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  • Margaret Marques

Unmasking Scapegoating:Why People Point Fingers



In the complex world of human behavior, scapegoating emerges as a noteworthy pattern deeply rooted in our psychological and social intricacies. When we delve into the realm of counselling, we discover that the reasons behind individuals resorting to scapegoating involve a intricate dance of emotions, defense mechanisms, and societal pressures. For instance in the workplace, individuals adept at the art of manipulation skillfully cast blame onto unsuspecting colleagues,


1. Projection: Externalizing Inner Struggles

Individual Level: Scapegoating often begins with projection, a psychological process where individuals attribute their own undesirable feelings, traits, or actions to someone else. It becomes a way to externalize internal conflicts and avoid personal accountability.


Counselling Insight: Counsellors guide individuals to recognize and take ownership of their emotions, fostering self-awareness and reducing the need for projecting onto others.


2. Defense Mechanism: Shielding the Ego

Individual Level: Scapegoating serves as a defense mechanism, protecting the ego from facing personal vulnerabilities. By blaming others, individuals shield themselves from the discomfort of acknowledging their own shortcomings.


Counselling Insight: Counsellors work to help clients develop healthier defense mechanisms, encouraging self-reflection and emotional resilience.


3. Unresolved Trauma: The Ghosts of the Past

Individual Level: Scapegoating behaviors may be linked to past traumas, where individuals displace unresolved emotions onto a convenient target. The scapegoat becomes a symbolic vessel for unaddressed pain.


Counselling Insight: Trauma-informed counselling provides a safe space for individuals to process past experiences, reducing the likelihood of scapegoating as a coping mechanism.


4. Power Dynamics: Seeking Dominance

Individual Level: Scapegoating can be a power play, a way for individuals to establish dominance by blaming others. It becomes a tool for asserting control in interpersonal dynamics.


Counselling Insight: Counselling guides clients to explore alternative ways to assert themselves without resorting to scapegoating, promoting healthy communication.


5. Social Influence: Conforming to Group Dynamics

Individual Level: Scapegoating may stem from the influence of social norms and peer pressure, where individuals conform to group dynamics to maintain a sense of belonging.


Counselling Insight: Group counselling or social skills training equips individuals with tools to navigate social influences, fostering empathy and effective communication.


6. Identity and Belonging: Creating an "Us vs. Them" Mentality

Individual Level: Scapegoating provides a false sense of identity and belonging within a group, creating an adversarial "us versus them" mentality that bolsters collective identity.


Counselling Insight: Identity exploration in counseling aids individuals in establishing a secure sense of self without relying on scapegoating for group affiliation.

In the realm of counselling, addressing scapegoating involves navigating these psychological factors, fostering self-awareness, and promoting healthier interpersonal skills. By shedding light on the intricate reasons behind scapegoating, individuals can embark on a journey toward more constructive ways of interacting with others and managing conflicts.

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