Episode 29 The Golden Child and Scapegoat Dynamic
Miriam is doing a Family Dynamics Series and the week’s episode is about The Golden Child and the Scapegoat in the Family, these are two roles that siblings can take in a dysfunctional family.
ABOUT THE HOST
Miriam is a Certified Trauma Informed Coach, an African, a mom of three daughters, a blogger and writer. After graduating from the London School of Economics, she built her international career in the fields of banking and international development, working for organisations such as the World Economic Forum, Lombard Odier Private Bank, JP Morgan, the Mastercard Foundation and the United Nations. She now uses her passion for psychology and dedicates her time to coaching others to free themselves from the burden of childhood trauma. Her wish to help other women connect to their inner wisdom, love themselves and follow their passion. In her effort to destigmatize mental health and normalize mental health conversations in black communities, she wrote her memoir about surviving childhood and finding her worth.
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Hello, my dear listeners, I hope all of you have been doing well. So today is Episode 29, still in the family dynamic series, and it's titled The Golden Child and escape good. These are two roles that kids can be attributed in a dysfunctional family. And it's very destructive. So I took a break from the podcast, because I was digging deep into this topic brought up a lot of stuff for me. But I'm better now so I can talk about it. In the end, I'm really grateful for this podcast, because it's helping me here. Yeah. So let's, let's get into it. So first, I will tell you what a golden child is. And then what escape good is and the relationship? And then some of the consequences of growing up in this way? To start with, why did I choose to focus on this? Because I'm directly concerned by this topic, right? I'm really, really directly concerned by this topic. In a family where you grew up with a narcissistic parent, the parent attributes, roles to the kids. So it depends on the level of narcissistic personality disorder of the parent. So if it's really severe, abuse can be severe, right, favoritism between siblings can really be really, really big, the gap can be very big. So it really all depends. And the roles can shift. So one person can have a role of the golden child, and then then that shifts to then another time in another situation, they become the scapegoat and, and like that. And in some families, it's always the same people have the same rules. Yeah, from childhood. But let's remember that this is not the children's fault, because they come into the world ready to be loved by their parent and everything but our parents, and it doesn't happen because the parent who is a narcissist put their needs in front of everyone else's, and rearranges the family system to fit their needs. And then they feel a need to be in control of what's happening in the family. And sometimes even having kids in the first place is a way for them to feed their grandiosity. So the role of the golden child, the golden child is really how it sounds like it's the favored child. It's the it's the child that the narcissistic parent we choose to shower with love, but it's not really just a little bit of favoritism. It's like extreme levels of February autism, where everything the child does is fantastic. The child cannot do anything wrong. If they make mistakes, these mistakes are brushed under the carpet. Everything they do, they're so talented. They're the best. They're so smart. They are the funniest, you know, so the child is is kind of an overvaluation you know, the child is praised for everything overpraise for everything they do, they do. Often the narcissist chooses the child that will become the golden child based on the fact that they say I can reflect good on them, you know, the child can make them look good on the outside this child maybe is good in school
looks really beautiful or handsome, you know has a special skill is good at music or in a sport. This child shines in the community when sports competitions does a concert so they the narcissistic parent can use that to gloat and have some shine and have a lot of shine even in the community. On the other extreme, we have the scapegoat child. The Scapegoat child is really just the opposite of the golden child. The Scapegoat child cannot do anything right. They are not beautiful. They take all the abuse, the narcissistic parent, we blame them for everything. They cannot do anything right? They can't even if they have the same success as the golden child, theirs will be put down and then they won't have the golden child would be celebrated. For example Inasa 60 parent can say oh, we are we have to stop paying your soccer lessons because I don't have enough money. Need to pay for your sister's violin lessons and pay for your soccer lessons. So it's really a very lonely place. And there's a lot of abuse and sometimes physical abuse, blaming put downs, little sentences here and there on how they look like and they cannot do anything. Right. That's that's really the the basis of it. So how does this impact the relationship, the golden child and the scapegoat or scapegoated child have? Well, most of the time they're enemies or our enemies, it's rare that these kids they get along. Because sometimes the relationship can be toxic altogether. Because most of the time, the golden child, we identify with the narcissistic parent, and sometimes they will even join the narcissistic parent in abusing the scapegoat child. So that's really not the basis of a good relationship. And this rivalry and hostility between the the golden child and the scapegoat child is encouraged through triangulation. triangulation is a tool of communication that the narcissists use to create dissent to create hard feelings between the golden child and the scapegoat child. So it keeps them divided, separated, each believe that the other one hates them are based on the lies of the narcissistic parent, the narcissistic parent triangulates. The goal of triangulation is really to keep control to they have control over what's happening in the family system, that when they triangulate really well, they they the kids don't even speak to each other directly anymore, they speak they both speak to the parent who then feeds them what she wants to feed them right as information. It's also a way to lower the children's self esteem in the way information is presented and to really keep conflict going. So what are the some of the consequences of being a scapegoat or growing up as a scapegoat in a family escaped got a child, we have an altered view of relationships, difficulty trusting others, we internalize sometimes the negative views that are pushed upon
them, leading to excessive self criticism. We have little or no sense of belonging due to never experience if experiencing a safe and stable family life. A lot of damage is done to their sense of self too. And they may be drawn in their later years to romantic partners who are controlling or narcissistic themselves. It's a tangle, it's really that's why we need to talk about these things on here. Because there's a big risk, if you grew up as a scapegoated child to end up in this dynamic that your brain recognizes or to well, of being with the narcissistic partner, the golden child might look like the most favored one. But it's also a very sad position to be in, actually, because when I described it, it looked like the good position. But actually, as time goes on, the consequences are really big for them, because they never learned that making mistakes are okay. Because as human beings in life, in order to grow, flourish, we need to make mistakes because that's how we learn what works, what doesn't work, how does how we discover ourselves. And we need to learn to like, love ourselves, despite our mistakes, forgive ourselves for our mistakes. So that's like psychological safety. But the golden child doesn't learn that because all their mistakes are swept under the rug. So they grew up being terrified of making mistakes. they internalize that making mistakes will not look good on the parent because the love they receive at the end of the day is conditional love. They have to keep playing the role that the narcissistic parent gave them to be able to keep receiving the love and since they were overpraised, so there's a sense of really deep deep emptiness in them because they don't feel they live up to the praise but then but and they also know that if they don't live up to the praise, they will be cast aside by the narcissistic parent. So it's like chasing love that you never receive actually, at the end of the day, both sides. They don't receive the love actually even The golden child doesn't receive the love because they are not love for what they are. It's a projection of the narcissist who put them in their inner role that they cannot escape anymore. They have to keep going in that role. Even if they don't want to, to, to please the parent. And hopefully, at one point they, when they realize they break out of it, the golden child, my fear alone, really very insecure, as a as a person, because they were always praised from the outside, they might then need to receive this praise to feel that they are okay. So it's really insecurity where you chase achievements, you, you're really looking for that, for that thing that will make people praise you, you know, the golden child is not allowed to be themselves. It impacts their sense of identity, they really, really struggle to develop their sense of identity. Most of the time, they don't know who they are, where their story starts and stops and where the story of their family or their mothers or their narcissistic parents start and stop. So they have no sense of self. They don't feel they are in control of their life. They feel like they are an extension of their parent. Yeah. And they struggle with setting boundaries. They struggle with guilt, guilt of sometimes get of seeing the other sibling or siblings being abused or being scapegoated, why they are treated with praise, showered with all the praise. So it's really, because they're still children. So they see that and there's a lot of guilt going on there. And sometimes when they join the parents in abusing the sibling who is scapegoated, and they grow up and they realize it, there's a lot of guilt to have participated in that system. Another form of guilt is when they feel totally inadequate in realizing the narcissistic parents dream. And they feel guilt and shame in not living up to the the parents standards and dreams for them. Sometimes we might wonder if the golden child becomes a Narcissus. I don't know. I didn't find much about that. But I think there's a higher risk for that happening. And sometimes one might wonder what happens
to the golden child when the when the scapegoat leaves the house, right? Where the scapegoat? I think most this stays the scapegoat, even though they are not at home. But the golden child might be scapegoated because someone has to be scapegoated. Why would a narcissist create this dynamic? Because the Narcissus has two sides, right? There's that grandiose, outward looking personality that always looks great. On the other side, the private side where they feel very insecure. So these internal fights these two sides of them, they project it to the outside. So they don't only so far and the others part of themselves that is insecure needs reassurance all the time that they are good. They're they're as grandiose as they think in their mind. And because they cannot stand to, to face the fact that they might not be as shiny as they want everyone to believe. So they create this role, because they think they are perfect, actually, they can do no wrong. They're perfect. So they create this role where you have the golden child, that is the projection of what the narcissistic parent shows outside, and you have the scapegoat. It's the other part of them is what they don't like about themselves. So they projected to the scapegoat. And sometimes you can see that actually the scapegoat is the one that has more skills is more beautiful. Looks more like the narcissistic mother, let's talk about the narcissistic mother, and is the one that we receive much of the abuse because that scapegoat a child remains a narcissistic mother of something they don't like about themselves. So that's how that role is formed. And for people to break out of this, you have to realize what's going on. Okay, so this part I will talk about what I discovered while researching this and why it was so hard for me in the last weeks. So in my family system, so first I was abandoned by my mother, and then when we reunited as I was a teenager and my younger sister too. And so Did she she created this dynamic. And this is something I did not know about, of course, I did not even understand. But she created this dynamic where I was the golden child, because she, she saw that I was already using my performance in school in Cameroon to know my trauma. And when I got to Switzerland, where we move to ice cap using school, because I, I didn't feel any particular connection to my mother. So I still kept using school as a way to cope and feel worthy. That's really it. So my mother, who really didn't take much care about us, we even when we were living with her, realized that I was good at school, and then people were talking about me in our little town. And so she created that dynamic where I was the golden child, and my sister who had the really difficult teenage years, which is really understandable, and about whom many people complained, she became the scapegoat. And so, so at first, yeah, it was just like, she was boasting about me, and things, but she didn't even take care of us. She was like living her life. Going up and down with her friends and posting that her daughter is doing this, our daughter is doing that. And then suddenly, with time, she started the triangulation. Between me and my sister, and we don't, it's really something you have to leave it to know. Because for the life of me, I don't know why we stopped talking to each other because I always had my sister, she was like, the person that was always there. For me, that's the only person that was always there for me was my sister. And the confusion of arriving in a new country. Like we didn't, we didn't see it, I didn't understand it. And I know I tend to blame myself for things that happened when I was a child and stuff but I have to let it go. Because I was still even though I was already a teenager, I just
My mind is not wired like that. I'm not manipulative. So I just couldn't understand that such things exist and people who go through narcissistic abuse they know what I'm talking about. Because you cannot realize this exists until you go through it that people can be the can be set up like that, because we all think we want peace we want love we want to live you know. Yeah, in harmony, and everybody's happy. But some people they are just not wired like that. Their insecurity makes them acts in ways that actually they don't want any peace because it's the they get their narcissistic supply from the chaos from the, from people arguing and ever. Anyways. So back to my sister and I. So the mode of communication became that we spoke to my mother, but we don't we didn't speak directly to each other, except to fight to true blames on each other. My mom didn't hesitate to lie. Tell me how my sister would come and steal money from her wallet. And so she made me like the little soul soldier who would call my sister and say You're such a bad person. How would you steal money from your mother and stuff? And my mother, my sister wouldn't know what I'm talking about. So my sister thought I was crazy. And behind my back, my mom was telling my sister, I was crazy. Every time my sister called her and said, Can you imagine she called me say that I stole your money. And then my mother would be like, Oh, she you know, she's crazy. She doesn't have all her head. So my sister thought I was crazy. Why my mother was the one feeding me on this side. My sister was a thief. And so this lasted for so many years. And I just couldn't understand how my sister like we fought so many battles together in our early childhood. She was abandoned. She was six months old. I was three and a half years old. So like we were always together, and to realize that, that we couldn't get along anymore. It made me so sad. I would I wouldn't even dare to say to what extent because she was the only person I wanted to be close to, you know. And yeah, so that's, that's what happened for years. And what broke this dynamic is that our mother moved back to Cameroon and I moved to Canada, I just needed to escape my family. So I moved to Canada, and our mother moved back to to Cameroon. And then all of a sudden I picked up the phone and call my sister and we talked for one hour. We were happy and laughing. I did it again. So oh my god. We don't need to go to our model to speak and it was so fluid was sold. Nice it was so. So we started speaking more, but not about the past or about our mother. It was kind of really taboo because she was always controlling, using guilt to guilt trip us that we don't love her if we start to try talking about stuff that we back down and then apologize and they're not talking anymore. But some things happened. My mom came and live with me and some things happened that just blew the situation out. Then I realized that she was outright lying about many things, lying to my husband. Sorry, lying to my husband lying to me. And yeah, some I will get into that one day, but a situation happened that really exposed my mother as a narcissistic person. And from there on. We all started talking, I started talking to my sister. And we fact check that we cross check all the stories, and we were so shocked. My sister's husband was shocked. My own husband was shocked. Even my husband was manipulated. My my mom messed up our relationship so much. Anyways. Yeah, so being the golden child, how this affected me was that I was deeply insecure, low self esteem. My mother telling me I will be this director, we come on, we have loads of money. This is still a running joke between my sister and me where she's calling me the hand with the golden eggs, because that was my role like the golden child, right? He said, You're the head with the golden egg, you're gonna lead the golden eggs that save your mother. So she still calls me we laugh about that. So when what I decided when I realized one of these is reject all the rules. I told my mother that I don't, I'm not going to save her. I'm not going to do anything for anyone. I'm just going to leave for me. So now I'm taking my time to heal. My relationship with my sister, it's right up there. We stay talk to our mother. But for me, it's really very hard, because I know she's lying about everything. So it's really tough.
I don't care if she listens to this episode. By the way, I don't think she will. But if she listens, that's her problem. So yeah, so we still cross check our stories because she still lies about everything. And she doesn't know we know. But the thing is, she's a narcissist. That's how she manages to feel safe by controlling other people. So I don't let her control me or have access to my kids, because she already tried to manipulate my children and create that divide between making, you know, one of my daughters was the golden child. And the other one was the scapegoat. Looking back lightly, so but you know, it takes time to put those things in place. Yeah, so not letting that happen in the new generation, healing myself setting boundaries. Healing my relationship with my husband like talking about things, it really, really helps. And talking about this openly. This is such a problem we don't talk about it's so shameful to talk about the mother and criticize the mother. That I felt so much shame for a long time. But I don't think I just, I'm just doing this for people who are, who have been impacted by such a unexperienced to hear from it. It's not to to blame and protect themselves, right? I feel I told a friend on Saturday, I feel like moving from Switzerland to Canada. I became an adult because I had to face my feelings. I had to face my past and I see myself growing stronger into myself every day. So yeah, so that was about it with the golden child and the scapegoat. What was painful was to realize that I tried so much to leave to the image that my mother had projected on me thinking that maybe if I feel these things you would love me by like chasing that love. And so it made me really sad, but it's also really freedom because now I'm not looking for for anything. Yeah, well, so thank you for listening. And hopefully, next week or next two weeks, I will post another episode. Bye for now.
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