One interesting area of discovery that I have made during my journey to understand my narcissistic family of origin is the role each person plays in the family and how inflexible those roles truly are.
While it is true that all families have roles for the individual family members, in the narcissitic family those roles are extremely rigid and everyone in the family knows each member’s role instinctively. If someone tries to vacate one of the roles they have been assigned in the family, all the other family members will make great efforts to put that person back into their traditional familial role.
Typically a narcissistic family will revole around the narcissist, or God forbid, narcissists. When one narcissist marries another narcissist, it’s hell for everyone involved, with both of the narcissists demanding the attention of everyone else, including the other narcissist.
In my family, my mother was the narcissist and my father was her perfect enabler and had to echo her position to the children and others. My twin younger brothers were the Golden Children, with the youngest twin being the preferred Golden Child. I was the scapegoat, and all the family problems were placed on my shoulders at a very young age.
Here’s an example of how rigid the roles in my family are and how each family member knew the roles of the other family members:
My mother, my father, my twin brothers and I are all standing together at a social function. While we are standing there, a friend of my parents walks up to all of us and says “I’m sorry to hear about your son” to my mother. What would everyone in my family think?
My mother would immediately think that her friend was talking about me and that I had done something wrong, because I was the source of all family problems.
My father would also immediately think that my mother’s friend was talking about me and that I had done something to make the family seen in a negative light, properly mirroring NM’s thoughts.
Both of my golden child brothers would ALSO immediately think that my parent’s friend must be talking about me and that I had done something negative, properly mirroring my NM’s thoughts.
*I* would ALSO think that this person must be talking about me, and *I* would ALSO know that the entire rest of my family was thinking that the issue this person was talking about had to do with me, even if I knew I had done nothing wrong.
It’s truly bewildering. The entire family mindset is “If something is wrong in the family, it must be Stephen” before they even know what the issue is! And even I have this perception! What extraordinarily completely succesful brainwashing of the entire family by my narcissistic mother (NM)!
The damage that this brainwashing does to everyone in the family is signficant and it’s not just the scapegoat that gets damaged. All the family children are taught to tolerate abuse by the narcissist, and in the future will have a hard time recognizing abuse that may be occuring around them or to them, since they are so heavily programmed that abuse is “normal”.
My surviving golden child brother exhibits a great deal of tolerance of abuse, especially when it comes to me. When he told me that “NM sees you as her biggest failure” he was being abusive to me. It shows how complete his brainwashing is by NM, and it also shows the lack of empathy that he has for me. If he had any empathy for me, he would never tell me something like that, even if it were true. What child wants to hear that their parents think they are a failure, no matter at what point in their life that they happen to be at? I wonder how he would respond if I told him NM thought he was a failure? He would probably explode in a rage.
Another example of my brother’s tolerance for abuse was when I ended my relationship with my cheating ex girlfriend. She decided after I ended our relationship that she needed to contact all my friends and family to make sure they had her distorted version of reality. Her behavior is a typical smear campaign that is often undertaken by a narcissist when a relationship ends to try and put the other party in a bad light and make the narcissist look blameless for the end of the relationship. My brother received a message that said the following (among other things):
“Stephen is a lying, cheating, emotionally abusive man (who I love very much)”
… wait one… she was the one that was lying, cheating, and emotionally abusive…
Her statement is an excellent example of her projection. It also shows a splitting pattern of you’re horrible / I love you, exactly the sentiment I would receive from NM and other members of my family when they were functioning as NM’s flying monkeys.
My brother responded cordially to my cheating ex’s message and wished her well. It was as if her cheating on me was no big deal to him. When he and I were together the next time he even showed me the message she had sent to him and his response, like I shouldn’t be offended by it. He didn’t even catch on to the abusive nature of her message until I pointed it out to him.
The common belief is that the family member that is directly exposed to abuse is the only victim in the family. Typically this person is the scapegoat. I feel it is also true that all the family members have to accept the abuse as normal in order to maintain their familial roles. This means that any enablers, golden children, and other ignored children are also the product of an abusive and dysfunctional environment, and are also carrying wounds related to tolerating abuse as a child.
- Her Greatest Failure (thenarcissistsson.wordpress.com)
- Golden@2300 (thenarcissistsson.wordpress.com)