Whether You’re Golden, Invisible, or a Scapegoat, it’s All About Control
The word “abuse” is full of shame. Using that word regarding childhood experiences might feel like a massive exaggeration of what happened and a handy but sad excuse for unresolved issues. When we use the word “abuse,” it feels like attention and sympathy-seeking. It feels like “poor me; I’m a helpless victim.”
We may intentionally minimize our painful childhood experiences because we don’t want to think of our mothers as “abusers” or ourselves as unwitting targets. Having those kinds of thoughts can cause us to feel more ashamed, and that affects our core identity. Those of us who’ve experienced traumatic childhood events at the hands of our mothers may feel a sense of disgust or humiliation in addition to shame, and we see ourselves in a negative light when we compare ourselves with others.
The Three, Interchangeable Roles
There’s a particularly dysfunctional family dynamic in which one of the children becomes “idealized,” the clear parental favorite, known as the “Golden Child,” and the other children take turns being devalued and blamed. They’re known as “Invisible Children” and the “Scapegoats” (Streep 2017). A narcissist-mom controls these roles.
The roles of the Golden Child, Invisible Child, and Scapegoat are flexible. Any role can be assigned to any child at any time, depending on the mother’s mood. It’s a “crazy-making” situation because the mom has the unchallenged power to change the entire family dynamic quickly and unpredictably. For those of us in this position, it catches us unaware and unprepared.