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 Narcissistic Parent Survival Kit

Narcissistic Parent Survival Kit

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 Narcissism Definition

 

Golden Child / Scapegoat

It's very common for Narcissistic Mothers to have a Golden Child / Scapegoat dynamic going on.

In short, one child in the family is the Golden Child, and one or more is the Scapegoat.

The Golden Child, as the name suggests, is the best and most wonderful - at least in the eyes of the Narcissistic Mother. It seems to be that the Narcissistic Mother picks the Golden Child to be an extension of herself, onto whom she projects all her own supposed wonderfulness.

The Golden Child can do no wrong. He or she gets given the best of everything - even apartments or houses bought for them. Their most minor achievements are celebrated and held up for admiration. 

The Scapegoat on the other hand is, also as the name suggests, the person on whom all the ills of the family are projected. They can do no right. Their major achievements are dismissed. Any money spent on them is the bare minimum and is spent begrudgingly.

Growing up the Scapegoat can understandably feel very jealous of the Golden Child.

This, of course, leads to friction between the children, which suits the Narcissistic Mother. Divide and conquer and all that, and lots of opportunities for Triangulation. Indeed, the Golden Child can be encouraged, either overtly or tacitly, by the Narcissistic Mother, to bully the Scapegoat which adds to the friction.

I'd go so far as to venture that, if you're reading this, you were more likely to have been the Scapegoat than the Golden Child.

This is because, contrary to the way it felt growing up, the Scapegoat is actually the lucky one! (I mrean relatively lucky, of course. No child of a narcissistic mother can be ever described as being lucky.)

The Golden Child can end up very engulfed by the Narcissistic Mother, and her life can end up being emmeshed in hers too. She may well grow without proper boundaries and proper self-identity. She is likely to remain, either forever or for a long time, as a puppet of the Narcissistic Mother.

The Scapegoat on the other hand, is the independent one. She's the one who's driven to seek answers and who may well realise about NPD. She's the one who can break free from the unhealthy dynamics of the family and create a healthy life.

She really is the lucky one at the end. 

Here is a long, but absolutely excellent, essay, which was written for this site (by my colleague Light who co-created the Narcissistic Parent Survival Kit with me, and who created The Toxicity Test):

The Scapegoat

Narcissists are master projectors. No-one is better at looking directly at a person and seeing not who that person is, but who they wish for them to be. When a narcissistic mother looks at her child, she is capable of seeing many things: a source of narcissistic supply, an impediment to her lust for power, the inconvenience of a child’s feelings and needs, a string of intolerable annoyances, unwanted limitations, and a myriad of other possibilities. But never the actual child.

In a narcissist’s family, dysfunctional roles are the norm, and narcissistic mothers are always the producers, directors, and casting agents for the entire production. Children are assigned roles to play long before they are old enough to resist them, and grow up within the confines of these limitations, knowing nothing different exists anywhere. It is typical of parents with personality disorders to select at least one “Golden Child”, who can do no wrong, and at least one Scapegoat, who can do no right.

When deciding (unconsciously) what child will play each role, the narcissistic mother weighs her options on a deep, intuitive level. Which child is the most sensitive? Which child reminds her of a hated parent, or the ex-spouse who stood up to her, or something within herself she cannot accept? Which one asks more of her, either intentionally, or by way of circumstance? Which child expresses unhappiness more often about the unbearable situations the narcissistic mother creates? Which one is more vulnerable, or more outspoken? In short, which child bothers her the most?

This child will be made her Scapegoat.

This Scapegoat will ultimately be made to carry the lion’s share of the family’s blame, shame, anger, and rejection so the rest can more easily retain their patterns of dysfunction. This child will always and forever be the one who is not good enough, even when she excels at something – indeed, especially when she excels. This child will endure more put-downs, sideways remarks and behind-the-back betrayals than the rest of the family put together. This child will endure the wear and tear of the family’s dysfunction in a way that will enable the others to continue looking good despite the family’s toxicity. 

Because the narcissist cannot accept her faults, she spends her days trying to convince herself that everything she does is perfect. When her personality disorder causes distress within her family, and her children’s issues begin to reflect this, the narcissistic mother is forced to make a choice. She must either acknowledge that she is making mistakes that are affecting her children negatively, or she must try to convince herself and others that the problems are coming not from her, but another source. And the latter is the option the narcissist always and unfailingly selects. In her mind, by blaming another, she absolves herself of any wrongdoing, and she can continue to believe - and strive to convince others - that she is in fact, perfect. But she must first have someone to blame.

Enter the Scapegoat…

The Scapegoat is the one who assuages the narcissistic mother’s (and ultimately, the whole family’s) guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. The Scapegoat is the shock absorber, the buffer against the harsh reality that there is something wrong with the family picture altogether – the trash bin into which all unwanted matter is cast. The Scapegoat role facilitates the existence of family denial. The narcissistic mother teaches her non-scapegoat children to accept and support the scapegoating of a given child by affirming and rewarding those children’s perceptions that whenever anything is wrong, it is to be the Scapegoat’s fault. Children adapt quickly to these roles, and learn readily that if they do not want to be responsible for something, they need only turn to the Scapegoat, whose case will never be sufficiently or properly heard, and whose “guilt” is so readily welcomed. Once the other family members have mastered this approach, they are much freer to do otherwise objectionable things without suffering negative consequences.

For a defenceless child made to play scapegoat, the burdens of being labeled “bad” no matter what she does are heavy. She soon learns she cannot win; there is no sense struggling to improve her family’s opinion of her, because that simply cannot be allowed to occur. (This is the point of hopelessness at which some Scapegoats begin playing the role of “bad seed”, because her failures will be rewarded, whether consciously or unconsciously.) In fact, commonly, the more the Scapegoat behaves and performs well, the more severely she is oppressed, because doing well threatens the mother’s labelling of the child as bad. This causes the narcissistic mother psychological distress, because it suggests that her belief is wrong, and for a narcissist, the thought of entertaining this possibility is completely intolerable.

In a desperate attempt to reduce her mother’s active oppression and derision, the Scapegoat succumbs to the roles of underachiever, troubled one, loser, black sheep or troublemaker. This presents the mother with exactly what her mental illness is making her feel she must have – an external object upon which to place blame - so that she can continue the reassuring fantasy that there is nothing wrong with her self or her family on the whole.

For the Scapegoat, there will be disregard and/or punishment for doing well and a “reward” of a little less overt abuse or even occasional expressions of support if she fails to thrive and accepts her role. Many Scapegoats have reported that the only time they felt their mother supported them (if at all) was when the supportive act fostered and reinforced the scapegoats’ inferiority, dysfunction or weakness. In an effort to alleviate to some degree the distress of her narcissistic mother’s wrath, the Scapegoat eventually gives in and agrees with the family’s assessment of her as inferior and worthy of blame. She internalises the belief that she is inherently bad, worthless, and defective, and believes that everyone she contacts can clearly see this and will reject her as completely her family does. She will bring the telltale signs of deep inferiority with her to the playground, to school, to the workplace, and into her community and relationships.

Commonly, because the Scapegoat’s psyche is weighed down with the burden of an overwhelming sense of immutable inferiority, her early behaviour, mannerisms, habits, speech, and even her posture will bear the unmistakable mark of a bedraggled victim, crippled with shame and guilt. She is the one who cannot speak up, and this is immediately obvious to everyone with whom she comes into contact. Having plenty of experience in the role of scapegoat, she is the perfect target for abusive behaviour. She is the one others intuitively know will not fight back. She is the easy target – the pushover - the dupe. She will be become the outcast, the bullied one, the marginalised loner, the routinely punished trouble-maker or the laughingstock.

The Scapegoat is accustomed to accepting blame for interpersonal problems, and she has been diligently conditioned to believe that if only SHE could do better, the challenges facing relationships in which she takes part would dissolve. Despite the fact that this is an unattainable state, she has only her family patterns to use as a template for her adult relationships, and she easily tolerates partners who are emotionally irresponsible and expect her to bear too many obligations or who give her the message that any difficulties are inordinately her fault.

It is not uncommon for a Scapegoat to play a similar role in the workplace as well. Just as children can detect who among them is a vulnerable target for blame and ostracism, adults do the same. The Scapegoat may find herself underpaid and overworked more than her co-workers, left out of the picture during office functions, blamed for departmental failures, and overlooked for deserved promotions and commendations. Though the quality of her work may often be far superior to her co-workers’, she is not likely to be chosen to participate in the big presentation or serve as a team leader, and her employee evaluations will reflect supervisors’ willingness to criticize her more harshly than others. She will be overlooked at best, fired at worst.

While children, some Scapegoats respond to the no-win situations they’ve been handed by developing destructive, defiant or offensive behaviour patterns. This can create serious difficulties at school and work, as well as the community overall. Scapegoats trapped in the “bad seed” role may find themselves experiencing repeated reprimands and firings from places of employment. If a Scapegoat has developed a habit of getting herself into trouble, her difficulties with work and relationships are more likely to take the form of conflicts and offences related to issues such as rebelliousness and unproductive or destructive behaviours.

Despite some variations in the way role manifests, the Scapegoat never fits in comfortably, and is largely looked down upon or rejected, no matter the vehicle or reasons given (real or imagined) for such marginalisation.

Scapegoats typically seek far more psychotherapy than any other family member. A Scapegoat is deeply accustomed to thinking that things would be fine if only she weren’t inherently defective and unworthy, and this often leads her to a therapist’s office. (By contrast, narcissists can be defined almost solely by their unwillingness to seek genuine therapy.)

The Scapegoat typically considers her failings to be the central reasons her partner has been insensitive, her boss has cheated her out of a raise, and her siblings talk down to her. She is uncomfortable at school, at work, and in social situations, because she believes she is inferior. Much of this thinking invites scenarios of self-fulfilling prophecies, making it more difficult for her to see that she can reverse the patterns of mistreatment resulting from her observable insecurities and sense of inferiority. She blames herself, as she has been taught to. This often leads her into therapy, where she may discover the real reason for her mistreatment in adulthood. After all, it is not her supposed inferiority that leads her into situations where she is denigrated, reinforcing her feelings of inadequacy, but the palpable bearing of her family’s shame and rejection. She has not been overlooked and mistreated because she truly is inferior to others. This has happened because she has believed the lie that she is lacking, and she has behaved accordingly, which makes her an all-too easy target.

Until the scapegoat is able to extricate herself from the lie that she is inherently bad, guilty and wrong, she will struggle. She will attract the wrong people, she will fail to reach her potential, and she will be her own worst enemy. The degree to which she is able to realize that she is mistreated not because she is inherently inferior, but because she is sending messages of vulnerability, is the degree to which she will determine the quality of her future.

Notes From Your Inner Mother





  
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