Scapegoat & Golden Child | How and why narcissists assign these roles (and not just in the family!)

Scapegoat & Golden Child | How and why narcissists assign these roles (and not just in the family!)

The Scapegoat and the Golden Child ? How and why narcissists assign these roles and not just in the family

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One really important thing to keep in mind when you?re looking back into childhood and you?re questioning ?did this happen to me in childhood too? or ?is this something new that happened to me as an adult? and you?re looking at one of your parents and how they treated you, understand that there aren?t necessarily hard-and-fast roles.

Some experts in the field will say that a narcissistic parent will pick one Scapegoat and one Golden Child and that will be that. There might be some clear lines like that in some family dynamics. Now again, this could apply in and beyond the family. This could be happening in the workplace. This could be happening in your group of friends. This could be happening in your neighborhood. There could be some clear lines in some dynamics, in some families or tribes.

However, in other families, other tribes and other social groups, it can be very fluid. There could be back and forth. One day this person is the Scapegoat and this person is the Golden Child. Or the Golden Person, let?s say, and then another day it?s flipped the other way around. Typically that flip flop depends on who is pleasing and displeasing the narcissist more in that moment.

So for example, if you speak up about the abuse, and maybe you were once mostly the Golden Child, be ready to see the tables turn quickly on you. You become the Scapegoat because the narcissistic parent is now idealizing the other child because you?ve then taken a stand against the abuse.

This could be something that happened as an adult but maybe this happened in childhood as well. Maybe you didn?t even know the word abuse or realize you were being abused but you called something out about your parents? behavior. Keep in mind this can apply to all sorts of groups of people because narcissists tend to do this with people in general.

So in the family, the Scapegoat and the Golden Child become these roles assigned by the narcissist in order to play the game of Extract Narcissistic Supply through Triangulation.

Triangulation is like driving a wedge between people. This can be done by a narcissistic parent or narcissistic anything. It could be your lover, your spouse, your friend, your boss, your coworker, your neighbour, your grandparent or even the grandparent of your kids.

Basically, the game involves two or more people who get pitted against each other and usually they don?t even realize what?s happening. They?re just aware of the conflict between each other and there?s always this conflict. Maybe they can?t figure out what?s going on or where the conflict is coming from. Or maybe it?s very clearly this parent or this other person. Essentially the narcissist does this because they want you to turn on each other while having the loyalty of you both.

The narcissist wants the loyalty of everybody and the narcissist wants everybody fighting amongst themselves. So the narcissist will fabricate lies, gossip, they?ll reveal private information about you, they will manufacture enemies, they?ll get you to tell on each other, they?ll get you to say something bad about each other by probing one person and kind of setting it up in this way to get you to agree with them and nobody then the person says, ?oh guess what so-and-so said about you???

Essentially, what they also do is get the Golden Child or the Golden Person to gang up against the Scapegoat.

I read this a couple years ago and I can?t find this term again. (If one of you knows that please write in the comments.) It was something like ?sympathetic abuse? and I just tried to look that up but that wasn?t it. What it meant to me was that the narcissistic parent gets the Golden Child to sympathize with their abuse against the Scapegoat child. So when I read this I called my brother immediately. I told him, ?so I read this thing that if you grew up with a narcissistic parent and you?re the Golden Child typically what happens is your parent gets you to sympathize with the abuse against the Scapegoat sibling ? the Scapegoat child?. So I asked my brother, ?did this happen? Was I ganging up against you with mom?? And he said, ?not that I can really remember, but there was this one incident?? where for whatever reason he was really late. He and his buddy were late to get picked up from wrestling. I don?t know why. This was before cell phones and all that. For some reason I was with my mom. I don?t remember this at all. But chances are she got me to go with her in some kind of subtle, covert way. I was about 17 years old and I definitely didn?t have to go with her. I could have stayed at home. But you know that misery loves company thing, so maybe that?s how I got involved in the car. Then probably she was poking at me the whole time to get me to be really upset that I was wasting so much time in the car when I had homework and I wanted to call my boyfriend or something like that in the evening. So by the time my brother gets to the car she?s raging about how late they are and my brother said during her rant there were times when I was agreeing with her because I was upset too. Now I can totally see how that happens. I didn?t even realize that I was being used as a pawn to gang up against him because it was just set up that way so it was everyone against the Scapegoat. This was a subtle dynamic but it could be done in a much more overt fashion as well.

Another way the narcissistic parent can extract narcissistic supply through triangulation is when when they try to get you guys to hate each other, to dislike each other for whatever reason.

For example, growing up there was this pasta left on some plate in the hallway and my brother ate the pasta. There was a little bit of pasta, maybe my mom ate in bed or something and she left this thing in the hallway and she was gonna take it downstairs later. But the pasta disappeared. Obviously it was my brother who ate it but she was questioning us both like, ?who did it? Who did it?? My brother wouldn?t admit it and I didn?t do it so I said ?I didn?t do it?. And she just kept pushing and pushing and then she said, ?fine we?re not gonna eat pasta for (I don?t know how many) weeks (or a month or something) until one of you fesses up.?

She got me to be mad at my brother because he wasn?t telling the truth and then I was getting punished for what he had done. They?ll do these kinds of things to drive a wedge between you and your sibling.

In my family, I was more of the conformer so I was more of the Golden Child but it wasn?t always that way. I had extreme pressure to perform and when I didn?t measure up to that there was cruelty, there was criticism, there was shaming. Those same tactics were sometimes even used to motivate me to do something that she wanted me to do.

One of my friends from high school and I got back in touch again recently and I had mentioned the situation with my mom to her. She said, ?you know I always felt like she wanted you to be more popular. Or she wanted you to be on one of the courts for one of the dances or whatever. She at least wanted you to campaign to do that and she seemed disappointed that you weren?t part of the popular group of people.? It was amazing she noticed that. That?s what can happen to the one who?s predominantly the Golden Child. Essentially I lost more of my self because I was trying to be what she wanted me to be.

My brother was more the rebel. He was more of the Scapegoat and he received constant criticism of everything. What happened though, is he developed a much stronger sense of self and his reality. There were times where he would just call my mom out and say ?mom you?re the only person in the world who doesn?t believe in me.?

I didn?t have that kind of self-esteem. I didn?t have that kind of clarity about who I am and what was my reality.

Usually the scapegoat figures things out first because it looks a lot uglier to them. They rarely get those doses of love-bombing and idealization that the Golden Child would get as long as they?re conforming.

Sometimes the true Golden Child, like the one who just can?t do anything wrong according to how the narcissistic parent treats them, that true Golden Child might never be able to see it ? the truth about who the narcissist is. They often idealize the narcissistic parent. That could turn into narcissism, but not necessarily. I?ve seen it with another cousin in my family. There were very clear roles in their family of who the Scapegoat was and who the Golden Child was. He?s definitely not a narcissist. He?s empathic and loving and a wonderful father. I just don?t think he can see it because the mother always idealized him. He didn?t get the kind of treatment that his sister got.

So if you?re living in a family environment where you and your sibling or siblings are under constant scrutiny, like living with the fucking Nazi SS, where your narcissistic parents? favorite game is to abuse your privacy and just dig and dig and dig and poke until they can find something juicy. Something bad. Something forbidden. Even when there isn?t anything to find, they will accuse you of something anyway. Then you get caught in defending yourself from something that you didn?t even do and by the time that conversation ends you end up feeling guilty for a crime you didn?t commit because the argument was so damn compelling.

So it gets to this point where you almost hope that the other one, the other sibling, the other person in this situation disappoints the narcissistic parent first, so you don?t get as much rage directed at you.

The result for both of these people, both the Golden Child and the Scapegoat is you end up having no sense of self-worth or self-esteem because it?s been psychologically beaten out of you in some way.

The Scapegoat might hear things like ?how dare you have the right to feel good about yourself when you?re just so flawed?? They?re gonna fill that in with something specific implying that you?re flawed, that you?re not enough in some way.

The Golden Child will hear something like ?how dare you feel good about yourself when you could have done so much better? like you got an A you could have gotten an A+.? That kind of thing.

It?s never enough. One way or another we all disappoint the narcissist. This whole dynamic in a family (and again this can happen in the workplace, a neighborhood, a group of friends, etc.) can get to the point where the kids or the adults in the situation don?t realize what?s going on. One of them is just relieved to not be receiving the abuse at the moment, so they don?t speak up for or defend the other even when they see what?s happening.

That?s the whole game ? the narcissist is trying to make both the people or all the people in question ?please? the narcissist in order to avoid the rage, the cruelty, the control in order to get those bread crumbs of love and attention.

In the family, it?s the breadcrumbs of motherly love, or the breadcrumbs of fatherly love that the child is starving for.

If it?s at work it might be something more like approval and status that people are hungry for. That same thing might apply to social circles in general.

The result is it?s not better or worse to be the Golden Child or the Scapegoat.

It?s a different flavor of abuse, but it ends up with both of them developing anxiety about when the next rage attack is coming and wanting to avoid that at all costs. Both of them develop deep self-doubt due to all the words of criticism, demeaning, cruelty and messages that you?re not enough. The Golden Child?s greatest struggle as an adult is the loss of sense of self from being forced to conform to be what was expected of them. The Scapegoat?s greatest struggle as an adult is the shame they carry from all the blame projections thrown at them.

I?ve read in some site, and I wish I could remember where, it might have been Psychology Today, where they were talking about ?psychological whiplash.?

Whiplash is when you?re in a car, especially when you get hit from behind or you get jerked so suddenly that you get an injury in the back of your neck. That?s literally what it?s like everyday. You don?t know when the hit is coming, especially when the roles are fluid. You don?t know from moment to moment when you?re gonna get the wrath and rage, and when you?re not. Maybe you?re going along in the road and everything?s fine today or this moment or this hour and then all of a sudden out of nowhere you get blindsided by this rage or accusation or something that?s going on with the narcissistic parent. So there?s this constant psychological whiplash. Both the Scapegoat and the Golden Child are going through this same thing.

Keep in mind too that the narcissist, the parent, the whomever, doesn?t just play this game with you and your siblings. They?ll pit any two people apart. They might even take external people like your friends or your family or just random people that they?re talking about and pit them against you.

For example, maybe your narcissist mother is idealizing your cousin or someone else?s kid who did something better than you and the overt narcissist is gonna straight-up say that to your face, ?you know so and so is so much better than you, why can?t you be like so and so?? It?s very overt and in your face.

The covert narcissistic parent is going to be a lot more subtle. It?s going to be almost undetectable insinuations where they?re just telling you a story about someone but it?s loaded with all these little subtle daggers, double entendres and insinuations that you?re not good enough because you aren?t doing whatever they?re idealizing. So it ends up eating at you later and it really confuses you because of the plausible deniability and their meticulous use of words to carry out the gaslighting. Regardless, it ends up making you feel like a failure. It makes you feel like you?re not good enough, like you?re inadequate in some way or like you need to keep measuring up to earn their approval just like the person they?re idealizing.

They could take another route where maybe they?re talking about someone else who made a mistake or who did something that they didn?t approve of. So the narcissist goes on and on about how they feel about this person or what they think about this person or the actions and decisions that person made. Maybe they mention shutting this person out of their life or firing this person from a job or just talking so horribly about that person that you don?t ever want people to talk about you like that. What they?re doing is instilling fear in you. It?s the fear of if you do that same thing you?re going to meet the same fate.

They can play with a lot of different dynamics here. The result is essentially the same and the goal is to divide and conquer.

The narcissistic mother or father wants to divide and conquer the children so they can control and manage everything. Everyone is loyal to the narcissistic parent because they don?t want to meet with their rage, wrath and punishment. So inevitably they?re going to fight amongst each other.

This is the political system in America. You?ve got two political systems. Essentially it?s the same as with the narcissistic mother/father. What happens in social groups, in cultures, in countries and politics, is the narcissist spins a polarized narrative, which is gaslighting.

They tell you the way things are in some kind of way and they?re lying to you. They?re making you believe in some kind of reality that isn?t real. They?re denying your perception of reality. In doing so, they?re going to create a problem. They?re gonna manufacture that problem and reaction by stoking your emotions like fear, jealousy, anger, especially fear. Then they provide the messed up solution to the whole thing.

It?s spinning a narrative by creating a problem and stoking a reaction, then providing a solution.

Same thing happens from the familial level to the group at work to the group of friends in the neighborhood to the the mass society. What happens is they keep you fighting between each other so you can?t unite. You can?t uprise. You can?t all say, ?oh you?re the one with the problem here not us?.

That division among people keeps the ruler in control. This is the goal of triangulation, to get them to fight amongst themselves and get narcissistic supply in the process.

This can even be done when the narcissist isn?t there. The lengths they will go to in order to maintain that control even when they?re not present is astounding. So the abuse just keeps passing on and on and on.

My mother did this one time when I was going to go to my cousin?s house. She and my cousin?s mom are both narcissists. They talk on the phone a lot. They do lots of gossiping. Her daughter is an amazing human being and I absolutely love her son. So I was going to go over there. This was almost three years ago and I had zero dollars to my name. It was a horrible time in my life but I wanted to go hang out with my cousins because they?re awesome people. My mom suggested, ?why don?t you take a bottle of wine over there tonight?? I said, ?it?s not really necessary.? She insisted, ?just take a bottle of wine? and kept insisting like it was this generous act.

As I was going to go, she had two bottles of wine for me to choose from. One was red and one was white. She knows that I don?t drink white wine. I just don?t like it. I will in a very rare situation like it?s really hot and that is all there is, so she knew I was gonna pick the red wine. I didn?t even read the labels because it didn?t matter to me, I don?t know much about wine. So I just grabbed the red bottle also knowing that my cousin, who?s Italian, is into red wine too.

So I get to my cousin?s house and as I handed the bottle of wine to her, I was so ashamed. My mother knew this was gonna happen. I walked right into this trap. My mother knew I wasn?t just going to walk in like ?I have no money so my mom sent this bottle of wine? and there were other people there too. So my cousin looks at the bottle and she?s like ?huh mnage trois? and I was like ?oh God?. It was suddenly so awkward and embarrassing. There was no taking it back. I realized exactly what happened. In a split second, I saw the whole thing line up. My mom did this as a form of triangulation because she knows that my cousin is kind of insecure about that kind of thing because her own narc mother has interfered in her relationships. So I?m there with this bottle of wine and she?s got a husband and what?s this idea of mnage trois?!

That was the furthest thing from my reality but I fell right into that trap. I was so ashamed that I didn?t have the balls to speak up, to just straight up tell her the truth as I would now if that was happening. I totally bombed that moment and my mother got narcissistic supply without even having to be there. She won. She created that awkward situation, those uncomfortable feelings between my cousin and I so that we couldn?t unite. And she wasn?t even there. I fell right into that trap.

So beware that you could get set up like that. You could get set up to be in that kind of position where you even create the awkward situation because of a trap the narcissist lays out for you and that?s not at all what you wanted, it wasn?t what you intended. Or you could end up being the sympathizer and not even realize that you?re being used to sympathize with their abuse against someone else.

The bottom line is, having a narcissistic parent is the gift that just keeps giving.

It goes on and on. There?s just constantly these sorts of situations that will happen, but the amazing thing is that if you have siblings who went through this with you, and if you are an only child I am so sorry. I can only imagine how lonely that must have been, how much you really probably doubted your reality and just how devastatingly lonely that must have felt. But for those of us that have siblings who went through this with us, it?s like you?ve been on the front lines of a war together, a war that no one else understands or maybe even knows that it happened. That is either an opportunity for a special kind of bond to form between you two (or more) or it?s a recipe for a disaster.

Do the best that you can to aim for that special bond that you guys can relate to because you survived that war together. It could end up being the end of the game when all siblings or both siblings realize what?s going on, when you can unite and recognize who the parent was and help each other through the recovery. Or maybe it was both parents in your case. But if you realize that you have toxic siblings then you may need very different boundaries to protect yourself from harm.

It?s devastating what can happen from this kind of abuse. Again this can apply to so many situations, it?s not just limited to the family. But this is typically how we look at this concept, in the familial context.

Did this help you in any way? Do you understand anything, a little bit better about what happened to you? Does this ring a bell to you that maybe in your family there wasn?t a hard and fast line of one person always being the Scapegoat and another always the Golden Child. Was there some blurring of the lines? Or did you notice that the lines of roles in your family were very clear, where there was one Scapegoat one Golden Child?


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