“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” ~Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art
The term scapegoat is usually used in the negative. For the purposes of this article, we will use it in the positive. Yes, scapegoating can be a positive thing. It just depends on what (not who) you are setting up as the scapegoat.
If your scapegoat is hypothetical, then it can be a powerful motivational tool toward leveraging courage and strength into your life. If it is literal, then it can be dangerous because you are projecting or blaming rather than taking responsibility for your actions.
Positive scapegoating is about taking responsibility for your actions while using the scapegoat as a motivating force. “They” don’t want you to succeed. “They” don’t want you to be healthy. “They” don’t want you to finish that novel. “They” don’t want you to read this article. “They” is the scapegoat. But what “they” want is for you to fail. So, you use “they” as motivation to succeed, to be healthy, to finish that damn novel, despite “them.”
How do you get in touch with the unlived life within you? You must embrace resistance. The life you live and the unlived life within is blocked by resistance. The way toward living the unlived life you’ve always wanted to live is embracing this resistance, owning it, questioning it, navigating it, and then coming out the other side more whole.
And guess what action is most effective at helping you to confront this resistance? Setting up a motivational scapegoat. “They” is the resistance. The resistance gets channeled into the symbol of “they.” Then you use this symbol as a tool, as a pivot point, from which you leverage the courage to overcome the resistance which has been keeping the life you’re living separate from the unlived life within you.
Suddenly, you are in the driver’s seat. Motivation and emotion are combined. Hunger and empowerment manifest. The hypothetical scapegoat becomes a machine which you can rage against, pour yourself into, a place to spill the blood, sweat, and tears of your proactive self-empowerment, and give yourself an excuse to take leaps of courage that you probably wouldn’t have taken otherwise.
The motivational scapegoat becomes a reason to overcome yourself; to get out of your own way. You use it to hurdle over the life you’re living and to jump into the unlived life within. From there, you are free to topple mental blocks, level psychological plateaus, and overthrow fixed thinking.
The scapegoat is a kind of wedge that you use to pry open the door to the unlived life within. Motivated and inspired in defiance of “they,” your world opens up. Defying “them” becomes a reason to self-improve, to toss hooks into your future healthier self and drag it toward your current self. You become encouraged by, driven towards, and hungry for that healthier version of yourself. You surrender to overcoming the life you live by hurtling yourself in the direction of the unlived life within.
Understand: scapegoating is a slippery slope. Make sure you keep your footing. Maintain discipline. You never want to project your blame onto another person. Never project onto another person or group – be they friend, enemy, or frenemy – the label of scapegoat. Always keep the scapegoat hypothetical and motivational as a psychosocial leveraging mechanism. Never literal or blaming.
With enough practice in productive scapegoating, your future healthier self will begin to emerge. In hindsight, “they” will be seen as mere handholds and steppingstones toward achieving your goals. With time, you’ll come to realize that the scapegoat was just a bridge upon which you liberated yourself to take risks. It connected your old self to your new self. It gave you an excuse to be courageous despite fear and difficulty. It got you out of your own way so that “the way” was finally revealed. It gave you an excuse to free yourself for further freedom.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (They Don’t Want You to Read This Article: On Productive Scapegoating) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.