Have you been blamed for all the problems in your family? Does it seem like you can't do anything right, yet your sibling seems to get it right, every single time? Has a parent ever said something along the lines of "if only you could be more like your sister/brother?" You might be the Scapegoat, and your sibling might be the Golden Child. We all know the Golden Child. It's that kid who is seemingly the best at everything, the one the mother boasts about to friends and family, the child who seems to be at the top of the priority list, and the kid who's achievements are admired and celebrated. This child is seen as an extension of the narcissistic parent onto whom he/she projects all his/her wonderfulness. Seems quite normal, right? But do you know what you're looking at? Let's look at the Scapegoat. According to this child's parent(s), he/she can't seem to do anything right. It's the "identified patient." Parents might not expect much from the Scapegoat as they don't think this child is capable of achieving much. Parents might constantly belittle this child, and there will be minimal room for mistakes or errors. The Scapegoat will often feel that they are last on the family's 'priority list.' Their problems and concerns will often be dismissed or brushed off.
Narcissists will assign these roles, and not just in their families. This could happen in your workplace, in your group of friends, at school, and even in your community or neighborhood. If a narcissist has an influential or powerful position at work, these roles could shift (daily) based on who's pleasing or displeasing the narcissist.
It's not as simple as it seems, though. Being the Golden Child or the Scapegoat comes with its own set of responsibilities, pressure, expectations, and accountability - all at the cost of life-changing experiences.
Both (the Golden Child and Scapegoat) live in an abusive household, both are being used by the narcissistic parent, and both will be psychologically affected in the long run. Here are 3 ways how their stories and experiences might differ.
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3 Ways Being the Golden Child is Just as Damaging as Being the Scapegoat.
1. The Drive to Seek Answers.
Scapegoats grew up being constantly criticized by their parents/siblings. They don't have a sense of belonging (like the Golden Child does) when it comes to their homes. More often than not, they are the ones who will question the dynamics in the household, and they are the ones who will stand up for themselves and even for their siblings. The Scapegoat has a stronger sense of self. They will, most likely, question the narcissistic parent(s) behavior to obtain clarity. Scapegoats are able to tap into the self-actualization process.
The Golden Child loses his/her own identity and uniqueness due to always pleasing the narcissist and being appreciated most of his/her childhood. While the Scapegoat might question the parent's behavior, the Golden Child might conform. Sadly, the Golden Child thinks that his/her self-worth is directly connected to how the narcissistic parent perceives him/her. They most likely will struggle when criticized in their adulthood, and might even try to avoid arguments altogether. The Golden Child usually has a very low sense of self due to the narcissistic parent treating these kids as an extension of themselves. Instead of tapping into their curiosities and looking for answers, the Golden Child might never take a stand against the parent and see it for what is: abuse. In the long run, when they (hopefully) realize it is abuse, it might be too late, and the resentment they harbor might be insurmountable.
2. The Sibling Rivalry
A narcissistic parent feeds on the constant attention they get from their children. An abusive parent with high narcissism might also show some of these signs/traits. It's important for the narcissistic parent to be supplied with love, admiration, and approval by his/her children. If they don't get what they want, they manipulate their targets so that they can reaffirm their feelings of superiority, grandiosity, and entitlement. It's all about them, and them only. It doesn't matter to the narcissist when their need for attention causes conflict in the house. The narcissist might even start an argument among the children so that they could easily manipulate them. To achieve this, they triangulate.
Triangulation is a manipulation tactic where one person will not communicate directly with another person, instead he/she will use a third person to relay communication to the second, thus forming a triangle.”
Narcissists enjoy using triangulation as a mind game that enables them to gain a sense of power and control over multiple people simultaneously. This tactic confirms to them their own grandiosity. They feel superior when they have all these people competing for their approval and validation.
Since the Golden Child is considered to be highly obedient of the narcissistic parent, the usual set up is that the parent will try to work the Golden Child up against the Scapegoat. This will also be done to try and manipulate the Scapegoat. They might say something like, "we all feel the same, your sister even agrees with me," hoping to change the Scapegoat's mind and to win the argument.
Triangulation goes hand-in-hand with “gaslighting” and “projection.” It's easier for the narcissist to manipulate the Scapegoat into questioning his/her own sanity (gaslighting) when "others agree with them."
Projection is the act of placing unacceptable feelings or unacceptable wants or desires onto another person.
The narcissist or abuser will project thoughts and feelings onto their children to cause tension. These thoughts and feelings include misinterpreted facts and fabricated lies with the end goal of creating havoc among the kids.
Both the Scapegoat and the Golden Child will equally be subjected to the manipulation, gaslighting, and projection of the narcissistic parent, and they'll both grow up in a house filled with tension and fights.
3. The Power of Breaking Free from the Unhealthy Dynamics of Narcissism.
Even though Scapegoats have been demoralized by their narcissistic parent(s) all their lives, they have developed a "learned power." They might also develop justice-seeking behavior. The Scapegoat feels the acute injustice of his/her role in the household. It is confusing, maddening, painful, and it frequently carries with it emotional and physiological damage that lasts a lifetime. But here's the thing, Scapegoats weren't chosen by random, they were targeted because of their strengths. Narcissists like to target their greatest threats.
Scapegoats had to be independent thinkers and doers throughout their lives. As there was little room for error, Scapegoats had to develop the ability to skillfully navigate their talents and expertise to avoid backlash and cruelty. This could lead to perfectionism in the long run, and the demoralizing process could decrease one's self-esteem, sanctity, and optimism.
More often than not, the Scapegoat will break free from the toxic household before the Golden Child does.
But here's the thing, Scapegoats weren't chosen by random, they were targeted because of their strengths. The narcissist likes to target his/her greatest threat.
The Golden Child fails to register or comprehend that the narcissistic parent is gaining pleasure from his/her attention and love. The Golden Child is highly dependent on the narcissistic parent's approval. They usually don't have proper boundaries, thus making them more vulnerable to abuse later on in life.
Since they are overly treasured, and they are used to the status quo, they don't develop the intent to go against their parent(s). This process is called Infantilization. This comes about when the parent constantly reminds the child how cruel the world is and how they will never be able to make it on their own, which essentially creates a high level of dependency. Infantilization might lead to the child acting helpless, or they may act out in anger and violence. It has been shown that these kids often have an increased risk of self-harm and impulsiveness, and they might even struggle academically and socially. The Golden Child is also more likely to suffer from severe cognitive dissonance. The accumulative effect might deter the Golden Child from breaking away, thus prolonging the exposure to the abuse.
Cognitive Dissonance - the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.
Being the Scapegoat or The Golden Child in the family could lead to negative long-term effects. The Golden Child might never be able to feel worthy if not pleasing others, the Scapegoat might always question authority, and both might let the triangulation of the parent sever their ties with one another. Each role comes with its own effects and consequences.
If you were 'assigned' to either of these roles, please feel free to join our support group where you can find support, share your story, be heard, and vent. The Bulletproof Club has two support groups. You can find our support group on Facebook, and our other support group on our App where you can utilize our free resources, access our gallery, and be part of our online community.
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