This is part of a series
The Golden Empath Child part I (you are here)
The Bully Golden Child part II
The golden child refers to the "favorite child" of a parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A golden child can also emerge in alcoholic families, but for this post, I will be talking about the golden child in the narcissistic family (a family headed by a narcissistic caregiver/parent).
Golden children come about because of roles that are assigned to children at a very early age, including the scapegoat child, the family mascot, the lost child and, of course, the golden child. These roles have everything to do with how much abuse is given out to each child (the scapegoat getting the most abuse and the golden child getting the least amount of abuse), how much each child is valued (the scapegoat is the least valued, and in fact may be devalued, and the golden child is the most valued), who gets blamed for when things go wrong in the household (the scapegoat is used for blame, and the golden child is deemed to be blameless).
Some of why roles are assigned by narcissistic parents is explained in these posts I have written:
- Favoritism in the Family
- Narcissists and Children
- Why Abusers, and In Particular, Narcissists, Demand You Play a Role ... Why Abusive Relationships are More About Role-playing Than a Real Relationship, Plus Looking at Prejudiced Perspectives
- the way they love: Love Bombing
Who gets what role can be anything from sex of the child, to hair color, and to what and how much a child can do for his or her narcissistic parent. Sometimes it can be a number of things. One thing that seems to be prevalent is who is most like the narcissist, who mirrors the narcissist most in terms of personality, likes and dislikes, looks, disposition and values. A lot of narcissists tend to favor the child who seems to be most like them, and disfavor (and scapegoat) the child who seems less like them.
In a lot abusive situations we find that there is a cycle of behavior which defines relationships that narcissists have (usually with partners): idealize, devalue, discard. Some psychologists prefer to label this as "love bomb, devalue, destroy" instead. Either way, the narcissist starts out idealizing you, and either gets bored or realizes you are "just a human", then they start to devalue you, and once they have devalued you, either discard you or abuse you (verbally, emotionally, psychologically and/or physically).
The difference between partners and children is that the idealization usually goes to the golden child (often for life), and the devaluing and discarding goes to the scapegoat (often for life too).
However, roles can change just as people change. Roles can also change depending on how serviceable you are to them.
The way you can tell if you've been devalued is when they say things like:
"You were never good at ----"
"You were never good enough for me."
"You really are stupid, aren't you?"
"You really are crazy, aren't you?"
"I hate your guts."
"You're no good."
"Who would ever want to be with someone like you?"
"You aren't worth my time!"
"You're nothing to me."
"You're a waste."
Or they will try to prove all of these things by plainly abandoning you. But before they abandon you, they usually verbally abuse you first, and perhaps even call you names.
In general, there is a lot of hate-talk and who they value most in the family, who is doing better than whom, what such-and-such a family member is willing to do to keep them happy, who to talk to and who not to talk to, how they are going to spend a lot more time with x family member and less time with you, how if you really loved them you would act like such-and-such a family member, how boys are all good and girls are a pain, and in general the "drama" phrase and the "useless" phrase are used a lot ... It is triangulation and prejudice (narcissists like comparing people a whole lot, even when it comes to themselves; i.e. most often comparing themselves to others in such a way that is boastful and better than how someone else is).
So, since the narcissist tends to like mirrors, wouldn't it be fitting that the golden child would be a bully?
Not necessarily. There may not be a child who is like the narcissistic parent (the child is more empathetic than they are). So then what do they do?
They often choose the child who is most utilitarian for them:
- Who is willing to babysit?
- Who is willing to cook and clean to the perfection standards of the narcissist?
- Which child is willing to co-parent with the narcissist?
- Who is trying to seek validation and praise from the narcissist? (i.e. who is the best bet for co-dependency and trauma bonding?)
- Who cares a great deal about the opinions of the narcissist?
- Who hangs on to every word the narcissist speaks?
- Who seems super sensitive to what the narcissist can do to them (trauma bonded, therefor stick with them through thick or thin so they won't be hurt or abandoned)?
- Who is willing to fight over the narcissist in order to be "the favorite" and "the chosen"?
- Who is willing to take commands without comment or backlash?
- Who is acting most dutiful?
- How much power and control can the narcissist have over a particular child? (this has the most to do with who is chosen because narcissists are all about being concerned with how much power, control and dominance they have over other human beings, and also with what their reputation is outside the family).
The child who acts "most responsible", "most concerned with what the parent wants", who seems to sublimate the most, will be chosen as the golden child if a "clone" did not materialize in the birth room.
This child can be an empath. This child can also be put in the role of handmaid for the narcissistic parent, and even the entire family. It is an age-inappropriate role where the child is expected to parent the narcissist, do chores consistently, and sometimes for all of the children too, and it can last well into adulthood as well as for a lifetime.
The handmaid may be idealized, but only because they "do, do, do" for the parent, and not because of who they are, what their strengths are, or even for what their potentials are. If they stop the role, they can often be abused, threatened, discarded, get the silent treatment because the parent comes to expect the role, rather than it being voluntary.
Sometimes a parent wants a sensitive empath for the role too because having a bully in the role may put the parent out of control. Some narcissists are aware enough to know that a bully is not only going to bully for the parent exclusively (ensuring that all the siblings stay in role; i.e. policing and tattling on siblings), but for themselves too. And it is easy for them to go from bullying for the parent to bullying for themselves.
However, there are more bully golden children than empath golden children, more than half. Still the under-half is a pretty good representation of how many empaths are chosen for the role.
The other reason that sometimes an empath is chosen for the golden child role over a bully is because empaths are more susceptible to guilt trips, obligation lectures, "you should care" lectures, and victimization stories by the narcissist. They will want to take care of the narcissist. They will want to soothe. They will want to help them. They will feel guilty if they don't take care of the narcissist.
Empaths are also more susceptible to being jerked around via the cycle of abuse (honeymoon, tension, explosion, reconciliation, back to honeymoon) because of their empathetic natures. They fall for the sob stories, the fake apologies, the not-really-mean-it overtures to do better next time, whereas a bully will only fall for it if there are rewards, power, money and control involved, or if they feel their reputation is at stake.
Empaths are also more susceptible to being put in a handmaid role. The parent might say: "I need help and you need to help me with this", "Your baby brother is crying and he needs you to comfort him and I don't have the time", "You always need to think of others first and not for yourself," and so on.
The empathetic child is groomed to be ever more empathetic to the point where his (or her) thoughts are always on how the parent thinks and feels, and on how others in the family are thinking and feeling too. In fact, the point is to bring out evermore empathy in the handmaid.
Handmaids become so sensitized to how people in the family are responding, who needs what, often to the detriment of caring for themselves. Sometimes they are expected to be a martyr, and that is where the narcissistic parent may get some push-back.
The push-back can mean that this golden child gets knocked off the pedestal and scapegoated in the end. If the golden child has become too much of a martyr, they can manifest PTSD symptoms which make them less dutiful (they become triggered by commands; also one of the symptoms of PTSD is an inability to focus, so making mistakes is very likely - and one thing narcissists can't tolerate is mistakes!).
Rejection becomes a huge blow to a child who always assumed they were valued. They find out they are only valued for being useful, and in the role. Now that they can't be in role, they are thrown away like trash.
Following are the four types of golden children that I have noticed in my years of contact with many survivors of child abuse and narcissism: the handmaid golden child, the "star" empath golden child, the empath clone child, and the empath golden child in an exclusive relationship with their parent.
As stated before, the bully golden child is discussed in another post HERE.
The handmaid child is slightly more prevalent in alcoholic families than in narcissistic families, but the role can happen in both. In alcoholic families, the parents are too inebriated to take on all of the adult responsibilities of caretaking the children, and the chores around the house, so the handmaid child does them instead.
This is the child in an alcoholic family who makes mixed drinks for the parent, opens their beer cans, is always at the ready to "fetch" things for the parent (a pair of glasses, a pen and paper, the phone, diapers for the baby, the remote for the television, the laptop computer from the other room, a straw to stir their parent's drink, some chips and salsa, and so on). These children also often make dinner for the parents. And they are continually relegated to chores: rake the lawn, dig a hole for the new tree, go get the eggs from the chickens, do the laundry, make sure your younger siblings have their raincoats on, soothe your mother who is having a meltdown and has had too much to drink, don't forget to make sure your mother goes to bed early so that she gets up in time to drive you to the doctors, and so on.
This is called parentification of a minor. I hope to be covering this topic soon and giving you a link where the bold type exists, but for now, read on:
The handmaid role can also turn into the "fix everything" role too: fix the car, fix the mower, fix the dishwasher, get the viruses out of the computer, help the parent figure out why the refrigerator might not be working, see if there is a hole in the roof and see which roofer has the best recommendations, fix the reason why your parent has gone off the deep edge emotionally, fix the rage your parent is in, make sure you pass your driver's license so that you can do some chores like grocery shopping, etc.
Anyway, parentification can happen in a narcissistic family too, especially if the narcissist grew up with alcoholic parents who were inconsistent in their loving and in their caregiving, were authoritarian in their make-up, hypocritical (expected things from their children they would never expect from themselves), and were arrogant and/or selfish. When they mature and have a child of their own, they may feel that it is perfectly acceptable to have a handmaid child themselves (they have normalized it and now feel entitled to have a child in that role too).
The new child might not be expected to make mixed drinks, but that's about it.
The problem with this role being expected (or else!) is that it will stunt the child's development. A child's real job is in growing up, in learning, in exploring activities, to figure out what their talents and specialties are that they can offer to their own future spouse and children (and/or to the world). When they are their parent's crutch and expected to be the parent's lifelong caregiver, fetcher, and fixer of every household issue, sibling need, and every family member's emotional melt-down, there will usually be some pushback at some point from the handmaid child. Their empathy is taken advantage of and exploited rather than truly appreciated. It also ceases to be a learning experience by the time they repeat the chores so many times. It can also cease when they become a teenager.
Some handmaid golden children stay in this role for the rest of their lives, however. They live with the feeling that this is the only way they will be loved, get through life in one piece and accepted by their parents and family, and are terrified of losing their parents and family members since they have put them at the center of their world by attending to their every need.
Since narcissists tend to have a scapegoat child, and constantly threaten the scapegoat with ostracizing, they also notice how expendable a child can be. Very often it is a "either get bullied by the family or have no support from your family at all" kind of outcome. The terror that they will be ostracized too if they go out of role can overwhelm any other desires they might have: their desires for their own life, their own mate, their own house, and their own children.
Some of them live in with their parent, or nearby, and keep doing chores, fixing things, often expected to give their parent money, and become the primary caretaker and crutch to the parent for the rest of their lives. Taking care of their parent's every want and every need becomes the all-encompassing job. Some of them sacrifice having children, getting married, sometimes having a career (beyond the kind of career their parent wants them to have, that is). Everything they do becomes a parental or family decision too, i.e. the decision-making is taken out of the hands of the handmaid at every point of their lives, even when they are middle aged. They learn to only go places and do things that the parent will approve and not find threatening (or anything that is out of role).
But more often it is not a life long role, despite how many guilt trips and shaming the parent does when the child steps out of role. The reason is simple biology: becoming more autonomous as a teenager. Also teenagers begin to see their parents as mere mortals instead of in an idealized way (some even become somewhat disgusted or embarrassed by their parents), and they begin to re-focus their attention on the opposite sex, peer relationships, and on how they might want to make a living. Some people refer to this stage as "teenage rebellion", but it has more to do with the biology of becoming an adult (the beginnings of making their own decisions, and feeling like they don't need the validation of their parents nearly as much as they used to).
So, your question might be: shouldn't a child be helping with household chores and learning how to have empathy for siblings and a parent? Of course. But there are ways parents can do this so they aren't hindering and harming.
The best way to do this is not to put any one child in a role.
You put up a list of chores in a room like the kitchen. Children alternate on evening dishes, helping to cook, helping to sweep, doing outside work, etc. There are ways to make it fun and a productive learning experience. The more you can join in, the more the child likes it. The more you can model behavior that you want to see in your child, the better off you will be in terms of your child's participation. Children are very good hypocrisy detectives and if you want respect, you have to model the behavior you want to see in your child. Always.
That is the short explanation. This post isn't about this, but you can find articles on the web about how to motivate your child to do dishes, do outside chores, to partake in cooking, to partake in family projects, in being empathetic towards other family members ...
Next up is what happens when the handmaid child role is continually expected through the years:
I have already discussed how the child with the handmaid role can start to go out of role as he or she becomes a teenager.
Where it becomes toxic is if this role is expected to continue in the way it did before, or even get better. Narcissists don't necessarily know what is age-appropriate, and they assume all of the service is for them, not for the sake of evolving into an adult. That assumption is where the parent can get into a power struggle with the teenager.
So, let us say the parent heats the house with wood. They count on the two oldest children, a boy and a girl, to keep split wood in the house at all times. Anyway, the girl teenager is staying after school for rehearsal of a school play, and when she is done, it is late, so she messages her parent that she won't be home until bedtime. The other teenager, the boy, has lot of homework, including an important test to study for. He decides to go next door to study with a friend.
The parent, a father, comes home late from work, and perhaps the bar afterwards, and notices that the woodstove hasn't been loaded and that there is no wood stacked in the bin inside the house. When the boy comes home, the father goes ballistic on the son for his failure to take the woodstove situation seriously.
"What's the matter with you? Are you stupid?! You know that you're supposed to load the stove and make sure there is wood in the house!" - now this is disrespectful, and no one, not even a teenager, wants to be treated this way.
The teenage boy is looking at the father as being unable to listen, unable to be concerned, unable to be empathetic and sympathetic, and the father is thinking the same about his son.
Then the father physically pushes his teenager out the door and demands: "You get some wood for the house now! Right now, if you know what is good for you!" - so we have a threat from the father, and an insistence that he get his way. The teenager feels humiliated, disrespected and his manhood is being challenged. He is not a boy any more.
In order not to be humiliated in this way, he takes off for another neighbor's house and then wanders back home when his siblings are getting ready for bed.
"Damn it, Dad! I'll just go back to the neighbors and tell them that you want me to sleep outdoors for doing homework and studying for a test!"
"No, you won't! If you do that, the consequences are much worse! Take these blankets and make the barn your bedroom until you can behave yourself and apologize to me for what you have done!" The door slams in the teenager's face.
The parent is also taking out his revenge on the child for failing to follow commands, and a failure to keep in the handmaid role, a role that he usually fulfills. Parental revenge makes no sense at all if you are still trying to teach your children, as the child may normalize revenge himself (and perhaps use it on the parent who started the revenge cycle). Disrespect makes no sense either in terms of modeling behavior you want to see in your child. Your teenager will look at "revenge" and "disrespect" as a normal way to work out relationship problems instead.
Sometimes teenagers capitulate under the pressure of punishments, retaliations, disrespect and dire consequences, but they also tend to resent their parents, and lose respect for them too. Teenage resentment will not necessarily ever go away unless there is an obvious enlightenment in the parent.
The way the father communicated with the son in this example, therefor, is age-inappropriate. But, by and large, this is how many narcissistic parents behave: the abuse and consequences escalate, the retaliations escalate too, the power struggle deepens and starts to divide father and son. The father thinks he will win this power struggle (because he has deemed himself to have way more power than a dependent son) and the son thinks he will win by making plans to renounce his father (devaluing and discarding), and relinquishing the role altogether.
Some handmaids admit defeat in the face of a power struggle, and they can be afraid thereafter of getting out of role again, so they stay in this child role, being ordered around like a slave, sometimes relinquishing part of their adulthood just to please the parent, and because they are terrified of their parent, terrified of the awful consequences, terrified of the lack of support they will receive from an autonomous decision, and terrified of leaving. This is what trauma bonding looks like.
The contrast to this story would be: "I understand that you were studying for a test, and that it was important for you, and it is important for me too that you pass this test, but I'm worried about the woodstove too and keeping the house warm. Could you load some of the bin or get a fire going with what is left in the bin before going next door? If not, I'll have to figure out something else. Or maybe we can figure this out together." And believe it or not, the high majority of teenagers will bring the wood in and stoke the stove. They actually like being regarded as mature and responsible.
For more help on how to handle chores during teenage years, this can be researched on-line too.
Many children equate their value and ability to be loved only by how useful and empathetic they are to the parents and anyone else who needs a duty or a problem solved. Narcissistic love tends to be "utilitarian love", a term coined from Dr. Ramani Durvasula. And you know it when narcissists put you in the handmaid role and rage and call you "useless", "worthless" and "a waste" when you can't or won't fulfill their commands - it is proof of it.
The answer is that neither of these situations are good. They are extremes. The scapegoat is expected to become a full autonomous adult with no family safety net at least by age 18 (and they often start by getting discarded by age 16: sleeping out in a cold barn, or given the silent treatment for long period of time, told they are worthless and that the parent doesn't want to see or hear them, relegated to a basement room with a hotplate, having to do all school activities alone, not having their parent at graduation, and so on). The handmaid golden child, in contrast, is expected to be a child until they are well into their thirties at the very least ("hopefully longer" - the parent might think, trying to manipulate an outcome to make it happen).
In the case of these handmaid golden children, every tactic is used to keep the child entrapped:
- "There are dangerous predatory people out there in the world. You are safer with us."
- "You don't need to go out on a date. You have everything you need at home."
- "You don't need to be successful outside the home. We already consider you successful just the way you are!"
- "I'm sorry you thought we came in the middle between you and (your fiancé), but he was never good enough for you! You need a good (fill in the blank) man instead!" Although no man ever will ever be good enough, of course, because a handmaid is suppose to stay home forever.
- Dressing them in frumpy styles so that no one will be attracted to them to take their handmaid away, or elope (God forbid!) - these kinds of parents are known for still making decisions on what clothes their handmaid will wear, down to their shoes and coat, and I have heard stories that the parent lays the clothes out on the bed of their adult child too, as though they were still in grammar school!
- Constant lectures about why their parent knows best and why you should have the same values that they have.
- Often handmaids are expected to work the family business too, or some business that the parent has started just for their adult child, which the parent will run (because Mommy or Daddy deems themselves to know best at how to run a business!) and this keeps them even more entrapped.
All of this is very manipulative and cult-like in that there is constant indoctrination and control of their every movement.
Again, some of them are terrified about leaving, so they will complain in a forum, but stay because of the repercussions of getting their own apartment, or their own job, or their own mate.
Many of these situations have a heavy emotional incest component to them too, which makes golden children feel guilt-ridden if they so much as want to have an autonomous thought, or action.
And of course, if the golden child steps back instead of stepping ever-more forward into the role, the parent freaks out. If lectures and arm-twisting don't work, then the adult child is presented with an all-or-nothing situation: "Go ahead and live on your own then! Don't come back if you run into trouble! You are totally on your own and alone for the rest of your life! You have no idea how hard life is!" - the threats come out.
What often happens in these situations, at least for these women who are in their twenties and thirties, is that they escape the household long enough to find someone to marry. Then they are free. They are still scapegoated in the end, punished in some way, but at least they are not totally alone in dealing with the situation. The parent is likely to reach back in eventually, especially if there is no one available as "fixer" or housemaid, or if there are grandchildren. They look for new recruits for the handmaid role, a grandchild is eyed for it, even a whole family if they can muster it.
You have a hard time dealing with these siblings while narcissistic Mom is out of the house. The three year old is particularly acting up, grabbing food out of the refrigerator and trying to get it on the counter, but more often dumping it on the floor because she can't reach the counter. To make matters worse the three year old starts eating the dip that Mom told you not to give any of the kids because it's for the party tomorrow.
You are also trying to chase two brothers who are running through the house with squirt guns, and they have already knocked over a table.
None of these siblings would act like this if Mom was in the house!
You keep taking the dip away from the three year old while you are also telling the boys to stop squirting at each other in the house.
No one is listening to you. When the three year old goes to the refrigerator for the fourth time to get the dip out, you slap her on the hand and put her in her room and lock the door for twenty minutes while she wails and you chase the boys around the house.
"I love you too," you say. "I'm sorry!"
"You best leave her alone now!" Mom retorts back.
That's called triangulation, pitting siblings against each other, creating an environment among siblings of distrust that was never really there to begin with.
you are always supposed to be nice (like a good sensitive empath should always be):
One problem with always being nice, and expected to always be nice is that it's a poor boundary for you.
Always/Never statements are unhealthy, especially for children. And it is black and white thinking besides, something that narcissists indulge in a lot. Judgements about your character in a black and white context is not fair; it is unjust; it is too simplistic for most situations; it does not use intelligence; and it is too opinion-oriented to be at all helpful.
So, let's say that you were groomed to always be nice and always be empathetic towards other people: nice to your siblings, nice to your parents even if one of them did not treat you all that well, and well, nice to everyone:
"She's SUPER nice! Wow! You raised her well!"
"Such a nice daughter you have! You must be so proud!"
"Some kids are just so nice, you know what I mean? They are always so thoughtful of other people! How does this happen?! It must be genes!"
"Such a breath of fresh air to be served lemonade, a sandwich, and even dessert by such a nice sweet girl! She's only nine? Does she serve mixed drinks? Bwahahaha!"
And then, because you are so nice, and your parents are smiling proudly, and your parent's friends are complimenting you and them so nicely, everyone expects you to continue to be nice.
It can be a terrible and dangerous set-up for a lot of kids and young adults who have grown up with this role thrust on them.
- A man stops you to ask for directions and you tell him how to get where he wants to go, but he says he can't hear you and waves to you to get closer. Then as you talk and point down the road to where he needs to go you do it with the utmost empathy. He's lost! His feeling lost makes you feel very sad because you've been so trained to be sensitive to how others may be feeling and their needs: and again, his needs are of the the utmost importance to you in that moment ... and then he grabs you!
He orders you around, and your parent is telling you to attend to his needs.
However, it becomes obvious this is just a little game to see how much he can order you around and how much you'll do for him. You have other chores to get to, and he follows you around telling you that you need to do what he wants you to do. At this point you laugh and say, "Good try!"
But then he says he is serious. Then he throws his dirty clothes at you, and they land right in your face. "Ew! That's disgusting! I hope you didn't poop in any of these clothes!"
"What if I did! You wash my clothes now! You're supposed to be nice and wash our clothes!"
But you refuse to wash his clothes.
Then it becomes a power struggle to see what he can get away with.
You still refuse. Then he punches you in the gut really hard the way one of his bully friends does.
You run to tell your mother that your brother punched you in the gut, and her response is: "Why would he punch you in the gut!? He's never done that before. Did you punch her in the gut?"
"Mom, he's lying!"
"Maybe you're lying!" she shouts back. "He would NEVER do that, would you?" - again, triangulation comes first in narc-world.
You are only a kid and you cry at the injustice. He looks a little sheepish and says, "I'm sorry. I was just trying to pat you on the stomach." It's another lie, and you walk away, seeing that there is not going to be any empathy, reasonableness, listening, research.
"You know what's the matter with you? You're too sensitive! A little pat! Cripe!" Your mother yells at you as you walk away.
As the years go on, his bullying and lying get worse, and the continual response is that you should be nicer to him so that he won't want to hurt you and that you are too sensitive - typical.
You were groomed to be sensitive, and now it's become a fault. - it is a double bind, also typical. The double bind puts the fault squarely on your shoulders (blame-shifting), something that narcissistic parents do when they don't want to be the ones to resolve anything. They deem it is all your fault that you are too sensitive and that you are getting bullied.
It is also the way victimization can happen so easily in families headed by a narcissist.
You accept the marriage proposal.
At some point you have to tell your parent and it gives you extreme anxiety. As you expected, your parent goes ballistic, and also tries to break you apart. It doesn't work.
The parent also does not show up at the wedding - this is somewhat typical of narc parents - at least I have seen this happen in a number of situations.
Your groom takes note on how little support you have.
Three years into your marriage, it's a nightmare and you are in a worse situation than you were when you lived with your parent. He won't let you go anywhere; he orders you around the house constantly; it's like he's holding you prisoner; you are depressed, alone and lonely most of the time; and the domestic violence situations are piling up so that you are wounded a lot too.
This happens to children put in handmaid roles because they are taught to be nice to other people no matter what (even to be nice to bullies in the hopes that the bully will treat you better).
Predatory types of people who become domestic violence offenders often are attracted to nice people who have few boundaries, who have been taught to please others to great lengths, and who have no familial support.
In fact, you have been taught to be nice rather than to have boundaries. Good boundaries means having a good plan on protecting yourself against any bullying and domestic violence situations. Good boundaries also means a support system. A support system makes it harder for predators to go to the extreme lengths of hurting and traumatizing you to the extent that they are capable because they know that people will defend you.
Handmaids can especially be vulnerable to abuse. If they complain, they are told to be nicer.
What I have seen when it comes to narcissistic families:
A high proportion of children who complain about sexual abuse from stepfathers are ostracized. Their parent is even willing to let the state take control and put them in foster care. If other children come forward and complain (which is likely since sexual predation is repeated with other victims), then the parent may divorce and re-unite with their children.
Most sibling bullying is ignored in families headed by a narcissist, even egregious bullying. Some children call Child Protective Services (if they are aware enough), or a teacher does the calling. Child Protective Services will remove children who are enduring sibling bullying and often require the parents to go to counseling. This wasn't true a couple of decades ago, so you may have long lasting emotional scars that are still not healed or recognized by your parent(s).
- If you go home to your parent after a bunch of traumatic experiences, they may decide that it was all your fault ("If only you were a little nicer!" - in other words, you are deemed to be not "nice enough" to keep yourself safe from violence and predation - whew! What a message, yes? - but I've seen this happen!) And of course the parent can punish you for going against their orders. And they will expect the same kind of sensitivity, duty, niceness, self effacement that you gave them before.
Some handmaids commit suicide because they felt they were as nice as they could possibly be, that they had reached the apex of "niceness", altruism, unselfishness and self effacement and, in their minds, it still wasn't enough to keep them from being bullied and abused. They felt they were in a hopeless situation with this, and killed themselves.
Girls, especially, are often taught to be nice and self effacing. Maybe they should be taught self defense instead, and that domestic violence and bullying is not their fault. Schools would be a good place to start since narcissistic parents are not likely to do it.
However, handmaid children may not have any abuse committed against them, but still there are drawbacks. Here are a few:
* Because handmaid children are so empathetic, and brought up to be so sensitive to the feelings of others, the narcissist cannot easily triangulate siblings. This kind of empath golden will care too much about how their siblings feel for the narcissist to break them apart (divide and conquer).
When the narcissist has a scapegoat, the empath golden will usually not take part in the family bullying against the scapegoat, and in fact may try to protect the scapegoat. Protecting the scapegoat can have consequences (narcissists will demand, even when it comes to bullying), but most of the time the handmaid is just removed from the golden role and put into the lost child role instead (a role where they are somewhat sidelined: somewhat ignored, perfunctorily engaged with, not provoked or bullied, not particularly doted on either, or noticed aside from making sure they stick to their role).
It would be out of role for this kind of golden to be insensitive to a scapegoat sibling, and they often cry when asked to take part. "I just can't tell them what you want me to tell them! You always told me to be nice! Well this is cruel!" said through a lot of tears.
Some of them can be talked into some insensitivity (especially when the parent spends a great deal of time comparing them much more favorably than the scapegoat), but on the whole, no; it won't work.
A lot of empath golden children work underground, out of view, to help siblings who are being abused. "I just wet the bed! Mom is going to KILL me for it! I didn't mean to do it! Help me!" and the golden child may do something to help hide it from Mom.
Some of them slip their siblings money when they are in dire straights. I also know personally of a situation where one of three daughters received a Will, but her two other siblings were left out. As soon as she received the money from the Will, she split the money evenly between all three of them.
The father's last ditch effort at triangulation did not work. Bravo for the three sisters who saw through this evil tactic and still have a very close relationship!
Christina, the child of Joan Crawford, from the movie Mommie Dearest gets enough money together to get her younger brother, who is a teenager, out of jail, and she also fights for an inheritance for him when they are both left out of Joan Crawford's Will. She succeeds. She gives her portion of the proceeds entirely to her brother. Christina also wrote in her autobiography that she did everything to protect her younger brother against Joan's rages and abuse. She would be a prime example of an empathetic handmaid child.
When the parent is a Malignant Narcissist or a very punishing breed of narcissist, they find all of this sibling togetherness too much of a direct hit to their fear that the power, control and domination they wield and want ever more of, will be compromised, so prefer the bully brand of golden child instead. But even that has as many pitfalls for them as putting an empath into a golden child role, if not more so (I will be explaining why when I get around to writing that post).
Sometimes when a scapegoat child is bullied, the scapegoat child commits suicide. This happens a little too often, in fact. It can effect an empath golden greatly. They may carry around survivor's guilt for the rest of their lives as a result of this. They may also grow to hate their parents. They won't take kindly to hearing their sibling being talked about derisively when they know what really happened, and that the results of "the happenings" had everything to do with the sibling being bullied by the parent(s), even if their parent(s) spent an inordinate amount of time, lectures, and "convincing sessions" trying to blame-shift it off of themselves and on to their dead child.
So, as you can see there are a lot of pitfalls to putting a child in a role like this, and also for you, if this was your role.
So the parent not only uses this child to show how nice he is, but how gifted he is too. They use him to show what great parents they are, really.
The other thing that sets "the star" apart from the handmaid is that when he is making lots of money at his gifts, he might be expected to use his money to put his siblings through college, to buy expensive things for the parents, to still be at their beck and call.
There can be boatloads of guilt for "the star" if the bulk of his income is NOT spent on the family or on the parent(s) every want and need, in fact, even when he has his own children to raise!
"The star's" success can also be so intimidating to the parent's grandiose self, that "the star" often gets advice from the parent(s) like: "You don't need to be a star doctor! Working at the local hospital was always fine for you!", "You don't need to get any further in your career as a singer! In fact, you should probably think of retiring now before you lose your voice, your looks and your stage presence!" (even when they are only thirty).
I have already talked about how narcissist's envy is off the charts in other posts, and that goes for being envious of their children too, but they will also feel threatened by anything that threatens their grandiose sense of self (and therefor their abilities to wield power, control and domination). That's when you hear all of "You don't need to be successful!" kinds of lectures. That's when you hear all of the "It's not THAT big of an award!" kinds of putdowns. That's when you hear all of the "You could have done better than going to THAT (prestigious) University!" Well, you sure do need to be successful! Especially when they are narcissists!
Often a parent doesn't know what to do with this kind of child of theirs. Try to stick him with more obligations and babysitting to sabotage some of the success? Try to bring them down a notch or two, or all the way to the bottom in the "opinion department"? Try to only use him to show what great parents they are for having given birth to a "star child", but reject him and resent him in their own minds? What to do, what to do ...
If he is rich, they like it when he invites them on exotic vacations and cruises, and they meet other "stars", of course, but they feel they deserve more, more of what they want, and they also put him down behind the scenes for flaunting his money when they don't have as much as he does (because they are always comparing people; it is what leads to all of the triangulation).
Often this kind of parent feels as though they are walking a tightrope of derision, resentment, and hatred towards "the star", plus getting praise, pride and attention they would not otherwise have received. They feel a lot of humiliation at being caught up in a situation like this, one where their grandiosity, power, control and domination are all very wimpy, and only limited to having given birth to him and raised him. He gets the bulk of the accolades, and they are on the sidelines of it.
However, at the core of all of this for "the star" is sabotage because of the parent'(s) insecurities. How will they be able to count on you to put them first the way you used to do? How are they going to be able to dominate someone who is not vulnerable to domination, someone who can just throw them off and shout: "I don't need you! And you are NOT dominating me!"?
What I have noticed personally, that in the end, these narc parent(s) go in the direction of sabotage and rejection of "the star". Not always, but mostly. While they used him to help his siblings, they also don't like it that he is more of "the favorite" among the siblings than they are. That's the big difference with normal parents: they like it when the siblings foster closeness with each other. So, "the star" helped the siblings too much, in their eyes (that double-bind no-win situation again)!
I know a lawyer, a doctor and a well known artist who were treated this way, and the narc parent not only tried to triangulate their siblings against them, but "the star's" own children too. Needless to say, this triangulation did not work. So, the bet that the parents were making of gaining more dominance, power and control backfired in a big way.
The artist's narc mother rejected her (the artist daughter) once she became "famous." The mother tries to use the "You're not good enough!" self esteem crushing tactic on her, but it doesn't work because she knows she has a narc mother (she educated herself on narcissism), and has loving children, a loving husband who is extremely supportive, and a great number of fans. The people who love her outnumber the single one who doesn't. It's amazing that the mother feels so threatened by her daughter's fame and success, and has to ruin it, even if ever so marginally for her, that she lets it stand in the way of a relationship with her, and her own grandkids! Whew - let that one sink in!
Both the lawyer and doctor have extreme boundaries in place so that their children are not exposed to the parents. The lawyer notices that the new golden child in her family is a home maker, a new handmaid. And the doctor is aware that the golden child in his family is a criminal in charge of his narc parent's medical care (you can't make this up, it's crazy-making! - but that's life with narcissists!).
The children who assume a clone role seem to be born to a mother who displays sadism: vindictiveness, vengefulness and tit-for-tat spiteful behavior (whether the parents are malignant narcissists, sociopaths or psychopaths is something I wasn't told).
Anyway, the golden child has empathetic qualities throughout childhood and tends also to be put in a handmaid role, but because the parent is so sadistic, and never models empathy herself, her child feels that empathy might be a detriment. So she may have displayed empathy in her childhood to her siblings, but at some point feels she must keep it hidden, especially around her mother, and in situations where she might be shamed for showing empathy to a sibling who is being abused by the parent (it's that "go along to get along" kind of pressure). The parent is justifying that the abuse of one of her children is necessary and that no sibling should interfere with that.
What happens is that eventually all qualities that the mother doesn't have are somehow deemed as detrimental in the child: "I can't be successful because Mom will be envious and ruin my life or reject me over it", "I can't show love and compassion to my siblings or I will be perceived as going against Mom", "I can't wear something different that would make her feel envious or critical because she'll hurt me if she is envious and critical", "I can't pursue any dream or career beyond what she has done with her life so that I don't trigger her envy and inevitable rage", "I can't have my own opinions because Mom will constantly pressure me to have her opinions", and so on.
It may be unconscious, but eventually these siblings dress like the mother, have a haircut like the mother, mannerisms and speech patterns like the mother, repeat what the mother says in the same tones, if in a more robotic way, take up hobbies and jobs that are like the mother's, decorate their house like the mother, help the mother in such a way as to mirror how she does tasks. They look like and act like a twin, albeit a younger version of their parent. They tend to go shopping with their mother and buy the same clothes.
Who knows why this happens, but my big guess is that it is done out of fear. I think anyone with a narcissistic parent with dark traits (sadism, Machiavellianism) knows to downplay success to some degree, to appear to be unemotional when you can be, to agree on the small stuff that your parent wants you to agree with at the very least, but these kids take it to the extreme, become their parent just so they won't be attacked. They probably have a core self that is differentiated from the mother, but they don't dare show it (with the result that it becomes a dimmer and dimmer part of their makeup).
Narcissists love mirrors and mirroring, so it appears to work.
500 Pound Peep wrote a story of a sister who became a clone of her mother called "Sister Light, Sister Dark" (her story is one of the seven stories that I know about personally). I recommend it, especially if you have noticed the same thing, because there isn't much out there on this breed of golden child.
In that story the sister goes from being an empath in childhood, starts to follow advice that will estrange her from her sister in highschool, to adult mirroring of her mother to such an extent that the narcissism is cloned too.
* Why would my narcissist wife want our daughter to be a mirror/clone of her? - a Quora question answered by Clinical Psychotherapist Karen Arluck.
People who suffer from NPD have often see their children as extensions of themselves. The more they view their child as being similar to themselves, the more loved, admired, and connected they are likely to feel towards them. Conversely, anytime your daughter chooses another interest, hobby, or preference that is completely different from their narcissitic parent, the more likely it is that the parent will feel rejected, uninterested, and less loving.
* What You Need To Know To Free Yourself From Narcissistic Parents - by David McDermott
Remember that these parents use mind control to create clones of themselves and this would explain a lot of the narcissistic behaviors of these children.
You exist as an extension of herself and an object in relation to her, not as a subject with your own valid and complex identity, traits, feelings, needs, preferences, and boundaries. Whether you function as a source of pride, embarrassment, and/or competition, your body is not your own but rather hers to control, judge, display, reject, or otherwise exploit, neglect, and abuse.
* Narcissist Parents Are Hurt Machines to Their Children - by Julie L. Hall for the Narcissist Family Files
Narcissist parents charge a high price for their favoritism: enmeshment and isolation. The narcissist “owns” her/his golden child and demands compliance and loyalty. If that child attempts to break away from the narcissist’s control and/or form relationships of her/his own, s/he faces a battalion of punishments, from guilt trips to judgment, rejection to abandonment, or worse.
I think all of us are capable of chameleon-like responses. In war, you might pretend to be one of the enemy if you are surrounded by the enemy, and you know their language and habits. You do it to get through it alive.
I would imagine that "the clone" would be attacked if she went out of role.
"You imposter!" the parent might say in a rage. "You fooled me! You are so evil to act like a clone and not really mean it!"
So this previously empathetic sibling may feel stuck in this role for the rest of their lives, afraid to reveal anything authentic, never understanding or exploring who they really are as a separate individual, what their opinions might be, what their interests might be, not even how they feel. Narcissistic parents love to tell their children how they feel even if it is not the truth. The clone golden child lets the parent do it, and is defined and imprisoned by the role.
So what can go wrong with having a clone or being a clone besides some of the things I talk about in the other type of goldens?
- You can't afford to show your mother that you might be an imposter, that you were just acting to keep safe.
- You have to put her first for the rest of your life because she and you are joined at the hip and what ever she wants is what you have to talk yourself into wanting too.
- You can't have a relationship with the sibling that she hates (because you are supposed to be her and what ever she hates you have to hate too).
- Most people cannot live or deal with malignant narcissists, so everyone in the family may either be discarded or walk out. When you are all alone with a malignant narcissist and they cannot easily blame or abuse anyone else in the family, you turn into one part scapegoat and one part golden child. You will often be dealing with wild swings from your parent.
- You have to ignore other siblings and cousins who have a strong identity, interests of their own, successes that they made on their own, talents they explored on their own, a fashion sense that is much more complimentary to their shape and hair than the "clone one" you have adopted - and by the way, a lot of success stories come from scapegoats. They rebelled against the unhealthy, spirit-stifling, emotion-stifling, intelligence-stifling, incredibly restraining and unethical "clone atmosphere" of the malignant narc or sociopathic family.
- You have to pretend to look the other way when she lies, says untrue horrible things about your other parent, including how she treats him. You are also supposed to look the other way if she steals, when she hurts others that you used to care about, when she ruins property you care about, when she makes fun of one of your children who you love and protect, when she sends a prospective spouse of yours away, when she insults your spouse, when your child is sick and she wants your undivided attention for days on end instead ... the price for favoritism from malignant narcissists is pretty darned steep and is usually tinged with immoral behavior ... and if you are a true empath underneath it all, it makes you feel a lot of self disgust that you can't seem to stand up to your parent: it just produces a lot of high anxiety and guilt instead.
- Your parent may dangle the "inheritance carrot" in your face, so you work hard for her just to get that reward, justifying all of the unethical situations. And then she decides she doesn't want you to have that money after all when she dies, the idea of you vacationing in the Caribbean or buying a mansion is too much for her (it triggers her envy to the point where she wants to hurt you): it is something she never got to experience! Remember: you are supposed to be her clone, and part of being one is that you don't get to experience what she was never allowed to experience! - very common, especially when it comes to narcissists with a sadistic mindset.
- Another situation where the parent dangles the "inheritance carrot" in your face:
Say that your scapegoat family member has a wonderful house, a wonderful career, a wonderful spouse, and has never been estranged from any of her children in her life - and it all happened despite the fact that she was scapegoated and thrown away a long time ago. Your mother has told you that you will get the entire inheritance because the scapegoat is bad and doesn't need it anyway (even though your mother hasn't seen your scapegoat sibling in decades), and because she wants you to be well taken care of. The way she talks, she is going to leave you a million! Wow! You go to the lawyer's after her death, and she leaves you 30,000 dollars - also common. It's all that is left after she has spent it down. You have no pension because you've taken care of her your entire life, perhaps no social security for the same reason, and you are supposed to make it through old age on $30,000!
- What happens if you get seriously sick or disabled? Let's say your scapegoat sister got thrown away when she was going through an incredibly difficult period of her life, but this would never happen to you because you are so much more special than she ever was to your mother, right? But the problem here is that you aren't a real clone if you are disabled and expect her to take care of you for a change! Malignant narcissists want you to put them first place, not the other way around. The role demands it, and you can't keep in role with your disability or illness.
But unfortunately, let us say that your disability is progressive, and you won't be able to fulfill the role.
So she throws you away at the height of your illness or disability and gets in touch with the scapegoat, trying to convince the scapegoat that she loves that scapegoat after all, and that the golden child "disappointed her" - it happens.
- What are you going to do with this compulsion to triangulate and dominate everyone in sight with people who no longer respect you and don't want your domination, your promises (that never materialize)? It's a mighty strong compulsion in you, but does it make sense to keep it?
- Do you like it that people feel like they are talking to a brick wall when they talk to you? That you can't compromise at all, and they get tired of this unwillingness to compromise?
- Are you happy that you drive people away with your insults, hyper criticisms, gaslighting, narcissistic tactics?
- I bet no narcissist will ever get through these questions because they will find them provoking (the rage will come out: "I'm not listening to this drivel by this two-bit author!"), but an empath golden child might - have a look around you: is it right to be pressured into an enmeshed exclusive relationship with your parent; is it right to force a sibling to get along with an abusive family member; is it right to feel elated because you have been chosen by a parent who is morally bankrupt?
THE EMPATH GOLDEN CHILD IN AN EXCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PARENT
They show great empathy towards their parent, but like the clone, that empathy does not necessarily extend to the other parent, or the scapegoat sibling, or any family members in the same all-encompassing way (you will know if you have a scapegoat sibling because the scapegoat's concerns are not addressed; they often are estranged or on the sidelines; they are often lectured to about getting along with a bully or sexual predator in the family, and they are called crazy).
One of the big drawbacks to having an exclusive "best friend" relationship with a parent that excludes your sibling, is that it isolates you with your parent. When your parent dies or gets sick, you may not have anyone else. Insensitivity and going along with insensitivity to other members' plights in order to have an exclusive relationship with a parent will breed some separation, loneliness for you, and resentment from them. It's like Martin Luther King's quote about "the appalling silence of the good people."
When all you have left in your family are people you have treated with appalling silence and insensitivity to their feelings and plight, it can be make you feel very alone in the end.
Will you insist on forging your own life, or be the parent's handmaid?
Will you be triangulated against your siblings? Your other parent? A stepparent? Your spouse? Your children? - because that is what happens in a lot of these situations.
Will you sit by while abuse happens to everyone else in the family even if it doesn't happen to you?
What will you do at family get-togethers: listen to endless insults, put-downs, and criticisms of family members you love and care about, or will you sit silent and let it happen?
Do you feel like you have to adopt their opinions, feelings about others, their perspectives, their world views in order to get along with them?
Are you afraid of your parent's reaction if you stand up to them when they are blatantly lying about people in the family? Or will you let them get away with lies and smear campaigns against your other parent, or other members of the family? Do you take part in it to keep safe?
Are you allowing a parent to tell you who in the family you can talk to and who you can't? Are there great pressures to be loyal only to them and their wishes?
Are you hanging out in the toxic environment of the narcissistic family to get a reward like an inheritance (the thing that abusive parents use to get their kids to comply with domination and control of you)?
Something to think about:
Most people are concerned about their spouse first, their children second, their parent third and their siblings fourth. In narcissistic families, it doesn't tend to look like that.
A narcissistic parent will want you to put them first, always. Are you willing to put them first, and are you also willing to have your spouse on the back burner? And your children too? - Narcissistic parents are known to manipulate this. And all the while they will be trying to convince you that they are smarter and know how to run your life when it comes to how you relate to your spouse, your children and your siblings. If you are a true empath, where is your empathy for everyone else that inhabits your life? Or does your empathy only go to your parent, and exclusively to your parent?
by Dr. Ramani Durvasula: