Emotional neglect in a narcissistic family
Like the planets revolve around the sun, the narcissistic family revolves around the narcissist.
The narcissist is the only one that matters to each family member, including their partner. So, each family member’s priority is serving the narcissist, trying to keep them happy.
It is a fight for survival between the family members.
This means that their other parent is involved solely with the emotional ups and downs of the narcissist. Their children have no support or understanding as they grow and develop.
The narcissistic family members are pitched against each other.
This doesn’t foster feelings of connection or care between the family members, actually it encourages dislike, competition and resentment.
It leaves children without a suitable role model parent to support and guide them when they are their most vulnerable and in need.
Siblings are encouraged to resent each other, so each child feels isolated and without support from their siblings.
The narcissist actively exploits the resentment of their children to drive a wedge.
In particular, abuse of the family scapegoat is encouraged.
Any family member will be rewarded with attention or gifts, should they join with the rest of the family and treat the scapegoat badly.
For that brief time this person is ‘loved’ by the narcissist and know that they will survive. It seems to them that finally they have the love and approval of the narcissist. This only lasts whilst it serves the narcissist and their agenda, it can change very quickly as do the whims and caprices of the narcissist.
So, the scapegoat is the target of all the abuse by the family.
The narcissist establishes who takes the role of scapegoat based on their own issues. And then their partner is encouraged to scapegoat that child, as are the siblings.
The selection of scapegoat is not personal.
It could be because of your sex, when you were born, your parent, who you look like or that you were born at all.
None of these things are within your control.
As the narcissist sees others, in particular their children, as extensions of themselves they don’t see others as separate or individual.
When they ‘see’ the scapegoat they see reflected back their own faults and flaws.
They don’t see their child, with their own personality, character and preferences.
The scapegoat has no emotional support from any member of the family.
The narcissist is occupied only with themselves.
The rest of the family are only interested in the narcissist.
It is not surprising that the scapegoat soon learns that any emotion they express will not be accepted by their family, nor will they get any support.
So, in order to survive, they learn to suppress their emotions.
If you are laughed at, scorned, shouted at or ignored for whatever you feel, you also feel that you are wrong for having those feelings.
The scapegoat feels deep shame, that they are ‘bad’ and deserve the bad treatment.
And the whole family engages in this treatment.
This suppression of emotions continues until adulthood unless it is healed.
For the scapegoat family is not a safe place, they learn this at an early age.
In a sick twist the narcissist makes it unacceptable to be private or keep things to themselves. So, they share things with them.
Unfortunately, this gives them ammunition.
The more the narcissist knows about you, the more they share how they feel, gives the narcissist greater power to hurt you.
They do this by mocking, undermining confidence, refusing to support, remembering failures/mistakes, covertly criticising, passive-aggressive behaviours and sabotage.
If it is ever raised with them, they accuse you of being over-sensitive, not being able to take a joke or being over-dramatic.
It makes YOU the problem, focuses on you and means that they can deny any responsibility for their actions which hurt you. Then they know that their words or actions hit the mark and they’ll do it again.
Many of the issues I mentioned here are carried over into adulthood unless they are processed and healed.
As a result of emotional neglect adult children of narcissists suffer from: repression/ stuffing feelings, over-sharing, feeling shame over feelings/emotions, shame for being ‘bad’, reluctance to trust, independence, inability to ask for help and being isolated from the rest of the family.
I remember when I was about 10 I went, with my brother, to stay with some friends.
One night my brother did something that we thought was funny.
So, I told my parents that morning when they came to collect us. They told me off for not supporting my brother, they told me that it was my priority to look after him.
I was so sad, I cried all the way back.
As we ate at a Happy Eater on the way home, I sobbed my heart out. I couldn’t stop crying.
Having my meal like eating rocks, but I knew I had to eat or my father would call me ungrateful.
My entire family sat there, no one consoled me, or cared.
They were like stone.
After that I learnt that I would never get any emotional support or care from my family. Not even my brother.
I remember when I was fourteen my grandmother, Nanny, went into hospital with a broken arm.
She spent months in there and towards the end was on a life-support machine.
After the family decided to turn off the machine, she died.
I was standing in my bedroom near my mirror, getting ready for school when my mother told me that Nanny had died.
In that moment I knew I had a choice to cry or not. I choose not to.
Now I realise that my mother told everyone that offered their consolation about Nanny’s death, that I was a heartless little bitch for not being upset.
Either way I lost, if I cried she would have taken delight in ignoring me or making it about her. As I didn’t she used it to serve her smear campaign against me that she had started when I was born.
Later that week I watched the film, Philadelphia, with a friend and I lost it. I broke down. My friend didn’t know what to do for me, she played the Friends theme tune and hugged me.
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Originally published at https://comebackbrighter.com on October 19, 2020.