Question for the Only Children out there

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Psuedonym

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Question for the Only Children out there
« on: August 06, 2020, 02:36:20 PM »
I was just reading this otherwise very good article that Bloomie posted (thanks Bloomie!) on another thread: https://www.balancepsychologies.com/post/2018/05/14/narcissistic-family-structures

What jumped out at me was there was a very long and good descriptions of the roles the children of PDs play, followed by this one line: “Only children” usually take on a variety of roles for emotional adaptation.

Yeah, maybe this deserves more than 11 words? Like maybe a whole book or two or three? This is what I usually find in articles/videos about children of PDs, one throw away line about onlys, 'whelp, you were all of those roles, often on the same day' as really I think we have the most complex/gaslit experience of anyone. My heart really goes out to the scapegoats of the family, who endured unrelenting abuse, but I think the onlys get 1st prize in the WTF is actually happening category.

I think the level of confusion and lack of identity (because you're constantly changing roles) is something unique that I haven't seen addressed very well anywhere. Have other people found that same thing and/or have any good resources?


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PeanutButter

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2020, 02:44:59 PM »
 
:yeahthat:
My H is an only and I can attest to that being his experience.
 


I think the level of confusion and lack of identity (because you're constantly changing roles) is something unique that I haven't seen addressed very well anywhere. Have other people found that same thing and/or have any good resources?


« Last Edit: August 06, 2020, 02:53:08 PM by PeanutButter »
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Psuedonym

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2020, 02:55:18 PM »
A couple of other things, PeanutButter, now that I"m on a roll here:

a) as an only, you have no reference of truth as to things actually happening. You probably had a second parent who either wasn't there, was also PD, or was an enabler (my case). In any of those cases, you have no one to actually witness and then acknowledge that say, indeed, M flipped out on Xmas and threw a tantrum. You're the only one who knows

b) there are no breaks. There are no distractions (praise and attention to be heaped on the GC or scorn and blame on the SG) because it's all you, all the time. It's unrelenting.

You could often here this in the language Negatron used about me. In one breath she would say it wasn't her fault that she didn't show me any compassion when my dad or close friend died because 'I seemed so strong and nothing seemed to bother me', in the next I was the most 'childish immature person and there was always something wrong with me'. I was both 'very depressed and somehow broken' and she had 'no idea anything was wrong because I seemed so happy'....

It's straight up %$#@ing confusing is what it was. :)

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PeanutButter

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2020, 03:39:58 PM »
I know my H could relate!
I chased my tail with him (questions and such) for years trying to figure out in what role MIL put him in. Just when Id say Ahha you were scapegoated he would get a confused look on his face and say but she did this this and that. Id say "oh? so you were GC?"
Hehe I finally googled it and read the one line about only's that you found. He was put in all the roles simultaneously.
OH My GOD!!!
HE HAD TO FILL ALL THE ROLES.
I gained a new respect for the depth of resilience in his spirit!
If there is a hidden seed of evil inside of children adults planted it there -LundyBancroft  Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong good or bad -DebbieFord The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none -Thomas Carlyle

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Maxtrem

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2020, 04:28:26 PM »
I am also an only child and I had always asked myself the same question and never found a reference in the literature. I found the book The Gifted Child Drama by Alice Miller. This book is dated and doesn't exactly deal with this subject. On the other hand, the author mentions examples of unique children and I recognized myself a lot in this book. 

I will try to expose the personal notes I took while reading this book and who I am today. It was impossible for me to make the slightest mistake, to have my needs or even to be tired. Automatically I was treated like the SG; lazy, stupid, despicable, in short, conditional love. In order to survive, I had to develop great adaptability and resilience. A wise, self-effacing, understanding person who never says no, extremely mature for his age, in short a child who was never a child. I have always felt that I had no right to the slightest defect and that my qualities were being abused to excess. To survive, I had to develop a false self. I also have very few memories of my childhood, but I had flashbacks when I was 6 and 7 years old and wanted to die. Yet his suicidal thoughts went away and never came back, so I had to develop a great capacity to adapt in order to survive.

As a result, I have become a hightachiever, someone who needs to succeed at everything (at university, at work, with my real estate investments). This is my way of proving that I am not lazy, stupid and worthless. On the other hand, I am regularly tired (I don't know how I could endure taking care of my mother all her years without having a burnout) and I have anxiety problems and chronic muscle pain.   

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Andeza

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2020, 06:13:01 PM »
Yeah, I didn't find much more than that either, Pseudonym.

The dynamic in our little family was especially screwy. I was the golden child so long as we were around her family. However I was the scapegoat any time she was talking to my enabling dad. He didn't care what she said, really, he knew she wasn't right in the upstairs and knew I was good kid. Wish he had said it more though.

When it was just her and I, I would alternate through the roles. I realized this about two years ago when both Golden child and scapegoat experiences stood out to me as familiar. Kinda sat back on my heels and said "well, crap." To put it into perspective, I was homeschooled. It was just her and I all day every day.

To add to the crazy, sometimes mom tried to force dad into one role or the other as well. Let's just say these last two years have been a lot of hard work trying to rid myself of any lingering part of that dynamic. Still working on it.

You're right, there ought to be at least an article on the dynamic, especially given how many families only have one kid.
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WomanInterrupted

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2020, 03:05:23 AM »
I really do wish they'd include more than a sentence or two about us onlies.  In some ways, IME, I think we have it worse because we're IT - and there's nobody else to hide behind or turn to.  :aaauuugh:

I couldn't turn to unNPD Ray to protect me from unBPD Didi because he was too busy enabling her, and he was using me as a meat shield.  He'd had 12 years of her ire focused on him and now it was like, "Here! 
Do what you want to the little girl and I'll back you up!  Just leave me out of it!" 

Ah, my "dad"   :blink:

I learned NOBODY was  safe - the few times I tried speaking out, it got back to Didi and Ray, who told  the people (IRRC, a teacher and a neighbor, in the early 1970's)  that I was such a lying little liar who lies - and there was HELL for me to pay when  they  accosted me later - I learned  VERY quickly to tell family business to *nobody* because it was a  *secret*, it was *tattling* and it  was *disloyal.*

I learned to trust nobody, fear everybody, be suspicious of everybody, every silver lining could be overtaken by a VERY large black cloud at any moment, and I could go from good little girl to MONSTER in the blink of an  eye.

The mixed messages were unreal - and all directed at me.  I didn't know WHAT I was!  At school, the teachers called me respectful, conscientious, studious, and polite - and at home, I was none of those things, or none of them for very long before fresh-mouthed spoiled BRAT would make an appearance - or monster  - and I wouldn't have to do a thing.  All it would take was Didi or Ray telling me I was giving them a dirty look, and they were going to wipe if off my face.

It seemed I couldn't do a single thing right  except for ONE thing:  attract other abusers, who smelled blood in the water.  It's a problem I've struggled with all my life - at all but a few job-jobs I had, I was manager's scapegoat, and singled out to be treated like a naughty child, shamed and embarrassed for even the most minor transgressions *and I thought this was normal!*

On one hand, I knew it wasn't -  I knew it wasn't as a small child, when  my very first Imaginary Friend rocked up, sat on the side of my bed and told me some humans are illogical, and all you can do is avoid them.

That Imaginary Friend was Mr. Spock.  THAT's how I managed to stay sane, I think.

Or what passes as sane.   I think the jury might still be out on that.  :bigwink:

When you're an only child, there are no sibs to hide behind, stand with - or stand in front of.  You're the child for all seasons - GC, SG, lost, the clown - you have to wear many hats, be able to dance many jigs, and read a room almost instantly to judge exactly how to behave - or how fast to make yourself scarce.   :disappear:

Subsection A of  being an only is being an adopted only child - I know there are quite a few of us on the board, and I think we also are in a unique position because - heaven help us - they tell us they CHOSE us!   :upsidedown:

They didn't have to take any old baby that popped out - we were PICKED for this dubious distinction, so aren't  we LUCKY and APPRECIATIVE!?

You are, aren't you?  You don't LOOK it.  Sit up straight!  Shoulders back, and would it kill you to SMILE, goddammit?   :mad:

Yes, this is   how lucky, "chosen" children are treated, I see - like spoils of war, on one hand, like objects  d' art that must be SEEN and never, EVER have needs  on another hand, and on yet a third hand ( :doh:), like sub-par consolation prizes, or booby prizes.

I heard conflicting stories - big surprise - I was the one they chose out of a room full of babies.  The one they wanted to complete their family by becoming a perfect little lightning  rod of hate.

The other story was that I was the ONLY baby there that day, with the subtext  being that they couldn't very well say no, they'd come back next week when something blonde, male - or both - came in.

The other, other story was I was the only baby there and *nobody wanted me* because I had red hair and freckles.  They decided to *rescue* me out of the goodness of their twisted little hearts. 

I could go on - but you get the gist of what all this will do to your heard, when repeated, ad nauseum.

Is it any wonder I nearly walked off a highway overpass at the age of 8, and an older friend stopped me?

She told her mom -  her mom said I was "melodramatic" like that and had "problems."   :blink:

Ah, the 70's, where ignorance was bliss, and nobody looked into why I was such a mess.

Yes...I think we only children DO get first prize in the "WTF is Actually Happening!? category!

I wish these subjects were actually explored in depth, instead of treated like "oh yeah..." throwaway bits.

I think a lot of us could benefit from it.   :)

 :hug:

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2_exhausted

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2020, 10:26:08 AM »
Only child here!

I knew I was not my mother’s favorite at a very early age...actually I do not understand why she attempted for 9 years to conceive....unless her mother told her she needed to have a child. 

My father was my main parent & he died of a heart attack when I was 11...in my mind I was left an orphan...
No one in her FOO believed me about her...I was labeled so many things... did she expect the furniture to com alive and tend to little 2exhausted? I guess so..

“What the F Is Actually Happening?”  I am all in !

99% do not understand.

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catta

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2020, 12:11:28 PM »
A couple of other things, PeanutButter, now that I"m on a roll here:

a) as an only, you have no reference of truth as to things actually happening. You probably had a second parent who either wasn't there, was also PD, or was an enabler (my case). In any of those cases, you have no one to actually witness and then acknowledge that say, indeed, M flipped out on Xmas and threw a tantrum. You're the only one who knows

b) there are no breaks. There are no distractions (praise and attention to be heaped on the GC or scorn and blame on the SG) because it's all you, all the time. It's unrelenting.


Omg thank you for this thread!! I am only child and it took me until well into my 20s to finally convince myself that I wasn't the one who was bad and crazy, because nobody ever saw any of the crap my uNPD parents did, and they always claimed (and still claim) that my "memory is bad." I have friends/family who tell me how wonderful my parents are on a regular basis and I never know what to say. (They ARE wonderful to other people.)

My parents always told me that *they* were normal, that I was the one with no concept of what the real world was like, that I was lucky to be treated as well as they treated me, and that if I ever complained about our family to anyone, that person would automatically know I was a liar and a bad person. It wasn't until my friends started having children that I realized that nobody normal would EVER treat their kids the way my parents treated me.

Also, and maybe some of you have this same experience: My parents always claimed that I was an only child because I was "too much work" and they couldn't handle a second kid. (I mean, I'm sure they couldn't handle a second kid-- they shouldn't have had the first one.)

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Andeza

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2020, 01:04:19 PM »
Quote
I do not understand why she attempted for 9 years to conceive

Right!? Took my parents almost that long to adopt because she wanted a BABY. Specifically a GIRL. Ugh. They could have fostered to adopt and had a kid within a few months, but no.

So why are they so hellbent on having a singular punching bag? Best I can figure is that they start to feel...old. And realize they need a plan, and they need somebody to take care of them, and we're it. :stars: Apparently they can't just save their money, invest it over their lifetime, and retire with dignity like normal people.

I always got that "you don't know what the world is like!" speech too. Of course, how could I? They never let me go anywhere, do anything, or live. I think leaving that house, going to college, and later moving across the country away from them was a hugely jarring experience for me because I wasn't very well "adjusted." I got my feet under me, but I feel like it took me twice as long as it ought to, and I tolerated some ridiculously toxic workplaces along the way. :sadno:
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Psuedonym

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2020, 02:56:14 PM »
Wow, thanks everybody for your replies and sorry you all understand this! Everything you all said rings true. WI, that was a terrible story about  when you were 8.  :hug:

This feels suspiciously right:

So why are they so hellbent on having a singular punching bag? Best I can figure is that they start to feel...old. And realize they need a plan, and they need somebody to take care of them, and we're it.

If I come across any relevant videos or articles I'll definitely post them here!

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Call Me Cordelia

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2020, 08:12:22 PM »
Only child here!

I knew I was not my mother’s favorite at a very early age...actually I do not understand why she attempted for 9 years to conceive....unless her mother told her she needed to have a child.

I think this would apply to my own uNM. Her mother was also a narcissist, and my grandparents were childless for almost 20 years before she was born. My grandmother was a married career woman in the 1950s. I often wondered if my mother were an “accident” or a social or FOGGY obligation. (My grandmother’s father was an alcoholic and they were a large Catholic family.)

My mother was often the lost child, a distant second to her mother’s job. It didn’t occur to grandmother that mom might like to be involved in scouts or sports instead of spending every afternoon with her sick grandmother, for example, and it never occurred to my mother to actually ask for those things.

My grandmother fought like hell to keep her independence well beyond when it was prudent for her to drive, live alone, etc. My mother wanted to do more for her, but she’d have none of it. She wanted nothing to do with my uNF, her personal scapegoat. Finally she went to a fancy assisted living place and conveniently died right when her money ran out. I always wondered about that too.

Something I noticed as a child was my uN grandmother would treat my mother like a baby and my uN father like the SG. Always covertly, never to his face but she would run him down to us kids all the time behind his back. My poor mother was stuck like her mother was, that kind of thing. My mother is uNPD herself, but she was always torn between her uNM and my uNF. She always came down firmly on the side of uNF when they were in conflict, but I don’t think she could have articulated how she herself felt about much of anything. Except she did say she wished she had had siblings. Which granny found so offensive, because HER childhood as an elder daughter was miserable and she never did anything but mind her younger siblings.

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jennsc85

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2020, 09:43:06 AM »
I appreciate threads about only children of PD parents so much.

I know that having a PD parent is a struggle no matter what... however, as an only child it felt particularly isolating to me. I would read thread after thread and people would say things to others like, "Let your brother have a turn" or "If you let go, she'll turn to someone else."

The thing was for me, though... she literally had no one else. No family. No friends. No other children. No acquaintances. Only me. She had me fully convinced that if I were to drop the rope, she would die without me. And I honestly feel like as an only child it's harder. You really do feel like you are completely abandoning your PD parent if you go to NC for your own well-being. You don't think, "Well, she can always call [brother, sister, etc] if things get really bad." Because there is NO ONE else.

As a kid I remember feeling very trapped and confused by my mother. She wanted me to be an adult sometimes (like mediating arguments between her and my father when I was in 2nd grade, keeping me out of school to help her through panic attacks, etc.) but then she would chastise me like I was a child when I was in my 20s. When I got pregnant in my mid 20s and was married and independent, she acted like I was 14 years old from the way she talked "You'll never be able to care for this baby on your own, you should get an abortion" etc. She would loudly say things in public like "don't ever talk to me that way again! Do you understand???" Or she'd talk to me slowly and force me to answer her questions like I was 4 years old.

Also, WI your whole comment spoke to me. My mother's whole plan was to have me at her beck and call for the rest of her life. She wanted me to be her sole caregiver and had me convinced that she would drop dead without me. She went to extremes to convince me that I could never rid myself of her.

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11JB68

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2020, 01:46:54 PM »
 I was an only and ds is an only.
However I grew up in a multigenerational home so my experience may be unique.
I have felt huge responsibility as the only, no one to commiserate etc. Also updm seemed to always be 'adopting' other kids which was very confusing to me. EnD was not around much... When he was we got along well, he would sometimes have 'secrets' with me (nothing sinister) yet he would never stand up to updm even at the very end, and would never have had a real conversation with me about what was wrong. I've tried to be different with ds. I have had some real heart to heart talks with him, he knows that I know that things are not right.

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catta

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2020, 05:03:59 PM »
One thing that I don't think has come up here yet... did anyone else's parents try to make other peoples' kids the golden children?

My mom definitely did that, but even as a kid it didn't work on me, usually because I also liked the person my mom was fawning over and didn't mind hearing about their good qualities.  And later it became so obvious that their circumstances were not like mine that it was hard to logically be jealous. (E.g. I had a friend whose grades were better than mine, but her mom let her stay home sick if she hadn't had time to complete a project or study for a test. My mom wouldn't let me stay home sick even if I was ACTUALLY sick.)

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MamaDryad

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #15 on: August 08, 2020, 05:14:35 PM »
Oh my goodness, yes. This was my experience as well, only child of single (uBPD) mother. The lack of witnesses is huge; I've realized recently that one of my core traits is doubting my own perception of events and my own honesty.

I've actually been approached very recently by an old family friend who saw what was going on and was (in this conversation) hugely validating to me. One of the things I learned from her was that the "golden child" side of things probably came from my grandparents, though my mother was happy to go along with it, since it meant she'd done something right in their eyes. So with them, I was the GC and my own mother was the SG, at least until I hit the age of reason, but at home with her, I was both.

I was definitely also my mother's confidant and secret-keeper.

I keep meaning to make a post about the recent conversation, but I don't know where to start.

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11JB68

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #16 on: August 08, 2020, 07:49:49 PM »
Catta, yes! My updm had entirely arbitrary ideas of which of my friends she disliked and saw as bad influences and which were her 'other daughters'. The irony was that her GC was the friend that I got in the most/most serious trouble with! :stars:

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Andeza

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #17 on: August 08, 2020, 08:09:50 PM »
Not so much. None of my friends or their families were deemed good enough, so we fell out of contact, and for all my teen years, I had no friends.

Sheesh, I just realized how awful that sounds...
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Adrianna

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #18 on: August 08, 2020, 08:54:02 PM »
Yes being an only is another level of torment in a pd family. 3 of my 4 grandparents died before I was born. My mother’s sister moved to Florida when I was around 7, taking my cousins with her. My father had no siblings. So no aunts or uncles on either side to help. I had a second cousin nearby but we weren’t close. I had one great aunt though who saw what I was going through but didn’t say much. She was much much older.

I’m not sure if any of you had this experience, but I was so desperate to have a loving connection with another person, that I longed soooooo badly for a sibling. Someone to turn to and say “hey this isn’t right, is it?” Someone to validate what was happening. Someone who maybe just maybe might actually show an interest in me, how I was feeling, what I was going through. Someone to connect with. I wanted it more than just longing for it. No joke I figured if I couldn’t have a brother or sister I decided I would settle for a chimpanzee! I wanted one in the worst way growing up. Looking back I can see that wouldn’t have been a good idea but at the time it felt like the perfect solution.  I see now why I wanted one and where that desire came from.  I also used to want to call social services to be taken to a new family, a foster family. I remember having my hand on the phone to call and stopping because I had food, clothes, a roof over my head. I wasn’t being physically abused (that I recall, I have vague memories of a belt though.) I was willing to chance it with a new family because I knew deep down I wasn’t getting any emotional support from the one I had. I remember asking if I was adopted and being disappointed, in disbelief actually, that the answer was no. I was hoping I had been adopted so I could maybe find my real parents, and be part of a normal family where people were kind to each other. 

Practice an attitude of gratitude.

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MamaDryad

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Re: Question for the Only Children out there
« Reply #19 on: August 08, 2020, 10:42:22 PM »
I desperately wanted a sibling, too.

When I got older, though, I saw what some of my friends went through who had one PD parent but really loved the rest of their nuclear families, and I became grateful that my mom didn't have anyone to triangulate with me or hold hostage.