“The family scapegoat doesn’t get picked randomly or by accident. Usually, they are either sensitive, unhappy, vulnerable, ill and/or the outspoken child or whistleblower. In other words, the scapegoat is the child who refuses to look content or stay silent in the unbearable atmosphere created in the family home.” – Glynis Sherwood
Narcissism is a set of unhealthy personality traits that exist on a continuum from excessive self-absorption to a ‘hard-wired’ personality disorder.
Narcissism is characterized by:
- Extreme self-centeredness/self-obsession shows up as the relentless pursuit of personal gratification and attention seeking, social dominance, and cold-blooded ambition.
- The inability to take responsibility for one’s behavior or keep commitments, while being dependent on others to meet his/her responsibilities – in essence, being functionally impaired.
- Lack of empathy, as well as the need to be right, perfect, and admired at all times.
- Feeling entitled to special treatment, regardless of circumstances or accomplishments.
At its core, narcissism is a defense against deep-seated low self-worth that is pushed out of the conscious mind of the narcissist. This rigid kind of personality structure tends to develop in response to childhood neglect, abuse, or trauma, where emotional needs are unmet or denied.
If the narcissist’s wants and needs – real or imagined – are not met in adulthood, s/he is prone to fly into rages and ‘defend’ her/his low self-esteem through blaming or attacking others. S/he is usually not consciously aware of this process, as the defense of blaming others is much more developed – meaning rationalized – than any insight regarding the appropriateness of their behavior, or the potential for taking responsibility for themselves.
Most narcissists have an underlying belief that they are helpless to make themselves better, and are stuck in a perpetual victim stance where they see themselves as innocent bystanders in a world that continues to do them wrong.
Some forms of narcissism are overt, where the individual behaves in a grandiose, superficially charming, and entitled manner. Other narcissists are more covert and present as falsely humble victims of a cruel world that has not given them their due.
However, both types of narcissists can respond with rage and malice if their expectations of attention, admiration, pity, or being treated as special are not met by others.
You may recognize one or more family members in these profiles of overt and covert narcissists. Regardless, if the narcissistic family member is in a dominant position, as with a parent, then that behavior profoundly influences the tone of the family. A narcissistic parent may be partnered with an individual with codependency problems.
A codependent parent fixates on trying to manage, enable or accommodate the narcissistic parent in order to gain a sense of purpose, worth, and control.
If you grew up in a narcissistic family system, you probably felt unsupported, neglected, or abandoned. You were likely told – directly or indirectly – that you had to put your narcissistic family member’s needs first, or got accused of being ‘selfish’, and punished or ostracized if you didn’t. Your narcissistic parent may have had a substance abuse problem or other addictive habits.
If you did not go along with the narcissist’s agenda you were likely criticized, blamed, or shamed. In other words, you were scapegoated.
The family Scapegoat is often the family member who is non-compliant with mistreatment, the whistleblower, expresses displeasure or advocates for their own needs, and is then demonized as the family problem, thereby establishing a ‘false narrative’ of victim blaming.
Narcissistic Family Member Traits – Experience And Impact On The Scapegoat:
- You are not allowed to be yourself – to have your own needs, personality, and independence. You are scapegoated and labeled as self-centered and possibly “narcissistic” for having your own wishes and interests and face punishment and /or shunning if you pursue them.
- You experience a lack of real empathy, though it may be feigned. Even if you are empathic towards family, you are accused of being uncaring for not putting others – especially the narcissistic family member – first.
- Family members may align with the narcissist, who is viewed as either the legitimate power broker or a tyrant to be appeased. These narcissist supporters can be the other parent, siblings, their children, or even extended family. Lies are perpetrated to encourage the family to side against you as the family scapegoat.