Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Scapegoat of the Narcissistic Personality Disordered Mother

Scapegoat paintingby Markus Anderson with Gail Meyers quote
The Scapegoat of a Narcissistic Mother by Gail Meyers 
Photo - Markus Anderson CC-SA-30 via Wikimedia Commons

© by Gail Meyers
The children are assigned rigid roles in dysfunctional families where alcoholism, sexual abuse or mental illness is an everyday reality. I have often seen it claimed that a narcissist must marry an enabling partner in order for the marriage to stay together.  The spouse is focused on the needs of the narcissist rather than the children.  However, in my experience a narcissist married another narcissist. So an adult child of a narcissist may very well be dealing with parents with more than one or even all of these issues. 

The assignment of these roles usually happens in early childhood, long before the child could possibly have any idea what is going on. A child may not be able to articulate it, but children very quickly understand the unwritten family rules that exist in dysfunctional families.

These roles are taken very seriously because at some level the family members realize the survival of the whole dysfunctional family system depends on everyone playing their part. If you try to get out of your role, the entire dysfunctional family system will often go to extremes to put you back in your place.

The role I want to discuss is that of the scapegoat, because chances are if you are reading this you are the scapegoat. While the golden child also suffers many consequences from his assigned role, he is not likely to go looking for answers as to why narcissist mom thinks he is so wonderful!

Narcissistic Mother's Scapegoat

If you are the scapegoat, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you are the one most likely to go searching for answers - and find them. That is because you are the one in the most pain from carrying the burden of blame for the family. The scapegoats are also usually the truly strong ones in the family, as well as being the truth tellers.

I guess you know the bad news. You are blamed for everything. The scapegoats are the ones who allow the rest of the family to appear to be "normal," purged of their wrongs. Narcissistic personality disordered mothers chronically scapegoat. If everything is the scapegoat's fault (and it's not), then the rest of the family can continue to avoid the real issue. The narcissistic mother can keep pretending to be "normal," since you are supposedly the problem. "While they [malignant narcissists] seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their "goodness" is all on a level of pretense." The People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

The very existence of a scapegoat in the family signals a problem, because a scapegoat is only required in a family when someone consistently refuses to take responsibility for their own actions. Instead of taking responsibility, the narcissistic personality disorder parent often uses projection and scapegoating. Projection involves the narcissistic parent projecting their negative character traits onto others.


It may not take long for the other siblings in a dysfunctional family to realize they can blame the scapegoat too. In extremely dysfunctional families like my own family of origin, the narcissistic parent will actually encourage the other children to abuse the scapegoat child. This does not stop once the scapegoat is an adult, but continues as adult child abuse. Narcissistic personality disordered mothers love to manipulate and use their flying monkeys to help do their dirty work.

Now for the great news! You may think that golden child has the cherished role, but in the long run the scapegoat is the one most likely to escape, heal and lead a healthier life. Those same qualities of strength and emotional honesty or truth telling will greatly work in your favor in the healing process. If you are the scapegoat, you have the strength to escape, heal and lead a healthier life. As hard as it may be, try not to internalize all of the blaming and scapegoating. Realize you are dealing with a very sick parent. The truth hurts, but then it really does set you free.


Narcissism and the History of the Scapegoat

So most of us have heard the term used and probably even used it ourselves to describe the situation. We understand the popular use of the word today, but where did the idea of someone using or being a scapegoat originate? How did we arrive at the use of the term we use today and decide to apply it to dysfunctional families?

There is some mention of a scapegoating rite in Ancient Greece. However, our current use of the word comes from the English translation of the Hebrew term from the Bible. Our current usage literally means "an individual, group or country singled out for unmerited negative treatment or blame."

The Bible documents the use of a scapegoat dating back to the accounts of the children of Israel. In Leviticus 16, the scapegoat was actually a goat. The sins of the people were ceremonially placed on the head of the goat. The goat was then cast out of the community and into the desert alone. If you are the scapegoat of a narcissistic personality disorder mother or father, you may know the feeling.

In the Bible the forgiveness of sin required these animal sacrifices before Christ died a sacrificial death on the cross, but that requirement ended at the cross. The New Testament (after Christ) view holds that Christ took the sins of humanity on His own head. There is no longer any need for a true scapegoat as we each are accountable before God for our own actions. Christ is the only One who can wash away sins.


As the scapegoat you already know you are blamed for everything in order the the narcissist to continue to appear innocent of their wrongs and avoid personal responsibility. In a very real way, a scapegoat has already been "cast out" even while physically standing in the room with the rest of the family. However, a narcissistic mother will also systematically destroy your relationships with lies and innuendos.

By the time you realize the extent of the damage, you may find yourself standing out in the desert alone with nothing but the blame piled on your head. After the narcissistic personality disordered mother strips the scapegoat of all they hold dear, intentionally inflicts great emotional pain and puts the blame on the scapegoat for their own endless evil, the narcissist will cast the scapegoat child out without a second thought.

Do not expect any empathy or remorse, ever. Do not let the narcissistic parent push you this far down the scapegoat path! Take steps as early as possible to protect yourself. Find a qualified professional familiar with this disorder, read as much as you can about it, join an online DOMN or ACON group. There are sources of insight and support available.

It's not you, it's the narcissist. The scapegoat represents both the evidence of the truth that could shatter the narcissist mother's pretend world and the blame for the trail of destruction the narcissistic personality disorder mother leaves behind. Remember, the scapegoats are the truth tellers. The narcissist mothers are manipulative pretenders. Make no mistake about it, a true narcissist parent who is high enough on the narcissism spectrum to be narcissistic personality disordered, will choose to destroy all evidence of the truth, rather than be exposed and be held accountable.

The Scapegoat child of a narcissistic mother quote by Gail Meyers


Interestingly, also in the Bible is an account of the first two human beings God created trying to shift the blame for their choices onto someone else. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. God did not buy any of it, but held each one accountable for their own actions.  References: Wikipedia, NIV Study Bible.

The "Christian" Narcissist Mother and the Scapegoat

The narcissistic personality disordered usually pretend to be exactly everything he or she is not, including a "selfless saint" or "martyred mother." The "Christian" narcissist mother may play the "martyred mother" when it suits her purposes, but it is well established that the "martyred mother" in a dysfunctional family is the one controlling and manipulating the entire family. When you hear something like, "I tried to be a good mother, but..." you know the martyr is on stage manipulating.

This is the absolute epitome of how a narcissist pretends to be exactly oppose of what they actually are. A malignant narcissist, what some consider the very embodiment of evil, parading as a "selfless saint" and "martyred Christian" mother. This is the epitome of a wolf in sheep's clothing!

So this malignant narcissist parading as a "selfless saint" Christian consistently bypasses Christ's death on the cross, the single most important foundational belief of their professed Christianity, and instead attempts to load her sins onto the head of another human being. To top it all off, not any human being, but her own child.

This same narcissist will try to turn around and beat their child into submission with the biblical text taken out of context in order to use it as a pretext for manipulation, abuse and control. That is exactly what cults do, take biblical text out of context in order to use it as a pretext. This is just one more similarity between families with narcissist parents and cults. The two closely parallel one another.

Healing for the Scapegoat of a Narcissistic Mother

If you are an adult child son or daughter of a narcissistic personality disordered mother, you likely have many broken relationships resulting from the lies, scapegoating and manipulation of the narcissist parent. So do not allow a narcissist personality disordered parent to also destroy your relationship with God or your Higher Power. It's normal for a child to grow up believing on some level that God is like their parents, but it is beneficial in the healing process to separate the two in your heart and mind.


Many recovery programs encourage belief in a higher power as you understand the higher power to be. God gave us free will, which He also gave the narcissist. It is a choice we all must make for ourselves, but the point is that belief in God or a Creator is considered by many as a part of being mentally healthy. It is the narcissist who refuses to submit to God or a higher power.


"Malignant narcissism is characterized by an unsubmitted will.  All adults who are mentally healthy submit themselves one way or another to something higher than themselves, be it God or truth or love or some other ideal."  People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck, M.D.


Also see The Scapegoating Narcissistic Mother on The Scapegoats of a Narcissistic Mother by Gail Meyers.







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*This article was originally published on September 23, 2012, prior to moving to this blog.