narcissistic family scapegoat

The narcissistic family’s scapegoat: Survival and Recovery

Today’s blog post describes why a malignantly narcissistic parent has to scapegoat a child, why certain children get picked as the scapegoat, the impact of getting scapegoated and how to use therapy to recover from this especially pernicious form of abuse. This article extends recent posts on the roles played in families dominated by a narcissistic caregiver.

Sometimes a client comes into therapy telling horrific stories of the chronic and systematic abuse. They recount how their caregivers criticized, humiliated, hurt, degraded and derided them at every opportunity. What’s made this suffering most destructive is the abuser’s conviction that it was what the child deserved. There is no sense of recrimination, accountability, nor guilt for what they put this child through. Rather there is an inscrutable self-righteousness in their cruel attitudes and behavior towards the victim. Without fail, there is also a concerted effort to keep this abuse private from the world at large. The adult child recalls seeing the abusive caregiver charm people outside the home and keep their demonic cruelty behind closed doors. All the better to discredit the victim’s credibility if they ever come forward to report the abuse.  Welcome to the world of the narcissistic family’s scapegoat.  

Why does a narcissistic family scapegoat a child?

When a family is dominated by a malignantly narcissistic parent a tremendous strain is put upon the family system. A malignant narcissist needs a victim. They are only satiated when they feel superior to and in control over someone else. That makes anyone close to such a person a potential target. In a family system, the collective strain of the malignant narcissist’s need for a victim gets relieved when a single person is selected. The other members can breathe a sigh of relief – psychologically speaking – and join the malignant narcissist in blaming the selected child for all the family’s unhappiness.
If the malignant narcissist has chosen their enabling spouse correctly, then they enjoy unchecked authority in the family. Usually, a child cannot be scapegoated without the implicit permission of an enabler parent. The ringleader of abuse in the family requires that everyone sees things how she sees them. If she sees the scapegoat as the abomination then her partner and other children better agree with her. She uses any means necessary to coerce the enabler parent and the scapegoat’s siblings into agreement. These other parties are enticed by having the favor of the narcissistic parent and deterred by the wrath that will follow if they dissent.
A malignant narcissist loves the sense of power in making others suffer. In other words, they harbor sadistic intentions. They are exquisitely envious of those who do not put them first. Envy is an emotion that drives one to want to spoil the good they see because they do not have it. Lastly, they lack empathy for others. They do not see the fact that their child is suffering as a reason to stop their behaviors.
Chet* was a therapy client. His mother, Nancy, seemed to have cruelty in her heart from an early age. She told her classmates in fourth grade that she had cancer “to get attention”. Her younger brother one time accidentally broke a ceramic doll of hers and was bleeding profusely. Her face turned to a snarl and she screamed at him for breaking it. She became a special education teacher after college and curated an image of a nurturing, patient and kind woman. Meanwhile she would select one student in each of her classes to harass, control, and undermine. At one point her principal brought her up on disciplinary charges for “mistreating” one of her students. She transferred to a different school district and was able to continue her clandestine cruelty against new students. In relationships, she ensnared men into taking care of her monetarily and emotionally while complaining that they never appreciated all that she does for them. She married a man who was passive in their relationship and quickly set about triangulating with her ex-boyfriend. She would yell at her husband nightly that he was not communicating enough with her. His response was to grow more accomodating and ingratiating to her. She decided that she wanted to be a mother and gave birth to a son. Her son – Chet – was willful, loving, good-hearted, playful and tough. She hated him for these qualities. Three years later she gave birth to a daughter – Nathalie – who was much more compliant and admiring towards Nancy.
The arrival of Chet’s younger sister signalled a ratcheting up of Nancy’s scapegoating of him. In therapy, Chet recalled his mother criticizing him incessantly for eating too fast, picking his nose, not using correct table manners, leaving his toys out, and so on. Anything to keep him off-balance within himself. She bossed him around to do chores for as long as he could remember. He recalled one episode at age 5 when he went to MacDonald’s with his mother and sister. After they finished eating their happy meals his mother curtly told him “Throw this away” referring to the whole table’s trash. Chet remembered feeling enfuriated at her entitlement to his servitude and knew he had to protest but in a delicate way. His sharp mind thought he’d fashioned the right response so when he got back to their table he said, “I can’t wait til I grow up and can boss people around.” Nancy responded by snarling and squinting her eyes with a black look of murderousness. She bit off these words in a low barking tone: “How dare you say that I boss you around?! After all that I do for you and this is how you thank me? You are a selfish, mean little brat. Come on Nathalie, we’re going to the car. Chet you sit there.” Chet recalled feeling a searing jolt of shame and wanting to crawl out of his skin. He learned from that moment onward not to speak back – on his own behalf – to Nancy because her retaliations felt unsurvivable.
Scapegoating a child goes against the grain (thankfully!) of most of our schemas of parenting and even humanity. For a parent to go out of their way to blame his or her child at every turn, to revel in the sense of (false) superiority they derive, and to show no remorse is antithetical to the meaning of ‘parent’.
The latin root of the word ‘parent’ is ‘bringing forth’. We can think of parents as responsible for helping their children bring themselves forth into the world. They can do this in a lot of ways. They may notice and celebrate qualities of their child, take delight in the child’s displays of happiness, be available for support as needed, and show interest in what the child thinks, feels, and believes. That names just a few of how a child’s self can be ‘parented’ into the world.
A child who is scapegoated by a malignantly narcissistic parent actually has no ‘parent’ in the true sense of the word. He faces an adversary where biology tells him to expect an ally. More insidiously, a child is prone to believe their parent’s cruelty is their fault. So, the child earmarked for scapegoating faces one of the most unfair of fights. He must cope with the loss of an adult to help him bring himself forth and face the searing psychological torment of thinking he’s at fault for the loss. Thus, a malignant narcissist gets to land her ’emotional punches’ on the child with impunity and great effect.

What makes a “good” Scapegoat?

In my personal and professional experience, children selected as scapegoats – like Chet – usually stand out. They possess a presence that is palpable to others. They often have a keen sense of fairness and instinctively protest injustice. They are perceptive and can see bad character when it’s present. They are often very empathic and care about others’ feelings. They are often protective of people they care about. They can be very intelligent. Most of all, they are tough. The malignant narcissist only chooses a child as a scapegoat who can take it. The former wants to see the child suffer but not so much that they cannot keep hurting them habitually.
Chet recalls one noble act that likely sealed his fate as the child to be scapegoated. Despite his younger sister’s alliance with his mother, Chet felt protective of her at a young age. On Nancy’s birthday, Chet and Nathalie at ages 6 and 3 respectively, made Nancy dinner as a present. In the course of making meatballs, Chet recalls they decided to crunch up some graham crackers and put it in the mixture. As they sat down to eat this precociously prepared meal for a couple of kids, they giggled with each other. Nathalie asked her mother if she tasted anything different. When Nancy said she did not, Chet and Nathalie laughed harder. Nathalie told her mother: “We put graham cracker crust in them!”. Nancy stopped chewing, slammed her fork on the plate, and looked with rage at her daughter. Chet saw this and forcefully exclaimed: “Hey! Stop it! Don’t treat her like that. It was just a joke. Why are you so upset?”. Nancy looked at Chet and seemed to realize she could not continue her planned tirade against Nathalie. Chet felt good that he could stop her abuse of his sister even though nobody stood up for him when he was Nancy’s target.
The courage and protectiveness that Chet displayed, likely made Nancy aware of how much more he possessed than she did. Her systematic abuse of him seemed driven by her hatred of him for being more decent than she could ever be as a human being. She knew that she was governed by the need to be cruel while he was driven by the need to love and protect.

The hellish life of the scapegoated child

A scapegoated child knows depths of private suffering that can only be described as ‘hellish’. They are born with the biological need for care from people who hate them. It is like being thirsty and the only person who has water instead gives you sand – then mockingly laughs. A scapegoated child is attacked for some trumped-up charge, mercilessly punished and then denied appeal. They are constantly invalidated in their perspective. The family’s goal is to convince the scapegoated child that he or she is the sole reason for the family’s unhappiness. The child may come to believe that life is only worth living if he can figure out how to not be who he is.
When a child is cast as the enemy in his own family there is tremendous pressure to turn against himself. The adage – tragically – can apply: “If you can’t beat ’em join ’em”. Except that the scapegoated child has to join in the collective hatred of his existence. As discussed elsewhere, the child fears loss of attachment worse than abuse. At least getting mistreated involves contact.
People who make it through childhood as a scapegoat often have to stow away their awareness of their good qualities. The child must hide his own appreciation of who he is lest he lose whatever connection is available or get abused even worse. The narcissistic parent wants the scapegoated child to believe they are as horrible as they are being told. If the child shows a sense of self-worth or self-possession the narcissistic parent will take this as an affront to their authority. In essence “How dare my child not think he’s as bad as I say he is! He must not respect me. I will make him pay.” To avoid this outcome, scapegoated children develop a set of self-defeating beliefs about themselves. These beliefs keep the narcissistic parent from attacking even harder.

Common beliefs of adults scapegoated as children

Belief #1: “I am physically disgusting.”
Sometimes scapegoated children are more physically attractive than their narcissistic parent. Through no fault of their own, this simple fact about them can roil the parent. As the child meets positive receptions for his or her looks outside the home, he or she may feel a deep sense of fear and confusion. “Why are people saying I’m pretty (or handsome)?”. The child may be particularly wary of the malignant narcissist catching wind of this. He likely knows that something bad happens when others tell him he is handsome etc.
One way to undo the threat posed by his or her good looks is to – unconsciously – distort one’s perception of the bodily self. An otherwise good-looking kid may decide that he or she is fat, has a big nose, too many pimples, has ugly hair, etc. If the threat of reprisal is great enough from the narcissistic parent, the scapegoated child can simply take such distortions as brute facts of his or her existence. It’s not that she thinks she’s fat, ugly, etc. It’s that she just is this way. As uncomfortable as such perceptions are to live with, they are preferable to the cruelty that would ensue by the narcissitic parent who feels shown up. The psychology profession calls this phenomena Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD. Not everyone with BDD was scapegoated in their families of origin, but I do believe it can lead to this condition.
Belief #2: “If I am not being productive, I am worthless.”
Scapegoated children can find the narcissistic parent’s hatred too violent to withstand. One way to cope with the horrific fact that your parent hates you for who you are is to substitute the idea that they hate you for what you do. Making this shift can afford the scapegoated child enough psychological breathing space to go on functioning. The reason is that this strategy offers hope that the parent might have a change of heart if the child can just “do right”. Things do not feel as unfixable.
The drawback to this survival strategy is that the scapegoated child is thrust in to an endless loop of trying in the face of failure. No matter what the scapegoated child tries: do his chores perfectly, buy the narcissistic parent a gift, get good grades, etc., the parent will ultimately find them to be objectionable. In this system the child may redouble her efforts to ‘succeed’ rather than surrender to the horrible reality they face. As adults they may feel ill-at-ease when not doing some activity to ‘better themselves’ in some way or another. Stretches of free time can feel foreboding because the privilege of enjoying their own company was one their parent actively worked to forbid them.
Belief #3:”I am always one mistake away from complete ruin.”
Scapegoated children often feel like their existence hangs in the balance of each moment. Something final, awful and dreadful could happen if they make the ‘wrong move’. A narcissistic parent who has scapegoated the child is already going to find them to be in the wrong. The ensuing onslaught of yelling, beating, or worse is how they terrorize the child. Somewhere in themselves, the scapegoated child knows that their fate is going to be awful: the narcissistic parent is going to thrash them, it’s just a question of when and how. The child must find a way to manage the monumental anxiety they experience in the face of such ongoing threat. One way to do this is to boil down their existence to each moment. No looking forward. No looking backward. Just what’s here right now. The looming dread of what could happen but it exists more in the shadows. The payoff to this strategy – again – is the ability to go on functioning in the face of chronic efforts to destroy their quality of life.
It’s important to note that boiling everything down to the present moment is different from being “in the now”. One can only be mindful when they feel sufficiently safe to do so. A scapegoated child is not afforded the necessary goodwill and space to be present in the mindful kind of way. This is more like taking a snapshot instead of a video. To only look at this moment rather than how they are being treated over time. To do the latter would bring to awareness how hopelessly mistreated they have been and the lack of any viable escape routes.
Belief #4:”I am defective.”
A malignantly narcissistic parent wants to drill into the scapegoat the notion that he or she is inherently defective. If a child is scapegoated from an early age, he or she may feel a deep sense that there is something wrong with them. Objectively, there is so much right with such children and so much wrong with the narcissistic parent but that is not what gets internalized for the child. The child may have natural social grace or a good sense of humor but fear social interactions. They may shy away from making friends and later relationship partners out of compliance with what feels like a fundamental truth about themselves. Similarly, they may be athletically gifted but feel overmatched in competitive situations and unable to utilize their potential.
Belief #5:”I have no skills or talents.”
Scapegoated children are forbidden to know what they are good at. To do so would be to defy the narcissist’s contention that they are good-for-nothing. As stated above, the narcissist would take the child’s possession of their skills or talents as an affront to their authority. Such children grow to know this. This belief protects them from the narcissist’s envious attack. It also protects the child from having something of value – like self-esteem or pride – and getting it ripped away by the parent. Managing such losses is a high priority for the scapegoated child. He or she can only bear so many. A low-level ongoing sense of diminishment is much preferable to the traumatic loss of a cherished sense of themselves.
Belief #6:”If I disagree, I will be hated and exiled.”
This belief is a simple observation for the scapegoated child. They know that if they defy the malignant narcissist’s claims that the child is the source of unhappiness that they will suffer an even worse fate. Scapegoated children are often threatened with exile from the family – and to great unfortunate effect. Despite how torturous the child is treated in the family, the threat of being exiled can feel even worse. Such children learn to present a compliant and agreeable persona to the family members to avoid their hatred and expulsion. The child must police his impulses, reactions, and perceptions to suppress any expression that would be taken as disagreement.
As adults, scapegoated children may find themselves paralyzed with fear when they consider dissenting in work environments or with their partners. Disagreeing with someone brings oneself into the forefront. The act delineates the self in stark relief. It is what allows for ‘dialogue’ in the true sense of the word. Martin Buber would refer to this as the “I-thou” kind of relationship where two subjectivities are brought into authentic contact with one another. A person can feel safe to disagree when they can expect to be received with curiosity, non-defensiveness, and responsiveness. Scapegoated children were not afforded such receptions. Instead they had to hide themselves at all times. The bringing forth of themselves that an act of disagreement requires was simply too dangerous.
This coping strategy can (wrongly) lead the scapegoated child to conclude that he or she cares too much about what other people think. In fact, I hear this a lot from adults who were scapegoated as children. Importantly, we all care what others think about us when we disagree. Some people have had the fortune to believe that others will think good things about them for disagreeing. People who were scapegoated have the misfortune to believe that others will think hateful things about them for disagreeing. I believe that any human being who expects to be hated and exiled by those he needs most would avoid disagreeing. In therapy, the task is not to to shed the concern of what others think of them. Rather, the task is to consider how people today probably think quite well of them when they disagree. So, still care about what others think but find a way to pay attention to the good news that people outside of their family will welcome their perspective even when it expresses disagreement.

Therapy to recover from being scapegoated

Chet was a twenty-something single successful software engineer when he came to therapy. He reported that although he is able to get done what needs getting done at work and has some friends, inside he felt miserable. He felt anxiety and dread at what others thought of him, difficulty knowing what to do in his free time, and a chronic sense of dis-ease in his own skin.
At first, Chet said he grew up in a supportive family. As a therapist, I have found that suffering at the level that Chet experienced usually does not spring from a rosy upbringing. And here went our exchange:
Me: How might your mother react when angry at you?
Chet: Well she would scream at me and slam things down. She’d call me selfish, inconsiderate, and that I don’t care about the family at all. But, I mean, she was right. She wouldn’t have yelled if I wasn’t such a bad kid.”
Me: Chet, there is no way you were bad enough to warrant that kind of abuse.
And so began Chet’s path to recovery from his malignantly narcissistic mother’s scapegoating of him. For individuals who have survived a childhood of being targetedly and chronically undermined in their development, the task of therapy is to bust the myths about themselves they were forced to believe and find it safe to know the truth about themselves – that they are a good and deserving person.
Therapy may begin with client’s identifying ways they are flawed. “I care too much about what others think”, “I can’t stay self-disciplined”, “I am not a good communicator”, and so on. It can be important to acknowledge these concerns while also challenging them. Scapegoated children have no trouble taking responsibility for their shortcomings – the problem lies in taking credit for their strengths. Over time – sometimes significant lengths of time – such clients can come to question their critical view of themselves. They gradually shift the focus of their inner torment from themselves to their families of origin. As this shift takes hold, the client will dare to find less wrong with themselves and look for the source of what feels wrong in their scapegoating family. Often clients who have been scapegoated are very empathic with everyone but themselves. As the legacy of scapegoating gets identified and challenged, clients can direct some of that empathy towards themselves. A massive achievement comes when clients are able to regard their own needs to be as important as others.
In essence, therapy helps client feel emotionally and psychologically safe to do, feel, and be the things that their malignantly narcissistic parent and enabling family members would have seen as an affront to their authority.
*All references to clients are amalgamations of people, papers, books, life that do not directly refer to any specific person.  
Jay Reid is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).  If you are considering therapy to recover from narcissistic abuse please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Comments 75

  1. Hi Jay
    I’m in the U.K., currently having therapy with a wonderful practitioner who diagnosed my (thankfully now dead) mother as having a borderline personality disorder- which I had not previously heard of.
    My mother accused me of being responsible for my Father’s death (I was 9 when he died in an air crash.) She revelled in my achievements- hijacking them for herself -whilst simultaneously demeaning me. She made out that she was such a victim that there was no space for me – either as a child or later as an adult – to have any feelings or needs of my own.
    I am interested in the narcissistic aspects of her behaviour- I believe she herself must have been hugely damaged to have become such a monster. If you could throw any light on how such narcissism develops I’d be really grateful to hear from you. Meanwhile, my appreciation for your informative posts.

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      Hi Ann,

      Thank you for taking the time to share what you have gone through. It sounds like you possess a tremendous amount of capacities and resilience to have endured the chronic and (what sounds like) systematic abusive undermining that you’re mother waged against you. Her taking on the ‘victim position’ is a common tactic of such people because it gives them license to be cruel. They call it ‘offending from the victim position’ in this business.

      As to the development of the kinds of psychologies of your mother’s, I will certainly consider writing a post on this. I have intentionally focused on the consequences of such narcissistic behavior – rather than its origins in the abuser – because as victims of this kind of treatment there can often be an instinctual need to want to understand what made this person turn into such an abusive one. In my personal and professional experience, I have found there to be important benefits to not paying too much attention to what made the abuser this way and focus on the horribleness of what they did to those they were supposed to protect and care for. With that being said, there is a book that I think gets at your question. It’s called ‘People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil’.

      Take good care,

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        1. This is me exactly. Scapegoat . I have one question I’ve always been curious about. Are these narcissistic parents aware they are scapegoating you or is it subconscious and they believe the scapegoat deserves it?

          1. Narciss keep the attention on scapegoat so people won’t see the narciss as the problem. By listening to the Gossip it is easy to take in ,but if people took the time to see the truth (We’re very little people do ), people have too much of their life to live and no time to see the truth, some like the lies ,so gossip lie is consumed as the truth and the narciss continues to be feed On the attention they are looking for that they don’t deserve .
            This leaves the scapegoat as a empty shell with no defense and the abuse continues and narciss is relieved of their responsibility to be a better person. And keep on manipulating people. Oh the poor narrciss,the narciss is poor and dead inside without empathy is the truth 💖

          2. Oh they definitely know. I’m 61 añd her kids are doing her evils and trying to put me in jail now for dv torture and that coddled youngest sadistic abusive son of hers has and he s still stalking me since 7.2017 and monitor my conversations inside my apt and playing over his phone recording. I was 31 my son 1 yr the 1st time that violent abusive submissive daily plastered drunk came at me with a loaded gun to “blow my head off” I was the good kid. They never stop. They kidnapped my baby 1 time I got her back. They did it some how manulipating the court lying then keeping apart. She now has STOCKHOLM SYNDROME. They sadistically abused and terrorized my 1yo baby girl. For no reason and I couldn’t get her back. My parent rights were not taken. I’m desperately trying now to save her from suicide. I feel for you all. I know all of it all of them. They haven’t fooled me for 30 yrs. I can spot them with a word spoken or movement. THEIR A F..ING DANGER TO SOCIETY. I KNOW. HERE 2 TO LOOK FOR…THEY NEVER CRY AND THEY NEVER HAVE ONE CALL ON PHONE NOT ONE FRIEND COMES OVER, WHY…THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT THESE EVIL MONSTERS. IM NOT TALKING ABOUT ASSOCIATES OR FAMILY VISITS AS FRIENDS. …PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR WORDS, PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR EYES, SURROUNDING’S OR BAD THINGS HAPPEN ….AND NEVER NEVER LET THEM KNOW YOU CAUGHT THEM IN A LIE (AGAIN) NEVER…OR YOULL PAY THAT PRICE…TAKE CARE PLEASE…DEBBIE VENTURABEACH,CA

        2. Jay Reid, I just recently discovered after 74 years about scapegoating.
          I realized something was wrong at 10. I started getting some feed back from friends an family who could not believe what a rotten kid I was. Stunned and confused I started sneaking around to listen to my mother telling people horrible lies about me. When I confronted her she got a really stern look on her face and slapped me in the face. So to answer your question “Yes” I seriously believe she knew what she was doing. In her poor demented mind she could not have a social life with having a personal pity party at my expense. I lived on the edge of suicide even into adulthood.
          As a child I was defenseless and very alone as my father never helped me at all.
          My happiest day was when she died.

      2. Hi Jay,
        Your blog posts on scapegoating have been very helpful to me. I’m wondering if you can do an article on emotional reactivity and hypersensitivity in scapegoated children. I understand the basics of why scapegoats tend to become emotionally reactive but I’d like to dig deeper and I haven’t found good resources on the internet for this specific aspect of scapegoating abuse, though there are many resources that include emotional reactivity and hypersensitivity when listing typical traits of the scapegoated child.

    2. Yeah..MY alive MN Mother also exhibits the symptoms of Borderline Personaliity Disorder as well! Forget her going to get therapy. I’m the scapegoat and also a victim of the same disorder. At least im not a MN!

    3. I think it is soul fragmentation. The cerebral diagnostic idea is that it may stem from child sexual abuse. The personality “splits” because the person had something happen to them that made their consciousness maybe even half or fragments of their soul leave their body in order to escape the terror. The person stays like this and what is left inside them is almost or totally hollow . The person becomes like an animated doll, turns evil cuz their soul was taken. Really good at acting though I bet Hollywood attracts them.

  2. Hi Jay,

    Thank you for writing these articles. After ages of searching, these are some of the most validating.

    Do you have any insight on the exile process and effects? The complete exiling by my narcissist father and two brothers has been the most traumatizing part. I was met with legal threats to suppress any signs of my existence. I haven’t been able to find any information regarding this part.


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      I’m so glad you have found these articles helpful. Thank you for raising the process and effects of exiling by the Narcissist and his/her allies. So much is talked about along the lines of the victim going no-contact but often the abusers seek to be done with victim as you describe. What comes to mind is the ‘Discard’ phase in the cycle of abuse (idealization–>Devalue –>Discard) where the perpetrators seek to commit the final wound of complete and utter rejection. The message is meant to be something like this to the victim: “You’re not worth enough to even keep around for the purpose of further abuse.” It sounds like you have a real strength of character/mind to be able to avoid falling prey to this tactic despite its brutality. I wish you continued strength and support as you recover from this undeserved abuse.


        1. Hi Nikki.
          Your post resonated with me because my abusers were / are from my dad and 2 elder brothers.
          This journey is certainly 2 steps forward and one back.
          Since my fathers demise this year, the one brother, whom I had the better (on his terms) relationship with has stepped into our fathers shoes and taken hold of his narcissistic reins.
          I am functioning well all things considered, own family, moved abroad. Have my own life and can ‘keep away’ other than the connection of my unknowingly abused mother. I still struggle with nightmares and ruminating thoughts at times.
          I hope that you continue to get stronger day by day.
          It helps so much to realise that these abusers exist everywhere in every facet of life and that knowledge is gained from hearing from the scapegoat….The chosen one who is actually chosen, I believe, because they are unique and special.

    2. Walk away from them ,my father was highly narciss and programmed and brainwashed them .They bought into the abuse because they benefited from it, so the lie is consumed and the scapegoat trash bin continues.STAY AWAY they deserve each other sh** is Sh** And brings more: they don’t deserve to live on this planet.Be a better person they will only spit in your soup and let them rot in hell they deserve it.

    3. My “mother” also wanted to get rid of any signs that I ever existed and also extended this to my two children.

      1. Hi Caroline,

        My heart feels with you. I am working on and determined to write a book sharing the story. I feel so strongly that, “I have to find the others!” I think a lot of us don’t make it.

        Since my original post, I’ve gone through an Intensive Outpatient Program and a ton of additional therapy. One of the biggest struggles was finding a therapist who didn’t write me off as bipolar when I told this bizarre story. Once I found someone who believed me, it has been an incredible journey.

        Sending you strength and courage through the pain and confusion.


        1. Hello.
          I have just stumbled across this now. I didn’t even know that scapegoat was a thing.
          I am currently, right now, listening to my narcissistic mother, blaming and pointing at me for EVERYTHING that my poor mother and her other daughter has gone through because of me.
          I am currently in therapy due to my upbringing at her hands
          It is sad but also reassuring that there are other ppl out there who are similar and it comforts me to know that I am not the liar, the useless waste of space nor the trouble causer.
          Today, my mother, (after being amiable for some time so that I believed, everything is fine now) is on a rage filled mission to destroy my sense of well being.
          I have recently come out of a domestic violent relationship, and naturally, as loving mother’s do, she told me to stay with her (I’m 44 yrs)
          Now my therapist has found a root of why I fall into DV relationships and now I am witnessing the postulations of my therapist.
          It is both enlightening and unnerving to witness this in real time.
          I have been threatened with being thrown out.
          Also we work at the same place, and steadily making progress to promotion, and get on with all my colleagues and manager.
          I think this outburst of hers has been brewing and brewing . Silly me, my naive part assumed we were good now. My happiness was hurting her all along.

  3. Hi Jay,
    Thank you for the explanations. I have been scapegoated for so long that I don’t know which end is up anymore.
    I am the oldest of 3 daughters and my parents came from Europe. They didn’t speak English, so when I learned to speak I was the one taking care of things. So I have been an adult for too long and I am tired. I was the troublemaker and the pain kid. My younger sister was my mom’s favorite (GC). My baby sister was my dad’s favorite. I knew this, I was not an idiot. My mother died last year and I was the executor of her trust. Not much mind you. I did was I was supposed to do, I was starting to live my life like I wanted FINALLY. Well my sisters didn’t like that and they attacked me and told me that I was changing and I would end up like our mother, alone and bitter. I was taken by surprise. I was changing? What was that about? I was going to concerts, vacations, and just enjoying myself and my family. They both loved it when I did everything for our NARC mother. Dr. appointments, which were many, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, and being her doormat. They liked it because I did things for them as well. I took care of my nephew, free of charge for 4 years, NOT even a kiss my rear. My family was on hold while we took care of the little guy. I love him as my own. I still did things for my parents too. The other sister, I did all sorts of things for her too. I did not expect anything in return. I just wanted to keep the peace and make everyone happy. Well, now I have been going to therapy for myself. I was so scared that I am a NARC, like my mother. I now know that I am NOT. I was the SG for my whole life and that my parents made is so that my sisters abused my in the same way. I am finally standing up for myself and the two of them told me I was full of it. To grow up and get over it. How am I to get over it? My mother abused me and I am NOT ok with it. I was there to take all the abuse and I shielded them from it. I guess I was a strong kid but now I am tired and I see that I deserve to be happy. Sorry for the rant I just needed to vent. I have been journaling and it has helped me tremendously, but sometimes I just need to vent more.
    Thank you again.

  4. Lee, I wish you happiness.

    I have survived a similar past. Your mom targeted you, but the whole family knowingly benefited. I am not sure which is worse, the person who hurt you or the many who allowed you to pay the price for them.

    When you speak up and say “no more” you are ruffling the feathers of a toxic family dynamic. You are supposed to keep their secret.

    May you have the strength to live your life without letting the others keep you in your role of scapegoat.

    I recently escaped a toxic family where I was the scapegoat. I am learning that I shouldn’t feel guilty for being happy. I find peace in knowing that going no contact means Peace.

  5. Hello Jay,
    Thank you so much for this article. I was the scapegoat in my family for over 5 decades. My mother is a covert narcissist. My life until about 3 years ago was getting so unmanageable due to my denial and flat out not believing that she didn’t and couldn’t love me. I finally went completely no contact with her. For years she belittled me, lied on and to me, betrayed my trust so many times i cant count. I no longer could keep trying it was literally killing me. I have health issues such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I’ve also had Thyroid Cancer, fibromyalgia, etc… This has not been easy at all especially because now that I’ve gone No contact with her she has turned my adult children against me by playing the victim . Its incredibly hard to watch her manipulate my children. As i am healing, i need to know how to respond to the “forgiveness” questions and the “You know she wont be here forever” announcement. Or should i accept that they probably just wont understand and place my energy into myself?
    Thanks in advance for letting me rant. I really needed to.
    Renee M

    1. Hi Renee,

      I am in a similar situation and I try to remember that my daughter will understand how abusive her grandparents are when she gets older, my grandparents were also abusive to their children yet I didn’t see that because they were always so good to me and I didn’t want to believe that anything was wrong with them. As I got older I started putting the memories together and with adult insight I was able to finally see the truth about them. It was hard for me to accept but I do accept it now. Stay strong.

    2. Narciss destroyers of family’s my father tried to turn my Children against me I put an end to that .I tell my children everyday I love them and keep them dear to my heart.The narciss I went no contact I told him to get the f**k out of my life there was dead silence like empty space then when I asked him are you there and he said I don’t deserve my mothers house .And I said to him I took care of her 24/7 and I said bye and hung up the phone.He lived 7 years after that ,an died.Everyday it is part of the healing I say I am glad he is dead and praise my mother.Thank God for mother’s. I am healing with time and no contact with my fathers family because they are a creations of him and any flying monkeys etc. Part of the healing I tell some people I suffer from AsHs and the people ask ,what is that?
      I suffer from a** Holes

  6. Hi Jay,
    Thanks so munch of your sharing in this blog. I am just now recovering from a narcissistic father attachment…I am 42. Could you recommend me some book in order to I can reach a deep healing on this. Thanks in advance.

    1. Post

      Hi Albert,

      Thank you for the feedback. I am glad you found the post helpful. I can recommend ‘Psychopath Free’ as a book that details the process of recovering from some of the abusive tactics employed in narcissistic abuse. The title may seem like it’s not relevant, but I believe that the process of recovery the author describes is very applicable to narcissists too. Best of luck in your process.


  7. Hi just wanted to ask why would the narcissistic parent actively work to forbid the child of enjoying their own company? Interesting article, scary but makes sense.


    1. Post

      This is how I would understand why the parent would actively interfere with the child’s connection to himself. Good question, too. A narcissistic person feels very vulnerable to envy and humiliation. They may only able to function when convinced themselves those closest to them are not worthy of their envy. They look at the world and relationships as a question of ‘how much do I have and can I get (relative to everyone else)?’. If such a person sees their child enjoying his own company and seemingly not vulnerable to the same kind of envy and scrambling to feel worthwhile as the narcissist feels, then the parent’s envy can get evoked. Once this happens they may try to pollute the child’s experience of themselves so that they do not have to feel envious of him or her.

      1. Hi Jayreid,
        After spending my life so far to become worthy of my mother’s and sister’s (Narcissist and gc respectively) if not love then just respect, at 37, I feel betrayed by the Trojan horse as I call it – the worst kind of betrayal coming from my own family. Having felt the severity of this betrayal, most things in my life have lost their meaning for a while now. It’s for my toddler son that I wish to pull my self together and not let him down but it’s proving very difficult.
        Do you have any advice on where to make a start?

        1. I’m so thankful for all your posts. This deseise, is so devistating to have to live within it being the scapegoated one… I grew up with a absoloute control Freek, a real monster of a mother, and a father, that was kind , sweet, whom loved me dearly,but she tortured him till he couldn’t stand it any longer for any and all shows of love or affection that he gaveto me .. He worked his a**off making millions in his own business, that he ran with my two brothers ( older, I am the baby if 5, & 1 died right before my birth) my mother was a horriable narrcissis! She belittled me from the age of 4-5 , as long as I can remember actually,but, she was extreemly careful whom she did it in front of so as to keep her ” innocent acting,
          and fake identity well hidden from actual view ” looking so in control and as though she was the one telling the real truths.. She literally tortured my father his entire life, he worked so hard to give her everything she could possibly ever want, .. and, she actually refused to even allow him to own a key to his own house ( that he built, even. .) All of my older siblings were raised to be important and treated as such at all times, I was the youngest, and i never understood why, but I had been completely keep separated from ” them” and I do mean completely seperated too…from my birth forward. ( I’m 60 now…) She did do nice things for me in my younger days ( I was very tall, slender, well dressed, and very well liked by just about everyone I met. But, she was extreemly controlling, to the point that she would pull all my friends aside and tell horrific stories about me to them, and would use such manipulating vices to gain their loyalty from me to her… taking all my friends away from me with her money ( quite wealthy) and her connections with the respectful business leaders of the town,… and the movers and shakers of the town we lived in. She offered huge sums if cash to my husband’s if they would “take the money and leave me and go find a nice girl ( as she put it…) That could be the good and deserving wife they “deserved” . She lied to me about just about everything age ever spoke to me about. ( I had no idea either untill the last 10 years , when things had finally escalated to a point that I could no longer denigh to myself that the gaslighting, and home break-ins, the hidden cameras and microphone’s I was finding in my so called private “homes” I lived in , that were obviously keeping her well informed of my every move…. along with the constant punnushments I was enduring fur not being what she demanded me to be, which included constant thefts of my belongings, the murdering and torture of my innocent little tiny pets ( super small Yorkies) and some precious little kitties too…. * I have had 10 beloved pets murdered and literally tortured , cut into pieces and body parts scattered all over my yard, rocks thrown over my 6 foot fence that struck them leaving them suffering , .. unable to move , mortally wounded , untill I returned from my shopping trip when I would immediately realize, they were not at the door to greet me, and I would drop everything and rush into my back yard to look, for them… where I would find them.. one had a shattered skull, one had a broken back , literally severed spine… One was simply missing altogether… Never to be found. I wept and wept with out any control.. she had earlier in my life, paid a local doctor “cash”under the table so to speak, ( the only way I know this, is because a long time family friends girl- friend worked in the doctors office as her financial and bookkeeping employee, she actually witnessed the visit made by my mother to this doctor just days prior to a surgery I was scheduled to go through, she talked to my family friend about the visit
          that evening after her work day had ended, and the about the money paid, then that friend called me to speak to me. ) I ended up, with not just the simple ” tube cleaning ” surgery I was scheduled to have, which had to be done, ..but, I woke up in the hospital and found out I had no uterus . All she said was..” I have enough grandchildren , and I don’t want any more! ” And she walked out. My siblings and I have never been close. I’ve never been invited to any if their homes “ever” for even a “meal” or lunch or just a bit if time spent to get to know me better… never.. not once! I only went to the very uncomfortable holiday meals with my parents because they insisted I attend. I was never given a place sitting at the adults meal table however, ( very rarely did it happen ) I was always sent to the young children’s “card table” for these meals, even if, my husband was older then my oldest brother was, and owned his “own” corporation that was successful in our town too..we… Sat at the card kitty table….. my mother used my beauty, to hurt others with too.. it finally made me not want to be pretty any more.. and I let myself go. ( my sister, and neices.. and, I , honestly had no idea of the depth of this little game she was playing behind my back. . but, I adored my young neices, I always took Xmas gifts to them in Xmas Eve when they were young abdcwoukdckeavevthe gifts outside on their steps… I loved them, the children, even though, it was made very clear I was to stay away from them and never attempt to even visit. I was “not” wanted around any of my family members . Period. I believed, my father was innocent, for most of my life, but, in the last 10 years, it became very obvious by his own cruelty toward me ( that “he too” had never really been on my side either … I had seen the proof of it in the past 10 years … ) he had been just as envolved as she was , from the very beginning. I had been told, by so many people in my town, of the horrific way my mother had spoken to them in person about “me” and I will quote one aquaintences I met that told me himself exactly what my mother had said.. I’ll just put it in “his” words summing up the overall conversation my mother had with him: earlier in a chance meeting of my mom…he said: I can honestly say, I’ve never in my life, heard any mother ever speak such truly rotten things about her own daughter as yours did about you. And I’m so sorry, I know, your nothing like the person she described you as being, you do not deserve the way your treated by those people, they are just money and power mongers, and think their *hit don’t stink, … Your the best one of all if them all put together. Don’t let them destroy you… End of quote. My most beloved husband ( the one that really loved me, was killed on a dirtbike in 1999. I have stayed single, and alone ever since. (22 years now ) Grieving…. Ever since his death… I have no kids, and no husband, and all my friends have ended up walking away or sucumbing to my mother’s power and influence, and they did things to hurt me that I cought them red handed doing to me, hurtful hurtful things … Robbing me of my most beloved possessions. Simply, a crime. I walked away. Because I honestly , I hate a thief more then just about anything! I’m fully disabled from a accident I was in in the mid 90’s. I can get around, but not without great and severe pain. And, of course, my mother destroyed my relationship with my doctor so as to keep him from giving me the medications I had been issued for over 12 years for the pain. The medications kept vanishing, and yet “she” always had plenty of the exact same medication. ( Without a script ….. ) My life, has been a struggle all my days, just to feel any real “love” . She controlled my first 3 marriages with her money and it destroyed the relationships I had… But the last marriage was so powerful, and so real. He was “true blue” and he told her … Exactly where she could go to get off his life and happiness cloud he shared with me. He was killed 4 weeks later. After telling her that … She seized 95 % if All of his insurance money from his job insurance policy… Almost a million. And I was kept from knowing about any if it. Untill , fairly recently, and my father, finally admitted to her taking it as well as all my possessions, my jewelry, ( including my wedding rings , private gifts from anyone I had been given by relationships that cared about me in my entire life.) My father passed away this last fall, I was not told untill late in the afternoon, and I was kept from going to the funeral. My mother, played it like always, blaming my siblings.. whom, have not even spoken to me in over 4 years now and refuse to even take my phone calls now. The home , I’d lived in for over 18 years, that my father provided me, ( we picked it out togeather) last spring, I was tricked into moving out of with promises for a complete replacement that I was again tricked into believing… I was shown only a few homes to choose from, and 8 chose the one I was intended to choose too …. I did want to live there, but I had no idea the cruelty I would endure fur moving to that home… And I live with it every day now. No getting away from it… . my mother bought it with the promise that when my home sold, my money would pay her back and this townhome would be mine. I am now living in her townhome. Without any written proof of any of the verbal promises that were made to me.. nothing. No written anything to give me any Rights whatsoever.. not anything! I can’t even get a damn rental agreement! My father insisted there be a trust set up for me to be able to survive on after he died, but, my siblings are the exuctutor’s, and they are taking everything I own from me, with medical lies and stretched truths being told to medical personnel, to do so. ( I have doctor’s and many nurses in my family too.. that hate me as well. ) I simply, have lost everything now. But, I just don’t care anymore. It’s just “stuff” … Not things that really mattered, ( except for the souls if the innocent pets)
          if you really want to know how I see it.. ..I’ve just finally “had enough” ….! Enough of the games, the lies, the thefts, the pet murders, the losses and stress of all the neverending crimes and home break-ins …..they have even stolen all of my photographs of my deceased husband .. and I have only 3 pictures if him now . I’m tired of being all stressed out all the time by all the thefts. These people are so very cruel. So , very cruel.
          But, I can’t change them . Nor will I try too. I’m not like that. Never will be. I just can’t, they will never stop doing this to me… Reguardless of my behaviors…. I can “clearly” see that now. and I , no longer even care to try. Please, forgive, I’m Sorry about my rant, but my life is a living nightmare…. Day to day week to week, month to month.. year after year… I just can’t and now at this point, “won’t” give in and do as my father finally did, and cave into the demands for me to be what they want… Which, is… so far removed from the person I actually am.. it seems. All I ever wanted was to be loved for being ” me” .I guess, that was the problem. I came into this world “bought and paid for”… Sadly,. Please understand, . I’m not perfect, not by a long shot! …. I’ve made huge mistakes in my life, I’ve been a wild child and done things I am not proud of doing… But, I am strong. And I will remain… Just me to the end. Untill I have nowhere to go. But out… and off this rock…. Thank you for “all” your words of encouragement , and all of your shares, that you all have given, please know, it’s not that I’m glad that a single one of you all have suffered this kind of abuse too… As I have… As I am not glad at all . , but, it has given me an added strength to know, there actually “are” others that have been scapegoated , traumatized, and damaged … too .. and I am “not” the worst person on this earth as i have always been made to feel like I am. …. Bless each and every one of you, my best hopes are with you all. .. Your all “rockstars” in my book. !!! Namaste’ Dee.

  8. This article checks all the boxes in terms of describing my family dynamic around me.
    Both of my parents were complicit in maintaining this dynamic. And, my feckless siblings cowerd to her demands, lest they trade place with me. I was a vibrant, creative, social, popular and talented kid. I was blamed for everything. . . even things I had nothing to do with. I’ve heard the saying, “only the healthy ones get out,” and I think that’s absolutley true.
    It’s been many years since I have had any contact with my entire family. It was the ONLY way I could find to “detox” (yes it is a form of detox), help myself get on the road to health, both mental and physicial. As a mother, I also saw that my narc mother was also beginning to ply her maglinant behavior toward my daugher (first grandchild), which I would NOT allow in any way. That really set the beginning of the end as my mother felt it her right to keep the cycle of harming going. While my kids grew up without grandparents, I would not subject them to this toxic and very demented dysfunction. I was determined not to repeat the cycle, nor let my mother do so either.

    1. Post

      Thank you for sharing your story. I think the metaphor of detox in recovery from the scapegoat role is right on the money. You seem to have shown tremendous strength and will to protect yourself and your child from this vicious cycle of abuse.

    2. Hi Debra! Your post was spit on with my experience with my mil. My husband realized her bad behavior would affect our children negatively and put down firm boundaries that she found very offensive. 20 years later I am so glad he did. She had me convinced he was unjustly targeting her because he wanted to get revenge on her because his childhood wasn’t “the best.” Lol. Anyway a malignant narcissistic doesn’t change and when the seldom times she was around our kids alone (mind you this was very rare) she would begin triangulating them and trying to cause a division among them (3 girls 1 boy). It’s so disgusting to know a person is such a person, but this lady just could not help herself. My kids detest her thank god! She tried to emotionally steal our oldest from us when she was young, so I can only praise your instincts to keep your kids away!!!

    3. Debra and everyone else who was the “Scapegoat,” YES – In order to heal to become healthy YOU MOST CERTAINLY HAVE TO GET OUT. I am now 50 years old and I finally cut them out of my life and I am starting to heal. All of us have so FUCKING much in common! I could never find the right “term” or thing that described my mother. It finally happened when I started to see my current therapist, finally. So many years lost that I can never recover. There is a truth about us that is very real, we aren’t just tough but laugh at Nightmare Fuel. What we’ve gone through is Hell visited on earth. We aren’t just tough, there isn’t a definition suitable how we have surpassed that term.

      To anyone whose reading, STAY AWAY and when for example you have a parent who’s degrading and everyone keeps asking you to go and see that parent, go back to the above sentence. The Malignant Narcissist could not be allowed without the Implicit Permission given by the other parent. Always remember this when you feel guilted into returning. You owe absolutely nothing. People who did not live like us cannot fully understand no matter what you tell them. In order to understand, you have to actually experience this and that is one of the worst things about this. You can try showing them with Role Playing but they’ll never know or feel what’s it like to feel and experience Hell being alive. For the rest of us, always know you’re not alone – this site serves as proof you are not alone. All of us need help and I fully and readily admit that about myself. Soul-Murdering is the best and most fitting description I have found thus far.

  9. This was validating. I lived my entire childhood with a dangerous malignant narcissistic mother and a narcissistic father, they were both “only children” that coupled, and had four kids. I was the “middle child”, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that dynamic. My evil Mother was the only child of a possible narcissist, she was an only child, and her Mother didn’t give her an inch of love. Her Mother however, adored me. I always figured that’s why I was the target of her hatred. I was everything her Mother wanted in a Daughter. My Mother hated that. She beat me all my life, every chance she got, out of anger. She told me she hated me and wished I’d never been born. Any time I had an upset as a child, she asked me what had I done to cause it?
    She never touched my siblings, or said an angry word to any of them. They don’t remember her treating me differently, they don’t acknowledge my existence. When I turned 18 she came into my bedroom in a rage and started beating me with her fists. I grabbed her wrists and looked her in the eye, and told her if she ever hit me again, I would hit her back.
    She never hit me with her fists again.
    I didn’t have kids because of her, I was too afraid I might be like her. Now it’s too late.

    1. Your parents sound strikingly similar to mine. Both were dangerous narcissists and there are some indications that one or both parents came close to “accidentally” allowing something deadly to happen to me. For example, balancing me on the railing of a two-story-high ship under full speed, whereupon the captain got on the bullhorn and screamed at them to “Get that child off the railing!” The only reason I knew about this incident is because Mommy Dearest would tell that “funny” story to me at times, along with other horrific “funny” stories.

      I was the firstborn to two adult “babies of the family”, born SEVEN years into their marriage, to FIX it. When my birth temporarily broke it up, she blocked a safe, loving and stable aunt and uncle from adopting me, so she could use me to force my thieving, abusive father back into the marriage. BOTH of them scapegoated me from that point on.

      Here’s what I’ve been able to figure out about the origins of my viciously malignant mother’s narcissism.

      She was the (literally) golden-haired, blue-eyed child and at one point went to an Indian reservation school. I suspect the white teachers fawned over her to the detriment of the Native American students, and undoubtedly she was flaunting her supposed “superiority” as a white child, Her father was her mother’s second husband; there was an older girl from the first marriage who caught Mommie Dearest’s father’s eye.

      The filthy monster raped the older girl on a regular basis, according to a confession Mommie Dearest FINALLY made decades after she’d sent me to live with the monster every summer vacation from when I was 6 years old. It appears that the older girl even had to have a back-alley abortion, likely performed by her rapist (my grandfather), as the older girl could never have children once she’d grown up.

      I was born looking like the older girl – the one who’d taken Mommie Dearest’s daddy’s affections. Both parents were extraordinarily infantile, demanding that first I and then my younger brother and I effectively parent THEM by doing most of the household chores (I was vacuuming the house and doing the laundry when I was 10 and my brother was doing all of the yardwork by around the same age, later on). They showed astounding levels of self-centered dishonesty, like dad sitting in one of his sister-in-law’s brand new car and demanding that HE get the car or he wouldn’t get out of the car after he’d been demobbed after WWII. He wasn’t in a combat position. Apparently the military spotted his selfish, childish behaviors early on.

      Then when the idiot decided to sell his ranch because it was making him “depressed”, after a few years of working for someone else, he went to the guy who’d bought the ranch and INSISTED the guy GIVE it back. Not pay for it. Not buy it back. No, the freaking imbecile insisted the guy GIVE the ranch back, because it was his “Christian duty” or some insanity like that.

      In BOTH cases the vicious narcissist parents were NOT the scapegoated children. They were the preferred children, pampered and viewed as more valuable by being “the baby”, the “golden-haired girl”, and as the babies they weren’t expected to work as hard as the older children. They both came from dysfunctional families (Daddio’s parents were always fighting), but were somewhat sheltered from the abuses being heaped upon the older children. So that’s the source of those two narcissistic monstrosities. Not that being the “baby” of the family predisposes people to become narcissistic. It appears that it is the favored child in an abusive family that is most likely to become a viciously narcissistic monstrosity, later on.

  10. I met my Fiancé 2 years ago. My Fiancé’s Mother is a narcissist and she’s sadistic. I’m not throwing those words around. She is evil! His sister is the Golden Child. He was also molested by his Dad when he was a young boy. His Mom tells him he’s horrible, selfish, and like his Dad. His Mom tried to physically come after me when I took up for him one time. My fiancé stood in front of her and told her to sit down and to leave me alone. His sister won’t have anything to do with him anymore, and it is very difficult for him. He wants her validation, even more than he wants his Moms validation.

    My Fiancé is the most honorable man I have ever met. He is completely opposite of the horrible things his family says about him. When I first met him he would ask why I wanted to be with a monster like him. I would tell him he’s not a monster at all. It breaks my heart to see what his family does to him. I tell him how great he is! He’s such a good man and he’s great with my kids.
    I can’t say enough about his heart and love. I accept him just like he is, and he accepts me for who I am.

    He’s tells me he’s ready to. walk away from his family and have no contact with them. I support him and believe he should go no contact. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I can be supportive of him. I think I might make things worse or make him feel bad sometimes. I never say a negative word about him. He knows I love and accept him unconditionally. I’m cautious about saying anything. Do you have any suggestions about what I should do and say? How can I make him feel better and let him know he’s not who his Mom says he is?

  11. So I’m very glad to have found your post. I’ve read so many but it’s like you were there detailing everything wrong in my childhood. The abuser was my mom with flying monkeys added to the mix. I’d tell you everything but you pretty much summed up a lot of it in the post. Recently I’ve found that whenever I entertain the idea of thinking about what I went through I shed a psychological layer of allowing disrespect from others, I feeling at peace and understanding myself more. Almost like I’m being cured by reliving it in my mind and not letting it affect me currently. But I know it won’t be as good as a professional helping me. After all these years I finally feel I’m ready to talk to a professional about it. I used to not want to wallow in self pity but I’m not going to care if others think that’s what I’m doing, I’m not going around just telling people, but I suspect some people I know may think I’m feeling sorry for myself but I don’t care, I have to look after myself. I believe I deserve to feel sorry for myself/my inner child for a while, to not be ignorant to my suffering with the aim to try to move on. People talk about forgiveness and letting go as if it’s easy, it’s really not. But first I know I need to go through the process and feel the pain with a professional who will help me heal afterwards. Thank you for reading this

  12. Thank you so much for this. For years I suffered terribly at the hands of my narcissistic mother (and bullying, tyrannical father who we later found out was leading a secret double life). I was the oldest of three girls, and the scapegoat child. My mother undermined me in every way she could throughout my childhood, teenage and early adult years. She loathed my (wonderful) husband, the only person who has ever championed and supported me, and did everything she could to stop our wedding. It took me until my late twenties to recognise her behaviour, and my thirties to walk away. Sadly by then, she has developed a relationship with my very young children. She has showered them with adoration and gifts (as they are still young enough to be pliable and deferential to her bidding) – my husband was uncomfortable with this from the beginning but it took me longer to realise this was not the typical generosity of a ‘normal’ grandmother, it was manipulation and love bombing at the highest level. I have finally managed to walk away from my toxic family – although my mother continues to send me manipulative letters and ‘I love grandma’ t shirts to my kids – which I hide away with no idea what to do with them. My question is – how do I explain to my children – particularly my oldest who is 5 but had my mother in her life for the first 4 years of her life – what has happened? I don’t want to traumatise her or ruin her faith in people or ability to trust. I’ve tried to be as upfront as I can in an appropriate way but these are huge, complex issues for such a small child. I don’t know what to do. She asks almost daily to see her grandmother – and while I have never felt happier for finally escaping my narcissistic mother’s clutches – I’m at my wits end knowing how to explain this situation to my daughter.

    1. Give the shirts away. Put them in a red cross bin.

      Tell your children that grandma hurts Mommy and Daddy, and that she is not a nice person. She hates Mommy and you need to keep them safe from mean people.

      Don’t feel guilty about breaking the bond. When guilt comes around, just remember any one of multiple assaults against you.

      Tell them the truth, in ways that they will understand. Kids aren’t as stupid as people think they are.

      It gets easier.

  13. JAY, thanks for your insightfulness, which is helping me in the long journey ahead out of the scapegoat role. Added to your expertly honed descriptions, my parents are “born-again” Christians. Their pernicious tendrils have sucked the life out of me for 59 years. I want my 60th year to be one of freedom from their malignancy. Thanks again for all your posts.

    1. I had a similar experience, having been raised by a covert narcissist who is also a ‘born again’ Christian. Her religious extremism was used all of my life as a basis for scapegoating me, the child she considered inherently evil, sinful, morally wrong, disobedient to her parent, and certainly ‘condemned to burn in hell’ because I didn’t believe exactly the way she did. Constant fear mongering about the ‘end times’ being right around the corner and the urgent need to ‘get right with Jesus’ (meaning adapting her belief system) is still a big part of her attempts at communication with me. After 50 years I simply won’t tolerate it anymore, which she of course views as a rejection of not only her, but of everything right and good and worthwhile in this world. It’s so twisted and sickening! She is 70 years old now, and with each passing year her ideas just harden and her fear and hatred of the world grow stronger. I’m still learning to protect myself and heal, an ongoing process. Thank you for mentioning the religious side of this problem that can manifest into another bludgeon to attack the scapegoat child with.

  14. Hi Jay,

    My mother is a narcissist, malignant I think. For years I have doubted myself but there has definitely been a pattern of upset and normal, and it is this pattern that tells me that I shouldn’t doubt myself. I have also learnt, better late than never not to share any joy/achievement with my mother because it has resulted in my spirit being broken quite badly.
    She has always criticised every little thing I have done to the point where now I will totally disregard anything she says even though it may be useful for the fact that I don’t want to lose my sense of self. Seriously there are soo many examples of the criticisms, it is unbelievable, yes there are a few compliments but I think these are just thrown in to throw me off guard. Honestly looking back there have been so many criticisms I am surprised it has taken me this long to notice the pattern of criticisms. There are also times when I think you have never been there for me when I have needed you, so why should I take your offerings of help now? When I ring my mum she answers in this proper disapproving tone that implies get it over with! Or what?! that makes my heart sink a little, yet she will at times ring me joyfully and want to know what me and my daughter are up to?There is an expression that you can read a face and there are times when I have been scared by this face. How can I heal myself and recover, I am based in the UK, do you offer a telephone consultation?
    Also the disagreement belief holds very true to me, the other day I asked a colleague something by implying something and when she disagreed it sort of hit me hard. On the way home I kept thinking it over and over in my head if I had done something wrong by her disagreeing with me, would she laugh at me,/think badly of me/laugh at me etc, I eventually told myself that we are free to say what we wish, but I think it was more about the fact that I have always agreed with people (outsiders) and when I said something and somebody disagreed I think it was a shock! How can I improve my way of thinking here?
    I can’t go completely no contact but have decided to limit contact, if I limit contact will my life still improve compared to no contact.
    I have decided to set some boundaries and I really do hope to stick to them!
    Also is there anyone out there who has positive stories of how they have come out the other side?
    Sorry Jay and others if I have rambled on a bit in this lengthy post!

  15. The worst part is that people don’t understand. The full damage of the malignant narcissist mother to the scapegoat daughter is inexplicable to anyone who has not experienced it.
    There was being beaten up regularly for no reason and various highly traumatic incidents, but also mom’s psychological abuse which I cannot describe because it will just sound like I am badmouthing my own mother. She kept it up day after day, insults, humiliations, slander, manipulation, hurting me deeply, without my two brothers noticing, and changed into a sweet angel in front of friends and family. Now I am 60 and my mom’s entire family believes all sorts of ghastly lies about me. I fled mom and her family 20 years ago, but the rare necessary contact has been abusive from all of them. They do not acknowledge anything strange about mom, not even the most bizarre things. My older brother, golden child and also a narcissist who joined in the abuse during my childhood, has a view of her which is complete fiction. He has been completely brainwashed.
    I try to forget about all of them, but it makes me so unhappy to think so many people think I am a monster, including ex friends and colleagues whom mom had literally contacted to slander me.
    My daughter says I keep people at arm’s length, and I know I am scared of finding myself trapped in an abusive relationship again.
    The damage never stops, long after the narcissist has passed away.
    I can honestly say I never hated her, I just felt resentment and revulsion, and four years after her death I started feeling sorry for her. I believe she could have been in a lot of emotional pain.

  16. The intellectually evident double standards which apply to the narcissist and the victim can be obvious now, but so not at the time in which they were perpetrated.
    When I was about 9 or 10 my father was studying to get his FLA, and he had to submit some historic lithography, done by hand, and which he made a great show of. I at that time in primary school was entered for three handwriting competitions run by the three major chocolate manufacturers in the UK, in about ’58 to ’59. I came first out of the whole of the country, twice, and probably the third time, that is a little vague.
    On hearing this, my father was dismissive of my achievement whilst he he failed his FLA three times.
    I came first at primary school in three successive end of year reports, and my father, who had just inherited from his dead Mother, said;
    “I’ve saved up some money for your schooling and sports equipment, but your such a worthless little bastard that I am going to buy a car with it”
    As a librarian at the Police College he would with my Mother, attend “Guest Nights” on Thursday evenings, in which senior policemen and important people, such as the Duke of Edinbrough would meet in the main hall with a meal, drinks and band, celebrating, really as part of the British empire, I remember Land of Hope and Glory being played. Often after these my parents would invite members of the ‘directing staff’ to come back to our flat for ‘cocktails’, in our lounge which was the other side of the kitchen from my bedroom. I used to sneak into the kitchen to get crisps to eat whilst reading comics in the evening , and on one occasion my Mother appeared in the kitchen from the lounge. She glanced at me and said; “Oh you, come in to the lounge”, which I did, to see about ten senior people in evening dress. She then said;
    “We tried to get rid of you with gin baths, mustard baths and knitting needles, but somehow you still came through. I replied: “So you tried to kill me mummy?”, she exclaimed; “Yes”.
    This is very hurtful for a child and lowers a sense of self esteem and self worth.

    1. “…on one occasion my Mother appeared in the kitchen from the lounge. She glanced at me and said; “Oh you, come in to the lounge”, which I did, to see about ten senior people in evening dress. She then said;
      “We tried to get rid of you with gin baths, mustard baths and knitting needles, but somehow you still came through. I replied: “So you tried to kill me mummy?”, she exclaimed; “Yes”.”

      Wow. That would be a gut punch to a fully-grown adult. What sort of monstrous fool would say that to her own child?

      This is an excellent demonstration of how the extraordinarily destructive behaviors of narcissists turns back onto themselves. It was astoundingly cruel, and she was dense and truly self-destructive in addition to her terrible treatment of you.

      She hissed that at you, in front of other adults? Did she actually believe they would approve of her monstrous behaviors? I suspect that many dropped her from their social circles as a direct result of that night. I know I would have immediately dropped her, and would have warned others about her astounding attitude towards her own child.

  17. Thank you so much for this! I think this is a perfect depiction of what it is like to be a scapegoated child.

    My only disagreement would be your statement that scapegoating goes against the grain of humanity. It seems to me that it is built in to all societies to varying degrees, and between societies as well. Men scapegoat women, whites scapegoat blacks, rich people scapegoat poor people, leaders scapegoat other nations, children scapegoat other children, managers scapegoat employees…the world is full of bullying. I certainly wish that more people recoiled from it, but it seems like the majority think that that is just the way things are, rather than the way people choose to make them.

  18. I strongly disagree with the author of this article on one point. Assuming the scapegoat is “tough” and “can take it” is the narcissist’s favorite LIE. It’s NOT true. In narcissist’s eyes as long as the scapegoat hasn’t started running in circles, continuously barking and become totally dysfunctional; is doing just fine, is tough, can take it. The narcissist doesn’t pick a scapegoat who’s tough enough and “can take the abuse”. The narcissist picks a victim who can challenge them the least, and is most dependent and would be able to escape from their claws the last! For as each scapegoat that land in a therapy office, there are 100 others out there who are so destroyed, financially held back and murdered from within that never show up at your office to tell their stories. They’ve been silenced for LIFE.

  19. HI Jay, I was scapegoated badly in my family of origin (called paranoid for decades, it’s still going on). What I’d really love advice on now though is how to avoid being identified by scapegoat-ers in a group setting. Three times now, with text book similarity, a covert narcissist has set out to eject me from the group by love bombing every other member of the group and icing me as though I’m a ghost to them. It works because I wither and freeze and then I don’t know who I am and nothing feels natural. Because this scenario has occurred three times, I realise I must be a part of this dynamic. But although I know my family scapegoated me, I feel ok in myself now, after a lot of work, I am not very shy in a group (not dominant either mind you). I am always feeling happy to be included and wanting nothing more than harmony and inclusion in the group, so literally no threat to anybody. I can accept everybody is different, and then, as if by magic, it’s like here we go AGAIN. The covert narc will set out to exclude me! I know I might seem quite low status to a narcissist. But I’m secure and happy and although I’m a single parent, I don’t think the others in the group saw me as too ”lowly” to include. Please help me deal with this better. Each time, so far, the covert scapegoating narc has been successful isolating me from the group. I had every right to be in the group.

    1. I have experienced what you have. I erroneously thought the nicer I was the more people would be attracted to me. But that is just a fallacy. I only became a doormat that way. You said “you wither and freeze” and you describe yourself as “low status.” You also hope others in the group don’t think you’re “too lowly.” And you feel you’re “no threat” to others. I imagine a sweet, kind, little bunny but that isn’t what you need to be to be included. You need to be your genuine self and that includes your opinions, your likes and dislikes, your values and boundaries. Have you ever listened to Jordan Peterson’s videos? In one of them he addresses a situation similar to yours in which a member of the audience asks how to be included – they too said they were kind and nice. He responded by saying “stop being so danged kind and nice all the time.” What you say and do matters. You’re an unknown in a network of people so be who you are – express yourself, discuss your values and what’s important to you and see if you find a match of one or two people in a group. No one will match with an entire group. He says our speech has power so don’t underestimate the power of your speech. Don’t be invisible- be you and bring your ideas forward and see if anyone nibbles.

      You could talk about a recipe you tried and ask if others have made that same dish, or bring up a discussion about your child’s school or a new toy or book you really like. Also, beware of people who follow the narcissist. You might not want to be friends with them anyway. Focus on the one or two people in the group that you click with and then just be cordial with the rest when you’re in a group setting.

  20. You’re blog gives me the clarity I need to deal with my parent’s and my sibling’s narc abuse for the past 50 yrs. It took me a long time to know there is a name for this toxic family dynamic and that it’s not my be being selfish, too sensitive, overly reactive, and the kitchen sink of labels and excuses. One question I have is about gift-giving. My n-mum has never graciously excepted a gift from people, no matter who gives it or what it is. I remember being young and me and younger sister broke our piggy banks to buy her a gift. She was angry and dismissive of the gift and wouldn’t use it. She loves a certain perfume and wears it all the time. When it first came on the market, she excitedly told me about the designer and the creative process. So when I buy her a bottle, she suddenly claims she doesn’t like it. I buy her flowers and she suddenly can’t stand lilies. Before quarantine, she went daily to a chain coffee shop. Over the years me and my siblings have purchased gift cards for her and she seemed fine with this. However the last time I bought her a gift card to this restaurant, she was angry, saying she’d never use it because she doesn’t go there. That her sister (Uber-narc) says their soup comes in buckets, blah, blah, blah. Then my dad later tells me that she still goes to this coffee shop several times a week. But this isn’t just about my gifts to her, she is rude to anyone who gives her anything. She will give it back to them later out of the blue, she will hide it in a closet then donate it, or she will have an all out fight, especially with my dad.

  21. Thanks to this bog I no longer feel alone in my suffering. I was the chosen scapegoat of the family with a borderline personality abusive mother and a narc Italian father . I had a brother 11 months older that was the golden child. They played us against each other always comparing me to my brother who would beat on me also and my mom would say”-fight your own battles!” When she couldn’t take the screaming and crying she grabbed us both by the hair and knocked our heads together. It was always my fault no matter what it was. They couldn’t stand that I grew up pretty and fun loving with a lot of friends and a boyfriend, with the phone ringing and friends over so they kicked me out at 18. I attended beauty school and got a job ect…a few years after that, life was going good, my brother and I reconnected and became friends , we were both on our own, me a hairstylist loving life and him a PHD in Physics. My parents Loved the guy I was dating , me not so sure, but they made it impossible for me to date anyone else as He was invited to family events even though I had broken with him. I begrudging married him and had 2 children. He was the apple of my dads eye.I had a gut feeling something was not right as he started to drink a lot, abuse me and not come home. My parents said he was the best thing to happen to me and to shut up .I divorced him. Parents disowned me and my children. ^ months later , I found out my x was gay. My parents found out and,,,that was my fault too. My second husband who was a good provider was sadly a alcoholic and I couldn’t stay with him after 18 yrs.I was disowned again. My dads advice was that “my grandfather was a alcoholic and my grandma stayed with him.” He is now my dads best buddy and my dad gave him ( my x) the cottage that was purchased with my brothers and my inheritance money. My brother eventually got married in his 40’s but no children which disappointed my dad who voiced his opinion to me as he was drunk saying he didn’t like my brothers wife. I tried to explain to my father to try to be happy for my brother who finally found someone but my dad said i was crazy and to go back to that shrink I saw back when I was beaten and raped. yes, at 24 yrs old, a rapist climbed my balcony while I was sleeping, and broke in with a gun and beat/raped me. Never found out who but, to my parents, that was my fault too. I sued the association where I lived when finding out this had happened a few times with other women . I won a large sum for someone who was 25 yrs old. My parents demanded money. I gave them $20,000.00They were wealthy but said I owed them. I am 54 yrs old now, my children are grown and on their own. I have not had a relationship with my parents for years. Mom died last year which I was at her bedside along with my daughter and her caregiver,(who is dating my 94 yr old father now). I told my kids it was up to them if they wanted a relationship with their grandfather. Grandpa dangles his money in front of them and they obey. He has manipulated both of them with his money for years. Now he has succeeded in turned my 26 year old daughter against me. She yelled at me about my grandson not being in his car seat tight enough and I said sorry and tightened his belt but stuck up for myself for once and she has cut me out. My dad promotes this for she is tandem with the caregiver and is executer of his will and demands she come over and take care of his needs, believe as he does, blame me for everything that has gone bad in her life ect… I am in counseling for my heart is breaking for my grandson, and my brand new baby grandson who she named after my dad, Anthony.

  22. Jay, can you or a moderator please remove part of my email address on top of my first post, I didn’t mean for it to be posted and there really needs to be an edit button on here.

    Also when I was a late teenager my mother actually told me that everyday I would come home from nursery school and kindergarten and ask her to read me the book, Are You My Mother? which she bought me when they had gone on vacation to England when I was 4 years old and she must have bought me this book out of her justified guilt. I remember this book well, it’s about a baby bird that is lost from it’s mother and goes around asking all different animals and even a crane if they are it’s mother, and at the end of the book the baby bird is reunited with it’s mother.

    My mother also told me that one day I came home from elementary school and said to her that the teacher is so nice, she’s just like a mommy, a mommy I never had but that I needed so badly. And I knew what a nice normal mother was supposed to be and was like, I painfully saw my friend’s, cousin’s mothers and TV mothers.

    Thank you Jay for writing this great important article too, more therapists should really be educated and understand like you do.

  23. Why was my first long detailed post describing my very horrendous, damaging painful mostly mental abuse and 20 year long scapegoating from birth on first mostly by my mother and that my father admitted that my mother got him crazy in the house and he scapegoated me too? And all of my other posts are also gone too.

  24. Hello,
    Thank you for this article, it’s very insightful. I see this happening with my 5 year old son by his father. Do you have advise on how to counter thuis behavior. As we are divorced and I see my ex for what he is, I want to protect my children as much as I can.
    Thans you!

  25. What about when the scape goat is the spouse? I went from being my mother’s scape goat to that of my (thankfully now) ex-husband. I did my best to shield my kids from it, but I know they were still affected. My oldest was his favorite and she has the least amount of long-term damage and is doing very well. However, she also fails to recognize just how severe the abuse was and clings to her father’s narrative that I’m equally to blame for the problems at home. My shielding the abuse backfired.

  26. Thank you. Your research has enlightened me and gave me the knowledge above and beyond what I already knew. I would like to add my narcissistic mother actually was fostered as a teenager. I found out my never meet Uncle 10 years her junior was so bad she did things to him as an infant. They had to keep her away because the desire to injury him was so great they moved my mother upstairs to her grandmother’s apartment. I spoke with my grandmother for the first time in 1993 and she told me but withheld the blame for the separation. Fast forward to 1963 when my mother married my father and had me, the second child, a son. I cannot write a novel, however, my older sister was my second abusive, narcissistic caregiver and learned fast by observing the abusive ways, behaviors and actions I endured during my infancy. I want people to know at 57 I had to give up relations with my sister, which were poor at best at my dad’s assistance always. At 8 years old I had to run away to my dad’s apartment nearby, they divorced in 1969, age 6. In my 57 1/2 years alive I have only been with my Rita/mother maybe a total of 10 years and that is pushing it, really. My R’s narcissism is at at 10. She blantly makes you aware she does not care about my feelings, ignores boundaries, is ungrateful, a thief, a lair, insidious and get this at 50 years old she acquired my home address and sent me a 3 phrase note in which she was surprised I am not dead as well as 2 other negative statements. What kind of person at 80 tears old spend the time, effort, and energy on negative and nasty things she can do. Not shocked at all in fact I just hope when her time to leave earth happens she finds a miracle and can relinquish and ask God for forgiveness of her transgressions. I want her to cross over, but I do not see that happening. Why on earth would God create a person with the sole of the devil. She has never forgiven my dad and surely still hates him, in spite of the 2 miracles my sister and I that God created. Your article was so cathartic, I cannot express in words how grateful I am. I have a LCP, every week and a Psychiatrist. Moved to CA in 2000 and have had so many God driven needs dropped in my lap. I have been stable, but mentally disabled due to the abuse and life altering ability to socialize, work, cannot critically think, have depression problems without medication and have attempted suicide in South Florida prior to 2000 since I am 16 years old. Still have self directed anger and always have 1 behavior that supports it. Some how, someway I cannot seem to let go of it. My therapist is trying hard to help. He is just an amazing therapist, GFG, gift from God. For some reason my life is less confusing and conflicted with less people in it. My dad died in 2018 and he was my hero since I can remember. At the end my sister resorted to her authenticate and genuine self which is to ignore me to forget about the violence, harm and injury she put me through for 10 years. Our relations have been 1 sided, me being the active one. In 2015, she summed it up on my Birthday and labeled herself a Cold Hearted Bitch. My jaw dropped because I subetly drop hints from 2012-2016 that she has to forgive herself, especially if I have forgiven her. But it is the same attitude as R,. I do not get it why would a Jewish semi practicing faith based family have 2 members holding themselves hostage. It is insane and I am out of her life. I feel bad and apologized for the nasty and evil correspondences I sent her, but I apologized. I am free and do not need anyone who spent 12 years with R around me any more,, blood or not. Once again THANK YOU. I hope my story helps another person identify and encourage them to get emotional support even if they think they do not need it.

  27. I cant believe its taken me so long to find out about this but everything adds up and I can relate to every
    ones story

  28. Hi Jay,
    Thank you for this article. This is me, to a tee. How should we go no-contact with our narcisstic mother?

    What do we do if, after going no contact, the narcissist confronts us, or threatens us? I’ve recently decided to go no-contact with my narcissstic mother, and she’s already left me several threatening messages blaming and attacking me, threatening to show up to my home. What should I do to keep my sanity and protect myself from further interactions? I expect she will try and reach out with money or gifts after awhile, since she knows I am currently unemployed and we are still in the pandemic. (exploitation, of course!) Any comments you have would be great appreciated.

  29. This is wonderful and a blessing to see that I am not alone. No matter how My family and ex boyfriends (narcs) try to make me feel. I am not the only one going through this and its giving me so much hope. Thank you all for sharing. My scapegoat nightmare started at 8 years old my mother was diagnosed with heart failure she started making the family believe that my brother and I which are a year in age apart was killing her because we were so disobedient. My aunts and uncles would scold us into making us believe we were actually killing our mother for just simply being kids. Fast forward through to high school I was never defended when it came to issues I was always in the wrong. I never got an allowance and would steal I was bright and talented but was never told by anyone but outsiders totally overlooked. Its like from a child I was destined to be a scapegoat. I never let all the negativity at home deter me from accomplishing my goals and a first its like she admired that then when my grandmother died whom I was really close with she was the only one in my family who truly loved me. It took a turn for the worse i got into a nasty addiction and thats when My motger showed her true colors. She told the rest of her children i was the favorite knowing damn well that was a LIE! Well of course im the youngest so I became Joseph with the colorful jacket .y bros and sis started hating me and tge addiction gave them a reason to and also to treat me inhumane. There were time I would go to recovery centers then come home to stay with my mother and always would get triggered to do drugs I finally realized I had to get away I moved went through recovery gave my life back to God and was doing great. I forgave them I thought they forgave me and things were fine but I kept my distance. Little did I know they were plotting my demise. It doesn’t help that o had been dating a marc so everything the fan at once chicken didnt have a chance I am now back home with my mother because I lost my apartment due to flying monkeys and the ex marc coerced me to come here and she took my car because her name is on the title im just tired of fighting but im not giving up having to stay humble please pray for me. I will do the same for you all we are victors not victims !!!

  30. I was and still somehow keep being the scapegoat. The whole scapegoating process was initiated by my mother with my father being the enabler and my sister the golden child. Both my parents passed away few years ago, after I decided to go almost no contact . With them not being alive any longer, the scapegoating grip has loosen up a bit though my sister, the golden child, makes sure to keep my mother s legacy alive by continuing to treat me like the “black sheep “. I have no prob cutting ties with her for good, as I am determined not to suffer toxic behaviour any more . I have realised that the hope of having a healthy relationship with my sister is just vain , as she was totally enmeshed with my mother. I am in therapy since this year and gaining awareness about my issues. What terrifies me is the realisation of the consequences the scapegoating had on my life. I am in my 50ies with an obvious history of bad relationship experiences, poor social life, scattered employment history, modest financial resources. Will I have a chance to rebuild and have a “normal” safe life? I feel, at times, my time has passed and it s too late to hope for a better more stable future life. I wished I knew about the scapegoating earlier in my life.

    1. Gab , this is like my lifestory, I have found out little to late about dynamics of toxic families.
      Wish you all the best.Teresa

  31. Jay,

    I don’t ever take the time to write feedback but I am struck, by how clear and precise your article is. I just got out of a relationship with the scapegoat who I believe is a narcissist. His mother is a narcissist and his dad is the enabler. All the examples you presented matched exactly the stories he shared with me. And it gave me a feeling of ‘the beginning of my healing process’.

    So thank you,

  32. Hi Jay,

    Just wanted to thank you for the informative and affirming article. This is treasured resource for me!

  33. Hi Jay,

    I really appreciate the information you provide here. My husband is the narcissist and I am the enabler. My oldest son is the scapegoat. I tried to protect my son and wished I would have done more. I worry about by son and all the negative core beliefs (exactly the ones you speak of above) he has taken on. My husband and I are both in recovery. I feel like giving this article to my son to read. Would that be appropriate? Over the years I have been the codependent enabler giving self-help materials to my husband to read. I don’t do that anymore but really want my son to continue learning the truth about his upbringing. I think it is right to acknowledge the pain he has gone through in this way. Otherwise I feel like I am ignoring his horrible experience growing up in this family. Also, thought of giving to my other son, the golden child to read as well.

    I can’t thank you enough for your videos and writings. Very helpful.

    Best, Beth

  34. This is a really great article and very much my experience as the family scapegoat instigated by a Narc mother. I have been to a few therapists over the years but to be honest they were not knowledgeable about Narcs and the effects of the same, so basically I came away non the wiser. It’s only by reading and researching the subject myself have a discovered what the issues actually was, and still is to some degree.

  35. Hi, I came across this blog from just surfing the net about narcissism within families. I do this a lot to learn and educate myself, and to help myself from my own personal experiences growing up in such a toxic environment. Like all the other posters here, I too was and still am at the age of 53, the family scapegoat. Reading through those posts and learning what you have been through is utterly heartbreaking and it beggars belief to think that parents can treat their young innocent children in such a brutal way, just for being alive and not fitting in with the toxic dysfunctional cult like dynamic of such a family. My heart goes out to each and every one of you for sharing your experiences and I salute your bravery in surviving this horrific abuse and keeping going and doing your best to be a decent person and live a good life. Like all of you, I’ve always been the family scapegoat, black sheep, whipping girl, punch bag, call it what you will and like many of you, my post could well be a long one so I’ll give my apologies beforehand.
    I’m the eldest daughter of three children born to a covert neglecting narcisstic mother and a controlling bullying father, (with many narc characteristics) My now elderly mother is the middle child of three sisters, born into a cold loveless upbringing, her own father, (whom scared me but never hurt me) was a very nasty unpleasant man and her mother a compliant enabler. My mother obviously inherited her father’s character unlike my aunts who are kind compliant women who did their best in raising my nephews and nieces, and have good relationships with them despite their upbringing.
    My father had a very different upbringing. His father, my fantastic paternal grandfather had a gay brother who lived with his partner in an era when homosexuality was all very taboo and not spoken about. There was a lot of pressure on my grandfather from his family to marry and provide a male heir to carry on the family name. My grandfather had courted my grandmother from the age of 15, long time sweethearts, they were happy to marry when old enough and very much wanted children. Tragically, the firstborn son was stillborn and it devastated my grandparents, especially my grandmother whose hair turned white overnight with shock whilst still a very young woman. However they stayed together and helped one another through the tragic death and in due course my father was conceived, and born a very healthy strapping baby boy. Everyone in the family was overjoyed about the baby but unfortunately my father was mollycoddled by all, and he grew up a very overindulged only child, the constant source of attention and absolutely spoiled rotten, expecting his needs met at all times by everyone around him. Fast forward to meeting my mother and he expected the same from her in their marriage, a compliant devoted fawning stay at home wife that cooked, cleaned and constantly clearing up after him. He also knew his family wanted him to provide another male heir to carry on the family name. From the start, their marriage has been volatile to say the least. Two very strong willed individuals with fixed ideas who wanted their own way all the time constantly in conflict, arguments, rows and sometimes even physical fights and into this marital warzone I was born and my younger sister 14 months later. From the start, evr since I can remember, I was a disappointment to my father, firstly because his firstborn wasn’t the much wanted prayed for boy and as my character formed, he didn’t like my intelligence, curiosity, sense of moral integrity and justice, and independent thought. Even as a very young child, I knew something was very wrong in my family and things were not how families should be. My sister however, was very different, my nemesis would be an apt description. From my very earliest childhood memories I remember her persistently teasing, harassing, bullying and getting me into trouble for her own entertainment and calling me boring if I went off on my own to avoid her. I had to share a bedroom and bed with her when very young and she was always kicking and shoving me to the edge of our small double so she could hog all the room. She was absolutely relentless in her behaviour towards me and my mother who noticed this did absolutely nothing to stop this bullying, not even when at age 6, my sister held me at knife point (a steel dagger shaped letter opener) and threatened to kill me and cut me up. I still see that black look in her eyes all these 40+years later. My parents never took me seriously when I told them of my sister’s constant bullying, I was just told to stop being silly, toughen up and stand up for myself which I always did but this made my sister even worse! Add to the mix that my sister very quickly became my father’s golden child, most probably because she is so like him in temperament and was always fawning and smarming round her daddy and still does now, ever the family favourite who can do no wrong no matter how badly she has always treated people in
    her life. This toxic pattern was well established when my much wanted baby brother arrived a few years later. Like my father, he got a lot of fuss and attention, but as he grew up and developed his own character, he was more like me in nature, so my sister became the permanent family favourite, and my brother only important because he was a boy. I remained the scapegoat. My covert narc mother was very good at putting on a public front at being a good, caring but tired harassed parent but the reality was that she was a cold hard hearted loveless woman without a single maternal concern for her children in her entire being. We were treated as unwanted, in the way nuisances. My sister and I forced to do a lot of housework whilst she malingered in bed pretending to be ill whilst my father was out at work. My father every few years, (unknown to me at the time) got sacked from his work for ‘having problems with authority) we moved all over the UK, never getting the chance to settle in a school which was particularly important during secondary education. Neither parents were interested in our school work or helped with homework. I did it myself the best I could, and thankfully I was blessed with excellent reading and writing skills and did really well in my first comprehensive in most subjects, all off my own bat but then we upped and moved again and it trashed me as I had made some very good friends as well.
    All of our educations were seriously messed up by all this moving around, especially my brother who was diagnosed dyslexic at age 8. He really struggled, being English in a Welsh speaking school and a bullying headmaster. Also during school holidays particularly the summer, my parents would palm us off onto our paternal grandparents for several weeks who lived close to the coast and fortunately they loved us all very much and looked after us very well. I was particularly close to my grandfather and was devastated when he suddenly died of a heart attack. My heartbroken grandmother never recovered and sadly died a few years later..I still often think of and miss them both. My grandad recognised the good in me and actively encouraged my quirky curiosity in life and I also inherited his slapstick sense of humour! I could write a novel about my family history, but I’ll try and simplify it. Entering puberty and adolescence was mother left it to school to educate my sister and I about growing up, periods and the facts of life and just gave me a couple of packs of sanitary towels and expected me to get on with it. No womanly advise or preparation whatsoever! And to add insult to injury, I developed breasts earlier than other girls my age and my mother didn’t bother to buy me a bra till I was bouncing around all over the place, the butt of the family’s jokes and teasing, including some VERY inappropriate comments on numerous occasions from my father which crucified me with humiliation, and I wanted to cut them off. And as a teenager I was a little overweight whilst my sister was stick thin and her bullying just continued, and I still had to share a bedroom with her and she was always pinching my hairspray and deodorant and if I confronted her she was go ballistic as if i was doing the stealing. And we had the occasional physical fight as I was just so fed up with her on at me all the time. And throughout all this my father got sacked again and he had a huge nervous breakdown. My housewife mother was forced to go back to nursing, which she did before marrying my father and to move from many different homes living in the countryside to living in a town on a main road in a small terraced house. The culture shock was father was in a state for months, and his already volatile nature made much worse. As the scapegoat, I got the brunt of it, but the trauma blocked out most of it to this day. I fell into a terrible depression, and frequently contemplated suicide. My parents were always at each others throats, my mother would regularly repeatedly whack me and my brother round the head with her wedding ring hand and my father once knocked me flying down the stairs and kicked me hard up the backside as I went down..I was really badly bruised. I hated my family life and was desperate to run away and escape but was too scared to.
    Somehow I made it through. My sister left home for University an a couple of years later I left to start nurse training after two years in college. My mother was a sister on a psychiatric unit at the time and my going into the profession really fed her ego and when I flunked my final exams because I’d had a nervous breakdown due to stress she hunted me down and screamed at me in a crowded pub in front of my friends and wouldn’t let me forget or live it down for years about how bad I’d made her look. By this time I was working as a care assistant, which I did for the next 8 years until my health broke, a couple of years after my only marriage and divorce. My upbringing messed up with my ability to form stable lasting relationships with men, despite liking them and finding them easier company than female friends. For years I always felt I needed male approval to be lovable and hated being single. There were a couple of very volatile relationships, but my ex husband wasn’t one of them..He was a good man and it was me that treated him badly because years of stress and trauma, (and now possible autism) was being unbotttled. I acknowledged how badly I’d messed up to him after the divorce and expressed how deeply sorry I was and we had positive closure. I’ve never been out of control to that degree since but in one bad relationship, was both run over by a police officer and three months later beaten up by ex’s mother of my ex’s little girl and he just drunk himself sensless and did nothing to protect me from this woman. She took access to his daughter away and kept refusing to do anything about it whilst still treated me like shit so I left him only to jump out of the frying pan into the fire as my sister’s tenant, childminder, housekeeper and general skivvy whilst she did teacher training and her first years in the job. I developed a close bond with her boys and her very decent but much used and abused Italian much older lodger/boyfriend who became family to me. She cheated on him and broke his heart after 13 years together. She also flirted with my exes, and wrote to the guy I left behind my back after we had stayed at her home previously, and after trying to get back together with me which didn’t work. She totally abused my kind giving helpful nature. By this time, overwork and stress had caused burnout and chronic fatigue and I’d had to give up work but wanted to be useful, and was so grateful to her for taking me in and giving me a tenancy in her first buy to let property which was very small, cold, damp and much in need of some work but sister told me I’d got it cushy! No matter what I did, it was wrong. She was also a horrible mother to her boys, very controlling and would beat them up, especially the elder who has Tourettes syndrome. Everyone was scared of her, and after 4 years of it and having been more than once threatened with eviction, I found a place through a friend in Welsh class (lived back in North Wales) I told my sister to stuff it, moved in and went NC for four years, much to the disappointment of my family and the pressure to be make friends again. This is several years before I learned about narcissism and its types and characteristics. I had four years of relative peace. But like any intelligent thinking person, I questioned my own behaviour over my sister and wondered how much of it was my fault. I mean I grew up hearing that all the time, so maybe it was at least in part, my sister said so. Then my sister’s Italian ex (who she kept hoovering in to use again ) turned up out of the blue with her and I was pushed into a reconciliation , from my part because I thought it was best for my family. By then she had moved up the coast, and had a few more rental properties and very much wanted me for a tenant as I was so reliable and looked after wherever I was living. Despite the warning bells, I agreed and became a tenant a second time. By now the boys were teenagers and didn’t need minding but both were very happy to have me back in their lives, and me theirs as I’d really missed them! How tall, handsome and intelligent they had become and I told them so. My sister also promised that I could have a parrot if I took her offered tenancy but when the time came, she started going back on her word because she thought it would take me away from family ( attention away from her) During this time the boys celebrated their 18th and 21st birthdays and she made sure I was excluded despite me wanting to be present and to contribute to these important family events. And she lied to them that I didn’t want to be there. She eventually let me have a parrot though, whom still shares my life and one of the best things that has happened to me. My sister was pathologically jealous of him and towards the end of another four years tenancy she threatened to come to my flat to kill him and I couldn’t sleep or leave the place for days as I was so scared for his life. At this time my brother was recently divorced and was having a hard time and considering a lodger so I made my plans and went back to live in my home town and near to my parents. I lived with my brother for almost three years until it became obvious I needed my own place, and my brother his home and personal space back. At this time my long term sickness benefits were stopped and forced to sign up for the pittance that is universal credit and go look for work, and several humiliating interviews with a bolshy condescending work coach who I would not give in to and I appealed and eventually won the uc sick pay component which I would be seriously up the creek without. Thankfully I found an ideal housing association bungalow for elderly and disabled people, because by now I’d been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for 10 years along with CF, and Bipolar disorder 2 which is a possible misdiagnosis and I’m on the adult autism assessment waiting list. My elderly parents however, were and are just the same, and I recognised the toxic patterns and similarities with my overt narc sister, so obviously still much my father’s favourite. My parents own two houses, and all the legal tax avoidance stuff is in place, my brother to get my parents house and my sister the house opposite, of the same value and configuration, both worth at least £150+k . Me, well, I’m last and least as usual and from comments previously dropped by both parents before going NC with them a year ago I already know that what is left of their financial estate, especially after funeral costs etc will be considerably less and placed under my brother’s control due to me being on benefits. Thing is even if circumstances had turned out differently and I had the luxury of good health and a well paying job, the will and inheritance would still be worked out in my sister’s and brother’s favour and me get what little is left. That’s another thing about narcissists, they LOVE money. I’m now the poor relation as everyone else has their own home and a financially comfortable life, though only my brother has earned it honestly with a good work ethic and a high level of moral integrity. My parents, through my mother as a psychiatric nurse, wormed their way into the life of an elderly gentleman whose wife was a patient on my mother’s ward and then died. After befriending this man, when he passed they altered his will to make themselves sole inheritors of his entire estate, including his house and bagged themselves over £100 000! My parents both retired early with health problems and then had several holidays abroad every year and also bought a boat which they spent a great deal of time on up and down the rivers and canals across the country and even took it to Ireland at one point. Always putting themselves first, my sister is the same. No longer working as she was disciplined for abusive behaviour to a child in her class, 8 months suspended. Now living off the profits of her buy to let portfolio and living in a big house with a flash car and fancy clothes thinking she is better than anybody else..especially me. A couple of months ago, despite going NC my mother had the audacity to call round to my home and bring my sister with her, knowing full well I want nothing to do with her whatsoever. I never answered the persistent banging on all my doors and windows and only heard my mother speaking to a neighbour who told me the following day about a woman with my mother who fit my sisters description. And my mother then turned up again that morning on her own and there was a major verbal altercation and she threatened to report me to the psychiatric services after I told her I’d report her to the police if she continued to keep harassing me. She already has a police record from them having to throw her out of Santander in Meadowhall shopping centre for kicking off at their staff.. Oh the wonders of the narcissistic family and the nightmare of being a scapegoat. There is so much more to this already very long lifestory and we have all been through and endured so much, many of you far worse than me. Going NC with my parents and sister, has been a very difficult challenging journey with much grief for what has been stolen from me but also very empowering as I will NEVER allow them to have that cruel debilitating hold over me ever again, and despite my financial situation and the inheritance, I am grateful for the little things and very happy in my home with a safe secure long term tenancy and of course, my beloved parrot whose happy beaky face greets me each morning and makes me want to get out of bed for. Animals are such a wonderful comfort for many of us. I wish you all well with your healing journey.

  36. It is evident that these horrific stories are true…because they are so abhorrent that no one could make them up.
    I am so very sorry.

  37. Hey Bill, reading this has changed my life. I’m not sure I’ll get out alive. But reading this made me understand I’m not alone. I’ve been lost for so long suffering deeply. I thank god, for reading this today.

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