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The Power of Being “The Black Sheep” In Your Family.

One of the hardest realizations that many of us face of on our healing journeys is the thought (and all the feelings that come with it!) when we come to realize that we’re the black sheep of our family-of-origin, or of our peers, our childhood religious institution, or our early community.

Maybe there’s always been that niggling sense of feeling like the odd one out. Like the proverbial ugly stepsister. Or a sense of feeling a bit orphaned. Feeling like the lone wolf. Or a sense of being the scapegoat.

The Power of Being “The Black Sheep” In Your Family.

Maybe it’s because you felt, understood, and responded to things differently than other members of your family/peer group/community. Maybe it’s because you looked or sounded different. Maybe your life choices went against the grain of what was “normal” where you grew up — whether that’s because you spoke up when others didn’t, you moved away from your hometown, or you chose to love, work, and politic differently. So maybe your sense of feeling like the Black Sheep of your family or early communities was subtle and implicit, nothing directly said out loud but rather always a slight sense of the back of your mind and heart.

Or maybe your feeling of being The Black Sheep was more explicit and you were physically and relationally rejected by your family-of-origin, your church, or your early communities for who you are and how you move through the world. Maybe you were disowned, emotionally cutoff, kicked out of your house, or treated visibly differently. Maybe it’s never been a question for you that you were the proverbial Black Sheep.

However and for whatever reasons this may have manifested for you, I think that so many of us can identify with “The Black Sheep” archetype and, while this is predominantly a pejorative term in our collective lexicon, today’s blog post is all about reclaiming the power of that archetype – diving deep into what it may mean to be the so-called “Black Sheep” from both a cultural and psychological lens, exploring the pain of what it can mean to embody this archetype, but also the power, gifts, and opportunities of it, too. Finally, I’ll share a list of examples of common “black sheep” archetypes in modern media and offer up a list of prompts and inquiries for your growth and benefit if you do indeed identify as The Black Sheep. If you struggle with being The Black Sheep of your family, if you would like to know how to feel good no matter how hard your family is and no matter how they behave, please be sure to explore my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries.

What does it even mean to be “The Black Sheep of the Family”?

“Do not cringe and make yourself small if you are called the black sheep, the maverick, the lone wolf. Those with slow seeing say that a nonconformist is a blight on society. But it has been proven over the centuries, that being different means standing at the edge, that one is practically guaranteed to make an original contribution, a useful and stunning contribution to her culture.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.

So let’s be clear: The phrase “The Black Sheep of the Family” isn’t a term listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the cornerstone diagnostic bedrock book for us mental health clinicians). It’s not like there’s one single, defined, universally-agreed-upon definition of this term (and certainly not clinically) but it’s nonetheless a phrase that has largely infused our collective cultural lexicon over the years.

So where does it come from, what does it mean, and why is it important to your psychological journey?

The phrase originally and objectively was used to describe what happened when a recessive gene resulted in the birth of a sheep with black rather than white coloring. Obviously, these black sheep stood out from the flock, and, apparently, their wool was traditionally considered less valuable. (The not-so-subtle devaluation begins…)

However, round about the 18th century is where some say the pejorative nature of the term as we come to understand it today came about. It became an idiom (a turn of phrase) meant to imply waywardness.

These days, “The Black Sheep” is a term that may be used by others to describe (or for us to self-describe) if we feel like the odd one out in any way from our family-of-origin or our early communities. And still, there are many different definitions for this phrase depending on the branch of science or arts you consult.

From a Family Systems Theory perspective — a theory introduced by Murray Bowen, MD in the mid-20th-century — the family is an emotional unit and a system in which a proverbial “Black Sheep” might be otherwise known as the “identified patient.”

The identified patient is part of a family’s collective, unconscious psychological projection process where they essentially defer and outsource the pain, tension, and anxiety felt within the dysfunctional family system onto one person who then psychologically and sometimes physically “holds” the emotional energy of the family, manifesting it in symptoms and behaviors that the other members of the group can point to and say, “There’s the problem! It’s her, not us!”

In this way, the identified patient is the so-called family scapegoat, the proverbial “Black Sheep,” serving as a “protective function” for the family’s larger dysfunctional patterning.  

“Anyone can be the black sheep for just about any reason. ”In families, there are one or two opinion leaders who define the values and culture of the family … Those values can be moral or ethical; they can rest on success in business or involvement in sports or the arts. The black sheep is simply the person who deviates from the family rules.” – Jerry Jellison, Ph.D.

From an archetypal psychological perspective, “The Black Sheep” may most closely resemble “the orphan” archetype or “the abandoned child” archetype.

The “orphan” and “abandoned child” archetypes are, in essence, recurring symbols or motifs that describe someone — or some aspect of someone — who doesn’t feel like they fit in with their family or community-of-origin, physically or spiritually.

For example, “The notion of the “black sheep” in a family describes the syndrome of the child who does not seem to fit, and worse yet, on whom, maybe because of it, the family’s shadow is projected.” Showing up across myths, legends, and fairy tales since time immemorial, “the orphan” and “abandoned child” archetypes are incredibly prevalent to the point where I personally think that, at some level, we all embody this archetype in some way.

“From Little Orphan Annie to Cinderella, the Orphan Child in most well-known children’s stories reflects the lives of people who feel from birth as if they are not a part of their family, including the family psyche or tribal spirit.” – Carolyn Myss, Ph.D.

And, in a playful but also archetypal psychological storytelling way, Clarissa Pinkola Esté’s now-classic story of the Mistaken Zygote Syndrome elaborates further on the archetype of the “orphan” or “abandoned child” and can be found here and also in her book, “Women Who Run With The Wolves.

So whether you most closely resonate with the description of the identified patient, the orphan or abandoned child archetype, the Mistaken Zygote, or all of these descriptions, you’re likely seeing that throughout each descriptor is laced the theme of being misunderstood, rejected at some level, and feeling misplaced or displaced. This is the essence, to me as a psychotherapist, of what “The Black Sheep” archetype is all about.

So if you find yourself nodding, seeing yourself in these descriptions, know that there is both pain and power, shadow and light from living out this archetype and great gifts to be gained if we do our personal work around it.

The Pain and The Power. The Shadow and the Light. And The Psychological Growth Tasks of the “Black Sheep.”

“The child of destiny has to face a long period of obscurity. This is a time of extreme danger, impediment or disgrace. He is thrown inward into his own depths or outward to the unknown; either way, what he touches is a darkness unexplored.” – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Frankly, this section of the article might as well be titled: what’s good and what’s hard about being “the black sheep” and what do we need to do about it if we want to heal. Because, as you can likely imagine, with the built-in thread of rejection and otherness that comes part and parcel with embodying the “black sheep” of your family, comes emotional pain.

While the pain of living out “the black sheep” archetype will look different for all of us, what’s likely universally true is that we all probably found ways to cope with the pain early on. Ways of coping which, at one point, probably served us extremely well just to survive and make it through that experience of being rejected, misunderstood, or feeling “other.” However, like with most psychological defenses, there’s going to come a time when our coping mechanisms, our adaptive ways of being in the world, likely stop working so well.

“The shadow aspect manifests when Orphans never recover from feelings of abandonment, and the scar tissue from family rejection stifles their maturation, often causing them to seek surrogate family structures to experience tribal union. Therapeutic support groups become shadow tribes or families for an Orphan Child who knows deep down that healing these wounds requires moving on to adulthood. For that reason, establishing mature relationships remains a challenge.” – Carolyn Myss, Ph.D.

So the “shadow side” of living out this black sheep archetype can often mean coping in ways that are maladaptive to healthy, functional, thriving lives that we ultimately want to live. For example, some coping mechanisms may manifest as the following:

  • Perhaps because you felt so rejected by your family of origin you walled off your heart and developed ways of keeping other people at arm’s length so you’ll never have to feel that rejection again. But now you’re struggling to form a healthy, close romantic relationship despite truly longing for this.
  • Or perhaps you learned to take comfort in food, overeating, or restricting, or binging and purging to feel “nourishment” and “control” that you didn’t otherwise feel from your family or community-of-origin and now your physical body (not to mention your health) is suffering because of it.
  • Maybe you developed a deep sense of rage and resentment that you were treated so unkindly and unfairly and this has pervaded your life and keeps you in a state of chronic negativity and victimhood even today.
  • Perhaps, because your trust was broken early on by people who were supposed to accept and support you, you developed a hyper-inflated sense of independence versus learning how to be interdependent with others. And you’re experiencing challenges with your coworkers, or spouse, neighbors, or girlfriends because of this.
  • Conversely, maybe because of an absence of functional, healthy parenting early on, you developed on over-dependency on others to compensate on what you originally didn’t receive and so now you struggle to be appropriately self-reliant and put too much pressure on other relationships in your life to unrealistically fulfill all your needs.
  • Maybe you feel disconnected and isolated at all levels from others and from yourself and this sense of loneliness is manifesting for you as a deep sense of sadness and depression.

These are but just a few of the ways this pain, this “shadow side” of being the black sheep may manifest and I’ve included more questions and prompts to help you get clearer about what your own personal shadow aspects of embodying this archetype may be further down in the article.

But, as with everything in life, along with a “shadow side” comes a “light side” which means there is actually a tremendous amount of gift, opportunity, and power that can come with living out the “black sheep” archetype.

“But because orphans are not allowed into the family circle, they have to develop independence early on. The absence of family influences, attitudes, and traditions inspires or compels the Orphan Child to construct an inner reality based on personal judgment and experience.” – Carolyn Myss, Ph.D.

Specifically, I think some of the great gifts from living out this archetype can include:

  • Greater physical freedom. When you feel or are rejected by your family or community-of-origin, there may be more freedom for you to strike out, explore this big wide world and find your truer home. The place you want to intentionally set down roots. And without feeling “obligated” to stay within the immediate radius of your family or community-of-origin, you have more freedom and choice to do this.
  • Increased lifestyle choice. When you aren’t beholden to your family or church’s or community’s expectations of you, you have a greater opportunity to craft the life you truly want, not just the one you’re “supposed to have.” You can more fully choose how you want to love, politic, work, dress, worship, and nourish and build community.
  • The potential for a greater and stronger sense of self. When you’re subtly or overtly rejected, you may be forced to develop more independence than your siblings or peers earlier on. This can dovetail, too, with an increased capacity for a stronger sense of self if you’ve had to defend and assert yourself for a place in your family or community. Those who embody “the black sheep” of the family may often have more psychological “scars” than other, more accepted family members, but they may also have a greater sense of self than others in the family, too.
  • A greater sense of empathy and compassion for those who likewise and in their own way identify as “other.” Pain can create empathy, and empathy can create connection. I think that one of the great gifts of being “the black sheep” is the opportunity for increased empathy and compassion for so many others who society often deems as “other.”
  • A unique opportunity to find our “Wolf Pack.” When we’re rejected or misunderstood by those we come from, we have the opportunity to own and use our voice and our deep sense of self-awareness to seek out those we more closely identify with and resonate with. These folks become our “wolf pack,” our family-of-choice, our urban family, our soul tribe, a group that can love and cherish us in a way that our family or community-of-origins may simply not have the capacity to do.

These are but only a handful of examples of what we stand to gain If we’re willing to do the psychological work required for any of us who identify as The Black Sheep.

“One solution I think works well and mercifully as well: Find those you truly belong to. Blood is not thicker than resonance. One can lend respect and regard to blood, and yet also give love where it is returned. Thriving requires it. As I quoted Charles Simic the poet, later in this piece: He who cannot howl, will not find his pack”. – Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.

However, in order to fully mine the gold in the mud, to claim the gifts in the pain that can come from living out this archetype, there is, of course, psychological work that may be required for us. Specifically, I think the primary psychological tasks anyone who self-identifies as “The Black Sheep” may include:

  • Cultivating self-awareness: Accepting your differences and getting to know yourself apart from other’s expectations.
  • Grieving: Mourning your losses, perhaps of your family or place-of-origin and certainly of the experience of acceptance you likely didn’t have. And please know, this grieving work takes time, and it’s critical.
  • Individuating: Facing your fears of isolation and loneliness by moving away from your family (physically or psychologically) and finding your proverbial wolf pack instead.
  • Healthy relating: Learning or relearning how to have close, connected, healthy relationships and embracing interdependence versus independence or isolation.
  • Becoming self-esteemed: Standing in your deep truth and keeping yourself psychologically and physically safe from those who would unconsciously or consciously harm, berate, shame, blame or otherwise make you feel unsafe in the world. Keeping yourself safe and whole and healthy as an extension of being self-esteemed.

“Most people who call themselves black sheep have actually distanced themselves from their families. ”While they may long to go home for the holidays and enjoy the fatted calf that’s been fixed for their return,” he said, ”they have to realize that the same forces that made them leave in the first place will probably still persist.” – Thomas Lasswell, Ph.D.

So how do we do the psychological work that may be required of us to grow, to heal, and to fully claim the gifts that come along with living out “the black sheep” archetype?

What’s *Your* Unique Work As A “Black Sheep?”

I can’t emphasize this enough, but I think investing in therapy to move towards and craft the life you actually want to live is one of the most effective and pivotal steps you can take.

Therapy gives you the chance to experience exactly what you may not have experienced in your family or communities-of-origin: acceptance, safety, attunement, mirroring, and the transformational experience of being in a healthy, functional relationship (this alone cannot be underestimated as a healing force!).

So whether you work with me or with another therapist in your hometown, or if you choose to do this work on your own in the safe pages of your old-school journal or in a password protected Google doc, dig into these sample questions to help to get to know more about how living out the “black sheep” archetype has played out and impacted your life and what you may need in order to do something different:

With or without the help of a therapist, consider the following:

  • When you read through this article, what came up for you? Did you full-on identify with being “a black sheep”? Or did only some parts of it feel true for you?
  • In what ways did you experience “being the black sheep” of your family-of-origin? Your community-of-origin? Your childhood peers? Your childhood religious institution?
  • How did you cope with being “the black sheep”? What ways of being or thoughts or behaviors did you create to keep yourself safe and sane? Were they effective back then?
  • How well are those behaviors/ways of being/coping mechanisms working out for you today? How are they now getting in your way?
  • What do you think you need to grieve or mourn in order to process the pain of having been “the black sheep”? What do you need to give up or release?
  • What do you see as some of your big healing tasks (psychological or physical or logistical) that you may need to face in order to “find the gold in the mud” of being the black sheep?
  • What supports and resources do you need to gather around you in order to do this work? A therapist? A support group? Your wolf pack?
  • What do you think life might be like if you could heal the pain that you’ve carried around from identifying as “The Black Sheep”?

Wrapping this up.

I truly hope you enjoyed this article and felt, at least in some way, seen and understood by learning more about “The Black Sheep” archetype.

“The Black Sheep” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in our collective lexicon but few articles/books/movies really do a deep dive on what this truly means and how it may impact us psychologically if we likewise identify with it.

So my hope is that you took away at least one idea from this article about how you can further your own growth and development and claim all the gifts and goodness that embodying “The Black Sheep” archetype can hold. Because honestly, there really is just so much psychological growth opportunity in it!

And if you need to feel some camaraderie/are interested in digging further into what embodying “The Black Sheep” archetype may look like, I’ve included a list of some characters and books at the end of this article that I personally think embody this archetype. I hope you enjoy it!

And now I’d like to wrap up this article with a question for you: Did you see yourself in this article? Which part of this article felt the most helpful for you to hear? What advice or guidance would you give to someone who also feels like they’re the “Black Sheep” of their family? Leave a message in the comments below so our community of blog readers can benefit from your wisdom.

And until next time, take very good care of yourself no matter where you are on your healing journey, and remember, “He who cannot howl, will not find his pack.” So don’t forget to howl…

If you are curious about online counseling or in person counseling, connect with us here.

Warmly, Annie

 

Examples of “The Black Sheep” Archetype In Media and Literature:

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you guys know I love cinematherapy (using film, media, and books as tools in our own personal growth) and over the years I’ve collected a little list of those I think embody “The Black Sheep” archetype in both big and subtle ways from my own reading/viewing. Peruse the list and let me know in the comments what other characters/books/TV shows/movies you think have a proverbial “Black Sheep” in them, too.

*This is an affiliate link and any purchases made through this link will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you).

References:

  1. Jung, C. (August 1, 1981). Collected Works of C.G. Jung (Book 1). Princeton University Press.
Medical Disclaimer

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    • Annie on  

      Steff, I’m so glad you liked the article and found some value in it! Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and for stopping by the comment. Warmly, Annie

  1. Brett on  

    Thanks Annie.
    A note of support here and affirmation. This is a “syndrome” that I observe a lot in working with clients with issues of addiction and dependence.
    Keep up the good work and don’t you just love Jung….the importance significance and assistance we can derive from the collective unconscious.

    • Annie on  

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Brett. It is lovely to hear from a fellow Jung-loving colleague. And thank you for being out there doing really good work in the world too!

      Warmly, Annie

  2. Bronwyn Mackereth on  

    Thank you Annie, very grateful for your words on Black Sheep. I related to lots of things in your artical and found myself in tears. Being a breech and the Black Sheep in a family of five children has seriously done some damage, yet they do not see it. Thanks again it opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. Warm regards, Bron

    • Annie on  

      Hi Bronwyn,

      First of all, thank you for your honesty and bravery in being willing to see yourself in this article. I can imagine how difficult it must be to feel as though you are the Black Sheep, with no recognition of your struggle from your family members. Please know that you are not alone in feeling this way as the struggle of feeling like an outsider is common for many men and women.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to comment and I am touched to hear that the article opened your eyes to a “new way of thinking”. I wish you all the very best as you move forward on your healing journey.

      Warmly, Annie

  3. Charlene Fleming-Scott on  

    I have been the black sheep since my parents divorced when I was twelve. My life is good for the most part. However, like many black sheeps, I keep people at a distance. I don’t trust them. My wolf pack consists of my husband and my son. Good luck to all black sheeps.

    Charlene

    • Annie on  

      Hi Charlene,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story here. I promise you: you are not alone in identifying with “The Black Sheep” archetype. Additionally, the urge to wall off your heart and develop ways of keeping other people at arm’s length is a common coping mechanism among many other men and women who feel similarly. I hope that the perspective of gaining a tremendous amount of gift, opportunity, and power from living out the “black sheep” archetype brought you some comfort and support.

      Again, Charlene, thank you so much for taking the time ​to​ ​share and I wish you all the best on your healing journey.

      Warmly, Annie

  4. Nicola on  

    I am the black sheep of my family – my father has told me so on many occasions, although I am not sure what on earth I have done to deserve this. I have worked hard to get a good education, job and loving relationships with my husband and children. I have chosen not to have any more contact with my father because he cannot hide his hatred of me, and I cannot bear any more of the hurt.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Nicola,

      Thank you so much for sharing how this post resonated with you. I’m sorry you’ve been treated as The Black Sheep by your father without any explanation as to why. I imagine it was really painful for you.

      After hearing your story, I want to remind you that you *do* get to have your feelings – all of them – and to always hold your boundaries, trust your own process, and heal according to your own timeline.

      I hope you’ll continue to honor your own experience and your own unique healing journey. And thank you so much for stopping by to comment.

      Warmly, Annie

  5. Donna on  

    Thank you, Annie. I have spent my life (54 years) trying so hard to understand my feelings of rejection. I question my own sanity and have taken on so much guilt for being different, and the stress my family seems to have as a result, that I suffer from major depression and anxiety. I also keep everyone, including my children at arm’s length…and yet I long to belong!! Your article is the first thing I have ever read that gave me a glimpse of hope for healing, and dare I hope even bigger for joy! I identified with almost every single line and archetype. I have bookmarked this page, and will no doubt be back to re-read over and over. I am so grateful for you, and your article, and your seemingly very gentle and empathic spirit!!

    • Annie on  

      Hi Donna,

      Wow – your comment really moved me. I’m touched by your honesty and vulnerability and am glad that this article could bring you even a small sense of hope and healing.

      I think that anxiety, depression, and the double bind of wanting closeness but fearing and sabotaging closeness is a set of symptoms very familiar to those of us who have experienced deep and early relational rejection and insecure attachment.

      But, what I know personally and professionally is that it’s possible to grow and transform these patterns. Secure relationship can be learned and earned. So please don’t give up hope!

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Donna. I’m sending you much warmth.

      Annie

    • Jose on  

      Hi my name Jose,
      I am a black sheep of my family, simply because I question every family rules and do not follow any one that doesn’t work for me. I have tried so much to adjust or fit in my family but I can’t, I feel caged. I really don’t know why I am this way or why I think differently and I didn’t create myself to be like this. I really do not know what to do or who to talk to.

      • Annie on  

        Jose – thank you for sharing a small piece of your experience. Please know that you are not less than because of this. You do not have to change yourself to fit in. I encourage you to explore who you are, why you might identify as the Black Sheep and embrace those qualities that set you apart. And if you need additional support in doing this, please seek that out. I’m rooting for you. Warmly, Annie

  6. Frances Cobbett on  

    Annie
    I am overwhelmed at the accuracy of your description of the Black Sheep because it is me or rather was me. After decades of therapy I am learning to actually feel the rage, loss and sheer grief of being an “outsider”.
    But I am ready to let it go as I have left my family of origin go. I no longer feel driven to be ‘accepted’ into the sacred circle of the ‘family’ as no matter how hard I tried – it simply was not possible. I , indeed, became the carrier of all the family’s trauma ( and there is /was loads ) and intergenerational trauma . And I performed my role well.I became the ” Black Sheep” – the last unwanted 7th child of a family falling apart or of a family to which I was never ever granted access. But for years and years I tried to find the missing formula that would make me a ‘valued’ member. It has been through decades of therapy and an incredibly resolute nature that I decided to invest in this person called ‘ Frances’ . I began challenging my script and as I further challenged many members of the family of origin rebelled and pushed against there being any change in the dynamic. It has been brutal work but I no longer have contact with the majority, mother included and have placed geographical and emotional barriers . I am not available . I am available for those who love, respect and honour me. I have found my tribe.

    • Annie on  

      Wow. Thank you for sharing so vulnerably with me, Frances. I’m incredibly honored that my writing resonated with you, and you’ve been able to find your tribe. You so deserve that. That is so powerful you’ve been healing from your childhood experiences. Setting a boundary with family can be painfully difficult; I’m so proud of you for doing that.

      Warmly,
      Annie

  7. Tristan on  

    Fantastic article and excellent descriptions and resources. I had never heard of the identified patient and found that very helpful. Thanks for sharing your work and insight 🙂

    • Annie on  

      Thank you, Tristan. I’m so glad this post felt insightful and helpful. I hope my work continues to support you. Warmly, Annie

  8. Jacquelyn on  

    What a wonderful and insightful article! (I’ve just discovered your website and I’m really enjoying it!) As I read through this so much of it resonates with me. I remember identifying with the character ‘Matilda’ as a child and I would pray every night that I would develop her powers and be able to find a “Ms. Honey” of my own to rescue me from a family I felt alien in. I appreciate the strengths-based perspective you’ve provided – how empowering!

    • Annie on  

      Hi Jacquelyn, welcome to the blog! I also really loved the character “Matilda” and think every child should have a “Ms. Honey” in their lives. I believe that if we have even one good, kind, nurturing adult in our lives as children, it can have a protective effect. I hope that as you grew up, more Ms. Honeys came into your life and you found your people despite having felt alien in your family while young. I’m looking forward to staying in touch with you through these essays. Warmly, Annie

  9. Sara Razak on  

    Hi.
    I have this gut feeling earlier in my days, that I am the Black Sheep of the family. But blinded by my effort to really fit in, being accepted by people I expected to accept make me believe that I too, can be accepted by them managed put the feelings away, for not so much time. I just cant. It is something I just cant be. As I grow up, I understand what is happening to me and began to identify my personality, which later just further proved that I did not belong. People failed to accept me as I am and the moment that I fell out with one of them, I realized. That I am the Black Sheep of the family, officially. Right now, I am finding ways to not hurt myself anymore and began to actually work on those steps. Your article giving me assurance that it’s okay to be a Black Sheep. It’s fine. I just need to find method to heal and I do not have to feel guilty getting away from the people that I thought can accept me. Thank you so much for this article. Wishing all the Black Sheeps strength to get through days and heal beautifully.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Sara, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your story. I think guilt usually arises from feeling like we’ve done something wrong. But I want to assure you that you are doing absolutely nothing wrong with establishing boundaries with your family. You are simply protecting your energy, and I’m so proud of you for doing the work and identifying your needs. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, and have a wonderful week. Warmly, Annie.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Steph, I’m so pleased you enjoyed this essay. Thank you for leaving a comment and have a wonderful week. Warmly, Annie.

  10. CC on  

    What a great article! I related with everything and I’m going to print it off for future reading. I grew up in a family of 11 and was clearly the carrier of the family dysfunction. My mother picked on me while she doted on my other siblings. I remember my mom telling me that I was the reason my parents were going to get a divorce. (They never did divorce, to my dismay; they would have been better off separated in my opinion.)

    Another addition to your list could be Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly in the more recent movies. He clearly acts as a lone wolf, and his behavior in the movies are a bid for attention and validation from those around him. He just wants to belong. I am glad Marvel finally redeemed him in the recent Loki series.

    • Annie on  

      Hi Zelda, I’m so pleased this post resonated with you! That’s a keen observation – Loki would be perfect for this list. And I’m sorry to hear that you experienced that family dynamic, but I’m happy to hear that you identify the power of the “black sheep” archetype. Take such good care of yourself, Zelda. Warmly, Annie.

  11. Sheryn on  

    I love this article: it resonates with validation and hope. I have been the family scapegoat for 65 years, inflicted on by my knife-wielding mother. Intuitively, I always felt something was wrong, but I didn’t know what was happening. Her behavior is inexcusable. She is 97 and nearing the end of her life and I asked her why she hated me. She started the long-slew of reasons with “from the minute you were born, all you wanted was attention!” I tried to make amends, but at 97 she’ll carry that axe to her grave. Funny thing about finding one’s wolf pack: It is not a universal hug. I used to think a group of black sheep was similar to a puzzle ie: all those pieces fit together to create a whole. My tribe is beautiful, complicated and riddled with the need for profound understanding, as those scars run deep. I know this article is older, but so relevant. Thank you! It brought a little peace to my battered soul!

    • Annie on  

      Hi Sheryn, I’m so pleased this post resonated with you! I’m touched by your honesty and vulnerability and am glad that this article could bring you even a small sense of hope and healing. I’m happy you’ve been able to find fellow black sheep, complex though some of those relationships may be. Please take such good care of yourself and thank you again for taking the time to comment. Warmly, Annie

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