Elsa’s blog post about Scapegoating got me thinking. One of the most common things I am asked about is the pattern of boundary issues and enmeshment. Enmeshment is when you stop being able to figure out where you end and your partner begins. It can feel wonderful at first, because you’ve merged completely with another human. But after awhile of this, some couples seem to lose their individual identity, and they need to step back. This can cause problems with the partner, who has grown used to having their mind read!
When you step back and decide to take back some of your individuality, you may trigger a reaction from your partner. A very blatant example is the wife of an alcoholic, who, for years, has tried to keep the peace in her partnership by anticipating her partner’s needs, keeping the fridge stocked with beer and making sure the kids are quiet when he gets home from work so as not to trigger his anger while he’s drinking. One day she decides enough is enough, and there’s no beer in the fridge when he gets home. Whatthewhat???
Scapegoating and co-dependency go hand in hand, I think. Becoming a scapegoat may sometimes look like an isolated incident– you start a new job and realize everyone’s blaming all their shortcomings on the “new girl”… but in reality, the phenomena of victimization is a learned behavior, most likely starting way, way back. Like pre-verbal— maybe you learn in the crib that there’s no reason to cry, because no one is going to come pick you up. So you learn how to be self-soothing at a really really early age. You never get to learn that your DEMANDS will be met.
Fast forward 20 years and you’re still not demanding; you’re still relying only on yourself to meet your needs, but the desire for companionship is, of course, a human desire. So you couple up and because you’re so good at being low-maintenance, and you’ve learned, out of necessity, to read your environment like a telepath, you may partner with someone who keeps triggering your childhood issues of “nothing for me, it’s all about them”.
Going back to the original example of the guy who comes home to no beer…. the crucible point is when he’s standing at the open fridge with that incredulous look on his face. He turns and looks at you, ala the girl from the movie “The Exorcist”. You know the pea soup is coming.
Let’s assume there’s absolutely no violence in this scenario— hubby’s rage is limited to stomping, hollerin’ and guilt-producing statements that have no real basis in reality (you never think about me!!). At this moment, you either stand toe-to-toe with the phantom from your past and look him straight in the eye and say “that’s never been true, but am telling you from this day forward I will be putting myself FIRST” and you mean it. You never buy beer again. Every single time you are tempted to fall into old behavior, you take yourself out for a pedicure instead of taking care of a need of his that is entirely his to fill.
There is always a way of looking at the behavior of others who are trying to scapegoat you, or shame you into meeting their needs somehow. But it involves your willingness to see it another way, to entertain the idea that your safety does not rely on your sacrifice.
Water signs are prone to this, as is Neptune in the 7th, or hard Neptune aspects (including Neptune conjunct Ascendant) without a strong Saturn. While Scorpio is a water sign, it is more likely to put up with only so much before making the decision to draw a line in the sand.
Do you have a line in the sand?
Whatthewhat?? lol I got a good chuckle from that one 🙂 Was picturing the empty fridge removed of it’s expected goodies. lol I like what you had to say about the baby in the crib not getting picked up so learning to rely on themselves and not demanding anything from others. I never thought of it that way but it is sooo applicable to me. I have a cancer ASC but my Sag Neptune is trine my Leo Saturn so I feel pretty grounded. I have an annoying habit of wanting to give everyone the room to show me they aren’t a total piece of shit (I’m guessing that’s my Leo Sun/Saturn unconditional love aspect). What that means is i allow shitty behavior the first couple of times…almost like a test to see how far they take it. If i respond too quickly they can have an excuse ready so, to be fair, I like to wait until they’ve done it a couple times before I get upset and draw a line in the sand.
I always love how a Leo can just look at someone who’s gone too far and just swat them away with their paw. BEGONE!! I admire that so much!!
My Pisces mother took 6 decades of abuse from her Scorpio mother before she blew. If you’ve never seen a Pisces goldfish transform into a great white shark, well, you really have missed something!
Your mother must also have Aries planets… Pisces finally had enough Guilt Tripping and Aries said “WE’RE OUTTA HERE!”
Boy, Diane, you’ve read my life! My 9H Scorpio Jupiter/Neptune conjunction quincunxes my 4H Gemini Mars. I was conditioned early in my marriage if I kept adjusting/guessing my husband’s needs we’d then have a happy life together. You know how that strategy turned out! Of course, there was no respectful reciprocity in our marriage. My Mars also squares my 7H Virgo Pluto/Pallas Athene conjunction. This aspect is a nod to unresolved father issues – yeah, he died when I was a child. My 1H Pisces Moon is opposite my Pluto/Pallas. Yes, classic mother emotional abandonment problems. Through the intense study of my natal chart, I’ve learned these challenges were predetermined – by me. I accept these issues, I choose to face them head-on, and MOVE ON!
You know, one of the things I have learned about my own Pluto/Mars square is that sometimes I could be soooo stubborn when it came to making wrong decisions, like trusting the wrong person. Pluto/Mars has a reputation for “violence” but so much of the time, what I see is that Pluto/Mars people wound themselves.
Thank you for sharing your insights, Diane. I, too, can be unyielding when I make decisions; air-ruled Mars and Pluto. And, yes, my resolute beliefs have led me to continue trusting the wrong people; long after others have seen these people’s “true colors.” Love your posts, Diane!
Yes I have Scorpion Moon with Leo Sun, Virgo rising. I give and I give and I give to loved ones. I take the bad behavior from loved one and take it and take it then snap….. I am done and I remove myself & the person is in shock, then pissed off at me. Meanwhile they were abusive at times and mistreated me and my good heart. I am always surprised at how suddenly I am so DONE. I do not plan it. The straw suddenly breaks my camel’s back and I am done, done, done. It is hard for me because I do not want to hurt the person, and I feel that I cannot negotiate or compromise. It is suddenly I need to remove myself. And it takes time for me to process it all, knowing intuitively that this is what I have to do and there is NO turning back. It is very intense (Scorpion Moon).
I’ve said this elsewhere, but I’ll say it again: Virgo’s “early warning system” is resentment. When we feel it, we should listen, instead of trying to talk ourselves out of our feelings! I have Virgo Sun, Scorpio Moon, so I hear you!
Thanks Diane that helps about Virgo & resentment. I just set a huge boundary with my deceased brother’s widow who recently gave me a verbal slap down on FB because of article I posted that triggered her. I am done. Then my niece, her daughter just butted in coldly about how could I do that (take space from her mom) & tried to shame me into getting back into a relationship with sister-in-law. I am done with her too. I also have Moon/Mars conjunct in 2nd house. (I am not good at astrology). I feel so deeply hurt, and yet I feel badly that I have to say “NO” to such bad behavior from them both especially since we are all grieving my sweet brother. UGH!!! Yet I have to live with myself and protect my own loving, sweet heart.
Omg ???this post, sooooo incredibly helpful for my Sun/Neptune/Moon t-square ??
I’m glad, Sam. That’s a powerful T-square!
I don’t know. I have a hard time discerning what is normal and respectful behavior. I have Neptune at exactly ten degrees away from my ascendant from the twelfth house. I don’t know if that orb is enough to have it manifest. It does sound like me though.
LN, that’s an interesting point. I think a lot of people have a hard time distinguishing “normal and respectful behavior” because of disrespect shown to them when they were children. But, most seem to have incredibly respectful behavior towards others; it’s only when it comes to how THEY are treated that the boundary lines of respect become blurred.
That is so true. Sooooooo true. You’re making me think Diane!
When a parent scapegoats a child and violates his/her boundaries, the child has to accept it because she is dependent on the parent for survival. Living this dynamic can all but destroy your ability to set limits with people as an adult because your natural healthy instinct to self-protect has been disabled.
This is correct Scottish, and this is the theme of my life. What an very interesting writing is this: exactly what my life-lesson is! Thank you so much Diana for this and you to Scottish. And: If you are aware of it you can work on it!! 🙂
And thinking further: this was a theme for my mother and also for her grandmother (she was an orphan). Both her parents were orphans, this can count for a male to. It is not only a female-issue!
It takes *practice* to set limits as an adult, when you were not allowed to have boundaries as a child. I’m a firm believer in the simplest forms of practice, such as standing in front of a mirror and saying NO, or asking a friend to help with this… ask your friend to say the words that seem to trigger you into surrendering your self-protection, then say something like “No, I am not comfortable doing that”. It takes repetition and dedication to your growth, but OMG, when you accomplish the NO in a real-life situation, it is incredibly empowering!
Thank you Diane.
You are preaching to the choir, ScottishFoldSoul!
It’s a great post Diane.
Can you expand on the part where you say “and you’ve learned, out of necessity, to read your environment like a telepath”?
It’s part of learning how to survive when you are a powerless child. You read a room for danger, taking the psychic temperature of each person there, trying to suss out who might be “safe” and who might hurt you. It’s entirely an animal survival tool that others who haven’t been deprived never really have to develop. But unfortunately, when abuse is repeated, that survival tool becomes broken in adulthood and we repeat the theme of being disappointed by loved ones, until we can reclaim the ability to discriminate and demand respect.
I have a problem with this. It’s become especially evident in my relationship of 14 years (which is no longer actual) where it turned out we had Neptune conjunct Descendant. No alcoholics here or criminals or anything of the sort, but I always felt guilty because of something. He seems to be a rather criticising person and I’ve had enough of it. One day I just had enough.
I’m also trying to deal with the fact that I always feel guilty over something. I know it comes from childhood but that doesn’t help much. At least now I’m aware of it, I can at least stop myself from reacting that way.
I have natal Neptune in the 9th house, and sun, mars and mercury are all forming a sextile to it. Pluto in the 7th is forming a sextile to it as well. Saturn in the 6th is forming a very loose square to it (8 degrees loose).
Oh that vehavior style is so me.
Not speaking up and when I do (because I’m angry) I am so afraid of being abandoned. I read about “abandoholics” and “abandoholism” – it’s a thing!
My dad was a misogynistic brute and I cut him out of my life 10 years ago. I’m a Plutonian and 7 x Scorpio energy (8H/planets in scorpio). When i’ve had enough, I’ve had… ENOUGH! And if you’re stupid enough to cross me further I *will* dispose of you and never look back. You’re dead to me from then on.
Funnily enough that’s when the people come back, regretting their actions but then it’s simply too late.
My ex was an abuser of cola and I refused to engage in satisfying this need. He could buy his cola himself, I was not going to participate in it. Just like his misuse of his space and his bad managing skills. Not my problem! You can’t keep your space clean? Not my problem. I’m no ones mother…
Great post Diane..resonated a lot with the “old” me
“I always love how a Leo can just look at someone who’s gone too far and just swat them away with their paw. BEGONE!! I admire that so much!!”
If only that were true for me! (Leo)
I wait and wait until I can stand things no more (Mars in Libra), then I have to get out, just to save my skin.
Boundaries are important. I wish I had been taught this early on. I guess some children are taught not to question things coming from grownups. After that, you question your own doubts.
Sag 7th Neptune trine Leo Sun with Virgo Saturn conj Mercury and Libra Moon Mars Venus almost-stellium, Desc Scorp. Relationships change me whether I want it or not. Afterwards I change back while patching myself back together and processing withdrawal symptoms at the same time. Yet I know that life without women for me is not an option, the older I get the more I know it. Love, sex and passion, as long as I draw breath and blood courses through my veins.
I have a Cancer sun and Venus opposite Neptune. Most of my planets fall in my partner’s 7th and 8th houses so merging was too easy. I lost myself and my identity and became a serving martyr. This went on for years until I hit a wall and realized that my partner is more than capable of handling his own daily needs and didn’t need to me to do *everything* In typical Cancerian and Neptunian fashion, I was mothering and hovering too much at the expense of my own needs until I was depleted. The fall out wasn’t pretty and I was told in no uncertain terms that I was being “lazy” because I no longer wanted responsibility for handling those things. That did it for me.
I stopped doing anything at all for him until new boundaries were established. Then I came back to the table with things on my terms and that was very empowering. He gets it now. How much it all was. The result now is greater balance of power and more shared responsibility.
Thank goodness for that Saturn squaring my Venus. It kept me from falling too deep into the rabbit hole of romanticism and martyrdom! ?
Wow, this is great! It must be very empowering to have a partner who actually responded, and made changes. I think people need to see that this possibility DOES exist. Thank you for sharing your experience!
In this case, your Saturn square Neptune will alert you to boundary marauders… trust your instincts!
This post is making me think about some things I’ve read about adult children of alcoholics.
I spent three days with this Taurus stellium guy.. (I asked if i could use his phone to let my mom know I’m ok) .. one night he was half asleep and I told him (I said it several times before that I “didn’t feel good” and would need to go to the pharmacy soon.. I had to go to the bathroom..) that I would go off to the pharmacy.. he didn’t pay attention and woke up with me gone..freaking out that I just up and left. He texted my mom a bunch of weird desperate texts like (“I’m so upset and disappointed she left like that! I’m gonna cry!”) It didn’t surprise me he did that (it turned my mom off).. he would have abandonment issues due to severe bad experiences with both parents. Anyway I warned him never to text my mom again or I’d leave him (don’t FUCK with my mom.. srsly).. couldn’t erase the number for some reason. Flash forward some weeks.. He would keep saying he understood when I said no..then some hour later asking me to do a thing again. my Moon saturn transit kicked in and I was too depressed.. kept bailing on hanging out and he didn’t wanna leave his neighborhood or meet me anywhere fancier than his house or the neighborhood pub (not how we do dating where I come from ffs.) He said he had enough and unfriended me.. I told him I felt too guilty and wanted out and blocked him too. He texted my mom a bunch! I said that’s it. I blocked him and threatened to call the police.. he begged forgiveness. I said I forgave him but it’s over. He texted me, I blocked him again. He messaged me under a different name and said I was being a bitch and he hated me. Ho hum. Don’t text my family or get cut.
Problem is.. he is sort of normal but those red flags of pushing beyond my “no” set me off.. my circle believes different things about why I should cut him off.. my mom saw it as no big deal that he texted her other than it’s unmanly and whiny.. for me I can’t even name the childhood problem that causes someone to wheedle like that.. my friend thinks texting a mom is inappropriate.. my mom called me an “angry bitch” when I was so mad and scared I threatened to beat him up (I’m not very strong.. but threaten my mom and I will do my best to cut your dick off..) think I was psyching myself up.. felt like he’s stalking my mom and not me. Truth is I feel residual guilt somehow.. I strung him along a bit, yes, but saying I couldn’t hang out but I was legitimately down and depressed, while he was too lazy to scoop me up.
I guess no one else sees not respecting the word no as a serious thing as I do in my circle.. I’m supposed to be better parented than that.. I’m looking for confirmation online about it but.. I look back on our communications and he’d always say he understands my no then push beyond it..
My understanding of boundaries is its really about what you wont do or do. Its not so much about what the other person does, because we cant control other people. I learned that the hard way.