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.
‘Family scapegoating is a hostile discrediting routine by which the scapegoating family members’ remove blame and responsibility from themselves for problems within the family unit, and dump all of the responsibility onto a targeted family member. The practice of scapegoating allows for feelings of anger and hostility to be projected onto the family scapegoat through continued inappropriate accusations. The scapegoated adult child of a narcissistic parent feels wrongly persecuted after receiving misplaced vilification, blame, criticism, and rejection from the member’s of the family whom the narcissistic parent seeks to influence. Scapegoating allows for the self-righteous discharge of one’s aggression onto another more vulnerable source.’
Scapegoating is a serious family dysfunctional problem where one member of the family is picked apart for small things, that most non-judgemental healthy families’ wouldn’t view as abnormal, or problematic. Scapegoating begins in childhood. Small things that the targeted child does are exaggerated, talked about among family, and are considered the actions of a child with a behavioural problem.
Scapegoating typically occurs in families’ where there is a narcissistic parent. Narcissistic parents’ typically have a golden child and a scapegoat. The golden child can no wrong, and the scapegoat can do no right. The golden child is all good, and the scapegoat is all bad. All of the children are encouraged to goad, bait, and peck at the one. In a family such as this, somebody always has to be the bad guy.
Why is the scapegoat chosen?
Scapegoats are not chosen by accident. They are usually the more sensitive child, highly empathetic, can’t stand abusive behaviour, and have a penchant for the truth. These character traits bring to the narcissist’s attention that the child, come adulthood, could blab. Deeming the scapegoat bad in some way is the families’ way of discrediting the scapegoat, and denying the problems in the family by projecting onto the child the behaviours of the perpetrators’ – therefore, deeming them the main troublemaker in the family.
The scapegoat is to blame for everything
The scapegoated child is typically blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family unit. The narcissistic parent blames this child for the problems the scapegoat has with the other children in the family unit. In the mind of the narcissistic parent, the scapegoated child is at fault for the other children’s verbal and physical aggression towards them. Regardless of whether or not the other children are provoking the scapegoat, attacking the scapegoat, are caught out lying about the scapegoat, or excluding the scapegoat; these children will never be held accountable for their actions. Instead, the scapegoat will be blamed for the horrendous behaviour of the other children. This dynamic often plays out between the golden child and the scapegoat. In the mind of the narcissist, the golden child is never at fault for their poor behaviour. Instead, this child is grandiose and entitled to do as they please, just like the narcissist.
This dynamic doesn’t stop in childhood and often persists well into adulthood – up until the scapegoat either puts up big boundaries or goes No Contact.
The scapegoat’s view of themselves
This pattern of blaming and shaming the scapegoat for every issue within the family unit sets them up to be overly self-critical, to shame themselves constantly, and to believe they are always at fault in every conflict. Once an adult, the family scapegoat often has difficulty asserting themselves, does not believe in their right to stand up for themselves, or to the notion that they not defective, unworthy, or lovable. They often walk out of the family in adulthood only to be scapegoated again by an abusive partner, or abusive friends.
Subconsciously, the narcissist believes that if the entire family is unhappy with the scapegoat, then it releases the family from any blame, and deflects from the real issues within the family. The scapegoaters view the mistreatment of the scapegoat from a distorted mindset. They honestly believe that onlookers will realise that the scapegoat is to blame for the family’s decision to exclude this person.
Characteristics of a scapegoater
Typically, family members’ who scapegoat are very punitive in their beliefs, are extremely judgmental of others, and fall victim to the manipulations of the narcissist, primarily because of this deeply ingrained punitive, judgemental way of behaving and thinking.
How does the family scapegoat the victim?
Scapegoating is the practice of pathological lying. The scapegoater poisons the minds of other family members by slandering the family scapegoat, claiming they have said and done things they haven’t, by triangulating the adult children against the scapegoat, and blaming them for everything that goes on within the family. In adulthood, the adult children already view the scapegoat as fundamentally floored, because of the narcissistic parent’s continued slander, and accusations directed against the child for things they didn’t do. The adult children have been brainwashed into taking on the narcissist’s perception of the child; which of course, is untrue.
This works in the narcissist’s favour. When a scene occurs, the scapegoat is made to take the blame for whatever has happened, even if they are completely innocent, and it was another family member who was actually the real culprit. The scapegoats family always makes this adult – child the bad guy and lies about how things really went down. Horrendous behaviour from the other family members is shoved under the carpet, and the scapegoat is left wondering why they were just blamed for the attack upon them, which just occurred.
Repeated scenarios such as the one above often lead to the scapegoat being deemed as volatile, unhinged, crazy, and a troublemaker. These same scenarios often lead to the scapegoat being excluded from important family events, being talked about, laughed at, ridiculed, and denigrated to disgusting degrees. The scapegoat victim can usually feel the discontent, and anger from their family members during the scapegoating process.
They know they have been ostracised from family functions, and have a fair idea they are being denigrated behind their backs. What they don’t know though, is the degree of the slander, or ridicule.
Scapegoaters’ are often disappointed when they find that the same problems within the family still exist long after the scapegoat has left.
The narcissistic family system is a sick family system which operates with a survival of the fittest mentality. More often than not, the most empathetic child in the family dynamic is plucked out of the coop to be the family scapegoat. The more empathetic, or caring a child is; the more distressed about the situation they are, or the more they remind the narcissist of themselves than the more likely it is that the child will be scapegoated.
Scapegoated children don’t like abusive behaviour – plain and simple. They are black and white in the way they feel about abusive behaviour. In the mind of the scapegoat, a mud pie isn’t a sandwich, and psychologically abusive behaviour cannot be reframed into a mistake that can be forgiven.
The scapegoat is the child who does the unthinkable and disagrees with the narcissist’s opinion – a big no-no in the narcissistic family system. This is the child that will speak up against the ill-treatment of the other siblings, defend the underdog, and will jump in front of the more vulnerable children to keep them safe from verbal or physical abuse. They are justice seekers and fairness warriors.
The scapegoat as a faulty appliance
The narcissist will take great offence to this act of defiance – because in their mind, people are merely appliances and extensions of themselves. Just like a toaster makes toast, (without complaining) the human appliances function is to hold the narcissist in high esteem, relinquish their ability to think freely, as well any hopes for autonomy, want for nothing, and to learn to function robotically without disagreement. The golden child most often operates as the perfect appliance (until of course they decide they will no longer be controlled), whereas the scapegoat does not. The scapegoat is a faulty appliance, and this fault must be fixed.
Conditioned human being appliances are easily programmed, and manipulated – whereas the scapegoat has a mind of their own, and they won’t enable dysfunction.The scapegoat has needs, different opinions from the narcissist – lives from a democratic perspective, and engages the narcissist in discussions about how they would like to be treated, or how they believe others should be treated. The scapegoat, (a small child or innocent teenager) doesn’t realise that by pulling the narcissist up on their vile behaviour, they are actually invoking numerous narcissistic rages within the narcissist. The narcissist is so sensitive, that any slight, no matter how small, will ignite their shame and re-engage them with their true- self; a very broken, ashamed little child.
Instead of being appreciated for being the assertive child that they are, they are instead viewed by the narcissist as an attacker. This child refuses to tell the narcissist what they want to hear. So, the narcissist smashes the mirror and smashes this child’s confidence and self-esteem apart. They are smeared and shamed to the point of no return. After what can sometimes be decades of abuse, the scapegoated child’s reputation is often completely ruined in this family unit, and they never get it back.
What happens if you become upset with the narcissist’s false self?
Narcissists’ cannot tolerate any criticism, do not want to change, and will try and bring down anybody who asks them to make changes. Narcissists cannot change, because they are in fact controlled by a false self (the true self’s damaged inner child’s protector from pain, harm and humiliation). In the mind of the false self, it is you who should change. The false self is not a real person. It refuses to be accountable, refuses to apologise, can’t love truly or deeply, and must have total control over every aspect of every human being within their environment. If anybody upsets, or challenges the false self, (which the scapegoated child does repeatedly) then they become a threat to the narcissist’s delusions. All narcissist’s fear exposure. In my opinion, I believe this is the number one reason why the scapegoat is so abused. Just like the narcissist knows they are a fake, so does the scapegoat child.
A totalitarian cult-like family system
This is a totalitarian cult-like family system. Children who challenge the cult leader’s beliefs will be emotionally pummelled. In this family system, children are not allowed to grow into autonomous, authentic human beings. Their childhood is instead spent keeping the narcissist happy, feeling grand, wonderful, and omnipotent. The child working towards appropriate boundary function within an extremely malignant narcissistic family system will be denounced and viewed as a critical, troubled child.
It becomes a case of the canary in the coal mine syndrome. The scapegoat just will not stop challenging the narcissist’s control, and trying to alert everybody to the façade being accepted by the narcissist’s enablers. This is actually normal behaviour in any healthy family. However, the scapegoat’s tenacity creates major conflict between the narcissist and the scapegoat.
The other children know that it is best to just be quiet. They know that standing up will lead to them being scapegoated – so they very rarely do it. Whereas the scapegoat won’t be quiet about the chronic disrespect that they or the other children receive from the narcissist.
The scapegoat child’s assertiveness
In a healthy family, the scapegoated child’s assertive nature would be encouraged, valued and nurtured. However, in the narcissistic family set up, assertiveness is viewed as a criticism to the narcissist. The narcissistic family set up is not about what is best for the child’s emotional growth. It is instead about what is best for the narcissist’s fragile ego – which is to protect their true self from continuous narcissistic injuries. To do this, the narcissist must have complete control over the appliances in the room. All appliances must relinquish their right to their own sense of self, and become completely enmeshed with the narcissist.
How does the narcissist view the scapegoated child’s continued correction?
The older the scapegoat child becomes, the more autonomous they become. This becomes very problematic for the narcissist, and it is the undoing of the scapegoated child. What the scapegoated child doesn’t realise is that their quest for autonomy is taking place in an environment where human rights and autonomy are not welcome. They don’t know this; they’re just a child.
By the time the scapegoat becomes a teenager, they know are who they are. They are a truth teller, they want their needs met, they care about the people the narcissist is hurting, and they absolutely cannot stand the narcissist’s abusive behaviour. The scapegoated child often unintentionally overcorrects the narcissist on the unfair treatment dished out to them and other family members. They pull the narcissist up on lots of different issues within the family and call a spade a spade. They openly suggest that there is something wrong with the family unit.
As a payback, and to divert from their own behaviour, the narcissist hones in on the scapegoat child’s faults. They critique their every move and excessively judges the scapegoat’s behaviour. They particularly focus on any normal, but negative emotional reactions by the scapegoat. Any healthy anger or discontent shown by the scapegoat is used against them. In overly focusing on the scapegoat, the narcissist shifts the families focus over to the scapegoat. In doing so, the narcissist destroys their teenage child’s reputation and turns the other family members against them.
‘If I can brainwash you, and everybody around you into believing you are bad, you will work even harder to please me; and I will have complete control over you.’
The consequences of asking for accountability
The narcissist is never wrong, and you are at fault for their behaviour towards you. The person questioning the narcissist’s authority is indeed wrong, crazy, neurotic, mad, unhinged for reacting to the narcissist’s abuse, and mentally unwell because they dared expose the narcissist’s floors.
In healthy families, a parent with good self-esteem would be able to apologise and accept wrongdoing. In the narcissistic family, the scapegoat is smeared, and brainwashed into believing they are the problem.
Reactions to the narcissist’s abuse from the scapegoat will be used by the narcissist as an excuse to play the victim, to garner sympathy by the narcissist from onlookers, and to gain excessive amounts of narcissistic supply.
”Oh, look at me, I have such bad children.’
Everything is the scapegoat’s fault
Once the narcissist establishes that the scapegoated child is a threat, the narcissist will begin to blame the scapegoat for all of the problems in the family unit. Not only is the scapegoat blamed for the narcissist’s bad behaviour, but they are also blamed for the other siblings’ bad behaviour. This redirects and deflects blame from the narcissist, or an angry entitled narcissistic golden child, and back onto the scapegoat.
If one child becomes angry about something, this is ok in the narcissist’s eyes. However, if the scapegoat is upset about something – the narcissist will claim that this child has emotional regulation issues, or that they’re like crazy aunty Betty who abused all of her children. There are now two sets of rules, and two sets of standards in the narcissistic household. If the golden child smacks the scapegoat, the narcissist will deem that as acceptable behaviour, and warranted because the scapegoat deserved it. If the scapegoat does the same thing to the golden child in retaliation, they’re crazy, bad, and punished way too harshly.
The children learn from an early age that they can peck at the scapegoat as much as they like, and the narcissist will support them in their relentless behaviour. The narcissist will never intervene and stop the pecking. Instead, when the scapegoat stands up for themselves or asks for validation from the narcissist, they will be told that they are just as much to blame for the abuse hurled upon them.
The other children begin to realise rather quickly that the scapegoat is the fall guy in the family. This paves the way for family mobbing and scapegoating, which often endures well into adulthood, until the day the scapegoat decides to go no contact.
The scapegoat as crazy
Perpetrators always paint a potential threat as crazy. Its how they manipulate the situation in order to deflect and divert from their terrible behaviour. The narcissist is the master of deflection, and blame shifting. From a young age, the scapegoat is trained to look internally at their every fault, to over-correct their own behaviour, to accept that in every given situation they are wrong, crazy, deranged and dysfunctional. This use of mind control and deflection takes the heat off the narcissist, who now has the scapegoat over analysing themselves, and wondering if they truly are crazy.
Scapegoats are trained to believe they are at fault for every single thing that goes wrong in their family. They often live their lives blaming themselves for all of the problems in their interpersonal relationships – and by doing so, allow other people to get away with murder. Hence, why they often end up in abusive relationships and look towards their own reactions to abuse as the problem, not the abuser’s behaviour.
Their ability to assert themselves in adulthood has been crushed in childhood. They no longer have the confidence to assert their rights. Their self-esteem is destroyed, they must not make waves, and they simply lose strength. This perception that they, the scapegoat is crazy and should not ever defend their rights, may sit deeply within themselves for their entire life; or at least until they leave the narcissistic family. They eventually become voiceless in this family unit, and in many other areas of their lives.
However, despite the fact that they are seen by their family as the crazy one, the scapegoat never loses their truth-telling capacity, and when push comes to shove they will fight back.
What I find most interesting about the scapegoat’s role, is the role the other family members play in supporting the narcissist’s lie. It amazes how easily corrupted this family is by the narcissist’s manipulations. All it takes is one person to convey the scapegoat in a bad light, before all of the family members happily get on the bandwagon, take on the narcissist’s perception of the scapegoated child, and make it their own. Scapegoating another human being is the ultimate deflection and distraction from another person’s shortcomings.
The scapegoat: set up to react
In normal households, emotional reactions by a very distressed child to nasty behaviour from an annoying sibling are not deemed as the actions of a crazy person. Instead, healthy parents speak to the provoking sibling about their tendency to provoke and inform them of the consequences of being a stirrer.
The narcissistic family system is topsy-turvy. Provoking behaviour is not seen as the problematic crazy-making behaviour that it truly is – whereas standing up for yourself, or becoming distressed by the narcissist’s crazy making behaviour, is viewed as the behaviour of a troubled person who can’t let things go.
In the narcissistic family, poking at the scapegoat until they explode is a team sport, aided and abetted by the narcissist. The narcissist wants the child to explode. It is a set up to keep them under control, and seen in a poor light as an over-reactive child, with emotional regulation problems. When the child gets upset, the narcissistic parent may tell the child they’re crazy, that they remind the narcissist of a mentally ill family member, or that they need help. The terribly sad reality here is that the child has no idea they are being baited for reactions by the narcissist, all for one reason and one reason only; to enhance the families’ negative perception of the scapegoat.
This behaviour often puts the scapegoat in a position where they feel as though they are constantly in fight mode or even flight mode.
When the scapegoat is doing well and succeeding, the narcissistic parent ups the anti, and antagonises the scapegoat into reacting hysterically even more. This negative fuel that the scapegoat provides the narcissist with, provides all the evidence the family needs to prove that the scapegoat is again, crazy. This doesn’t stop in childhood. The rest of the children cotton on to the reality that they too can rile up the scapegoat, and will often taunt the scapegoat well into adulthood.
In adulthood, family mobbing will prevail, and it is often a narcissistic golden child and narcissistic parent who will encourage the other siblings to reject and ostracise the scapegoat on the premise that they are apparently too volatile.
The narcissistic parent and a narcissistic golden child will continually provoke and provoke and provoke the scapegoat into exploding. Scapegoated children are often told that they are bad, evil, will end up in gaol, and are like terrible inhumane people that the narcissist knows. The whole idea here is to get a reaction out of the scapegoat. The scapegoat reacts with anger and hysteria because they aren’t the person that they are being told they are. However, these reactions to the abuse enhance the other family members negative perception of the scapegoat, and cement in their minds that the scapegoat is unstable.
It amazes me how many enabling parent’s and siblings just go along with, believe in the lie, and have unrealistic expectations of somebody who is being prodded and prodded and prodded to react.
The narcissist uses mind control to brainwash the scapegoat, and all of the scapegoat’s family members into believing that the scapegoat is a highly reactive, mentally deranged, dysfunctional, bad human being. When, in actual fact, the narcissist has set the scapegoat up to fail. This sense of failure continues well into the scapegoat’s adult life when they naturally gravitate towards narcissistic partner’s and friends, who use the same techniques that the narcissistic parent did to scapegoat the family scapegoat.
Where the narcissist goes wrong
The narcissist actually makes a very big mistake in deeming the scapegoat crazy. In the narcissist’s mind they believe that if they shame the scapegoat enough, the scapegoat will stop trying to reach a place of accountability, and accept the scapegoat role given to them (that they are bad). This doesn’t work with all scapegoats.
Usually, the scapegoat is the first family member to enter therapy. This is when the scapegoat will put two and two together, and then the narcissist will begin to unravel. Eventually, the scapegoat sees straight through the abuse, realises that they aren’t the crazy one and that they have been the victim of serious psychological abuse.
The narcissist doesn’t really think through the unconscious decision to scapegoat this child. If you think about logically, it doesn’t make sense to scapegoat a highly empathetic child with a penchant for the truth. One would think that excessively psychologically abusing somebody would eventually lead to the exposure of a narcissist.
The narcissist’s psychological abuse of the scapegoat and the ruining of the scapegoat’s reputation will more often than not lead the scapegoat to expose them. The scapegoat may expose numerous abuses to an enabling parent, the department of community services, the extended family, or the police. Some scapegoats’ expose the abuse to redeem their reputation and to warn others about the danger of the narcissist.
However, once the scapegoat exposes the abuse, the bullying from the narcissist worsens. This is often when family mobbing eventuates. This often results in the scapegoat leaving their entire family behind them and finding a new one, filled with beautiful, emotionally healthy, supportive friends.
The lost child really is quite insightful to the emotionally dangerous family dynamics in a narcissistic family setting – and they pick up on the dysfunction at a very young age. Unlike the golden child and the scapegoat – the lost child of a narcissist quickly comes to the conclusion that this family is terribly dysfunctional. This child realises very early on in the picture that absolutely no amount of reasoning, or debate with their care – givers will help them, or their siblings.
After enduring some very harsh punishments for having a voice; or public shaming (in front of friends or family) for needing support, the lost child will realise that asking for their needs to be met simply doesn’t pay. Normal requests validated in functional families are invalidated in the lost child’s family, and always end in severe punishment.
This child immediately realises that they can not fix this family situation; and must not try to divert the attention away from the narcissistic parent, just in case all hell breaks loose. Becoming involved in the family conflict, messing with the narcissist, and supporting other family members means that this child could be dragged out to sea; to only become caught in the rift.
To be noticed in this dysfunctional family does more harm than good. To be invisible means to be seperate from the pain, suffering, and abuse spewed out all over the other siblings.
‘So, into their safe place, the lost child goes.’
Once the lost child comes to a conclusion about the family dynamics, they initiate a very well thought out plan; most likely developed subconsciously. They decide to go grey rock, and make limited demands from their family, in the hope of not being a burden, and drawing attention to themselves.
What are the consequences of hiding away?
As a result, the lost child is often excluded, forgotten about to a degree, and not involved in family matters. Overall, these consequences do keep the child safe. However, the child may feel terribly lonely, rejected and isolated.
Its a catch twenty two. The lost child gets what they want and need; but they also become rejected, and left feeling terribly unloved because they have no real close relationships with anybody in the family unit. These children often feel happier when with pets, or a favourite toy that can take them into an imaginative world of their own making.
How does a lost child stay out of the limelight?
The lost child is the child without a voice. They don’t make waves, and pretend to not have a problem with anyone in their family – or the dysfunction in the family. They spend an incredible amount of time out of sight, and away from the drama.
Lost children spend their time:
Out of sight, out of mind
Lost children are labelled by the dysfunctional family as the shy child, are often encouraged to participate more in classroom activities; and most often appear disengaged, or disconnected from others.
Which direction does the child take?
1. I must not bother anybody:
As an adult, the lost child may become too independent, knowing that asking for support will cause absolute chaos, and a rift with the narcissistic parent – who, of course, must have all the attention.
2. Social anxiety, and a lack of close relationships:
Lost children have been isolating themselves since child – hood as a safety mechanism. However, the chronic isolation may cause them to feel socially incapable later in adult life, and to experience severe social anxiety around people. If people become interested in the lost adult – child, the adult may panic, and go back inside of themselves.
Lost children run the risk of becoming extreme introverts.
Healthy relationships and lost children
These children never learned to trust people, because trusting people in childhood meant they could become physically, and emotionally harmed.
Lost children are often too scared to forge relationships with healthy people, through fear that other people will reject them like their parents did. They’ve been hurt too much. The idea of becoming close to other people, and getting hurt again makes them feel sick, and terribly anxious. They usually steer clear of close interpersonal relationships.
However, it is not unusual for lost children to have one ultra close friend.
The issue with isolation
Too much isolation isn’t good for one’s confidence or self-esteem. It can also cause chronic loneliness, agoraphobia type symptoms, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of intense rejection.
Cognitive dissonance is an abuse tactic utilised by the narcissistic abuser to confuse the victim of abuse. To be in a state of cognitive dissonance, is to hold conflicting beliefs about the narcissistic abuser. In this state, the victim struggles to make a decision in regard to whether or not the abusive person is ok.
An abused child will experience cognitive dissonance when their abuser says one thing and does the opposite.
To be cognitively dissonant is to have two inconsistent thoughts ruminating within the mind about the person; often consistent with an overall, whole body, negative feeling about something or someone.
Why do abused children of narcissists often become afflicted with cognitive dissonance?
Children of narcissists are continually told one thing, only to experience the opposite. They may be told how loved they are, only to be abandoned when sick. They may be promised a special gift, only to be told when the gift is asked after, that they were never promised the gift.
The child becomes confused and anxious about the parent. They begin to suffer from cognitive dissonance; a very uncomfortable, whole body feeling, which completely takes over the child’s mind and body. Of course, the child often turns the feeling back onto themselves, and blames themselves for the abuse, in an effort to remain attached to their abusive parent.
‘Are they nice? Or are they cruel? Why do they do such lovely amazing things for me, and than hit me? Oh, it must be me that brings the worst out in my parents. Why else would they hit me, than provide for me so well?’
Who is vulnerable to cognitive dissonance?
Small children are especially vulnerable to cognitive dissonance because their minds are not yet developed enough to put two and two together. In fact, anyone, no matter what their age, can be vulnerable to cognitive dissonance abuse tactics. Unless of course, they are extremely intuitive, and knowledgable about narcissistic abuse.
Cognitive dissonance abuse examples:
What does cognitive dissonance feel like?
Cognitive dissonance is a horrible feeling for children to endure, because it leaves them in a state of confusion, limbo, and discomfort. They don’t know which way to turn, or what to do. Do they dismiss the behaviour, and travel on? Or do they accept that their parent is sick, and make plans to leave as soon as they are of age?
Victims of cognitive dissonance often feel as though they are going crazy, turn the cognitive dissonance back onto themselves, blame themselves for it, and believe it is just one more factor which proves that they are the crazy, unstable person.
Researchers believe that the awful feelings associated with cognitive dissonance are the very reason why abuse victims continue to stay in the relationship with the abuser.
How do children of narcissists soothe cognitive dissonance?
Abused children often make excuses for the abusive parent in order to release the anxiety they feel due to cognitive dissonance; all so as they can stay in the relationship with the parent.
The decision the victim often takes is the pathway offering less emotional pain. For victims of abuse, its all about safety; emotional and physical. If they can do everything within their power to please the abuser, instead of angering the abuser, they will be safe. So, they often turn a blind eye to the abuse, deny what they believe could be the truth, convince themselves that its all in their head, and make the decision to believe that their abusive parent really does love them.