A Dysfunctional Family is one that does not function normally with its members not playing the family roles they are supposed to. Parents are not able to protect, nurture, support, love, and care for children. Children are do not feel safe, protected, and loved. Also, children are not allowed to be themselves and grow and develop with their age.
Dysfunctionalities in families happen due to various problems with a parent(s) like:-
- Substance abuse
- Personality Disorders
- Mental illness
- Extreme poverty etc.
No matter what the cause of dysfunctionality is there are some common things that are there in family dynamics. There is constant misbehavior and mistreatment between members. Children are abused or neglected. There is tension between members and no trustful relation. Communication is not direct as there is always the fear of being misunderstood or offending someone so the information goes through other members in the form of pitting.
A family whose dynamics is dysfunctional because of a NARCISSISTIC PARENT has the following components:-
1. At least one parent has NPD or narcissistic traits with other mental illnesses or traits of other personality disorders. Read https://www.theexhaustedsouls.com/2021/03/what-exactly-is-narcissistic.html to understand Narcissism. This parent, the Narcissistic Parent(NP) is the ring leader who orchestrates the entire family dynamics.
2. The other parent, if not a Narcissist then becomes co-dependent on the narcissist and confirms with them and enable their abusive behavior towards themselves and children. This parent does this to please the narcissistic spouse and keep the marriage and hence the family intact. This parent is called a chief enabler by psychologists because having more authority than children in the family they play a great role in enabling narcissistic behavior of the NP.
3. The scapegoat child(SC). This is generally the eldest child and sometimes one of the middle children. This is the child who has held accountable for all family problems because narcissistic parents project all their failures on them and everyone else confirms. This child is most abused and used. As an adult, this member is usually the first one to recognize the dysfunctionality and is more ostracized thereafter not only by family but also outsiders for blaming a family that looks so perfect on the outside. A NP never tries to see the fact that the failures and flaws that the SC has, have been there because they raised this child in a totally toxic and unhealthy controlling way. This child even after realizing that their parents were not normal and healthy, continued to believe each and every negative and damaging word they were told about themselves by this parent.
4. The golden child(GC). This child is crowned by NP as the best and perfect child who can do no wrong. The dirty game of comparative analysis starts as soon as the second child is born. Since they know where they were wrong while raising the SC, this time they use a different approach with some kindness and less cruelty, at least on the gross level if not on a subtle level, and therefore the outcomes of parenting are also different than that of the first SC. This child has a better confidence level, and better social skills, and therefore NP feels less internal shame for being their parent and hence the projected emotions are not that toxic and damaging as in the case of SC. However, the unhealthy control is very much there. This child is very fearful about slipping in the scapegoat child's role as the NP always shares with GC what they hate about, or are hurt about the GC. So to remain on their throne they do everything to please the narcissistic parent including bullying and betraying the SC, and other siblings.
5. Other siblings. According to some psychologists if there are more children then they can have more role in the orchestra run by the narcissistic parent like:-
The lost child who is always hiding in his room or outside and tries everything to not participate in family drama actively or passively.
The mascot pretends that everything is fine in the family and tries to keep the atmosphere light by acting like a clown.
The roles assigned to these poor little humans are not constant and may change as per the family circumstances, children's personal circumstances, and parent's requirements.
Sometimes a child on GC position may fall to SC position and a child on SC may rise to a lost child or any other positions. The GC who lacks empathy may pick up narcissistic traits from narcissistic parents and become a narcissistic adult later on indoctrinated by dysfunctional relationships and survival patterns they were raised around. Many SC who get enlightened as adults maintain distance from their toxic dysfunctional family and start healing. GC continues the legacy by destroying their own family.
SC have empathy and they always feel that there is something wrong with their family after noticing the negative pattern in themselves as parents and spouse. They try to educate other family members, especially other siblings. The fake loyal members dismiss the SC's opinions and humiliate and ridicule them for talking bad about family, especially the parents.
Eventually, SC understands that keeping distance and self-healing is the only option they have for a better life and they lose all hope of trying to fix their blood family.
Because of the internalized critical and controlling parents living in their head and the unhealthy survival patterns they learned growing up, SC faces a lot of problems in their other relationships later on in their life(career, marriage, parenting, social adjustment, mental health issues) and their narcissistic parents blame them for it instead of supporting them or acknowledging their roles in it.
The narcissistic parent pits everyone in the family against the SC all their life and especially when the SC gets enlightened about the dysfunctionality and starts working on their boundaries. SC mainly tries to keep away from narcissistic parents but the narcissistic parent convinces everyone they all are in one team versus the SC, so everyone gangs up consciously or unconsciously to support the NP against the SC abandoning the SC in response to the boundaries SC tries to erect against NP.
These toxic family dynamics run in generations, SC attracting narcissistic partners and GC becoming narcissists themselves and attracting codependent empath partners, and repeating the history.
Narcissism is spreading like a pandemic because of the prevalence of Individualism, stress on sense enjoyment and material achievement, and lack of spirituality.
Society needs education and awareness on narcissism and its effects and victims need support and healing from stopping this wildfire to destroy the coming generations and hence the society.