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What are the different roles in narcissistic families?

Growing up in a narcissistic family.. I was really confused why some family members, including my own mother, would be really nice to me some days and then really cruel. This hot and cold treatment was very stressful for a child.


Which role do you identity with the most?


In a narcissistic family, every member has a role to play.


This “role” depends on the image the narcissist wants to maintain and the qualities this member can offer to fulfill the image. The role of each family member may switch over time.


Roles are assigned by the narcissist through manipulation and persuasion. Each member of the family is expected to fall in line to help maintain the image created by the narcissist.

The narcissist in these families is usually one of the parents and they demonstrate a wide variety of behaviors. Narcissistic parents can be overt or covert in their demonstration. Regardless of their type of narcissism, some behaviors of narcissistic parents include having a strong sense of entitlement that requires excessive admiration. If this admiration is not given then they become impatient or angry. They feel as though they are superior, even when there is no proof to warrant it.


The parent expects compliance without questions or any form of resistance. It is truly their way or the highway and everyone must conform to fit their needs. The narcissistic parent is incapable and unwilling to recognize the needs and emotions of others. They have difficulty regulating their own emotions, making adjusting to change next to impossible. They insist on having the best of everything and look down upon others whom they perceive as inferior. In fact, they will even belittle as a way to make them feel superior and manipulate in order to get their way. The narcissist is easily slighted, offended and takes things extremely personal, despite proof of anything being personal. Overall, the narcissistic parent struggles immensely with feelings of shame, insecurity, and vulnerability, which is ultimately where their behaviors stem from.



The Narcissistic Parent


Traits of narcissistic parents include having a strong sense of entitlement that requires excessive admiration and entitlement. If this admiration is not given then they become impatient or angry.


The parent expects compliance without questions or any form of resistance. It is truly their way or the highway and everyone must conform to fit their needs. The narcissistic parent is incapable and unwilling to recognize the needs and emotions of others. They have difficulty regulating their own emotions, making adjusting to change next to impossible.


They insist on having the best of everything and look down upon others whom they perceive as inferior. They will manipulate family members in order to get their way. The narcissist is easily slighted, offended and takes things extremely personal, despite proof of anything being personal. Overall, the narcissistic parent struggles immensely with feelings of shame, insecurity, and vulnerability, which is ultimately where their behaviors stem from.


The Enabling Parent


The spouse of the narcissist, is the main enabler for them. They're also known as the orbiting spouse.


The enabling parent will revolve their world around the narcissistic parent and never question the narcissist's version of reality in order to keep their relationship intact. The enabling parent often has qualities that would compensate for the narcissistic parent's qualities. They are usually the parent the children feel somewhat safe with and have fun with. However, the enabling parent may unintentionally invalidate their children if one of them is having a dispute with the narcissist. Appeasing the narcissist is their top priority.


The Scapegoat Child


The scapegoat child, or the black sheep child, is the child that gets most of abuse from the narcissistic parent.


The use of a scapegoat is needed in narcissistic families. Thus, which family member is the scapegoat can change depending on the narcissistic parent and the other family members' conformity. The scapegoat is not picked on accident. They are the family member that is usually the one who refuses to remain silent about the family dysfunction. They are also the strongest and healthiest of all the family members. Narcissistic families use a scapegoat as a way to protect their own ego, discharge and distract themselves from their own negative emotions and create a "villain." These all leave them feeling self-righteousness and as though they are the "hero."


This one person is doomed to bear the brunt of any psychological discomfort experienced by one or more of the family members. In order to justify these dysfunctional behaviors, the narcissistic parent will create and repeat stories that strengthen the narrative as the scapegoat being deserving of disparagement and distain. Though, it is important to note, that the scapegoat is not deserving of such treatment.


The Golden Child

The golden child that conforms to the narcissistic parents abuse and is even taught to sympathize with the abuse towards the scapegoat. The narcissist sees them as an extension of themselves.


The golden child conforms due to fear of rejection, criticizing, and shame that comes from the narcissistic parent if they do not do as the parent wishes. The golden child is not free of abuse from the narcissistic parent. They just experience a much more covert form of abuse than the scapegoat. Ultimately, the golden child is playing the pleasing game as a way to avoid the negative backlash they see the scapegoat experiencing from the narcissistic parent. This makes the golden child the favorite and idealized child of the family unit. Often this leaves the golden child to receive special treatment and attention, though this can easily switch to another child if they are no longer serving the narcissist's needs.


Since the golden child is taught to comply and idealize the narcissistic parent, they rarely see the narcissistic parent for who they truly are. This puts the golden child at risk of becoming narcissistic themselves and contributing to the abuse experienced by the scapegoat.


The Invisible Child


The invisible or lost child does not receive praise or blame from his/her parent. This child is treated as if they do not exist. They are the forgotten ones, the neglected ones, the unrecognized ones.


The basic needs of the invisible child are ignored to varying degrees. Narcissistic parents who want to conceal the abuse may provide just enough care to keep others from noticing the neglect.


Because the invisible child is treated as if they are a “nobody,” they expect nothing nor asks for anything. For self-preservation, this child withdraws and isolates. This withdrawal causes them to miss out on healthy social interactions.


Invisible children find it difficult to let others into their private world. They do not develop a healthy connectedness to other people or society. Never having anyone to rely on except themselves, these children become very independent—lonely and isolated, but usually self-sufficient.


Flying Monkeys


Flying monkeys are also enablers and are the most easy to manipulate. They are family members, friends, neighbours, colleagues, church acquaintances, community group members... Anyone who knows the narcissistic parent can potentially become a flying monkey and might even be narcissists themselves.


Their purpose is to continue the narcissist's poor behaviour and abuse by proxy. They join the narcissist in complaining, criticizing, and gossiping about the scapegoat (depending on the current circumstance, the scapegoat could be a child or the narcissist's spouse).


If the narcissistic parent's current victim refuses to comply, the flying monkeys will carry messages back and forth from the narcissist to their victim. Sometimes they spy on the victim and contribute to gossip, other times they go into an all-out attack on the character of the victim — often using the words given to them by the narcissist. The work of a flying monkey is to act as an extension of the narcissist.


You're Not Alone


When I first learned about narcissistic families and roles that the narcissist wants people to play, I felt like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I sought out other warriors who are also adult children of narcissistic parents. I broke out of my narcissistic mother's control and if you're in the midst of it, you're not alone. I'm here for you.


If you're ready to break free from narc abuse forever and would like to work together to make that possible, send me a message.

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