What are the roles cast in a Narcissist family?
Note: This article uses male gender pronouns for “the narcissist”. Both men and women can be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but it is more common in men.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a parasitical disease that affects those especially close to the narcissist. His uses his suave and charming personality mixed with cunning manipulation in order to move around pawns in a game whose only objective is to glorify himself, the gamekeeper.
There are small moments when the narcissist’s mask falls off around friends, acquaintances, and family, usually in a spurt of anger or debate where the personal offense has been taken. But generally speaking, the only people who will see the real narcissist without a mask will be those who are a part of his innermost circle.
Who is in this innermost circle?
They are the people who he believes that he owns (this ownership can be conscious or subconscious). His roommates and close friends rarely come close enough to experience consistent abuse because he can separate himself and take breaks from his act.
But long-term lovers, spouses, and children become the most valued pieces in his collection because he sees each one of them, especially his children, as an extension of himself. He interacts with them frequently.
In a healthy household, parents will raise their children to become confident, independent, and healthy adults. No household and no parent is perfect, but healthy children develop a balanced sense of self and their relationships evolve with the adult figures in their life. This is not the case with a narcissist’s family.
A narcissist’s only mission in life is to paint a grandiose representation of himself to the world. And because the narcissist sees his spouse and his children as an extension of himself he trains them and uses them as a status symbol beneath the guise of a loving and caring family.
The most important thing to a narcissist is to maintain the image of success. If you are part of his family you will be given a role to play and it will be your responsibility to act your heart out in public.
There are only two rules in the house of a narcissist’s family:
- the narcissist needs to always come first
- the image of the narcissist and his family must never be limited by the needs of the spouse and their children
Every spouse and child is assigned a role by the narcissist himself. These roles include the golden child, the scapegoat, and the invisible child. Over a period of time the children adopt secondary roles that include the hero/responsible child, the caretaker/placater, the mascot/clown, and the mastermind/manipulator.
Children may end up adopting one or more of these roles, and roles can switch multiple times over the course of one’s life, depending upon how the narcissist feels and how he measures that child against the others. He also weighs them with consideration to personal goals at any given moment.
The bottom line is that a narcissist would rather gloat about himself to try to impress a stranger rather than be loved by his own family. All the while, his children, forever starving for love, bend over backwards to try to scrounge for breadcrumbs of his approval. In public they wear the happy masks that he has made for each one of them.
The Roles Cast by the Narcissist
1. The Enabler –
This role is usually played by the spouse (or a daughter). She does the narcissist’s bidding and plays nice in order to gain approval from the narcissist. She orbits around when she is not helping him. Her life revolves around fulfilling every need of the narcissist. This is a role typically filled by a codependent individual, who grew up in an abusive home, and whose sense of self revolved around giving up herself in order to win love and favor from people around her.