body armouring and rigidity for protection and to prevent closeness, holding together fragmented parts. An inner emotional numbness, warding off the shadow and projecting it into others. They find it hard to endure any discomfort and evaluate the intensity objectively. They may act omnipotently, impatiently, and concretely to remove affects and regain control.

The child can never attain the perfection and ideals the accuser demands, feeling endlessly worthless and guilty. The modern scapegoat keeps the burden of evil hidden, preventing ego disintegration and distorting power drives. Any assertion is veiled behind a false self, with a sense of innocence, virtue and competence. An innocent hostility, passive-aggressive, with inner spite against oneself and self-hatred. Anger manifests as valid self-defence, hurtful outrage for past betrayals rationalised as righteous vengeance against the presently imagined perpetrator. A pattern of repetitive outbursts and blinkered aggression compulsion that will never be satisfied until its roots are interpreted and healed.

They may abruptly end a liaison or relationship, axing and condemning them to exile and solitude. A vengeful coldness, done in silence and an unexpected manner. They may believe you have betrayed them, so they reject you in return, protecting them from retaliation or the need for closure. We both must obey social norms and rules, as I can’t be assertive or aggressive without feeling fragile and lost. The manifestation of the omnipotent power drive, with a lack of separation between the victim ego and scapegoat, symbolically fused at a magical level of consciousness. Any act of assertion hurts the victim’s ego and the unevolved body, which one desperately seeks to get rid of. Internalised spite hides the hurts of alienation and lack of desire to meet their dependency needs. The self-accusations guard and protect the core from any more in-depth scrutiny and awareness.

A therapist must confirm the assertion as acceptable, necessary and valid. Allow the behaviours to become conscious and contain/stand by against the undifferentiated prohibitions. This should also help the transpersonal instincts of self-assertion to be released and integrated. One will then be able to endure and elicit genuine anger, matured in the qualities of justice and responsibility.

Only after claiming the power to act aggressively and assertively within the collective for one’s individual needs can valid submission to individual vocation and fate begin to take place. One can enjoy the pleasures of the flesh and their independence, no longer burdened with selfish guilt, ashamed of their indulgences and failures. When all needs are repressed, the person remains archaically fused with the grandiose self and parental imago, with no discrimination between valid and excessive dependency. The repressed self is greedy, arrogant and primitive, where the world owes them for their suffering as a victim of the collective, full of resentment and rage.

This dream-like ego state remains uninvolved, a passive onlooker, unable to take responsibility, awaiting rescue from any assertion.

In the healing process, the ego must become active, responsible and even heroic in pursuing its needs and desires. Assimilating those needs and emotions with acceptance, discipline and honour, however long and trying the process. A rampant desirousness usually marks the start of the coagulation steps of alchemy. The generation of a new self-image, capable of being trusted to respond to genuine relatedness with discipline and care. Unique experiences of joy and gratification, counter to the previous expectation of the scapegoat. These experiences must be carefully managed and small enough to be assimilated without causing rejection or too much disturbance.

One must discover and encounter the transpersonal dimension and embrace and merge the opposites within the complex to heal the complex. No longer bound by perfectionism, the collective morality of the accusers and exiled if one transgresses the cultural rules. To gain the capacity to endure and witness one’s emotions, a willingness to risk change and play freely with possibilities. Engage in a contact dialogue between the conscious and unconscious, working with the relational transference to contain negative feelings and discomfort. The need for the victim’s ego to feel supported, where the dissolving and dismembering of ego defences can occur via careful confrontation. When the ego defences are breached, all the walled-off emotions can flow. The individual can feel the split-off wounds, starting to grieve for both their inner child and adult burdened with such pain and hurt. A descent into the underworld follows, a numbing depression filled with underlying confusion, despair, loneliness and rage. Old responses and attitudes are no longer viable; collective norms are no longer valid, allowing the wounds to be reexperienced.

The ego will suffer defeat as the higher self guides one new destiny and fate. The ego witnesses its actual limitations and riches permitted to find and create its own style and ways to express one’s individual experience. The psychic process can be transformed with the therapist acting as a mirror and container. The ego can trust its actions, desires and pain, which can be held and mirrored. The victimised ego needs to mature and grow as it has lived outside of experience, uneducated and infantile—a new home built by one’s work, willingness and seeking. One is available to face their vulnerability and the darker aspects of their shadow and evil.

A series of confrontations with black-and-white simplistic values raises consciousness, sacrificing shallow perspectives, moving into the transpersonal realm, where mercy and justice may operate together. The once exiled scapegoat can now return to serve the collective as agents of its most profound and most challenging needs. They act by mediating the libido necessary for communal and individual life. The scapegoat returns evil to the archetypal source through sacrifice, carrying back the burden to the gods, which is too great for the human collective to bear. Having looked into the fierce, fearsome place of power, the individual realises a new rebirth. Having wrestled with the dark energies, one has learned to stand consciously against the acting out of the power of which the collective partakes.

For the collective/group archetype to be carried with consciousness, it needs a meaningful image that contains the splits and holds a mirror up to its true nature. The two parts, the victim’s ego and the scapegoat can heal and develop. The return to life with visions of sacrifice, separation, grief and evil. One now has intimate knowledge of their shadow and suffering. Such visions and images must be integrated with a new concept of reality and meaning. The persona comes to recognise the dark side, one that merits the respect of conscious confrontation. The shadow finds meaning and purpose, participating in the divine order and disorder paradox.

Those who suffer the scapegoat complex are among those called to view, experience and endure.  Healing is acquired through and in the complex to find and encounter one’s divinity and higher self.

Perera, S. B. (1986) The Scapegoat Complex (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts), Inner City Books