What is New?


June 23: edited my post on Gaslighting to insert a link to a very good video by psychologist, Ross Rosenberg, explaining how gaslighting starts in childhood, and how to heal from parents who gaslight.

June 6: PBS's Frontline takes on the issue of human sex trafficking of abducted teenage girls in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Click HERE for that.

May 17: Turpin parents get 25 years to life for abusing their children. Final words from children and parents at sentencing. Click HERE for that.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

fulfilling life goals after being a cast out scapegoat

art by © Lise Winne
available for sale here

I have been reading Lenora Thompson's articles for awhile and I usually respond to them, and we often have discussions about each of them. The reason why? I'll tell you.

Lenora writes for Psych Central and the Huffington Post about being the child of narcissists. She is a self-proclaimed golden child (an only child) to what would seem to be helicopter parents, parents who, according to her, would not let her grow up. You can read her stories in the articles. She has many, many articles on how she felt stifled and imprisoned by her parents, how every decision she wanted to make was superseded by her parents' decision-making, how she felt she was being groomed to please them at all times.

Every abusive family has a golden child (favored and coddled) and a scapegoat (unfavored and picked on, and often rejected). That's just a fact of life when you have Cluster B personality disordered parents who put their own feelings and dreams first, and expect their children to put their parents dreams and feelings first too (no, that's not how it is supposed to work, if you are wondering).

When she and I talk, I give her the scapegoat versions to her stories. They tend to be drastically different, opposites. But not all of the time.  Sometimes we find only nuanced differences between the golden versions and the scapegoat versions.

I have been working on a side project full of scapegoat stories (which I plan on publishing some day). This is just a teaser.

Sometimes she feels the scapegoat is so much better off than the golden child, other times she sees how painful being a scapegoat is.

So what is a common thing that scapegoats and goldens share, since most of the time there is such a huge disparity between the two roles? And let us not forget that these are roles -- they were thrust on us by our parents at a young age, perhaps even when we were pre-verbal, rather than how we define ourselves.

Gaslighting would be one of the things that golden children and scapegoats have in common. But the nuances are these:

Gaslighting of a golden child would be: "Oh, she's a little crazy, but we love it! So creative! So full of life and wonder! So cute when she does that, isn't she?" Gaslighting of a scapegoat would be "She's our crazy one. Yes, she's creative, but she has so many problems! We just can't deal with her any more! She should be put away, but that's not how the world works these days." The first one is to get strangers to admire their offspring, hoping they can cover up the abuse with great accolades and admiration and the image of being perfect parents of a lovable crazy child; the second one is to get strangers to reject their offspring before that offspring spills the beans and exposes the abuse and the parent's image.

But who is kidding who? Golden children are just as capable of exposing abuse as scapegoats are, such as in Lenora's case. Goldens often feel so suffocated and burdened by their parents that they feel spiritually squashed, emotionally squashed, physically squashed, developmentally squashed. It is claustrophobia on steroids. Goldens have been brought up to be pleaser puppets. They can't say anything at all that doesn't please their parents, and after awhile, don't even try to challenge that coding (except maybe through their own very private thoughts which they don't dare to share with anyone ... until they can't stand it any more). This is not what life is meant to be, to be an eternal child with no choices and no dreams, and only to be thinking about your parent's thoughts, feelings, dreams and image (let's not forget their image!). Our spirits really have a hard time with being shoved into Stepford child roles (after The Stepford Wives).

I see her point of view. Love is super conditional whether you are a golden child or a scapegoat. For the golden, it is totally reliant on people pleasing and competition with your sibling (if you have a sibling). The golden feels he cannot be anything else, and be safe from the abuse he sees being hurled at everyone else.

I feel sorry for the golden child in my own life who has to live this way and give up his own dreams, who is called to do it constantly, who has to be careful and terrified over everything he says, and walk on eggshells. He has been groomed to compete with his sister on everything (for the parents divide-and-conquer strategies), and since the sister gave up on the competition and left the family, he has to provide ALL of the narcissistic supply now. There are no more roles left, in fact, no other siblings to take up the lost roles. He will have to fulfill them all. And if something doesn't suit his parents, he will have to endure a barrage of shaming, temper tantrums and insults -- as though he is still a little boy who needs to be reprimanded. If he sees rage, he'll have to pretend he didn't mean what he said. He'll have to stir up a pot of excuses, fast talking, fast thinking, taking things he said back, explaining that he didn't mean what he said, saying things like "It was just a stupid comment. I agree with you" even when he might not want to agree with them, asking how to make it better, giving word salad explanations for every little hurt feeling they have that they blame on him, or on his wife, all with the most syrupy apologies. He will have to have no convictions about anything. Interests? No, too threatening. Opinions? No, he's required to have their opinions. A career? No, not one that will take time away from his parents. A sister? How dare he think to have a relationship with his sister when they have anointed him the golden child! How dare he even think about his sister!

He will have to constantly ameliorate them (and make no mistake about it: he is expert at ameliorating -- as if that is a good thing to be).

I have seen him in 24 hour rages when they aren't around, and then turn it all off like a switch and be sticky sweet with model vocabulary and wit. That's a good life??? Talk about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! He has to "go along to get along" with hair-trigger parents. That's not love! They don't love him!

And worst of all, he seems to have become another Cluster B, full of phony faces and charm just to get through life. I believe the swearing, rage-ful, disrespectful, laugh-behind-their-backs, deriding-of-others personality is really who he is, although that may be a cover-up for how scared, vulnerable, sensitive and sweet he really is. Who knows, but it is all so sad. The worse part of it is that he does the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because his parents squashed him, wanted him to be their daily pleaser. They spoiled him rotten, favored him over his sister, and tried to convince him that his sister was at fault for any rage he felt. "Take it out on her, not us!" they cried. Because, you know, all narcissists are perfect, and they can't hear otherwise, and what they did to him has to be taken out on someone, after all ...

So one of the things Lenora and I were talking about had to do with living our dreams, and how she had to put that off for so long (required to be the daily pleaser: don't forget!). Any way, here is my response to this article by Lenora about living your dreams after having them squashed by narcissistic parents for most of your life:

I'm always thinking of the scapegoat part of this story, Lenora.

The thing about scapegoats is that they are onto their NMs earlier than anyone else. If we are given the scapegoat role in our family, we're the canary in the coal mine. That's why we are scapegoats: we see the evil, we hear the evil, and we speak about the evil we see and hear. How dare us speak about it, right? How dare we want to make that better for all of us children in the household? 

And the first thing they do about it is try to shut us up and shut us down emotionally. However it doesn't work because we still see, hear, etc ... so we are punished for it instead. The "punishments" for seeing, hearing and knowing are brutal, let me tell you. They are so unethical, unjust and severe as to encode us with traumas and triggers. In fact most "other" family members don't want to acknowledge what we go through because it scares them half to death. So they only "watch" the abuse in horror on the sidelines, perhaps try to tell themselves it is not so bad and that it is "normal" in some way, hoping it doesn't happen to them. 

In fact, they are rarely singled out for abuse until we leave. And we have to leave if we are to survive. When we leave for good to fend for ourselves, the narcissists adopt another scapegoat. They always do; they always feel they have to in order to keep any kind of potential bad image they might acquire away from THEM. 

So eventually we are no longer alone when the new scapegoat appears and says to us, "I went through it too! I'm so sorry!"

But the difference between us and the golden child is that our parent's trying to disable us and our dreams by severe punishments and THE BIG BAD SILENT TREATMENT does not get internalized within us (well, a lot of us). It may get internalized in the beginning, but for many of us with long term "no contact" or living our lives autonomous from their opinions? Not at all. I think most scapegoats can attest to not feeling much shame at all over being given the silent treatment. Why? Because it almost always is over a myriad of silly excuses like a look on our face they didn't like (as though we should have a facial complex JUST FOR THEM), or because we refused to be their full time Cinderella to our brothers and sisters (as though we should really WANT that for ourselves), and a number of equally bizarre "reasons". They grasp at the most desperate of straws to make us a scapegoat. 

They do this scapegoating for THEM, because THEY feel threatened by the truth and by exposure. The more they abuse, the more desperate they are to hide it, the more they NEED some sort of  scapegoat!!  All people who see, hear, and speak of what they see and hear must be scapegoated in their eyes ... except, wait! Doesn't everyone tell of what they are about behind their backs? Aren't all people in their lives just ass-kissing back-stabbing two-facers? 

So they get ultra paranoid.

The reason why a lot of us scapegoats don't internalize their mediocre dreams for us is because we never "really" try to please them. Ever. We know the cost is too high, and nothing will be good enough. We may pretend at it at times because not every battle is worth it, and we want some peace, just like they pretend to love us, all the while slandering us to everyone they can, and throwing us away to the wolves and casting us as "crazy people".

We aren't supposed to please them anyway: they assigned the scapegoat role to us, the role that can never please them NO MATTER WHAT. We find, unlike the smooth fast talkin' always-make-an-excuse goldens, that there is no smooth fast talkin' for us to adopt. What we say, what we do, is ALWAYS vilified. So we give up on pleasing them, and decide to please ourselves instead, and we go for our dreams. 

That's one big difference between a golden child and a scapegoat child.

We HAVE to go big for our dreams to survive without a family, support, and familial approval. So many of us put our dreams first, in fact, and a lot of us (the ones who don't stay in the matrix of the abusive family to get beaten down again and again), are pretty satisfied with where we end up. There are times we might be taken in by the hoovering of our parents, but for the most part we are cast out at pretty young ages. Try 15 as opposed to 30 or 40 for you goldens. 

Sometimes there are narcissists along the way who try to trip us up, or stalk us, or slander us, and other tactics. That can set us back. But we also have been able to get back up from being knocked over since childhood when our parent was doing it.

The reason our abusive parent always goes for tactics such as hooverings and punishments is because narcissists hate our successes. Yes, I believe that. 

How dare we be successful when they have tried so hard to beat that out of us, when they have worked so hard to smash our self esteem and make us lower our heads in shame our whole lives! They can't stand that their mediocre dreams are only about narcissistic supply: spreading lies, gossip, covering their tracks, panicing over "not covering their tracks ENOUGH", fear of exposure, trying to convince others that they are model citizens who love their children when they don't, trying to keep all of these false identities and false motives together and trying to remember which false identity went with which person, and which lie and wild tale they told to whom, trying to think of top-of-their-heads excuses as to why they are estranged from their children, and continue to be, trying to think of shamings of their children that will stick like glue and permanently damage them -- what a life! 

And to compensate for a life of boredom that selfishness, insulting of others, discarding important people and unfulfillment inevitably produce, they create drama. How? Rejecting or picking on another empath from their lives, or two or three or four. "Yes, let's do that so that we have no empaths when we are sick and old!" Now isn't that the dumbest thing ever? 

So instead they find themselves surrounded by other narcissists or sociopaths when they aren't feeling well. Who envies that?

So glad we are not them and that we pursue dreams that are actually meaningful and worthwhile, while they muck around in the putrid swamp of "trying" to manipulate people all of the time. Good luck with that agenda, eh?


  1. This article reminds me of a conversation I had with my brother about my sister. He even admitted she never got to live her own life, and just lived the way my mother wanted her too. I said "Something is sick here, when she tries to dress the exact same way, chooses the same style house to live in and have the same number of children". He didn't argue with that. He was blind about a lot and still chose Mommy Dearest over his sister, but he was right about my sister living a life according to Queen Spider's script. My GC sis became a narc too but she just followed the life plan played out for her and never had any of her own thoughts.

    My entire family was against me being an art teacher you know. I fought hard for that one. I don't think I ever got over losing that would be career or when I was denied the regular teaching jobs though I had the 2/3rds time one at a juvenile home. I wanted to be successful and prove them wrong and follow my own path.

    My sister never had any of her own thoughts or decisions in life. I see her as someone who never grew up.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment.

      I think we are seeing that abusive families (many of which tend to be narc families) pressure children to be molded by parents, to be eternally child-like, always looking for Mom and Dad's approval, thus the mini me phenomenon like we see with the Turpin family where all of the girls have the same haircut, dress and look like Mom, and where all of the boys have the same haircut and style of dress and look like Dad (like the post you wrote so well about the Turpins here: http://fivehundredpoundpeeps.blogspot.com/2018/01/13-siblings-held-captive-by-abusive.html)

      It is interesting how a lot of scapegoats are probably the furthest from the parent in terms of being a mini-me to that parent, and overwhelmingly end up as artists, writers, teachers, yoga instructors, therapists and doctors. These are professions where autonomy of decision making and independence from people telling you what to do is apparent.

      It is pretty sick that the golden's rewards (money, favors, favoritism, possessions) are all about being in a permanent state of childhood and dependence, looking to the parent for approval, whereas the scapegoat is never applauded for being a teacher, or a popular writer, or a principal dancer, or some other phenomenal accomplishment (except in front of an audience of their friends ... but behind the scenes they are quite different: "You don't need to strive, my dear!).

      I'm sorry you did not get the backing and enthusiasm you deserved when you became an art teacher. You would have in a normal family. But I think you know that. But part of being a scapegoat is that they thrust on so many impossible and unpalatable "please mes" that we internalize that as "I can't please my parent, so I give up trying." Whether that is part of the parent's design for us to give up and disappear from their lives (as most of us do), or a plan on trauma-bonding that has gone wrong, I'll never know. I do know they like us only in the scapegoat role (a role that has no rewards!??) -- it is probably why they are disordered.

      The good thing is that over time we do not care what they think of us. I think that is why scapegoats are so successful and independent. I think a lot of us hide our success from the narcs too, in order not to be lectured at (lectures where it is obvious they want us to dampen down our dreams).

      It is obvious to me that an overwhelming number of scapegoats become permanently estranged. Using forums as a gauge, I'd say 90 percent, and maybe even higher. What it means is that the former scapegoats ambitions and dreams are much more palatable than anything the parent can offer them: "Scapegoat role up for grabs, hear ye, hear ye!" -- Who would want it?

    2. Yes abusive families want Mini-Mes. This fits my GC sister so much, dressing exactly like my mother. Think of the movie Single White Female where the villain dresses just like her new roommate and copies everything she does. Their lives are scripted totally to what Mommy and Daddy approve.

      I think scapegoats knowing they will never be accepted are more free in their own way to become their own people. There's less conformity. I know I no longer cared about matching and felt like I was with the "wrong" family anyhow [adoption stuff included]
      My sister has definitely been in a state of permanent childhood. She's 48 years old and never has had to work a job to pay any rent, or mortgage, and never has taken care of herself. She got married at 18 to an 28 year old executive husband who took care of all that.

      You are right they ignore the scapegoat's accomplishments, my college graduation was flat out ignored and not attended too. Sure whatever can be used for narcissistic supply is.

      Thanks understanding the thing about being the art teacher and realizing I needed more. I do have some sadness inside that I didn't "make it in life" I wanted to prove them wrong, hope that makes sense but I had a lot of odds against me. I know with time I am not caring what they think of us. I do know many scapegoats do find success, I hope they are spared some of those feelings I have about it. I do sometimes think "if only, I had not been disabled or had an intact career", perhaps I would have felt safer in this world but some of this may have come from some of the latter abuse before I broke away where she made the story about me focusing on me "being a loser". I know I hid some stuff, why talk about an DIY art show she didn't bother to show up to or it being reviewed in one college news papers and two local ones?

      I think many of us have to become premanently estranged to save ourselves. The ones who stick around get destroyed like Aunt Scapegoat, I think as we age, those of us who stayed too long, know we got to get out to even stay alive.

    3. There are so many ways you are not disabled like writing a necessary blog for this world, your zines and being a help and a voice to ACONs everywhere and people with disabilities. You ARE valuable, never forget that.
      I have a friend who painted me a sign that said "I am valuable" and it is hanging in my house. If you want to send me an address or PO Box, I'll paint one for you free of charge and signed: sales(att)LiseWinne.com
      I think a lot of us experience no-shows at graduations (present company included) ... look at the comment below too about that left by anonymous.

    4. Thanks Lise, I appreciate it. My husband once wrote me a lis to of achievements I did when I got like this too. Thanks. Yes I would like a painting. I'll send you my PO BOx address. Thanks :)

      Yeah I think that is a common theme when they blow off our graduations too.

  2. I am a teacher too. It must be the occupation of choice when our first exposure to a non-abusive existence is school! :-)

    I left after my mother's silent treatment at the age of 20. I am in my mid thirties now. I know plenty of scapegoats suffer terribly, but my family was so childish and toxic, it was a relief. I pursued my dreams with student loans, a little help from my best friend's mother, all the while without a single family member's support. They didn't come to my graduations, they didn't help me move into an apartment for my first job, they didn't come to any events at my school. And guess what? I didn't miss them at all. In fact I was glad they stayed home! It would have been an embarrassment!

    I was one of those kids who vacillated between being a scapegoat and a lost child. I think you are a scapegoat when you are fighting back. But all I wanted after awhile was peace and an escape from the madness. My mother didn't like either role.

    I notice a lot of child abuse survivors are talking about the Turpins. I can see that if you get isolated with parents who are disordered, it goes more and more in that direction. I knew I had to avoid that. Making my own dreams come true was my way out.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. You might be interested to know that all of the people who commented so far have degrees in the teaching field (present company included).

      I'll be talking about the Turpins and their isolation of their kids, escalation of abuse termed "punishments", the erroneous blaming (punishing them by chaining them over getting water past their wrists while washing their hands), and the false imprisonments soon. I agree that any abusive parent can go down the road the Turpins took, especially if there is no interference, no one going inside their house except family members, no empath parent who calls out the abuse and offers an alternative, and no escapees.

      Scapegoats are the ones who tend to be the escapees, the brave ones, the trail blazers, the ones who notice first, before any of the others, that there is something wrong. It becomes easier for the other kids to leave should they want to do so.

    2. Glad you got through college anon, and kept pushing forth. As you see above, both my high school and college graduations were blown off. It was a theme, this included a DIY art show and they threatened not to come to my wedding. I remember being relieved she did not go to the college grad anyway, she would have made me feel uncomfortable.

      Lise, I found myself wondering if the 17 year old was the scapegoat, she seemed close to another one close in age, maybe the one who turned back in fear. I saw on 20/20 where they said even with the oldest, she had to stand by the table and smile and stare and be given instructions for every movement, that girl was broken down years ago. This was Flowers in the Attic stuff times 1000. The no washing thing grossed me out. Did you see the dirty as hell house in Texas, they looked like they were forced to live as animals. I get the feeling this family was hoarders too and that went along with the weird night lifestyle too.

    3. Yes, I saw how the Turpins lived in Texas.
      This story is all of the buzz with survivors of child abuse, and I hope it won't go away.
      My feeling is that this kind of family is the tip of the iceberg. I think there are many, many families out there that haven't been caught yet.
      While really good parents like homeschooling, really abusive parents like it too. For abusive parents, it isolates their child from outside influences and contact and trauma-bonds them to the parent. I think many of us teachers have met someone who was home-schooled and came from an abusive family.
      In California where the Turpins live, "private" home schooling is allowed to go on without any oversight or interference from authorities. In order to prevent what the Turpin children have gone through, there have to be better laws and oversight into homeschooling, like parents agreeing to random visits from social workers bi-weekly, or so.
      I believe teachers, police officers, social workers and survivors need to look at how this situation happened and how to prevent it.
      We know that abusive parents just about always escalate abuse, they ALL want to isolate their child, they ALL want trauma-bonding with their children (bonding through fear, intimidation, escalating punishments for increasingly erroneous reasons, and brainwashing). We can prevent these kinds of parents from taking this to extremes by vetting how the kids are feeling, and seeing the conditions in the home.
      For the most part, the Turpin kids lived in a concentration camp: starved, basic human needs denied, asked to put their parent-guards first, chained to their beds ... This should not be going on in a country like America.

  3. I wish I had known all of this when I was younger. I tried my whole life to please my parents and now I'm 53. I was rejected by my parents over complaining that one of my siblings was bullying me. That sister, of course, was the golden child. I did not know that there was a golden child and a scapegoat until I went to a therapist. It is very hard to have dreams when you are my age that don't include your parents. But I will try. I am glad there are people making blogs and videos about this subject. I would have been so lost and alone without them.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I won't make any bones about it: this is a very difficult road, and recovery can take awhile. Having dreams, and then making a list as to how your dreams will come true is really the path out of narcissistic abuse, and into recovery.
      My first prayer and hope in recovery was to find people opposite from narcissists. It took only a month to be surrounded by them. I felt I had been over-exposed to them, and I wanted relief and a different life. It wasn't difficult, and I felt I had an awakening.
      BTW, slightly over half of golden children become bullies. It's what they know, how they please their narcissistic parent, how they remove the competition that their sibling presents so that they get a one-on-one relationship with the parent.
      Narcissistic parents typically do not put an end to sibling bullying; instead they encourage it because they get a huge dose of narcissistic supply from it. They also get narcissistic supply from injustice and discarding people.
      Don't be discouraged. There are a lot of people out in the world, and if you are like so many who have lived through being discarded by your own parent, you will find that most people are much, much kinder than your parent. Use the "people pleasing" side of you to please yourself and rebuild.
      Reach out to other survivors, join forums for victims of narcissistic abuse, think about attending twelve step groups to keep you on track. The narcissist is as much of an addict as the alcoholic, so the twelve steps of Alanon and Coda will work. The addiction for a narcissist is narcissistic supply (stirring up trouble in such a way that hurts you, to get an emotional reaction from you, and the silent treatment is largely how they try to do that). In order to heal it is necessary to move away from them emotionally, in your thoughts, physically and spiritually, even if you have to do it in steps.
      I hope that helps.


Your comment may be published after moderator's acceptance. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.