Has anyone seen the film Sliding Doors? I watched it when I was about 11 years old for the first time, I remember this clearly because there was a sex scene in it and I was watching it with my Nan and remember feeling extremely awkward!
The general concept of the film is about how life can go in different directions. It begins with a story line of what happens when a character DOES make the train, and another storyline where the character DOES NOT catch the train. From that point, their life goes in two different directions.
I have been thinking about this film today because I find myself wondering a lot these last few days how my life could have gone. Not so much in general terms but specifically around the events with my mother and her NPD. What would have happened if I had stayed the Golden Child and remained enmeshed with her – what would my life look like right now?
I’ve been reflecting on my life a lot since writing the Goodbye Mother letter and today I was thinking how the first 18 years or so my mother fell into the category of “Ignoring Narcissistic Mother” but when I became 18 and old enough to drink and smoke and go to clubs and date men and share clothes with her, idolise her… she fitted better in the category of “Engulfing Narcissistic Mother” – this is the stage where the control and enmeshment began.
Now what would have happened if I hadn’t met my current fiancé and started therapy? Would I still be enmeshed with her? Would I be a narcissist myself by now? Maybe I would have met another man but not started therapy and therefore never realised the dynamic I was in! Perhaps I would have met a narcissistic man or more of the same type I used to meet, emotionally unavailable. Perhaps I would have spent my entire life trying to fix them and have the happy ending I never got with my mother. It’s a sad thought.
The “storyline” I find myself in now is one where I am playing the starring role of “Narcissistic Mother’s Scapegoat”. I am not only her scapegoat mind, but also my sister’s who is playing the lead role of “Golden Child” and, not only that but I think potentially “Narcissistic Golden Child”.
There are basically two roles you can play when you have a mother as narcissistic as mine. The Scapegoat or the Golden Child (you could also be a lost child but there is only two of us). The perks of being the Golden Child are that you have the narcissistic mother’s protection. She will agree with you (in public at least), she will tell you that you are “just like her” and if she is anything like my own mother, tell you that you are in fact a “mini me”. Now considering how much she thinks of herself, this is meant as the highest type of compliment. The downside to being the GC is that you are not allowed to be your true, authentic self, have your own (differing) opinions on things or allowed to say no or argue with her. You are no longer a different person, a person with differing interests, hobbies, thoughts etc – you are enmeshed and an extension of the narcissist. Also just because you are picked as GC doesn’t mean you are no longer abused in any way, you still are, it is just much more subtle and hard to detect. In my case when I was GC my mother would regularly tell me how I needed to lose weight or change my hair, do my make up differently, shop in different shops and become more fashionable – but she would tell you that she loved you and this was all for your benefit! She just wanted you to make the best of yourself!
The downsides to being the Scapegoat are many: The narcissist and whoever her enablers are, perhaps siblings or step-parents project anything and everything negative onto you. YOU are the sole cause of anything bad in the family or in life generally. You are trouble, evil, mentally unstable. It is VERY hard to have a strong enough sense of self/self-esteem to not start to feel guilty about all this crap that you are told repeatedly is your fault. There is the gaslighting, the narcissistic family will make you doubt yourself and your memories and version of events. At some stage you do think to yourself, “shit, they can’t all be wrong can they?”. You start to think that if ALL of them have one story and you have a different story… well, maybe it is you after all? That is tough. The gaslighting is the stage I’m at right now. Apparently this is really stereotypical for a narcissist when confronted but my mother (and sister) are telling me that I “have gone fucking crazy”, am “brainwashed” and that they are not sure “what is going on in my head right now”. Gaslighting at it’s finest. This causes cognitive dissonance.. BIG TIME.
There is inevitably the fear element as well. I struggled with this BIG TIME. The fear and the guilt were definitely my biggest struggles. There is also something really hard about admitting that you, adult you, is scared of your parent. I DID NOT want to admit that I was scared of her, of what she would say, what she would do, of upsetting her. What would the consequences me? How would she punish me? It was all very illogical but the fear was real.
And lastly, the worst one for me at present – you are isolated and ostracised from anyone that enables the narcissist or is scared of them or perhaps equally as abusive as them. I currently find myself watching to see which member of my family is next to be “disappointed” with me or cut me off. Narcissists cannot and do not accept people disagreeing with them. That truly is the ultimate betrayal to them. You are on their side (yes pathetic) or you are against them and that is that. You will be shocked at the amount of people who “side” with the narcissist, even ones that know stories or have seen evidence of their abuse in the past. It is shockingly shit and nothing can prepare you for it. My sister was my mother’s scapegoat for years until we swapped places and she used to suffer with depression because of it – yet she is very happy abusing me right now and ganging up with my narcissistic mother against me.
That is a long and bleak list of downsides to being a scapegoat I know but what about the perks?
Anyone who finds themselves in the role of the scapegoat will be naturally empathetic and sensitive. The fact that they find themselves in that role shows that they are a truth-seeker and more importantly, I think, they have somehow held on to their authentic true self and believe me that is not an easy thing to do against a narcissist and her army. But the clear winner here has to be the pure fact that the scapegoat escapes the dysfunctional family – they ESCAPE!! They get away from playing roles and being gaslighted or projected onto. They escape the FOG – the fear, obligation and guilt. They no longer have to be on guard or put on a mask, a fake self to try to stay safe around the narcissistic/dysfunctional family. They can heal and finally be validated for all of their struggles and pain. They can have a kind and empathic witness emotionally hold them as they navigate their way through all the grief and pain and begin to heal from the years of abuse.
I saw a meme today which said it should be called the “Escape Goat” rather than the “Scapegoat” which I think is perfect.
Anyway, I feel at peace today for all of the reasons above and other reasons which I find harder to articulate that I would never wish to swap roles and be the GC again. Never. Being the Scapegoat is emotionally very difficult, it can be extremely lonely and draining but I honestly felt like something was missing from my life until quite recently – I spent my life unconsciously desperate for approval, for affection and to be told that I was good enough. I was always trying to fill the painful mother hole/wound that was still raw as hell and now, all of a sudden, I am seeing things differently. Now I am truly seeing and believing fully that it wasn’t ever me or my fault. She has a personality disorder. I was not too sensitive, too needy, pathetic, boring, stupid, fat, brainwashed or evil.
This sounds a bit egotistical but I feel like I must have more strength than I’ve ever given myself credit for or was even aware of myself. I have (thanks to T) been able to fight against her abuse, lies and punishment.
I feel lucky in a strange way, not lucky that I had to go through any of it of course and I do still grieve for the fantasy mother and probably will for a long time, but my life could have gone the other way, like in Sliding Doors – I could have never got away.