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In some groups, an individual member is sometimes consciously or unconsciously identified as the individual who personifies all that is or could be wrong in the world. Perhaps one or two individuals may be singled out to bear the brunt of the animosity. Such individuals become the group Scapegoats.

The use of a scapegoat is a convenient way for the group members to reduce anxiety by making the assumption that one or a few individuals are the possessors of undesirable traits, mannerisms, or behaviours. Thus a member may accuse the scapegoat of excessive anger. It is an interesting group phenomenon to notice how some individuals will attempt to solve their own problems through the use of elaborate advice and direction to the scapegoat. “Harry, if you would keep your voice down a little, we would hear you better,” or “Nobody wants to do exercises with Bill, he just can’t establish rapport,” are examples of an individuals solving problems with other problems. Another way in which scapegoating is used is through the mechanisms of displacement. Individuals direct statements that may have negative consequences toward a scapegoat instead of toward the actual target of their displeasure.

Since scapegoating is obviously a growth-hindering aspect of a session, the trainer must be alert for signs of an individual being singled out for this purpose. A question like, “We all seem to be blaming one or two individuals for our failures, I wonder what is really happening,” will generally serve to call the group’s attention to what is happening. If this fails, the trainer may have to make a more direct interpretation or confrontation: “Mary, you’re saying that Joe really bugs you, but is it possible that much of what you find annoying comes from somewhere else?”

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