The narcissistic family system is an unsupportive, self-serving family system where a survival of the fittest mentality is unknowingly adopted by each of the family members’ as a way to stay both emotionally and physically safe in this family unit. In childhood, each child in the family unit quickly learns that they must meet the needs of the narcissist (no matter how ridiculous) by often forfeiting their own needs, in order to escape criticism, drama, and major conflict created by the main perpetrator in this family system – the narcissist.
The golden child may receive some support from their narcissistic parent, who often dotes on them to extreme degrees. However, being the favorite comes with a huge price to pay because the narcissist doesn’t do anything without strings attached. The golden child is merely an investment to use and abuse just like the rest of the children.
The scapegoated child is almost always the only child in the family unit to challenge the narcissist’s unsupportive nature, and the enabling parent’s acceptance of the narcissistic parent’s unsupportive behavior. The scapegoat will fight the system over and over again, question, and challenge the family’s lack of support – much to their own detriment. The reality that they can’t be brainwashed, or manipulated becomes increasingly problematic for them.
The enabling parent is the core perpetrator in both supporting and allowing this survival of the fittest mentality. This easily manipulated parent supports the narcissist’s ridiculous expectations by either sitting back, saying nothing, and simply allowing the narcissist to make all of the rules; or by alternatively brainwashing their children into forfeiting their boundaries, and autonomy – making the children boundary-less, expectation – less, and clone-like.
The children as a dilemma and a burden
At the forefront of NPD is a complete inability of the narcissistic individual to empathize with the needs and distress of other people. The narcissist’s extreme sense of entitlement makes it terribly difficult for this parent to understand why children (especially small children) cling to them so much, why they need anything from them, and why they require 24/7 support.
Children need love, attention, emotional support, and help daily. This is terribly distressing for a narcissistic parent because they completely depend on a constant supply of attention, (positive or negative) from everybody in their environment all day long – to the same extent that a drug addict relies on their drug of choice. Without constant attention a narcissist feels empty, and will lash out at everybody around them; especially their children, who are often resented by the narcissist for stealing the limelight.
The enabler’s personality as a very big problem in the narcissistic family unit
Enablers are hunted down by the narcissist because of their very obvious shaky, malleable, and easily manipulated sense of self. Anxious, reflective individuals with low-self esteem, and people pleaser syndrome, who find it hard to detach, are vulnerable to narcissists. An individual with a secure sense of self will immediately repel a narcissist.
Enlightened, validating enablers do exist. However, they’re very rare; and even if they do openly see what’s going on, their co-dependent nature often sees them tied to the narcissist. In my opinion, based on what I have observed, enablers often lack empathy, are self-serving, and are easily brainwashed.
To outsiders, your typical enabler appears to be gentle, quiet, and very placid. People often think the world of them and perceive them to be beautiful, lovely, gentle people who just happen to be in a bad relationship with a controlling person.
I used to believe this to be the truth too. However, now I view your typical unenlightened enabler very differently. From my personal experience with my own enabling parent, who appeared to be kind, gentle, and placid, I now see your typical enabler as a very unsupportive individual. The most unenlightened of enablers appears to have absolutely no problem standing by on the sidelines, and watching the narcissist destroy their child’s sense of self on a daily basis, without stepping in to protect them.
The enabling parent’s children often try to secure this parent as an ally in this disgustingly abusive situation, only to be rejected by a parent who almost always supports the narcissist, regardless of the fact that they are in the wrong.
An unenlightened enabler with absolutely no education on the effects of narcissistic abuse refuses to look beneath the narcissist’s abusive behavior, to even try to imagine how this abusive behavior would insidiously infect a child’s soul. Being the HSP that I am, I have no understanding of this inability.
The narcissist as a serial complainer
From what I’ve witnessed, the most pathological of narcissist’s does an awful lot of complaining. They tend to not like anybody. There isn’t anybody in their circles that they don’t have a problem with.
In my experience, this dislike of absolutely everybody the narcissist comes into contact with, extends to the narcissist’s children (all but the golden child) who are complained about by the narcissist day in day out to the enabling parent.
Complaints such as ‘they cry too much,’ ‘they’re not really sick,’ ‘they’re faking it,’ ‘they’re spoilt,’ ‘they’re out of control,’ ‘they shouldn’t be asking me to borrow my things,’ ‘why should I have to lend them any money?’ ‘they shouldn’t be asking me for help. Nobody ever helped me,’ ‘they’re manipulating the family by asking if we can do this or that to help them,’ are all comments that continually fly out of the narcissist’s mouth about their children.
How does the enabling parent respond to the narcissist’s constant complaints about the children’s need for support?
Some enabling parents choose to simply ignore the narcissist, and co-exist without discussion. This kind of enabling parent allows the narcissistic parent to be who they are, to rule the roost, and to choose which children do or do not get supported. They rarely intervene, or say anything much to the children about the narcissist’s unfairness and unrealistic expectations.
Every now and again a more enlightened enabler will come to the conclusion that they are keeping their children in a toxic situation, and need to leave. However, co-dependency and a lack of self-esteem are often two big issues for this enabler, who will most likely find it very difficult to pluck up the courage to take that final step and leave.
then there is your toxic enabler. I call this kind of enabler the fixer. My enabling parent was a fixer. This kind of enabling parent is constantly plugging up the holes in the boat; only to find that more leaks continue to appear out of nowhere.
In other words, the narcissist continues to find problems with their children’s personalities. The enabling parent steps in time and time again to try to stop the children from creating further problems for the narcissist. From what I have seen first hand, this enabler takes the narcissistic parent’s problems with their children on as though the problem is their own, and try to solve it for the narcissist. The problem with this is that a lot of the incidents taking place between the children and the narcissist (all out of the enabler’s sight) are often lied about, and exaggerated by the narcissist to the enabler, who tries to take control of the situation at the children’s expense.
The narcissist is supported at the expense of the children, who go unsupported once again. This parent has fallen victim to the ideology that external sources outside of the narcissist (the children) are the reason for the narcissist’s unhappiness, instead of the obvious internal defect within the narcissist.
This patriarchal, punitive enabling parent honestly believes that if they can educate (manipulate) these external sources, (the narcissist’s children) get them under both their control, and the narcissist’s control, then the narcissist will be happy, and the enabling parent will finally have peace and quiet from the complaining narcissist.
The narcissist as the only family member to receive support
The narcissistic parent’s continued need for all of the support in the family unit, as well as all of the attention, sees the narcissist feigning victimhood, and painting all of the children, besides the golden child, as all bad to the enabling parent. The enabling parent will often punish the children excessively for normal child like misbehavior – behavior that they most likely didn’t even personally witness.
Love is conditional and is almost always withheld if the children haven’t supported the narcissist adequately.
Inappropriate behavior from the children is rarely talked about, or discussed with the children in a loving and supportive manner. It is instead used against the children to shame them back into control, in the hope of gaining peace and quiet in the family home.
The enabling parent manages down the children
Once a punitive enabling parent has decided that the narcissist’s issues are related to external sources, rather than a complete software malfunction within the narcissist’s brain wiring, they unconsciously become a perpetrator in the full-blown psychological abuse of the children. Many enabling parents literally manage down the children by brainwashing them into believing that they have absolutely no right to ask for anything from anyone in this family unit. The lack of validation from the enabling parent causes the children to doubt their own sanity.
The democratic, often highly intelligent scapegoat has no allies in this system and often ends up being ganged up on by the entire family, including the enabling parent for continuing to push for support.
A safe enabling parent with a lack of understanding about narcissistic abuse would, in fact, see the error of their ways, and align with their scapegoated child – the only child in the entire family unit with any guts to point out the emperor’s nudity.
What happens if you ask for support?
Any adult child (other than the doted on golden child) wanting support of any kind in the narcissistic family unit will receive very big consequences. The narcissist, as well as a toxic enabling parent, will use the adult child’s need for support to their advantage to gain narcissistic supply. A child in this family unit may be goaded or baited into a negative reaction when asking for help.
Rejecting an adult child’s need for support is often done so as to create drama through an adult child’s negative reaction (for narcissistic supply). If the narcissistic parent can manipulate the enabling parent to side with them, the two parents can distress the adult child, provoke a reaction out of them, or to try make them feel unworthy, difficult, or demanding. If an adult child has a reaction and becomes really upset about the cruelty of the family unit, everybody in the family unit will be informed about the reaction from the challenging child, and the entire family will moan and groan about this person for weeks at a time. Needing anything is always used against the adult child of a narcissist.
What is going on when the narcissistic parent gladly offers you support?
Its a trick! If an adult child is being offered support out of the blew by the narcissistic parent, (and they’re not the golden child) the chances are that the narcissist either wants something from them, or they are running low on narcissistic supply, haven’t had any drama for a while, and are about to create a huge drama in the family unit by triangulating everybody in the family unit against the adult child being offered support. The narcissist is about to launch a huge smear campaign to the other members against the child they offered support to. This offer of support may turn into a huge attack by the other family members, especially a jealous narcissistic golden child. A jealous narcissistic golden child will fuel the smear campaign alongside the narcissistic parent, because, not only are they jealous that they aren’t getting all of the attention in the room, but they too have fallen for the pathological lies of the narcissist.
‘You’re being lured. Don’t take the bait’
Examples of support being used against you:
Scenario one: The narcissist offers to lend you an item, and you accept. They than tell the rest of your family members that you stole it. You turn up to the next family gathering, (if you aren’t excluded first) only to find that you are being ignored by the other members of the family, or treated with coldness.
Scenario two: You aren’t coping. You need emotional support. The narcissist decides to invite you over to support you with your troubles. They hoover you with homemade cooking, and gifts to make you feel better. However, behind your back the narcissist is playing the victim to the other family members, claiming that you are harassing them, breaking big boundaries, and won’t leave them alone.
What happens if you have a major crisis in the narcissistic family
Unfortunately, adult children coming out of the narcissistic family unit (especially scapegoated, and rebel children) often need an incredible amount of emotional support in adulthood. From personal experience, I know that this is just not going to happen. It is not uncommon for children from the narcissistic family unit to either become drug addicted, suffer from an eating disorder, or to experience other mental health issues.
If an adult child simply cannot cope, needs ongoing support, or has become a self medicator to soothe inner childhood wounding, the adult child will ultimately be blamed for what they’re going through, trash talked, and vilified behind their back by the entire family. The narcissist will take absolutely no responsibility for the situation at hand, and will use this situation as leverage to brainwash the rest of the family into believing this adult child is unhinged and screwed up.
If you are supported by the narcissistic parent in your time of need, all of your secrets will be discussed amongst family. Stories of you instability will be spread, and at some point; even years down the track you’ll be made to pay for shaming the family by appearing weak in the first place.