Where would we be without one? In a foster home. I make a light-hearted stab here to take the edge off a hard hitting subject.
For some the idea of looking into family dynamics is unfathomable, and others easily deride people who mention hardships from family situations: the totally useless just get over it attitude from the same school of I got hit, and I’m fine.
The reality of the negative health outcomes for people who have survived abusive, neglectful families is stark. The incredible ACE studies show what a disadvantage people are from physical health to mental health when they’ve been through fucked up family situations.
I’m going to address specifically, families with narcissistic/bad/incompetent parents at the helm and the effect on a child or children.
Now, there’s many different variables in any given family, for example divorced parents, one sibling, no siblings, female siblings or male siblings and so on. I can’t cover every angle given the different dynamics any given family has but I’ll make a good go of it.
Let’s look at the stock exchange.
No, not the NASDAQ or the NIKKEI or anything financial. This will be about the stock of a child in their family. It’s a cold method of valuation, and used for a reason. Maybe the FAMDAQ?!
‘I love all my children the same!’ is a commonly heard phrase from a parent with multiple children. And it isn’t true! Yep, that’s right it isn’t true. In fact, it can’t be.
In a well balanced, DW Winnicotesque good enough family, it is true to a point. But each child is different. And deserve to be treated that way. Otherwise you enter into deindividuation, where all children are regarded as one homogenous blob of no fixed identity.
‘I love all my children as individuals’ would be a more sensible variation.
Any survivor (no exaggeration) of narcissistic/bad parents with at least one sibling know that there exists the golden child.
Which also links to the black sheep (which I cannot cover here but will do at a later date).
The golden child is held aloft because they are the most adhering to the family structure and social norms.
A golden child can do pretty much anything and there’s little or no punishment. They exhibit all the right characteristics that make a narcissistic parent coo with joy, because there in the golden child they see themselves, a beautiful little mirror of their own personality.
And the characteristics don’t have to be good to be admired, it’s just important that the characteristics reflect the narcissist.
As a result the stock of the golden child is on a continual rise rarely ever dipping. The share price goes up and up.
No matter what any other sibling(s) do, they will never reach the stratospheric heights of the golden child. The game is rigged.
Narcissists do not buy shares in more than one child. Unless – each parent picks a golden child.
So there can be a split, whereby one child is championed by the father, and another one by the mother.
If there are other siblings, well, they’re shit out of luck, because narcissistic parents do not have enough attention to give to anyone else.
They pick their favourite stock option, dump all their hopes on one horse and treat it differently to the other (child) horses, sometimes becoming emotionally enmeshed to the point they see a child of theirs as an ideal partner (think Donald Trump talking about how he’d totally date his daughter if…if she wasn’t his daughter…but…but she is…).
Enter the VIP Area
The effect is that the favourites get VIP treatment and the other child or children are lucky to get a look at the VIP entry let alone get in the club.
Naturally, kids are left to desperately try and outcompete each other to get some of that tainted golden child treatment.
In effect at that stage, the family dynamics has given birth to a Battle Royale scenario in which rampant bullying grows because an unbridled element of competition has been allowed to occur in a scenario when it shouldn’t exist beyond petty sibling rivalry.
Effectively, the preferred child(ren) are treated better, nurtured more and hold the hopes of the parent or parents, so a clear and obvious hierarchy has been implemented.
Children are not stupid. They can sense a lot even if they don’t fully comprehend the deeper meaning of actions.
And then there is the frozen child as a result.
They have no investors beyond the basics of food, drink and a bed.
They know their place. And over time will typically recede into themselves and grow up with many issues because parents who were meant to nurture them didn’t. In fact, parent(s) may have deliberately not done their duty.
You might see such primitive elements in the animal kingdom, but for an evolved species with multidimensional personalities and emotions it’s not acceptable.
Sadly, the only way up for the frozen child is to compete and desperately try to claw some status back, to get some attention on their stock options, to get one buyer, or in the unlikely case two.
Out of control competitiveness and bullying tends to be the outcome of the family environment, with the frozen child being left out and not just potentially bullied by their parents but also by their sibling(s). It’s not even a Catch-22, it’s just fucked.
The alarming illustrations above show why solid, good enough family dynamics are so key to a child’s growth.
Because if the start of life is a war zone – emotional or physical – it’s very very difficult to gain traction and establish oneself in later life.
Just when a narcissistic family dynamic seems figured out; the frozen child does have a sick chance to become a golden child if they somehow supersede a sibling in terms of accomplishments and/or adhering to the parents wishes the best.
Now, there are many other dimensions but the above illustrates some of the key mechanisms of narcissistic family dynamics and the importance for parents to fulfil their role and be good enough parents.
Not having gotten over their own issues seems like a very retrograde excuse for bringing toxic elements into a child’s life, a life that knows nothing else and no other way until it gets older (and hopefully wiser).
*Any golden child effect has terrible consequences for a family’s functionality. Adding yet another layer of intrigue, is that of the siblings: they might pick a sibling and make them their golden sibling.
And golden children seemingly get the best of a bad situation? Actually, their individuality can be heavily stomped on due to the toll of being golden, to be conforming, but they have the best chance of achieving in life due to their confidence.