Families of Narcissists-Scapegoat

Inglis Fall

Ingrid shared her story about a family vacation. We were sitting in a library of a public school; a quiet, private place, especially after hours. Our small group had been meeting weekly to discuss narcissism and the impact that this pathology has had and continues to have on our lives.

Apparently, this vacation had been in the planning stages for over a year. The family was going to travel across North America, visit relatives, go to sites of interest like geological formations, national parks and caves. There were discussions about celebrity residences, particular museums and other possible stops on their way. They were travelling by car and the route was discussed at considerable length.

Unfortunately, Ingrid found out a day or two before the family left, that she would not be going. Officially, she was needed to stay home and take care of an elderly grandparent. Since no one in her family visited this individual on a regular basis, it was not a believable lie.

“You won’t like it. You don’t enjoy anything,” Ingrid’s mother said in her defence. The truth was, Ingrid was the scapegoat in this family and with the dynamic of a narcissist at play, everyone knew not to question the decision. More than that, they had all been taught that it was OK to blame Ingrid for anything that went wrong and to attack her any time she spoke.

I would like to say here that this is an extreme example and that it is rare–but I’d be lying. It is typical of a household that has a narcissist for there to be a scapegoat and a golden child.

Ingrid was the scapegoat. In this particular family, she saw no relief from this treatment and it was still continuing. Ingrid was in her fifties when we were having this conversation.

In some homes of narcissists, the scapegoat switches around. One day you are loved and admired and the next you cannot do anything right. This is a different type of emotional abuse because you never know where you stand.

The golden child, on the other hand, can do no wrong. It simply doesn’t matter how they act, what they decide to do, the choices they make or what they say, they are still cherished. This makes it difficult, in Ingrid’s situation, for her sister to understand why Ingrid was so disagreeable all of the time. Why wouldn’t Ingrid just agree that someone needed to care for grandma and leave it at that? Ingrid was such a downer. Her sister told her as much.

Since narcissists need constant nourishment in the form of drama and emotional outbursts, they tend to choose an individual to pick on. In this case, it was Ingrid. If you feel you are always being blamed and treated unfairly, you may be living with a narcissist.

Outsmarting the Narcissist

Once again, you find yourself struggling to remember what actually did happen. You are having THAT conversation again during which you are told your memory is bad, you are making things up and you must be losing your mind.

Shot of Cover
Let me know when Wendy’s Next Book is available.
Anyone who has been in a relationship with a narcissist has been told this. It matters very little if the narcissist is a co-worker, parent, lover, acquaintance, family member or simply someone who lives next door. This tactic is very common because it works.

Very few people are completely certain of everything they remember. Did I say that when I was angry? Was there any way I was misunderstood? I’m certain she said that, maybe I didn’t hear her right or understand what she meant.

For narcissists this is one of the many games they play. They want you to feel off balance, to question yourself, to spend inordinate amounts of emotional energy trying to remember what was said, the order things happened in and how the events unfolded.

When you realize they have been “gas lighting” you, making you unsure of yourself, your memories and perceptions, the natural response is to want to do it back. Unfortunately, they have several advantages.

Narcissists lack empathy. This means they do not feel bad when they hurt someone. They do not “feel” the pain they cause other people. So when you are trying to remember if you did say what she says you said, she is enjoying your discomfort, not feeling badly because you are in a disagreement.

Another tact a narcissist will take is to overtly lie. He may tell you he “forgot” or “got stuck at work” when in fact he simply did not want to show up because he knew you were relying on him. This may have put you in an awkward position, like sitting at a restaurant with two other couples waiting for your date to arrive.

The narcissist has an advantage here because when he does arrive, he tells the whole table that you made the mistake. You had the date or location wrong. You were supposed to pick him up on the way to the restaurant and you come off looking foolish for having let everyone down.

Another tact to make you look foolish is to keep “poking” you until you snap and behave “irrationally”. If the narcissist can get you to explode in public, this provides nourishment in the narcissistic form. The narcissist thrives on drama and causing drama, especially public drama. Most people, find this distasteful, which is part of the appeal to the narcissist.

_________________

Here are three examples of things that narcissists will do that most people will not do:

1. Lie
2. Hurt You on Purpose
3. Make a public scene

Even if you are willing to lie, do hurtful things and try to get them to act out in public, it will backfire on you.

1. If you lie to a narcissist, they are certain you are wrong.

Unlike a person with a conscience, narcissists do not doubt themselves. They just turn it around on you. Now they have “proof” that you are losing your mind. Then, forever, this example will be their way of reminding you how you have been wrong before.

2. If you hurt them on purpose, they will play the pity card.

You hurt them. You are a nasty person and they can’t believe how mean you are. Since, I’m assuming, you do have empathy, you will feel bad. You may even feel fully responsible for hurting them and they win this one as well.

3. Finally, a public scene is their dream come true.

If you try to cause a scene, where they look foolish you will end up looking more foolish than they will. They do not feel emotions like others do so it is much easier for them to regroup and turn it around leaving you as the only one who is acting out in public.

If a crazy person and a normal person are fighting,
it is NOT possible to tell who is who.

_________________

If you are a neighbour, acquaintance or a co-worker, you cannot win. The cycle will devolve into a nightmare of them trying to get back at you and you doing what you can to get back at them.

So, don’t try. Never rely on the narcissist or believe what they say. Never confide in them or speak to them more than necessary. This will allow you to keep it light and superficial and minimizes the amount of harm that they can do.

If you happen to be in a personal relationship with a narcissist (parent, sibling, lover) and want to outsmart them, develop an exit plan. Do not tell them. Make sure you have considered everything. Where will you go? Do you have your own money? Do you have extra clothing and personal effects? Then, get into an argument with them and have them either kick you out, or have them break off the relationship. (I have to add, think safety here. I don’t want anyone starting an argument if there is a possibility of physical harm as well.)

Then leave. You have won.

It is only by making them believe that they left you and they came out on top that they will let you go easily. In their minds, you will try to get them back. So, they are much more likely to leave you alone. They will wait for you to come crawling back, which you have no intention of doing. They have lost you and you no longer provide any emotional nourishment.

Congratulations!

My book, "The Narcissist Survival Guide" is now available.
My book, “The Narcissist Survival Guide” is now available.