When I was a child I knew that my father did not love me. I could tell that he adored my brother, but as soon as he looked at me his face hardened and his eyes became slits full of hate. Initially I thought it was because I was not enough. Not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not clever enough. Then I figured it had to be because there was something wrong with me. Not likeable. Not lovable. In the end I thought it was because of my gender. Not a boy.
It took me many tears and half a lifetime to finally realize that I had never been the problem. It was never about something I was not.
There was nothing that I could have done to make my father want me, let alone love me. The answer in the end was very simple.
My father was a toxic narcissist and I was the narcissistic family scapegoat.
As for my brother, he was the golden child.
The Cast of Characters in a Narcissistic Family
There we were – the narcissistic parent, the enabling parent, the family scapegoat and the golden child.
Far from being unusual, the whole family had been following a totally run-of-the-mill narcissistic family script. No casting call required, we were literally born for the role.
Initially it felt like vindication. There it was, black on white. The article clearly described the narcissistic abuse I had lived through as a child. I had not imagined it. I had been right to say that my father had abused me, and finally I could give it a name.
However, then the pain set in. My soul was screaming – Why?
My life as the Narcissistic Family Scapegoat
Once I understood the narcissistic family dynamics then everything fell into place. I could see that my father had projected his hopes and aspirations onto my brother.
As far as my father was concerned, his son was simply an extension of himself.
Through my brother he would live the life that he believed had been cruelly denied him.
My brother’s wish was the entire family’s command, and there would be serious repercussions for me if the demands were not immediately satisfied.
I was also the victim of projection, but of a different kind.
My father used me as a convenient rubbish bin for all the things he hated about himself. His failures and flaws.
His nasty thoughts and horrible behaviour. It was all projected onto me.
He was continually angry at me, but I never could understand what I had done wrong.
And no wonder, because I had not done anything wrong. It was simply my misfortune to be the recipient of all his self-hatred.
When you are born your family is your entire world. It is your parents’ job to teach you what is right and what is wrong, and how to behave in different situations.
Parents are supposed to love you unconditionally and support you. All this is essential for a child to build their confidence and self-esteem, so that when they finally emerge from the family circle they are ready to take on the world.
However, what happens when your family exists in an alternate reality that is totally unmoored from the world other people inhabit? The gaslighting was constant. It got so bad that I actually believed my father when he said that I was a criminal destined to end up in prison.
3. Narcissistic Rage
The scariest thing, however, were the sudden outbursts of unprovoked narcissistic rage.
I could never be sure what would set him off so I became hypervigilant, constantly scanning the house for danger.
Whenever the smell of cigarette smoke was stronger than usual, I made it a point to disappear because that usually meant he was angry and frustrated.
I also tried not to make any noise, so he would forget that I existed. If I heard raised voices I would hide, hoping he would not find me.
I did my very best to be the perfect daughter, so that maybe he would stop being so angry at me all the time.
However nothing worked.
Every time something went wrong, he would explode at me. When the television broke, it was my fault (“You must have used it without permission!”).
If my brother failed a test, it was my fault (“You were so noisy that he could not study!”). If the cookie jar was empty it was my fault (“You are a pig – you ate them all!”)
It was always, always my fault.
Is there hope for a Narcissistic Family Scapegoat?
It might seem illogical and even improbable, but yes, there is. In fact, the scapegoat is the cast member who has the best chance of building a decent life.
I do not mean that they will not be damaged. It is impossible to emerge unscathed from such insanity.
It has taken me a lifetime to come to terms with the trauma I suffered, and frankly it will always be there, lurking in the background.
However I have now come to the point where I realize that I was actually fortunate not to be the golden child.
I was damaged, but my brother was destroyed, his sense of self totally annihilated. He does not know where my father ends and he begins.
Children need rules and boundaries.
Parents who are overly permissive do not provide the right type of structure for the formation of their children’s character.
My father took permissiveness to pathological extremes. My brother was never subject to any rules. There were never any consequences.
Any whim, however excessive, was indulged. The result was that he never developed empathy or self control, and he is paying the price of that to this day.
So in conclusion, though I would not wish my childhood onto anyone, I was lucky.
I was miserable as a child, but I was able to escape.
I had not lost the ability to love and to show compassion. I was damaged, but I was still strong. I was able to build and maintain friendships, and I also married and had three wonderful children. So despite it all, I got to have a happily every after.