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Described as an outsider in one’s family of origin or family unit, a black sheep can be an outcast (or scapegoat) to a group of people, club or group, Psychology Today reported.
“Maybe your life choices went against the grain of what was ‘normal’ where you grew up—whether it’s because you spoke up when others didn’t, moved away from your hometown or chose to love and work, differently.”
Perhaps, one of the more famous perceived black sheep in pop culture as of late are Prince Harry and Meghan Markle of the British royal family.
In a December Netflix docu-series, Harry and Meghan detailed some painful elements of their married life, which revealed details of Meghan’s estranged relationship with her relatives, and highlighted how race has impacted their relationship, per the New York Times.
Harry also shared how deeply the paparazzi have affected his life.
Meghan revealed that she never thought race would play such a large role in her marriage because it was never an issue for her growing up in L.A.
“Most people didn’t treat me like a Black woman,” Meghan said of her childhood. “Now people are very aware of my race because they made it such an issue in the UK.”
Harry (described as a black sheep for marrying Meghan and choosing his own path) said the royals never understood that Meghan’s race played a role in how she was treated.
“What people need to understand is, as far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they’d been put through as well,” he said, adding, “so it’s almost a rite of passage.”
Lisa Forbes, a native of Chicago, has overcome trauma as well as sexual, emotional and religious assault.
Forbes told the Michigan Chronicle that the black sheep of the family is someone who has been selected to be the person “upon whom everyone else projects their own negativity or unwanted traits.”
“The black sheep will often be accused of thinking something unsuitable when it is the accuser who is thinking it, or of doing something objectionable when it is the accuser who is doing it,” Forbes said, adding that the black sheep will also have “no voice in the group.” “It is a source of chronic high stress, which is damaging both physically and emotionally. It can cause feelings of not being good enough, rejection, aloneness and depression. Feeling misunderstood and as if you “don’t belong” can lead to isolation and avoidance of other relationships.”
Forbes said that she was the black sheep of her family and in her case, it came from two directions.
“First, my siblings felt they had to compete to get attention and approval from our mother,” she said. “If the family dynamic is that there’s not enough love to go around, then somebody always has to be left out. In my family, that was me. Secondly, when a parent actually despises themselves deep down, they will often project that feeling on one of their children and despise that child, instead. This projection of self-rejection can be unconscious.”
Dr. Jonice Webb, a renowned psychology expert, noted on her website, drjonicewebb.com, that a black sheep of the family can be excluded from a family if there is mental instability and boundaries crossed, and creating a safe environment insures that someone rightfully protects themselves.
“But surprisingly, very seldom is either of these scenarios the case. Many, many black sheep are lovable folks with much to offer their families and the world,” Webb said. “In fact, they are often the best and brightest. They may be the most creative of the family or the one with the most powerful emotions.”
Some signs that a family has a black sheep include:
Over time, one person will frequently act offended or angry for no apparent cause.
One guy is frequently and persistently made fun of behind his back. He is the worst, What a…fill in the blank…weirdo/disappointment/loser.
Subtly excluding one family member from gatherings or keeping them in the dark about family news.
From sibling rivalry to depression – being a black sheep can cause mental health problems if it is not handled.
“With any of the causes above, the excluded or targeted child senses early on that he must be different, bad or inferior. In a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy, he learns to play his role in the family. Often, he plays it very well,” Webb said.
Forbes said that the path toward healing and self-care for her is about trauma resolution through the use of Emotional Freedom Techniques (“EFT” or “tapping”), which has over 100 studies validating its effectiveness.
“A person can also do what I did, namely, reframe the experience so that it becomes useful to them,” she said. “Not getting approval from one group of people can free a person to authentically choose their own path, unfettered by the need to conform and try to fit in, which they never will.”
She adds that family is as family does.
“Remember that family doesn’t have to be limited to people who are biologically related to you,” she said. “Create a family with people who are truly your kindred spirits. Go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated.”