The Narcissists Golden-child & Scapegoat

Narcissistic parents hold their dysfunctional family together with fear and manipulation.thG5BL4TQA They allot specific roles to individual children that best portray their perfection to both themselves and to the outside world. A golden child will be an extension of the parent’s goodness, while the scapegoat’s role is to endure the blame whenever things go wrong.

Growing up with a narcissistic mother, which I wrote about here, put enormous pressure on everyone. When the cracks started to appear in the perfection and school suggested something was amiss, the martyr quickly focussed all the blame on me.

“It’s nothing we ever did… we’ve tried everything… his sister turned out okay…”

I was five years old when I first noticed my sister was the golden child. While it’s impossible to make sense of the dynamics at this age, the difference was evident where punishments and presents were concerned.

“We give you both the same… there’s no pleasing you…”

One Christmas when I was eight years old, I wanted a radio badly. Maybe I was a little too young, but I harped on and just before Christmas, I knew I had finally cracked it when mum responded with a cheeky smirk, “Oh well, we’ll just need to wait and see…”

thOA98NHLVIt was usually a rather dull time of year, but this particular Christmas Eve I could barely sleep for excitement. I shared a bedroom with my sister and presents were by our bedside in the morning.

I was awake first but when I rummaged through my little pile of goodies, my heart sank to the floor. The only exciting items were two Christmas comic annuals and a chocolate box.

My sister was still asleep and her pile of presents lay undisturbed, as I looked to see what the golden child got, I caught sight of a large white box, ‘Radio with disco lights’. I lay back on my pillow gutted, but this kind of scenario was nothing new.

“You’re too young for a radio… you break everything, anyway… your sister does well in school, you’re just the class dunce…”

There was a heavy price to pay for what the martyred mother perceived as “bad behaviour,” but I also carried the blame for the secretive family dysfunction and even some of the arguments that regularly erupted between my parents.

“We had a good marriage until you came along… we only ever argue about you… we’re thinking of putting you in a home for bad boys.”

While my sister secured the role of golden child by excelling in school, my overall experience was a nightmare from day one. It had something to do with the environment that subsequently influenced my behaviour and those dreaded annual report cards.

Anyone would have thought I was a lowlife criminal, “You’re the dunce of the entire school… everyone will be laughing at you… you bring shame on us… you will not amount to much in life… look how well your sister’s doing.”

I quickly assumed the role of the troubled-underachiever, while they denied I was ever the black sheep and maybe there was an unconscious effort on my part to succumb to the role.

After years of pleading, dad finally agreed I could have a new bike for my 15th birthdayth (2) and my shiny green racer became my pride and joy. Meanwhile, life at home continued on a collision course with the narcissistic mother until I finally escaped just after my 17th birthday. When I returned a few months later to collect my bike, the twisted mother had already given it away.

“Och, you weren’t using it, my friend’s son didn’t have a bike… he’ll appreciate it more than you… it wasn’t yours, anyway, we bought it with our own money.”

I never once considered changing my ways to please them, but spent a lifetime rebelling against their toxicity, and usually in a self-destructive style. It has taken me years to finally identify their behaviour as textbook narcissistic, but unfortunately, I had already internalised their disparaging messages.

I’ve learned that scapegoats typically grow up with a deep sense of guilt and shame. We will blame ourselves for things that are out of our control and feel responsible for anything that goes wrong, even when it’s clearly someone else’s baggage. We strongly believe in our own selfishness and harbour a feeling that we are never enough.  This can fuel a need to become a people-pleaser, sometimes against our better judgement and often to our own detriment.

For me, knowledge is the catalyst of healing.

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60 thoughts on “The Narcissists Golden-child & Scapegoat

    1. Cat Post author

      Lol, yup, and I used to think she was normal 🙂 um.. it sure throws my concept of “normal” into question. Cheers Edwina for the laugh!

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  1. Priceless Joy

    That makes me sad about the radio Cat. That isn’t just mean, it’s evil. My sister was the golden child in my family until my oldest younger brother grew up and he has the most money so he’s the golden child now. LOL! (I don’t hold it against him. I love him to bits). Sorry, but that’s just how she is. I’m the least golden because I have the least money. haha!! Your mother sounds cruel and evil. She used your sister in order to shame you which is using two children against each other for her own selfish reasons. I’m glad you are working through all this terrible baggage.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Narcs will always use children against each other, unfortunately, they prefer all lines of communication to go through them so that they can twist things to suit themselves and continue to play one off against the other. At least we’re now wise to it now, Joy. Thank you 🙂

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  2. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    Cat, I’m so sorry this happened to you. 😦 Scapegoat is an appropriate term. Another term that comes to mind is “poison container”. It is theorized that the main psychological mechanism that operates in all child abuse involves using children as receptacles (poison containers) into which adults project (inject) disowned parts of their psyches, so they can control these feelings in another body without danger to themselves. You can see this as the core of mainstream, authoritarian religion, too.

    I had an aunt, my mother’s sister-in-law, who did this to one of her children—used one of her 3 children as a poison container. My cousin is in her 50’s and spent most of her life blaming herself until she finally sought therapy.

    “For me, knowledge is the catalyst of healing.”

    Well said my friend. *big hug*

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Victoria… yes, narcissists do love projection and poison container is definitely one of the roles of the scapegoat. Thanks for sharing your experience and, of course, the hug!

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  3. Anxious Mom

    Wow what a bitch. People who screw with kids emotions like that–especially on these big days that will be remembered forever–should be kicked in the throat. I’m sorry you had to go through that BS, but glad you recognize it for what it is now.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Lol No need to mince your words, E 🙂 Oddly enough, I never do celebrate xmas or birthdays, they are as bland today as they were back then, but it’s only in recent weeks when I’ve made the connection. Yer, Knowledge helps the healing. Thank you

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  4. mandy

    Certainly sounds familiar, Cat. That thing of giving your bike away because THEY PAID FOR IT so it wasn’t really yours. Guess that gives them the right to take your life if they choose to cuz they paid the hospital bill for your birth. Christ. And we wonder why children of narcissists question their own value. Lucky we don’t all end up totally deranged!

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    1. Cat Post author

      Yes, the bike was always a sore point. What I didn’t mention in the posts was that she was never happy dad agreed to buy it in the first place and if she’s not happy at the start, well, it’s doomed for life. The other thing I didn’t mention (not enough room in a post to mention all of this) is that she gave the bike away immediately after I came out as gay. The worst of it was, when I lived at home, I WAS almost deranged, thinking all of this was just me. Narcs are manipulative enough to do everything in a way that is difficult to confront and when there is evidence, they will argue black is white. Anyway, there’s another post in there somewhere! Thanks Mandy 🙂

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      1. mandy

        Well, we will never want for something to write about, huh? Unbelievable you would be punished for being gay. I have no concept of thinking that way. But I know many suffer for the same and it makes me crazy. 😦

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  5. therabbitholez

    This constant moving of the goal posts, is so cruel, and they do it because they can, they have power and you don’t.

    To favour one child over another, is also so mean spirited it cuts off any life line you might have had with your sister, and your sister, what can she do but accept what’s going on, she probably lived in fear that you would be the chosen one and she would be left out in the cold, see how the narcissist works, divide and conquer.

    The effects of their behaviour is as you know far reaching, and makes you doubt your own self worth and affects relationships with others.

    If she were to read this blog she wouldn’t even recognise herself, but declare this mother as unfit….the irony would be lost..

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    1. Cat Post author

      “They have power, you don’t” is such a simple statement, but when you’ve lived under that regime as a child, it feels very potent.

      They would always denied treating us differently and when their back was against the wall, they’d throw an excuse like, “she’s better behaved” but more often than not, they knew how to shut me up with guilt, “wouldn’t matter what we did for you…”

      My sister did make her own decision over how best to survive. As soon as she turned 12 years old, the poor girl didn’t go out again other than to attend school. She was always terrified to get on the wrong side of the martyred mother

      You’re right, mum would never recognise herself. She is perfect mother in every way.

      Thank you for your validating message

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      1. therabbitholez

        Your sister is also a victim too, and she never escaped, you have and by writing about it, you articulate very well the crushing hopelessness a narcissist can wreak on your life.

        Your mentally healthier now, and they have no power over you why? because you no longer accept their behaviours to affect your life.

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  6. myspokenheart

    With each post about your ‘lovely’ mother, I have memories and emotions that come at me from both childhood and marriage. It’s all sounds so ‘normal’ to me and smacks of familiarity.

    It truly is a funny thing how as kids we know these things aren’t right (I think as we kids we call it “unfair”) yet they are our normal… It is also terrible when those around you, those you hope will support you, when they see the injustice going on (or you tell them about it) turn around and defend the abuser.

    ((HUGS))

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    1. Cat Post author

      As children and even as adults facing narcissists, we doubt our own judgement and behaviour and I suppose that is one of the best manipulative tactics used by narcs. When we grow up with it from childhood, we begin our adult life thinking it is the “norm” and then we usually end up in narcissistic relationships of different kinds. I guess the most important thing is awareness, both in recovering from the past and in protecting ourselves from wandering narcs in the future 🙂 Thanks Andrea

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  7. Andi

    This kind of behavior is an absolute seed of shame that just overgrows throughout our lives. I am so sorry you were treated this way. So good to see you talking this through now. YOU are golden.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you, Andi for the golden vote! This kind of behaviour is disgusting but the next thing I am about to struggle with is the BIG question, do they deliberately do these horrible nasty things or is it all taking place subconsciously, baring in mind it is all about their narcissistic ego. Thanks for the feedback, appreciated as always 🙂

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      1. Dawn D

        I wonder the same thing about my ex. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, because that’s who I am. Same goes for my parents. Though I can say, my dad having changed completely after divorcing my mom (and he was the worst abuser of the two), he doesn’t realise what he did, nor that it had an impact on the way I let my husband behave towards me. This tends to make me think it is mostly that they don’t realise what they’re doing. Often, they experienced it as children themselves, so as you so well put, it’s their norm, they don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong.

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        1. Cat Post author

          I think I have to agree with you, Dawn, although I admittedly avoid thinking about it just in case it calls on my need to empathise with what is probably a mental health disorder. That may come in the future, but it’s also important we take NC as an opportunity to heal.

          Thank you for commenting, Dawn, much appreciated

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          1. Dawn D

            Yes, we need to heal, that’s for sure! Realising that, whatever I did, my ex was always going to find fault with me helped me tremendously. It was a ‘next step’ sort of moment…
            Heal first, then you can look at your parents with empathy. It has to happen in that order I think. Good luck.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Yes, but I am approaching the questions, do they know what they are doing? Is it an illness like any other personality disorder? Do they need more pity and dare I say sympathy? I suppose I only see it from the position of hurt and anger. Anyway, that’s another post. Thank you

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    1. Cat Post author

      She would never recognise herself and if she recognised me she would call me a liar or say I’m exaggerating… these are all tactics of the narc, you can never win and that’s what makes reconciliations so bloody hard

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    1. Cat Post author

      That was just one little story amongst many, Elizabeth. Only another “narc survivor” would appreciate the manipulation involved. Thank you for your understanding, hope you’re doing okay

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  8. littlevoicetalks

    This resonates with me so much, having been a daughter of a narc father. Recently, having fallen prey to another narcissist, I too am looking to heal and move forwards.

    Thank you for this post. It just reaffirms the positive changes I am striving for and why I should be forgiving of my actions in the past because all I ever did was out of the knowledge I was never going to be enough xx

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    1. Cat Post author

      Sometimes I wonder if we have neon signs above our heads, “Narc vacancy Apply within” When we start to believe we are enough and worth all the good things in life, maybe that’s the time when the neon sign goes out and we are at peace. These narc messages were amongst the first we ever learned as toddlers and it’s no surprise that it takes us so long to claim our lives back. We are already moving forwards

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      1. littlevoicetalks

        Strangely, my brother left at 16 knowing he was the scapegoat, (more to do with the narc’s alpha male ego feeling threatened by a son who was better looking, wouldn’t play ball in feeding his voracious ego as a narc extension and stood way over him physically). I then became scapegoat, although I was pretty much that anyway if I wasn’t feeding the voracious ego either.

        My Mom and I have spoken about a lot today around this. I realize that my behavior was accommodating in my earlier years to try and gain that approval. It never came. He was never interested because we clipped his wings making him never acheive what he really thought he had a right to. Later, I just realized if I wanted any attention, then it was wild all the way …. At least disapproval wasn’t indifference, at least then I was causing a response.

        It’s a fascinating area if it wasn’t so bloody painful xxx

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      2. Dawn D

        I can say that yes, once we realise we have some worth, the neon sign starts to flicker and eventually dies. But it takes reinforcements that we are fine people just the way we are, often at first, then slowly we don’t need them quite so often any more… Hopefully, in the end, we won’t need them at all. I’m not quite there yet.
        Good luck on the journey. I still don’t know how to deal with my mother. avoidance is a good place for me to start, but it doesn’t feel very satisfying. She isn’t a narc in he same way as yours was. Yet what she did, still does, is trying to make me feel guilty for not doing the things she expects me to do (nowadays it’s calling her). To get back to what you discussed above, I don’t think she does it on purpose, I think it’s something that was ingrained in her as a child because she felt she wasn’t allowed to do so many things her brother could, and later as an adult because she was so terrified of her husband’s reaction, she preferred to yell at us to get us to conform rather than let us live and then face our father’s/husband’s wrath. The thing is, she still hasn’t changed, even though our father isn’t in her life any more, and neither are our husbands…

        (sorry for interrupting in the thread of comments here. It’s a bit rude, but I just couldn’t quite keep these thoughts to myself… 😦 ).

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        1. Cat Post author

          Oh it’s not rude at all, Dawn, I love it 🙂 Once again, I would have to agree with your insights. I so much relate to your mum making you feel guilty for not pleasing her, “Nowadays it’s not calling her” says it all and is just what it was like with my mum, one thing after another, never EVER happy. Cheers Dawn

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  9. Susan Irene Fox

    So sad, Cat. You know, there is something to be said about the “no contact” policy with narcissists. Have I ever given you Kim Saeed’s blog address? She writes some great articles about understanding and dealing with (or not) narcissists. They are well researched, and she’s a recovering co-dependent herself.
    There’s a terrific article there on ACONs – Adult Children of Narcissists. Here’s the link:
    http://letmereach.com/2015/03/10/for-acons-adult-children-of-narcissists/
    Love to you.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Susan, many thanks for the link, it’s an amazing post and rather funny, I will follow her blog closely as I seek out my own healing from this poison. Yes, I am heading towards the no contact. Whether that is for a period or forever, I’m not quite certain, but it will be one for sure. Many thanks for your contribution, very grateful

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  10. Ellen

    I also feel especially bad for the little boy who didn’t get his radio. It is so hard to change our own feelings of self-hatred that came about through mistreatment and abuse. I can see why you avoid contact with your mother.

    You certainly struck a chord with this one Cat!

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    1. Cat Post author

      Yes, I wondered how much you might relate. It’s good to see it for what it is, now it’s just the aftermath we need to sweep up. Thanks Ellen

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  11. sensuousamberville

    I was going to ask if your sister was the “golden child”.
    Having discovered that she, your mother, in all likelihood, has NPD, has it allowed you to heal more? To more understand why things that should not have happened did so and that it was not you responsible for this?

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    1. Cat Post author

      Learning of the narcissism has been one of the most validating and healing experiences to date, but now I face the dilemma, the truth, and how I integrate that with the contact I have with a dysfunctional family who are still hell-bent on maintaining my scapegoat role, in an underlying fashion now (until they get their claws in again!). It’s a problem. Thanks Amber

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  12. princessinpain

    Cat please forgive me, maybe I haven’t paid enough attention to your posts since for the first time I am realizing that you are a male. I guess I just always assumed the opposite. Sometimes I suppose it is hard for me to believe that men have the ability to feel emotion. You have obviously blown that out of the water for me.. I admire you. You have pushed hard to move on with your life and you are truly an inspiration to me.. Thanks for sharing your experiences and for taking an interest in mine. I find myself looking for a comment from you each time I post something. Nice to know someone hears me.
    My brother was the golden child in my family. Only he was the problem child I was the perfect little girl in their eyes so they didn’t need to pay attention to me. They tried everything with him. Gifts, money, love, affection.. Me I was left in a corner to do my own thing.. I guess that explains why I got so crazy when I was away from home. But some how I held it all together and made good enough grades to graduate with a 2.79 gpa from high school and then went on to have a family and go to college.. Guess now that my brother is back living in my moms house with his two bit wife and her kids 2 of the 7 (none of them his), that makes me the Golden child.. but damn if i don’t get any of the freaking benefits still!!

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    1. Cat Post author

      Yes, all male last time I looked! Narcissists will never praise the efforts of their children because they’re never happy/content and they probably don’t recognise the success because it is a threat to their own perfection. Thank you for your kind comment, much appreciated

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  13. Sharon Alison Butt

    Ive no need to say much because I agree with everyone above. The gay thing isnt really her issue but like someone said, she is just pure evil. If you had as many women as James Bond, she’d have still sold your bike. It was convenient for her to use the gay issue as her bait.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Your spot on, Sharon, she always hated the fact I got the bike and couldn’t wait for the least opportunity. Thank you

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  14. Mél@nie

    @”For me, knowledge is the catalyst of healing.” – yes, absolutely true, I totally agree with you… lack(absence) of knowledge, infos and ignorance = > the very source of all “evils”…

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  15. Londiwe

    Hi Cat,
    Here I am again astonished by the similarities in our mothers.I believed everything she said about me and of course I embodied it and became the mad, bad, sad little goon.I have lived my life feeling and thinking that I am a bad ‘child’ .I still feel like a child even though I am a middle aged woman with an intact intellect thankfully.

    I hate my mother with a vengeance including the whole blind family !!
    That’s all I have to say right now.Even though I now know that my mother was narcissistic I still struggle to believe it because she portrayed herself as the long suffering, kind and giving mother which she wasn’t 😡

    It’s a long road to recovery.

    Londiwe

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