Although I’m an only child, I’ve talked to many people who have siblings & narcissistic parents. Their stories are often quite similar. Following is some of what I have seen in these situations.
There is that one child who is the “good” one who can do no wrong, also known as the golden child. There is also a scapegoat who receives all the blame for the problems in the family. There are also some other possible roles for children in this family. The lost child is the one whose parents mostly ignore them. The family screw up is similar to the scapegoat in that he or she can do nothing right but they also aren’t necessarily to blame for all problems. Lastly is the family joker who constantly tries to lighten the mood of the dysfunction with humor.
Whatever the child’s role, they are all simply trying to survive their environment however works best for them. The golden child tries to please their narcissistic parents, often by making them look good or even imitating them. The scapegoat tries to please them until they realize they can’t no matter what they do, & then they usually begin to rebel. The lost child fades quietly into the background. The family screw up tries pleasing their parents, even if it means failing to prove the parents are right about how awful they are. The joker says or does anything, even inappropriate things, when things get too tense in an attempt to diffuse bad situations. Sometimes, children follow in their narcissistic parents’ footsteps, & become narcissists themselves. At the very least, they often display some narcissistic tendencies until they realize they dislike that behavior in themselves & make healthy changes.
These children continue their roles into adulthood, unless they understand the truth of their situation. Usually the first one to recognize the dysfunction is the scapegoat. Often, they try to get their siblings to see the truth, but are met with shaming, mocking &/or denial. Scapegoats are also usually the first ones who sever ties with their family members because once they have seen the truth, they can’t return to the toxicity. The other children bond even closer to their abusive parents & talk badly about the scapegoat when this happens.
The remaining children, even as adults often with their own children & even grandchildren, remain blindly loyal to their parents. They won’t hesitate to hurt their spouse, children or grandchildren by keeping their narcissistic parents as their top priority. Of course, they don’t think they are doing anything wrong. After all, they’re just helping out their parents & that certainly can’t be wrong, according to them. They often are sanctimonious about how much they do for their parents, & judge other siblings for not doing enough. In their minds, this relationship with their parents proves they are good people & part of a loving, close family.
Once the narcissistic parents are gone & only their adult children remain, things can get interesting. Sometimes, they simply go their own ways, losing contact with each other. Other times, they continue their dysfunctional relationships with each other. In some ways, it’s almost as if their parents are still alive. They still see each other as their parents saw them. Even after their parents have died, they still treat each other as their parents taught them to, basically carrying out their parents’ tradition of abuse.
If this is your situation, please know you’re not alone! There are so many people with similar stories. Find some support. There are online forums that can help. My Facebook group is full of caring, kind, supportive people with all kinds of experience with narcissistic abuse. Talking with others with similar stories will help you so much. Learn all you can about Narcissistic Personality Disorder & healing from narcissistic abuse, too. Read books & blogs, watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts. There is a great deal of information out there. Most of all, never forget to pray. God wants to help you! Tell him whatever you’re experiencing & ask for His help to heal & cope. He will be more than happy to help you!
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