6 Sad Reasons Why A Family Creates A Black Sheep

I’m the black sheep of my family,”

said the young man who sat before me in my therapy office. I tried to imagine this adorable, sad young man being the “black sheep” of anything. I couldn’t.

Generally considered the outcast of the family, the black sheep is typically assumed to be an oddball. Furthermore, the rest of the family believes that the black sheep brought this upon himself.

It is true that sometimes the black sheep is indeed “odd” by anyone’s standards (sometimes the result of a hidden mental illness). Or she may be a sociopath who violates the family’s boundaries and care, so that the family has to exclude her to rightfully protect themselves.

But surprisingly, very seldom is either of these scenarios actually the case. Many, many black sheep are lovable folks with much to offer their families and the world. 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.

In truth, the world is full of black sheep. Think hard. Does your family have one? This question is not as easy to answer as it may seem, for many black sheep are not physically excluded from the family. For most, it’s much more subtle. The exclusion is emotional. 

Three Signs That Your Family Has a Black Sheep: 

  1. One member often, over a long period of time, seems hurt or angry for no apparent reason.
  2. One person is often, and on a long-term basis, talked about negatively behind his back. “He’s so annoying,” “What a weirdo/disappointment/loser/fill in the blank.”
  3. One member is subtly not invited to certain family occasions or left out of the loop on family news. 

So if most black sheep aren’t actually weirdos who brought their exclusion upon themselves, what would cause a family to treat one of their own this way? The real cause does not lie within any individual family member. No. Instead it’s a product of family dynamics.

Here are the sources that I see most often.

The Six Top Family Dynamics Which Result in a Black Sheep:

  1. The child who has the least in common with the parents. This child sticks out because of his personality, temperament or interests. The parents are baffled by him and inadvertently treat him differently, which spreads to the siblings.
  2. The best and the brightest. This child threatens to outperform or outshine one or both of the parents. Either consciously or unconsciously, the parents sabotage her to hold her back. This way, they won’t lose her and they won’t have to feel badly about themselves in comparison to her.
  3. The child most prone to depression or anxiety. The child with intense or dark feelings or thoughts which the parents cannot understand may frighten them. At a loss about how to help, they may just keep him at a distance.
  4. Sibling rivalry. In this family, there is simply not enough attention or love to go around. One or both of the parents is limited in some way; by mental illness, personality disorder, or substance abuse for example. The siblings must jockey for whatever they can get.
  5. A parent who despises himself deep down. This parent can appear to be quite loving of her children, so she can be difficult to spot. But she is unable to tolerate certain aspects of herself, so she projects those traits onto a chosen child, and despises him instead. It is an unconscious coping mechanism that happens outside of the parent’s awareness.
  6. Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): the child who is the most invisible. In this family, all of the children may get the subtle (or not-so-subtle) message that their feelings don’t matter. But one is better at hiding his own needs, feelings, and self than the others. This child literally disappears from the family’s radar screen and is ignored. He becomes persona non grata. He is the one who matters the least.

With any of the six causes above, the excluded or targeted child senses early on that he must be different, bad or inferior. In a case of self-fulfilling prophecy, he learns to play his role in the family. Often, he plays it very well.

What should you do if you recognize your family in these words? It is indeed difficult to turn around entrenched family dynamics like these.  But you can make a difference:

Choose to see your family through a more complex lens.

Ask yourself: Is this right? Is this the person that I want to be? Is this how I want to treat my sibling or child?

Share this article with chosen members of your family.

Look at your black sheep with fresh eyes and notice what you’ve never seen before.

Open your heart and your little section of the family circle.

Let your black sheep know that you reclaim him.

If you are a Black Sheep:

You are right to be baffled and confused. Nothing is as simple as it has always seemed. Know that you have value. And it is not your fault. Watch for a future post: Message to the Black Sheep of the World.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, how and why it happens, and how it affects all of the children in the family see Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships 

This article was originally published on Psychcentral.com and has been republished here with the permission of the author and PsychCentral


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
CJ - October 14, 2019 Reply

I may be the blacksheep of the family, but some of the white sheep aren’t as white as they try to appear.

My father was a minister and things were condemning of people I loved as well as others who weren’t part of our denomination. I had to memorize scripture for punishment (a lot of it) but it backfired on my parents because I took to heart the love and compassion in those words. I am truly blessed by those words and have found much happiness by distancing myself from bitterness and anger.

I re-read the CEN books every few months to have courage to continue my path out of emotional neglect. Thank you for your writings.

Katherine - October 13, 2019 Reply

Thank you so much Dr. Jonice for the work that you do. I read your first book and look forward to reading your second. The concepts were like a lightning bolt for me, and as I continue to understand more and more, I feel more and more understood by myself and others and I’m just so very grateful. Thank you so so much. -Katherine

Freeborn - October 7, 2019 Reply

Really helpful piece. It really helped explain what I have always found rather inexplicable.

Now I’ve had time to think about it – it’s not that inexplicable at all.

I became the black sheep because of family dynamics.

I take the view now that reconciliation is out of the question. It would do none of the parties any good whatever. It’s just prolonging the pain.

I read somewhere that a black sheep only occurs in a family once every 97 years.

So to some extent, black sheep like me are unique and precious.

My family obviously don’t think so but they’re just boring old white sheep motivated mainly by jealousy.

That’s how I see it and I’m 64 now. The pain and anger will never leave me. In fact they are an integral part of my being.

I accept now that it was meant to be this way and life must go on….

    Jonice - October 9, 2019 Reply

    Dear Freeborn, I think you can change how you feel in general by refusing to accept your role in your family. Start to value yourself and your feelings more and it will make a difference.

Freida - October 7, 2019 Reply

Seven of my 8 siblings seem to think everything I do or say is wrong. I have been married three times to abusive men. I am 77 years old and still they criticize me and tell me how,what,and when. I think now is the time to distance myself from them.but would like to know why they have treated me like this all my life. My mom even pushed me into the first marriage to a man 8 years older than me when I was 15. She seemed to not want me to have better than she did.

    Jonice - October 9, 2019 Reply

    Dear Freida, I am so sorry this has all happened to you. I am sure that you do not deserve to be treated this way by your siblings. Please put yourself first and take care of your own feelings and needs as #1 priority.

Jessica - September 29, 2019 Reply

There is another type of black sheep, the unwanted child. My husband’s mother seems to blame him for his own conception while she was still in high school and her subsequent marriage to his father. My husband has ADHD, which probably made him a energetic, difficult child, but they seem to blame him unfairly for every tiny little thing even now. For example, she accused him of being drunk one morning because he was throwing up, but he was just sick (I know he only had 1 drink the night before). She encourages him to quit his classes that would give him a much better paying career. The blaming has even spread to me and our young daughter. I am walking on eggshells around them because every tiny, unpredictable thing sets his mom or dad off.

    Jonice - September 29, 2019 Reply

    Dear Jessica, this sounds like a harmful environment for you. I hope you will protect yourself and your daughter, and to whatever extent possible, encourage your husband to protect himself.

Kandy - September 25, 2019 Reply

I am in a family who has made my youngest child the black sheep and I am so angry. I hate the horrible way they treat her and at times I really don’t even want them to call or come around me. She’s been on drugs for eight years now and is finally cleaning up her act and I have her back and even did when she was doing drugs. She’s now 3 months clean and went to rehab on her on no I intervention she told me she was just fed up with the disgusting life she was living and she knew she deserved better. She won’t come home because she says home is a trigger with the family and their negative energy and I totally agree. She has a good job support from narcotics anonymous and she still test clean every day. I cannot tell you how very proud I am of her and when I want to praise her the negative comments from her brothers and sisters make me want to scream! Mind you she was never around them ever while on drugs never asked them for anything at all and if she would they would make up lies just to not help her. She went through major abuse by her partner who got her into the drugs and not one of her brothers would do anything it was me in his face getting cursed out and threatened but that’s my child and drugs or not don’t put your hands on her. I want so bad to just tell them all to disappear and just stop communicating with them but they are my kids too. I just can’t stand to hear them beat her down always wishing bad things on her even going as far as to say she can die for all I care or I wish she would just die and that just tears my soul apart. If she had done things to them I could see the anger, but she has done nothing but hurt herself no-one else. I am so sick of it now! She stayed away from the family and would only call me in fear for her life yes I worried because I love her but she told me that it’s her life and to not worry about her but I still would. I have always and always will be there forever! I am so angry that this family is so dad gum perfect that they forgot she’s important too!

    Jonice - September 26, 2019 Reply

    Dear Kandy, I hope you will never tell your other kids to go away because that would be extremely damaging to them. Keep in mind that addiction takes tremendous tolls on families, and one child’s addiction affects every member of the family. Please seek a therapist, preferably one who has training with families and addiction, to help you sort this out. As the parent, so much falls on you here. It’s important for you to get help and support!

Dawn - September 24, 2019 Reply

Great article. Sometimes people definitely bring this on themselves. I have a daughter with bipolar disorder that is codependent on an emotionally and physically abusive partner. They were married at one point and I thought it was over until…they hooked up at a hotel and now baby number 2 is on the way. Needless to say, they are back together. He has lied, manipulated and gas lighted people, neglected his children, stolen from family members, been on drugs and been in and out of jail for various reasons. This is indeed a toxic person that most people want to avoid, hence the reason for being a “black sheep”. My daughter has lied and been neglectful as well. She has moved farther away so I don’t get to see my grandson as much. I distance myself for a reason…it is the best thing for me.

    Jonice - September 26, 2019 Reply

    Dear Dawn, a manipulative, abusive person does not fit into my definition of a “black sheep.” This man sounds like he is a different thing altogether, and you are wise to try to protect yourself. I’m sorry he has your daughter in his clutches. I’m sure it’s very painful for you.

Carla - September 14, 2019 Reply

I stood up for myself, and then my family made me try to feel bad about it. But I wouldn’t let them. They probably still view me as the problem, but in my situation, I am proud that I didn’t roll over and let them ruin my heart and mind. I am smart, I am an excellent communicator. My family, mostly mother tried to blame me for something she started. Usually, she acts like she forgot what she said, and then victimizes me and the situation to the others. I still can’t tell if she purposly forgets the situations created or not. She always acts like it’s news to her when I repeat back what was said. She wanted to argue with me about why I was wrong and she was right, but I wouldn’t let her. Usually, those conversations are her saying everything she wants without me getting a chance to speak and say my side of things. I’m always willing to sit down, talk and understand what the miscommunication was so we can fix it and avoid it in the future. But I’m just now realizing the fact that she can’t bring herself to speak and resolve civilly means she may have a feeling she is wrong, or just didn’t care. Well tonight when she was trying to fuss at me and make me feel bad, I kept saying I’m willing to talk about it, but only if you listen to my side of things too. Not just you talk and then the end of the conversation. In anger, she still decided that it wasn’t worth it, listening to my side and trying to work it out.

She was mad. But I felt empowered, even if the others didn’t and don’t believe me.

I hope I can stand up for myself more like this in the future.

    Jonice - September 16, 2019 Reply

    You sound quite strong, Carla! If you need support, please do seek a CEN trained therapist from the list.

Whisper - September 9, 2019 Reply

I disagree in part. Some of what you say is true, but your forgetting that some black sheep aren’t misunderstood. Some are mean, neglectful, abusive, hateful, manipulative, thieving and in rare cases, murderous. I mean, hey serial killers and mass murderers have families too.

My mother is a black sheep for being emotionally abusive and a deadbeat parent.

My cousin is one because she’s violent, manipulative, physically abusive to adult and child, a liar and a deadbeat who outright abandoned her children.

Sometimes it is your fault for being an awful person and not bothering to change.

    Jonice - September 12, 2019 Reply

    I guess I don’t usually think of damaging people as being black sheep but I do understand what you are saying. Thanks for your comment!

Melissa - August 26, 2019 Reply

I am definitely the black sheep of the family. I wanted to share that when I told a friend I was the black sheep of my family, she corrected me and said, “You are the MAVERICK of your family.”
Gives the the position in the family a whole different dynamic and I love it.

    Jonice - August 26, 2019 Reply

    Love that!

    Sisterbaby - October 13, 2019 Reply

    This friend of yours nailed it. “Maverick” refers to someone who is independent-minded and courageous. A maverick chooses life on his/her own terms. A maverick has insight and clarity. A maverick has the unique ability to think outside of the family “box” which is often a dysfunctional construct that attempts to paralyze anyone who chooses to be different. It’s human nature to want to be part of a family system– that’s where we begin. But a healthy system is one thing whereas an unhealthy system is something else: it’s a place where a maverick cannot thrive.
    To be a maverick requires a lot of determination and self-love. We (I’m a maverick too) have to claim who we are in spite of whether we get approval from our old system. Sometimes that means cutting ourselves loose and establishing new systems that will comfort us and serve our unique needs. It can be painful but if you can embrace this role, you can use it to push through the imagined boundaries that once held you back. You can become an inspiration for others. But first you have to leave many things behind; for example, you have to refuse to let negative labels stick to you. One of my favorite lines in a book/film about a rogue maverick (The Hunt for Red October) is when the main character says “Where I am going, you cannot follow.” It takes tremendous courage to know when it’s time to make your break. The world is full of mavericks once you know what to look for. They are the ones who initiate change, who defend inequities, who defend the defenseless, and who creatively establish new paradigms. These are the real heroes of the world. Claim your membership to this elite group and know that you are now committed to a future rather than to a past that refused to acknowledge who you are. The future is where you are heading. Don’t look back.

sylvie racine - August 20, 2019 Reply

I am the second of 7 sisters raised the old way in a poor family. My mum and dad did neglect me enough. Dad was a gambler and a womanizer. I was asked to be mother in second, since mum had too much to do, she was the working parent, and in exchange for my obedience, I was promised to get her conditional love. I believed her. But I was never enough.

Looking at the list, I believe I am the 7th of the 6 categories listed. Kartman’s triangle was the game, victims, saviors and persecutors dancing a dysfunctional ballet for the attention of our mother.

I was the bright one, yes. I had to save everyone, including my dad. I have been told by mum she needed me to be her mature one, so she delegated me the mother role to my sisters. I also had to outperform at school, without any means nor praise. I even had to keep it shut to avoid making my 6 sisters feel bad about my success. Mum bragged about me in my back.

I realized today there is a bunch of narcs in our family. I am the black sheep, I don’t fit in the mold in this tribe where you need to accept getting slashed at and come back without a peep, after being banished and the object of naysaying. I do NOT want this.

But I am now isolated, mum is dead and all hells are broken loose. She contained them, now, it’s a turning into a zoo … it’s devastating.

I am a C-PTSD vic without support nor family nor job at 62. I have friends, thx to the guy up there. I would have appreciated support. My boundary refactoring is in progress. Quite a job… Thx, you nailed it so well !

    Jonice - August 21, 2019 Reply

    It is very important for you to protect yourself from your family. I hope that’s what you mean by boundary refactoring. Good job!

Leonard - August 13, 2019 Reply

Yes, it is true that I have been excluded from several family gatherings. However, they manage to inform me of funerals. I think that the more that I have excelled academically and professionally the more uncomfortable they become. I am a third generation college graduate (like my cousins), but my path and choices have been quite different. You described a mother who despised her choices and I

    Jonice - August 18, 2019 Reply

    Don’t let it hold you back.

Brother - August 2, 2019 Reply

Often the person who is the Black Sheep has a substance abuse or mental health condition and is non-compliant when it comes to getting treatment.

I’ve turned my back on my brother, because he has a toxic personality, a substance abuse problem and probably some depression underneath it all. I’ve grown tired of the temper explosions which are sudden and out of the blue (one time he flew in while the other family members were exhausted from dealing with a younger sister who was in psychosis. His contribution was to fly in for Christmas, and within a minute of coming into my house, he had given our 80-year-old mother and myself the finger and left in a rage). I’m tired of cleaning his diapers (which has included me calling the US embassy 12,000 miles away multiple times, first to try to see if anything could be done to prevent him from being imprisoned and then to see if his conditions could be improved after he was jailed in that distant country).

He hasn’t worked in the 10 years since he got out of prison, hasn’t helped with family problems, which have included a sister becoming psychotic while my father had cancer and my mother had Alzheimers. This has left my one well sister and myself to spend the last 3 years supporting family members, to our detriment, while our brother neither works nor helps.

I gave up talking to him about how he could find work long ago – he backed away every time. I talked to him about treatment, and he said he would do something and asked me to look up providers where he lives, but never did anything.

We walk on eggshells when he comes home, and wonder why he continues to do so, because he always becomes enraged when he shows up here.

I have enough on my plate – I’m not going to take him on as a project, and I no longer tolerate mistreatment from him. Until he makes the decision to change, I will have nothing to do with him.


    Jonice - August 3, 2019 Reply

    It’s not possible to help someone who will not help themselves. The problems in the family are much bigger and older than you are and it’s important for you to protect yourself.

    Becky - August 16, 2019 Reply

    There is nothing wrong with keeping a toxic family member out of your life. You can love him from a distance.

      Jonice - August 18, 2019 Reply


Elle - August 2, 2019 Reply

I am the black sheep but I’ve finally come to accept that I will never be worthy, never be loved, never be wanted, never be accepted, and never be respected. I giggle when I think of the energy they waste talking about me behind my back, despite me living 1500 miles away and having almost no communication with any of them in nearly a year (until they want money for a large gift for our elderly parent). And you know what? Its okay.

    Jonice - August 3, 2019 Reply

    I’m glad you are not being hurt by them at this point. I hope you are working on yourself in the meantime, paying attention to your own feelings and needs.

"Spoiled Brat" - July 28, 2019 Reply

Thank you!

pat - June 25, 2019 Reply

Great Books. Buy these. They enabled me to see that any relationship with my abusive half “sister” (12 year older) was impossible. Leave and find your own alternative friends and family. I am not wasting the remainder of my life on ungrateful people who always put me down as a child, ( and still tried unsuccessfully to do so as “adults”) yet always called me when they had legal problems-advice for free. A high point- being told at age 45 by my 82 year old mother that I had been a “mistake”. ( This after I had just spent 6 hours getting her evaluated for reading devices to counter her macular degeneration). I told her that I already knew that fact since age 4 which I did, being precocious. (Taught myself to read at age 4. )
No accomplishment of mine was ever good enough for my mother unless she wanted to brag to her friends but I was never praised. My “sister” was her favored child ” poor little XXXX” who was 12 years older than me and a product of the first love marriage. After much thought, she married my father solely to get support which the weasel she had as No. 1 hubby falled to timely make child support payments. After my father died of a self inflicted gunshot, lIfe was hell for the next 11 years. I learned at 8 to be my own guardian and advisor and to never listen to their advice as neither of them had done much with their lives. I have. BA, MPA ( Magna cum laude) and JD with Law Review.

Interestingly enough, at 87 when she was dying, I got the POA rather than her sadistic first daughter as she knew I was more humane. First daughter had cut off her pain meds (she was dying from liver cancer/kidney cancer that had spread but Mother might ” get addicted “- this I did not know as she was living with the favored one). Once hospitalized-( at the wrong hospital by XXXX since “XXXX” had not consulted with me as to who her PCP was), I told the Physicians there to let her go out in a happy purple haze with liquids, anti-emetics, and good .old fashioned morphine.

Note that my mother never ever defended me against “sister”.My friends mothers’ had warned my mother that she was abusive to me when is was 8. I was chewed out for telling tales out of the house.

I do not plan to ever visit the grave or go to my “sister’s” funeral. I am done. 60 years of abuse was enough. The last 4 years have been a lot better.Wish I had done this at age 50 after my mother died. As to those relatives who chose to follow” half sister” and her little stories (lies) they are welcome to her. Enjoy.

    Jonice - June 27, 2019 Reply

    Dear Pat, thank you for sharing your story. I hope you will be able to take care of yourself in your complicated family. It sounds like boundaries have been your answer. Please do keep healing.

    mary - August 6, 2019 Reply

    Wow, this parallels my story so closely. Only difference was that I married at 16 to get away from the family. Never moved close enough to let them in my life.

blacksheep - June 24, 2019 Reply

Okay I’m the black sheep also. I was told this by my other at 5 years old that every family has one and I’m it. She burned me with cigarettes and used to make me eat food she already chewed and spit out and slapped me if I didn’t do what she said. I was smacked around if I was physically sick for causing trouble. My sperm donor never cared for me either. He would put his fist in my face if I had a “look” on my face. I was just a little kid.

I’m the middle of 4 girls. I say middle because the youngest two are twins. My “mom” and sperm donor are big time narcissists. They pitted my sisters against me. They never played with me or even cared. I was in invisible child. I didn’t cause trouble I had great friends in school and made good grades. I’d tell my friends what went on and they felt sad for me and could see it for themselves anyway. My best friend’s parents let me hang out at their house a lot. I feel as though they knew but wanted to stay uninvolved and helped me as best they could. I love them for giving me some normalcy to my nightmare.

I was sexually abused by my sperm donor at 7. It wasn’t actually sex but fondling. I told my mother and she just pretended it didn’t happen nor did she care. Fast forward to when I was 15 and my sister was getting married so lots of relatives were in town. My cousins invited us to swim at the hotel. My sperm donor’s brother and step father were there and said they wanted to show me something in their hotel room. I went and next thing I know uncle Dick pushed me on the bed and said “we just wanted to show you how to have sex” He unzipped his pants while his stepfather laughed then they let me up and I ran. I didn’t tell a soul because who the hell is going to care about a black sheep?! for anybody reading this is I wasn’t a problem child at all. I was given the title and treated accordingly.
I’m now 55 and my self esteem has always been terrible as the depression. Pretty hard to wipe all that away.
Sperm donor used to say if I called the police he’d kill me when I got out.

We moved away from all relatives when I was 5 because sperm donor was serial cheater so we never had any relatives around. He held a prominent position in the community think wolf in sheep’s clothing. My “mom” was a labor and delivery nurse. What a JOKE!

Being given the name black sheep has really taken away who I could’ve been. All the therapy in the world or books haven’t really helped. Bright spot from all this is a child I dreamed of having animals that would never hurt me. I got my wish and have shared many years with many animals of all kinds. They are my family.

    Jonice - June 25, 2019 Reply

    I am so very sorry this happened to you. I’m glad you share your love with animals, and I hope you will open yourself up to people at some time. All of life is a process of change. All my best wishes to you.

Anonymous - June 17, 2019 Reply

I thought this was all in my head. But when I read about these experiences, I understand that there are other people like me who face these situations like me
1. Being constantly blamed for everything that goes wrong in the house.
2. Being overly criticised by everyone & especially my mother for not able to do anything correctly in my life.
3. Being constantly excluded or not told about anything important.
4. It feels like nobody listens to what I’m saying which makes me lash out. Nobody takes my advice or needs it. It’s as if I wasn’t wanted or I’m an unnecessary addition.
This has been constantly happenuing to me all my life. But now I know that I’m not alone. Also, not being able to do anything worth in my life, it always puts a pressure on me. It makes me feel that my life is a waste & not worth living. I have almost been in depression for about 2 years now but I don’t think anybody understands me or my situation to help me. Inspite of me telling them that I need help, they don’t take me seriously.

    Jonice - June 21, 2019 Reply

    Dear Anon, when your family makes you feel this way, you then grow up to act this way and treat yourself this way. It continues the cycle. You can break the cycle. You can change this! Please start working on your CEN.

Briana - June 3, 2019 Reply

My family dynamic is weird. There happens to be two black sheeps of the family: me and my twin sister. It was kinda hard to explain the feeling we had as kids. We used to think we were adopted because of how different our parents treated us from the rest of our siblings. Mind you, there are six of us all together. It also doesn’t help that both of our parents are narcissistic parents. Our dad chose the youngest as his favorite (his Jr.), And our mom chose her favorite, the second oldest sister who looks exactly like her and acts exactly like her. Our very oldest sister is favorited by our mother’s side of the family and then the second to last brother is shown favoritism by our dad because he is the first son and by our mom, because he is a momma’s boy. Me and my sister are the only one of their kids who kept our grades high in school, had several advance classes, joined chorus and band, won writing (twin sister’s forte) and art (my forte) competitions, but are still treated like crap. Meanwhile our siblings had tons of problems with their grades, our youngest brother (age 14) is failing and continues to skip school, causes fights with our mom, and our older sisters horribly manages their money and won’t help pay bills. My twin was fired from her job because our mother purposely would refuse to get her to work (her job was not in walking distance), I still have my job because I can walk to work but I make the least an hour but pay my part of the bills and my older sister’s part of the bill because she spends her money on clothes. But yet our entire family acts as though we are the worst. Every time I ask my parents to list what’s special about all of us, they have a lot of great things to say about our siblings, but when they get to me and my twin all they say is “well, you two are the first set of twins in the family”, as if that means anything. I can’t deal with this anymore.

    Jonice - June 5, 2019 Reply

    Dear Briana, I hope you will turn away from looking for validation and love from your family, and instead focus on yourself. What’s special about you? What do you want, need and like? Most importantly, what are your feelings and why do you have each one? I know it’s a difficult shift to make, but it’s the best way to save yourself. All my best to you and your twin sister, who deserve to be seen.

Susan Chafin - June 2, 2019 Reply

Is there a blog for people like us for a support group somewhere? I feel alone and would like to talk to people who are hated for no reason like myself.

    Jonice - June 2, 2019 Reply

    None that I am aware but it’s a great idea. Anyone else know of one? If so, leave a comment here!

    Amanda - July 18, 2019 Reply

    I also feel alone & need to talk to someone. Feel as if I disappeared tomorrow, no one would realize I was gone.

      Jonice - July 19, 2019 Reply

      Dear Amanda, I am sure that is not true. It is a powerful feeling, though. I hope you will see a therapist to get help with this. You deserve to feel better and to realize that you belong.

Vicky Nelson - May 13, 2019 Reply

Hi, I am married to a great guy. He is the youngest of 4 siblings. His mother died when he was 25. His dad died when he was 41. The oldest child, a sister, is married for over 50 years and has 2 children and 4 grandchildren. The second oldest is a brother who is married for almost 50 years and has two children and 6 grandchildren. The third is a sister and she has no children. My husband’s siblings are all fairly successful. We have been married 40 years and have 2 grown children. Our oldest daughter has 3 children and is in the process of getting a divorce. Our youngest daughter is separated from her husband and is presently living 800 miles away from him.
My husband’s family are financially well off. Status and financial success seem to be very important to his siblings. I have a Master’s degree plus 30 and my husband has a Bachelor’s plus 30. We are comfortable but not as financially well off as his family. My husband came from an upper middle class family. My family was lower middle class. My husband’s sister-in-law came from an upper, upper middle class family.
The problems I see are not so much that they do not love my husband they just don’t seem to include him in things. His sisters are always commenting on Facebook about his brother’s kids and how fabulous they are. His sister that doesn’t have children is always gushing about her nieces and nephews from their sister and their brother but our children basically get a perfunctory like or a very simple message. Example in point: Today a picture was posted of my husband’s niece with her mother. The compliments and I love yous were flying. My daughter and I got a Happy Mother’s Day.
My sister-in-law the unmarried one took a picture 2 years ago at a family event and all of the nieces and nephews children were included in the picture. Our 3 grandchildren were there as well. They were never asked to be in the picture.
It is not so much that they don’t love my husband or that they treat me badly it is just that they seem to show favoritism to the other siblings children and grandchildren. I don’t care so much for me but it really hurts me that they don’t include their brother in plans and they seem to view my grandchildren as less than.
Am I just overly sensitive?

    Jonice - May 13, 2019 Reply

    Dear Vicky, family dynamics are complex. I suggest you follow your husband’s lead since it is his family. His feelings about it all should lead the way.

Steven R Weiss - May 12, 2019 Reply

Oh Yeah, I am THE blacksheep of my family. There is no doubt in my mind. Proof: Not invited to any family functions like Weddings, My brother did not invite me to President Trumps Inuguration, up in Washington D.C. My male first cousins, 3 of them were. I am never invited to visit with any of my first cousins, or for that matter my

    Jonice - May 13, 2019 Reply

    I am sorry to hear this Steven. That is painful. I hope you will look for validation and love in relationships with people other than your family. But primarily from yourself.

Lynne - May 9, 2019 Reply

Yes. This is embarrassing, so I’m grateful to keep it anonymous.
This being kept ‘off the radar’ stuff has been going on for many years. Still going on. To sum it up, another typical situation;
My Mom recently suffered a Stroke, after me and my siblings lost our brother to Cancer a few short months ago.
I feel so bad for her, in many ways she has been a wonderful, church loving Mom, but from way back, since I was ‘put out to pasture’ at 18 yrs of age, to fend for myself with no contact, or financial help or any kind of advice about anything, although from the start, I had tried in my own way to reach out, those efforts that I explained to my family later, were blatantly denied, in their minds I supposedly didn’t care! Subsequently, when Grand parents, uncles, aunt, passed away, I was the last to be notified, long after the funerals, in most cases, I was not told at all. Phone calls were refused always.
All because I, the good girl’ finally dated a wonderful guy at 17-18yrs that they liked! However, I had to break it off, there was some discussion, I still wanted to go to college, but that didn’t matter. I was shown the door forever with all of $5.00 in my pocket.
The mistakes, terrible decisions, no guidance, horrible things that happened during the years after altered my life forever.
Recently, since my Mom’s Stroke, I was told days later, since most of us live out of state. Even non families members and some relatives were informed the same day
Emotionally, my siblings tend to keep their distance although I drive a 3 hour distance to visit for birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Mother’s Day etc.
Finally when I was informed about Mom’s Stroke I was told ‘no need to visit, just write her letters.’ I asked why, no explanation. For years
we all have been equally contributing to her 1st Alert System and her ‘preferred’ Medicare Insurance supplement which she could never afford since my dad passed on at age 64, many years ago.
I plan to go make the trip and visit anyway.
These constant selective emotional rifts have made the upbringing of my children rocky, although I have always put them first, NEVER REPEATING HISTORY by comparing them to other kids, but I love them each equally for who they are.
When you have always been molded to believe you are ‘less than’ your relationships will suffer while you find it hard to love yourself AND another too.

    Jonice - May 12, 2019 Reply

    Dear Lynne, thank you for sharing your story. It is so very painful to be the “black sheep” in the family. I assure you that this is a family dynamic that is not actually about you at all. I hope you are getting support with this. You deserve much better, and I encourage you to strive to take in the love and acceptance that you find in people outside your family. All my best to you.

Leckey - April 16, 2019 Reply

My Dad said those very words to me. I was entering the den from the garage, and I recall (I know how iffy that can be) he blocked the door to say what he had to say. I was teenish somewhere. I have the sense sisters were in the den. No specific recall of that though. Now I wonder if I’ve tried to live up to those words ever since.

    Jonice - April 18, 2019 Reply

    Dear Leckey, you are not a product of what your dad says to you. You decide who you are and who you want to be, not him. I hope you’ll do the work to find yourself and finally honor your feelings and your true self.

Ivy - February 18, 2019 Reply

I just hate being myself. I am odd, and too different from my family, i just want to build my own life and go away.

    Geneve Velasquez - May 1, 2019 Reply

    you are not alone, please dont give up:( im 22 and im on the same boat as you, we can do it! i know its hard and it hurts alot, but sometimes you have to sacrifice, for the sake of your own being ❤️

    Susan Chafin - June 2, 2019 Reply

    Ivy, sweetie, I feel you. I am nothing good if I’m not at fault. I carry my family’s hate and sh as me like armor. I tried to be good enough for so long. Finally I started doing it for me and accepted that they would never love me or be proud. Now I make a decent living and they guilted me. They leached me dry and now that I am struggling again I no longer matter because according to them I’m a pos. I helped them thinking omg wow they finally want me. It was my money they wanted and like a bad romance, I was discarded as soon as I closed my wallet. I’m only remembered through anger and fault of things I never had part in, and only hear from them to be yelled at or asked for more money then insulted once I say I am struggling. Like you, I just wanted to go away and even wondered if I’d even be missed or if any good memories of me would exist in the future generations. I tried killing myself when I was a teenager twice. Then I just got away. I’m only happy when I get away from them but its lonely and I wish I had someone to share funny family memories with. I feel like an orphan with a family. I’m the most educated and successful person in my family but I am a complete disgrace to them. I tried so hard to be good enough that’s how I ended being successful but now they hate me for not being rich and treat me like I’m a stranger they wish would stop coming around. I plan on leaving in 2 weeks. I will never return and I will never miss them. They know I’m leaving and do not care. They just asked if I was gonna send money because i buy their food. They dont know when I leave the gravy train will too. I am 33 years old. I dont remember in my life so far feeling loved. It’s my turn to live for me and love me. I hope to find a friend like me or you to fill the void on being nothing to the ones you loved and needed in life. If I don’t I’m still leaving and never returning. They wont even know if I’m alive or dead I will be so gone.

      Jonice - June 2, 2019 Reply

      Dear Susan, many dysfunctional families feel threatened by their best and brightest and feel a need to try to bring them down. I hope you will focus on yourself and your own happiness and well-being. You are the only one who can protect you from those who harm you.

    Teena - August 24, 2019 Reply

    I understand this feeling completely.

Linda Adkison - January 25, 2019 Reply

Iam the middle child and I have depression. I always felt like something was wrong with me. My parents never told me they loved me and we never had any affection. My dad rarely spent any time with me but he did with my sister and brother. We don’t talk anymore and my parents are gone. It’s safe but I am a survivor. None of us were able to resolve any of our problems. We couldn’t upset our father.

Ben - January 17, 2019 Reply

I think you could have been a little more kind with this article really. even if someone is a weirdo and is excluded because of that then the effects are the still the same and the ‘weirdo’ will grow up with the same devastating CEN. I have aspergers syndrome and you could say I was a little ‘weird’ as a child but that doesent mean I deserved to be abused and neglected

    Jonice - January 17, 2019 Reply

    Dear Ben, I take your point and I apologize for any hurt you may have felt from my article. I did use that word with the implication that since everyone is “weird,” no one is. I couldn’t agree more that no child should ever, ever be abused or neglected.

michele - December 29, 2018 Reply


    Rosie - January 28, 2019 Reply

    Michele I’m so sad for you that you have had to live life on these terms. I bless your courage in continuing to seek to heal yourself.
    Dr Jonice is THE expert on this whole pattern. Read her books as a start; if you can’t afford them, read everything she has written, and do your best to follow her advice.

    If you can afford it, she has a wonderful healing program available on her website too.

    You CAN heal this. We just have never had such clear guidelines as Dr Jonice provides before. It has taken me decades of healing work to heal my own situation, and still it felt like coming home to myself, when I found this work.

    The books are not expensive, pls check them out. If you have someone to talk with about this, that’s even better. It’s a VERY common situation, people you know probably have elements of this going on too.

    I hope you can learn to give yourself the love you missed out on; that’s really the bottom line for healing this, is learning to do that.

    I wish you healing and love, and the wisdom that comes from learning to heal yourself. Get help too. The books are a great start.

    Missy - April 14, 2019 Reply

    I can relate to some in this website. I’m in denver

    Chris - July 4, 2019 Reply

    Wow!!! Your simply my hero right now. Truly. Idk if we can ever heal from the neglect, but this post and all the replies healed me. For us, to heal fully, we’d have to live pain free for 100 years.
    My blog and the books I’m writing are all dedicated to us. Xo

Patrick OBrien - November 18, 2018 Reply

I can relate to most of the above comments (I am the 2nd child in a family of 5 ), I had a bad fall out with my oldest brother after my Dads funeral 4 1/2 years ago in Ireland we have not spoken since ( what he said to me and going behind my back to my brothers and spinning the story to make me look bad ) My father sent both of us to boarding school ( this affected both of us badly) my father would have us work for him (a workaholic) during all school breaks and college break , after college this brother emigrated to NY and the burden was placed on me to step into the family business which often was a 7 day week job due to the nature of the business, I ended up also emigrating some years later and was later talked into coming back to work for my family , (family loyalty I guess ) this lasted 7 months when I emigrated again to never come back except for short visits, my oldest brother and his wife are without doubt the most horrible people I have ever met in my entire life , we live in the USA different states we have not had any family get together in 17 years our kids only get to see each other at family events in Ireland they have met less than 5 times in their entire life my eldest is in College my middle a junior in HS and my youngest a 6th grader , this same brother uses everyone in the family and spins things to make me the F’ up in the family , my relationship with the rest of over the years has gotten distant and unless I call my siblings they never call , my desire to see my siblings isn’t there anymore so yes I do feel like the black sheep of the family , I’m blessed that I married a great woman and have 3 children that have great values and get along great .

Sandra - November 18, 2018 Reply

I’m the youngest of 10 siblings and have always felt different and the odd one out. I’ve never understood why I’m treated differently it does have an effect on your confidence and your self worth… I’ve been left out on so may family gatherings and no one seems to care if this has hurt me. I’ve now lost contact with my family and no one cares enough to see if I’m a live or dead, I feel that I’m invisible

    Barbara - November 25, 2018 Reply

    Im sorry to hear that. Im third. 2 other sisters were always jealous.Of me , things I have , even though I ve mostly spent it travelling. Now I ve returned and Im invisible. Never invited on Christmas or other occasions….and I broke my relationship to return home. I can only count on myself. I should do like you. I did a mistake to return here….

Richard Kram - November 17, 2018 Reply

I definitely fit the black sheep mold. My parents had 4 children, then a 6 year gap, then me…. the mistake. Probably the bigger issue is their follow up was twin sibling 14 months after me. Well those boys stole the show and I was shuffled off to whomever didn’t get a twin to hold. I was sent to my aunt & uncle’s farm alot. Which should have been wonderful, but I always felt like I was second fiddle to the “amazing” twins. Fast forward 50 years and I am by far the least successful and for the most part estranged from my family. I hope to change this.

Amy - October 22, 2018 Reply

This article has helped explain so much. I’m 42 and my entire life I’ve been treated differently. My sisters used to tell me that my mom used to gossip and say bad things about me. Almost like brain washing them against me. I don’t get invited to anything and I’m basically the family babysit ter. It’s like they enjoy using me. I’m disabled and they say I’m faking even though I have doctors to prove it. My heart is so broken. It’s really sad.

Lisa - October 14, 2018 Reply

I am that black sheep. At 47, this year I buried the last of my 3 immediate family members. Alone, I attended an Aunts funeral today, to realize while looking at the photo boards, that there have been decades of functions and milestone events that I was excluded from. Learned from my cousins best friend from high school, that I am the “crazy” cousin. However, I’m not quite sure what “crazy” stories can be out there because outside of funerals, I do not see my family. Hurtful and confusing enough to say the least. Sadly my night ended with an 80yo Aunt ask me very aggressively, if I’m mad at her & her family because since my dad died I haven’t called them? I gently explained that no, I’m not upset w anybody. That I’m still grieving from burying my last family member. And with that said, I was met with a shoulder shrug and she turned and left.

    Jonice - October 14, 2018 Reply

    Dear Lisa, I’m sorry the family you have left offers you so little. I know that is painful, and I hope you’ll work on creating your own sense of family among the people in your life who enjoy and support you.

Peter - September 22, 2018 Reply

Great article. I can see my life in there. I’m the oldest son and the sensitive one in the family, just like my dad, except he is ashamed for his sensitivity. He bullied me and my sensitivity my entire life and competed with me whenever he could, no matter how young I was. I became a shadow of myself. I don’t know if my brothers and sisters ever fully realised what damaging role they played in this. I’m no contact now. Looking forward to your future post.

    Jonice - September 25, 2018 Reply

    I’m sorry this happened to you Peter. You didn’t deserve it. I hope you are being kind to yourself in every way.

    heidi schleifer - October 8, 2018 Reply

    I completely relate. I am no contact as of today. What a terribly lonely and depressing thing. I often wonder why or how I could make it better. But I can’t change anyone and so it goes…..I am sure you are a kind, giving and selfless person that they never took the time to really get to know.

Alison - September 27, 2017 Reply

Thank you for this insightful article, Dr. Webb. I am one of these black sheep and now I understand more about the situation. I am different from all members of my immediate family but that’s okay.

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