The Black Sheep

Do you have a black sheep of the family? The uncle who was a wild alcoholic and always a ‘problem’ from very young? Have you ever considered what family dynamics might have contributed to the phenomenon?

Minuchin (1974), talked about the idea of scapegoating. He suggested that one way for stress in a marriage with children to be offset, is to focus on an issue a child is having. This child then receives the anger that should be directed towards each other. This serves the family system by keeping the couple together. The stress of the marriage is alleviated by having something else to direct the anger and concern towards.

The marriage may survive because of it, but one person suffers … the child. The result is often that the child starts to think of themselves as ‘defective’ in some way and carry these internal labels into adulthood. They become the ‘black sheep’.

If you were labelled the black sheep in your family, know this is only one potential dynamic that might have been playing out in your family. Every family is unique, with unique dynamics. Being the black sheep can be a difficult place to be – I see you.

Let me know if you saw this in your family.

References: Bowen, Murray (1985), “On the differentiation of self (1972)”, in Bowen, Murray (ed.), Family therapy in clinical practice, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., p. 478, ISBN 9780876687611.

Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and Family Therapy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.