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Golden Child and Scapegoat Black Sheep: Narcissistic Parent's Projected Splitting

Uploaded 1/10/2016, approx. 4 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

As his children grow older, narcissists begin to see their potential to be edifying, reliable and satisfactory sources of narcissistic supply.

His attitude then is completely transformed. The former threats to his grandiosity, to the attention that he is getting, have now become promising potentials for narcissistic supply.

So, he cultivates those whom he trusts to be most rewarding.

Often, the narcissist inculcates in them a competitive team spirit, a xenophobic weakness, a cultish and defensive or even paranoid stance against the rest of the world, sometimes against the other parents. The narcissist may single out one of his children and encourage the golden or sunshine child to idolize him, to adore him, to be owed by her, to admire his or her deeds and capabilities, to learn to blindly trust and obey the narcissist, in short, to surrender to the narcissist's charisma and to become submerged in his folly, de grandeur.

The remains of the litter, the chosen one's brothers and sisters, are ignored, neglected, left to fend off for themselves or, worse, relegated to the role of much maligned, ridiculed, thwarted, stunted and hated scapegoats.

What is the source of such discriminatory conduct? Why doesn't the narcissist give the same treatment to all these children in the hopes of cultivating even more sources of supply?

Well, it has to do with the narcissistic parent's projected splitting.

Projected splitting is a confluence of two psychological defense mechanisms, projection and splitting, one by one. Splitting is a primitive defense mechanism. It involves the inability to integrate contradictory qualities, behaviors and attributes of the same object into a coherent picture of the object.

The narcissist regards people around him as either all bad or all good, irredeemably black or masterfully white, implacable foes or undying friends, either or splitting, the bad side split from the good side.

Splitting results in cycles of idealization followed by devaluation of the same person.

But splitting can also be applied to one's self.

Patients with personality disorders often idealize themselves fantastically and grandiosely and then, on a dime, harshly devalue, hate and even harm and mutilate themselves when they fail or when they are otherwise frustrated.

So this is splitting.

What about projection?

Projection is another psychological defense mechanism.

We all have an image of how we should be. Freud called it the ego ideal.

But sometimes we experience emotions and drives or have or we have personal qualities which don't sit well with this idealized construct. They are not compatible with the way we see ourselves.

Projection is when we attribute to others this unacceptable, this comforting and ill-fitting feelings and traits that we possess.

So what's unacceptable in us? We attribute to others. This way, we disown these discordant features and secure the right to criticize and justize others for having or displaying them.

Back to the noxis.

The narcissistic parent splits her personality into good and bad traits, and bad traits, good and bad qualities, good and bad dimensions.

And then what she does, she projects his or her good aspects, the ones she finds to be acceptable, egosyntonic, the ones she finds to be desirable. These good aspects, traits or qualities, she projects them onto the golden child.

The golden child then comes to embody and reify everything that's right and proper in the narcissistic parent's personality. He becomes an extension of the narcissistic parent's grandiosity.

In cultural distinction, the traits and qualities of oneself or herself that the narcissistic parent finds to be bad, unacceptable, rejected or shame-inducing. These qualities and traits are projected onto and attributed to the scapegoat child, the black sheep of the family, the reject and the outcast, who is then rendered a constant reminder of the parent's shortcomings.

This kind of child becomes a challenge to the parent's fantastic self-perception.

And therefore, in other words, this child is a permanent narcissistic injury, provoking negative emotions, such as rage, the need to humiliate, envy.

It is at this stage that the risk of child abuse from the emotional incest with the golden child and up to and including outright incest is heightened.

It is at this stage that the different treatment meted out to the children of the narcissist becomes a pattern, a lifelong pattern cast in stone. The golden child and the scapegoat forever.

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