Shifting roles

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Sheppane

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Shifting roles
« on: May 21, 2021, 10:11:10 AM »
Can anyone shed some light on this - I have read alot about NPD families / how they function / roles people play. A lot of what I read suggests these roles from childhood that sometimes persist into adulthood with all the dynamics that accompany the varies roles in the family.

But what about adulthood- and can the roles change ? I identify as having since childhood been the rescuer / chief enabler. Always obedient,  attempting to " fix" , compliant,  smoothing over conflict and fearful of expressing my needs because of what it would have provoked ( though I don't think I had any real awareness of that at the time).
But I also identify as having been the golden child - I was given love and attention and felt my parents were always proud of me. The episodes of conflict , rage , manipulation etc I accepted as the norm and other than trying to fix them and restore the family to peace I never really questioned how dysfunctional it was or the subtle ways in which I was being triangulated , or recruited against another.

So my first question is is it possible to occupy 2 roles- I think I was predominantly rescuer / chief enabler but also golden child . At that time there was no scapegoat amongst my siblings - though my father may have occupied the position of scapegoat for some years while my other siblings were also more along the lines of golden child.

But as I became an adult / saw the FOG / attempted to unenmesh,  very gradually I no longer play the rescuer.  It seems this has upset the system and I now increasingly feel like the scapegoat. As all of the behaviour I often quite covert it is hard to point it out- unless I challenge/ stand up for myself - in which case there is an outpouring of rage against me. When I don't challenge the system directly it goes quiet. I am not contacted ( or minimal ), I also am excluded from news / information , or if I set a strong boundary I get silent treatment on occasion. I think because I am either failing to fulfill their need for me to play a certain role ( rescuer ) and because I am learning boundaries i have become the scapegoat. The person who has to take all the family issues that they project outwards. Right now I am VLC ( because I am the only one contacting 90% of time). I am going through a lot of fear, pain, self doubt about the future. Trying to remind myself this is not my fault. As I write I wonder am I already beginning to be discarded. I fear having to go NC but maybe that decision wont be mine 

I am wondering has anyone else experience like this ? I find it SO confusing because having had the experience of approval,  belonging, being a golden child and now having been cast in a different role I am plagued with self doubt. I had the experience of being accepted for many years but now it seems it has changed. I know they think I have caused that. But it can also be intermittent - I can be back in good favour occasionally,  or get hoovered which I never know how to read. It depends what way the wind blows. It is very covert until it is directly challenged in which case it turns abusive.

I'd be grateful if anyone has experience to share on this so I don't feel like I'm going crazy.

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Starboard Song

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Re: Shifting roles
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2021, 10:30:52 AM »
Quote
I'd be grateful if anyone has experience to share on this so I don't feel like I'm going crazy.

You are not going crazy.

My wife and I are pushing 6 years NC from my in-laws. Just days before the crisis that ultimately drove us to NC, we'd had a lovely visit, and my son had a fantastic vacation with them. The crisis was entirely the result of us breaking pattern in two ways: we were faced with a decision, and chose to respect the privacy of an elderly family member for a few days; and when we were called to task by my MIL for this betrayal, we again broke pattern. Because end-of-life decisions were at stake, we didn't play the usual game of making nice, accommodating, and apologizing for our insubordination.

When we chose to change the rules -- when we had to because the usual game wouldn't protect someone's end-of-life issues -- we suddenly became the scapegoat, and were immediately discarded. What I didn't know was that the years of minor accommodation had worn my wife down. She had none left to give when we found ourselves expressly discarded. There were hoovers since then, but of very poor quality.

So no, you are not alone. These roles we all talk about are very much susceptible to the 50% Rule, that we are responsible for half of what goes on in our relationships. You are cast in a role by the PD, perhaps, but then we kind of accept the role. And if we decide to go off script, everything changes.

I'd like to share this with you: having been raised very differently than me, by my in-laws, my wife NEVER feels socially safe in hardly any situation. It always feels like people might turn on her, or she might fail them. I was raised by two of the finest people to ever walk the earth, and I ALWAYS feel socially safe, even in a hostile crowd and bad circumstances. I have an internal yardstick by which I judge myself, like Elizabeth Bennett at her best in Pride and Prejudice. I'm not perfect at this, too be sure: we all need approval. But the contrast with my wife is jarring.

You can learn to self-assess. You can measure your worth without reference to them or or their behavior or their feedback. The top line of books in my signature are the resources that best helped us heal and do that self care. You can't heal while picking at a scab, so you may need to continue practicing the tactics that maximize the peace in your life. Keep doing that, too.

You are not crazy and it sounds like you are experiencing the pain attendant to good change for the better.

Be good. Strong.
Radical Acceptance, by Brach   |   Self-Compassion, by Neff    |   Mindfulness, by Williams   |   The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama and Tutu
Healing From Family Rifts, by Sichel   |  Stop Walking on Egshells, by Mason    |    Emotional Blackmail, by Susan Forward

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Hazy111

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Re: Shifting roles
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2021, 11:07:11 AM »
Yup, i was the "golden child " too growing up until my sister left and i became the "bad child/scapegoat" .

Narcissistic families "split" their children into simplistic black and white roles, which can become interchangeable, depending on circumstances. 

Its very interesting you say  " I was given love and attention and felt my parents were always proud of me. " No child receives "real unconditional love and affection" in a narcissistic family. ("Bad child/scapegoats" often have a problem with "golden child" siblings as they think they got the love or attention, they didnt. The heart of all sibling rivalry) 

 The "love" you received was conditional on you becoming compliant and obedient and when older the fixer/rescuer. Which you did.  Youve seen this quite rightly as enmeshment by the parent and you have attempted to undo the abuse, for that is what it is.   

My FOO also worked in very covert manipulative ways which also turned abusive when these "tactics"  didnt work . I am now NC.

When you upset the family dynamic enormous pressure is applied so that you conform to your role.

Youre not crazy , i assure you, you are extremely perceptive and sensitive and you have applied this to your own needs. (I too didnt know what my own needs were until i realised i was never expressing them, through endless reading and some therapy).

I would add a couple of brilliant books too like Starboard "Understanding the Borderline Mother " by Christine Lawson and " Narcissistic Families Diagnosis and Treatment" by Stephanie  Donaldson-Pressman. This one is written for therapists but its very good for those raised in such families.. "The children in such narcissistic family systems try to earn love, attention and approval by satisfying their parents' needs, thus never developing the ability to recognize their own needs or create strategies for getting them met. " Sound familiar?!

Good luck!

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Sheppane

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Re: Shifting roles
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2021, 03:47:50 PM »
Thanks Starboard Song and I'm sorry you and your wife have gone through this too. It really helps to hear others stories though. I always thought that these situations would come following a HUGE conflict or showdown isn't it so strange. You talk about how you were suddenly and immediately discarded. It's almost as if the system reaches a tipping point, it seems. I find myself where I am right now and I can't really make sense . And then of course the doubting my perceptions comes in - maybe I have not done enough ? My mind can come up with many nice family get togethers I could be organising ( but I'm not ) and I straight away hear in my mind the accusations of " you could have invited us / you could have called/ you could have had us for dinner " - but yet I'm not organising these because I simply can't. I would feel so triggered and unsafe. It would take me days to wash it through. I need to honour myself and yes it is sad that I cannot organise these events right now - but guess what , I'm not being invited either. It's like it will all still be my fault . I feel like the very thing I am doing to protect myself ( giving myself breathing space ) will be used as evidence against me that I am abandoning them. It is a dreadful double bind.

I can relate to what your wife said about having nothing left to give. It feels like a journey of giving up hope. And I can imagine at a future point it may just feel like I cannot do this anymore. I cling to the hope and to the more positive past memories. A wish to recreate the positives of the past in the present and future. Only that if O had the awareness then that I have now it might have felt different.

Hazy 111 I'm sorry you've had this too but it definitely helps me to hear someone else has had this shift of roles.  I was finding it hard to understand the dynamics as much of what is written seems to imply the roles stay the same.  Thanks for the book recommendations,  I will check them out  :)

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Leonor

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Re: Shifting roles
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2021, 06:57:08 PM »
Hi, Sheppane,

I think the idea of family roles in narcissistic families can be a bit misleading.

These aren't really roles that are assigned to you and then you take on or grow into, somehow.

Think of them, instead, as reflections of your parent's inner mood that they cast onto you.

If a narcissistic parent is feeling pleasant emotions, s/he will cast those emotions onto her child. The parent then tells the child that s/he is "good."

If a narcissistic parent is feeling stressed or busy or lost in some sort of dissociative state, s/he will lose awareness of everything else. The children are entirely "forgotten."

If a narcissistic parent is feeling upset, shame, anger, or any other uncomfortable emotion, s/he will reflect that feeling onto the child, and tell the child that s/he is "bad."

The parent may focus on certain children to reflect his/her own inner state, but whatever child is in physical proximity will do. That is what makes the idea of "roles" so confusing: "mostly she was mean, but then this one time I felt she really was proud of me," or "I didn't have it as bad as my brothers, but sometimes he hit me, too."

Plus narcissistic parents have no inner stability, so they make up narratives to make sense of their inner chaos: "I feel out of control because Toddler made a mess today," or "I feel super happy and excited because Teen got an award at school" -- as opposed to "I feel out of control because Toddler said the word 'no' to me and my ego is to fragile to brook my child's growing independence" or "I feel super happy and excited because Teen's teacher said I ought to be proud and gave me lots of narcissistic supply."

See what I mean? I don't think the roles are really roles-- they're just mood swings. But the parent tells the child a story ("You make me act this way") and the child believes the parent. Then the child even has some false sense of identity ("I'm good," "I'm funny," "I'm not good in school") and control ("If I get good grades Mom will be happy" or "If I get on trouble at least Dad will pay attention to me.")

So we kind of latch onto the role, because of course we're just little children who need our moms and dads.

 Once we grow older, though, we sense the dissonance. If I'm the kid who supposedly is Mom's favorite, why isn't she speaking to me? If Dad always had it out for me, why did he give me a car for my birthday? We start to see that Mom and Dad actually treated all of us siblings in these crazy ways ... even in the SAME ways. Abusers abuse.

It's the stories *they tell us* about the abuse that are the roles, the stories like "You were always my favorite and now you treat me like this" or "I never expected you to amount to anything, anyway." The role is the same: the child is scapegoated to relieve the parent's stress. But the story the parent tells each child ("you're my favorite" or "you are a failure") is different.

I'm sorry Sheppane, it's really very painful.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2021, 07:05:05 PM by Leonor »

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Call Me Cordelia

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Re: Shifting roles
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2021, 07:18:34 PM »
I always understood the “roles” in my FOO among my siblings to be tied to how good the parents perceived we made them appear to the imaginary audience at any point in time. Or in other words, how much supply they were getting out of us at the moment, and if that supply were positive or negative. I was often the scapegoat at home, and would give my father some fight, but a high achiever in school, and could often get a reprieve from abuse by bringing home a bunch of academic awards. My one sister was student council, had perfected controlling her emotional response to abuse in my father’s presence, so she was “mature” and the “favorite.” But theses distinctions were fairly fickle should any of us decide to go “off script” for any reason. I think my scapegoat status became more or less permanent when I decided not to pursue academia any further as I was expected to do.

And it was general true that everyone wanted the scapegoat be Not Me. Of course there had to be one at any given moment. We had lots of backstabbing and setting each other up among my sisters since early childhood. I saw the same dynamic among my husband’s aunts, another narcissistic family system. But whereas they are enmeshed as adults, my sisters and I had next to no relationship even before I went NC.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2021, 07:23:42 PM by Call Me Cordelia »

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Sheppane

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Re: Shifting roles
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2021, 03:39:17 PM »
[quote author=Leonor


Think of them, instead, as reflections of your parent's inner mood that they cast onto you.

If a narcissistic parent is feeling pleasant emotions, s/he will cast those emotions onto her child. The parent then tells the child that s/he is "good."

If a narcissistic parent is feeling stressed or busy or lost in some sort of dissociative state, s/he will lose awareness of everything else. The children are entirely "forgotten."

If a narcissistic parent is feeling upset, shame, anger, or any other uncomfortable emotion, s/he will reflect that feeling onto the child, and tell the child that s/he is "bad."

[/quote]

Thank you Leonor I had never thought of it like this really. That the roles,  though assigned , are mere projections of moods. You said also that Nparents have no inner stability and this makes a lot of sense to me. It also explains the confusion when I feel it jumps around from me being out of favor to back in favor. Maybe that's the inner instability all projected outwards I guess.

I'm thinking the word " roles" maybe isn't helpful for me now other than  for identification and understanding patterns. Because I can refuse a role of course. But if instead I see it all as projection it belongs in this type of dynamic,  it makes sense.

CallmeCordelia that makes a lot of sense what you said about going " off script ". The way it all changes depending on what sort of supply is needed I guess. An ever changing,  but predictable dynamic.

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mazenavigator

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Re: Shifting roles
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2021, 03:47:52 PM »
Though obviously not the same situation, I've experience some of the same patterns as well.   I don't have any siblings so that dynamic is not quite at play, but my parents' dysfunctional patterns have taken their toll. It took quite a bit for me to see how damaging all these behaviors were to my wife to be able to do anything remotely helpful.

I suppose I was the GC/Scapegoat/etc.. all wrapped up in one as the only child.  Originally I had tried to address some of the issues my wife and I had with my uBPD mom, and my dad (huge enabler).  Those efforts weren't really successful and I'm basically VLC with my parents and extended family, with my wife NC with them.

The best I seemed to be able to do is just "not participate".  I felt (and was treated) quite a bit like the outcast in my family (though with very passive-aggressive messages).  But, "being done" really meant that it just didn't matter that much any more.  Fast-forward a few years and I'm starting to see a lot more cracks in the extended family, especially now that I'm not really in the mix. I guess the family needs other targets and sources of dysfunction to "lift their spirits".

Sometimes it feels like a "hard line" to take, but when I really think about it, that's pretty unreasonable.  These are just grown adults with the emotional foundations of 4 year olds.  It's just a bummer that exhibiting emotionally healthy behavior feels so unnatural at first. The years of emotional conditioning are powerful.

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JustKathy

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Re: Shifting roles
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2021, 09:21:40 PM »
Nope, you're not going crazy. It also happened in my family when my two siblings and I were all adults.

I was always the scapegoat. That never changed. But my brother and sister had their roles swapped. My brother had been the GC and my sister the chief enabler. When my brother got married Nmother became angry that he was now devoted to another woman. She hated his wife and pressured him to get a divorce but that one wasn't going to happen. When my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer she had my father rewrite their will. My brother had always been the sole heir, but was disinherited in an act of revenge (along with me, the scapegoat). My sister became the new GC and was named the sole heir, probably because she had remained compliant, never married, and catered to Nmother's every whim.

I'm now NC with the entire FOO. My mother passed away but before she died she turned everyone against me in a smear campaign. Subsequently, I've lost contact with them. All I know at this point is that my brother is, at best, maintaining distance from our enFather while sister, the new GC, lives next door to him and has assumed my mother's role in his life. She's now the chosen one and is sitting there guarding her inheritance.

When these changes happened I was 55, my sister 53, and my brother 47, so we were not only adults, but older adults. I never saw it coming and had never heard of it happening before until I came to this forum. I thought I was going crazy too, but it appears to be pretty common for them to change the family structure to fit their immediate needs.