Always the "Blacksheep" Is That A Bad Label?

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.
— Annie Wright

I closed my eyes, tilted my head downward, my eyes welled up with tears— shame, scolding and abandonment encompassed my body, my mind and took me back to life as a little girl.

No, I didn’t do anything,” I opened my eyes.

Once again, it’d been made to feel like the odd one, the problem-child, the angry outspoken brat. The Black-sheep of the family, merely for speaking my mind.

Tears dried in my eyes, as I purchased a Blueberry Black Tea Lemonade from Starbucks and walked next door for a haircut at my favorite salon. I needed to pamper myself, I felt worthless in that moment, drained. Fighting the memories of feeling inferior, abandoned, being the odd-person in the room, the loner— which had held me hostage far too long; I breathed in, closed my eyes as my stylist cut my hair. Years of therapy, mindfulness, meditation, self-care talks and advocacy research had removed those feelings, and replenished them with self-love.

...the 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.
— Annie Wright

But today, my own family, claimed my words were ‘drama,’ and placed the hand up, removed themselves from the cell phone group-chat— refusing the listen to my thoughts on the subject. Misunderstood, unheard, my response and my perspective shunned— I’m not wrong. I think ‘outside of the box’ and see the world through a different lens.

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.
— Annie Wright

Most dysfunction in our family was never talked about growing up. We hushed it. We covered it up. Everything was ‘a-ok’ when we went to public places, or when friends visited. If not, we heard about it. Mom would be ‘embarrassed’ if things went wrong. Adulthood and time taught me that those were her issues and demons, not mine.

My instinct as a child was to ask questions, seek alternative ways to solve a problem. But my abuser, society, my family and friends suffocated my voice. Shame, fear, anger, guilt took the place of my child-like curiosity and zeal for life.

I wasn’t born the Black-sheep, but became it due to the Dysfunction that took place in my family.
— Dawnette Brenner

I’ve always felt like an outsider in my family. The ugly sister, the brat, the tattle-tale and after I was sexually abused at the age of 5, I climbed inside my head and thrived in the only environment where I felt safe— school.

Today I say no, I take back the power of a life-time of shame. Today we need to talk about it, I say no, my voice matters. Today I say we need to raise the voices of the Black-sheeps and ‘normalEYES’ their thoughts, feelings and alternative problem-solving methods. Stigma stems from the shame in families that are unwilling to unmask themselves or open the door on the dysfunction. We all matter, we need to listen to each other and the narcissists that feel they are always right on this subject, well they too need to work to heal this multi-faceted dilemma from Adverse Childhood Experiences— ACES.

The label of Black-sheep in the 18th century was considered an idiom to mean ‘waywardness.’ For psychologists, especially those my mother frequented, when someone strays from general house rules, they want to become ‘wayward,’ or to ‘run-a-muck,’ and my mother’s psychologist told her my outspokenness was me deciding to be a ‘bad-girl.’ He told my mother that she should use ‘tough-love’ and kick me out. So she did.

This quote pretty much sums up how I was viewed in my family, as well as my older brother, whom died by suicide. Once he died, I became an even larger black-sheep. The dysfunction had to go somewhere, right?

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.
— Annie Wright
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
— Annie Wright

“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.” — Annie Wright

Annie hit it with this one! I’m all of the above!

So, what do we do? How do we change our position if it’s impacted our entire life? We, meaning I, have learned to cope, adapt and I do ALL of these things! Can you relate? Are you the black-sheep in your family?