How Narcissistic Mothers Create Sibling Rivalry (Article)

Discussion in 'Family of Origin' started by Copabanana, Sep 1, 2015.

  1. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    How Narcissistic Mothers Create Sibling Rivalry

    Sibling relationships are often a casualty of the narcissistic mother. In fact, narcissistic mothers both consciously and subconsciously create sibling rivalry.

    Due to the limited resources of affection, attention and favor from the narcissistic mom, siblings have to vie for their rations. Because narcissistic mothers are incredibly self-centered, they have precious little time and effort to spare for their children. Thus, any attention, whether it be positive or negative, may be pursued by the children of a narcissistic mother even at the expense of relating to their siblings.

    In functional families, sibling rivalry naturally occurs and, with adequate parenting, ideally turns into respect for each other as children mature. Siblings are encouraged to be close and love each other.

    This isn’t the case in a family with a narcissist as the matriarch. Children are pitted against each other and taught from very early on that if they wanted any sort of “love” or attention from their mother, they’ll have to compete for it against each other.

    If you grew up in a narcissistic family system, you may now see there’s a constant comparison between siblings—who’s doing better and who’s ranking higher in the narcissistic mother’s eyes. Because of this, you may not feel connected to your siblings, and distrustful of them because you can’t be sure what you say won’t be held against you.

    You may long to feel the camaraderie and closeness you see your friends have with their siblings.

    Sadly, siblings with a narcissistic mother often sacrifice relationships with each other to compete for something that doesn’t exist: their mother’s unconditional love. Narcissists have difficulty feeling love or empathy for anyone, leaving you and your siblings to bid for conditional, short-term attention that can be switched on and off at any minute.

    At times you may be frustrated with yourself for feeling unworthy and inadequate and project those self-deprecating feelings onto your siblings as well. You are taught from a young age to repress their feelings and that they don’t matter.

    Children are often put into shifting roles by the narcissistic mother. First, the golden child, is the hero, the mother’s other-half, or her mirror. There are pros to this role, such as getting all of the best stuff, the attention, and the ability to entertain the illusion you can do no wrong. Your accomplishments, no matter how minor, are celebrated to the fullest extent. However, it is not all sunshine and rainbows for the golden child.

    You may become enmeshed with your narcissistic mother and grow up without any real knowledge of boundaries or self-identity. In this spotlight, you are just the puppet of the mother, and the one of whom the other siblings are ultimately the most jealous.

    Then there’s the scapegoat. When you receive attention from your mother in this role, it’s of the negative variety. But, oh, the relief in feeling you are at last beyond her control. Of course, that feeling can be short-lived as a child because the narcissistic mother will make great effort to strip you of that control and as the adult, she often has the power to do so.

    When in the scapegoat role, you shoulder the blame, shame, and anger of the family. If something goes wrong, it’s your fault. You are labeled as the “bad” one, even if you don’t fit into that category. The silver lining of the scapegoat role is that you often have a better concept of self and independence than does the golden child, which can help you later on in life.

    Finally, if you are the lost child, the forgotten one that receives neither the praise nor the blame, you may do your best to remain invisible and away from your mother’s wrath. You sense it might be better to go unnoticed than to have to deal with the emotionally debilitating games your narcissistic mother plays with her other children.

    Some narcissistic mothers intentionally triangulate and pit their children against one another because of their belief in the “zero sum game.” This is a narcissistic game in which one participant’s gain results from the others loss.

    The net change in total wealth among participants is zero. The attention the children receive from their mother is just shifted, not shared, so as to always keep someone left out. Therefore, a gain by one child is a loss for another.

    When I say “triangulate,” it means three roles are being played. Imagine a triangle where at each one of three points there’s the villain, the victim, and the rescuer.

    The villain is the one who blames, disrespects, attacks, or criticizes the victim. In turn, this tempts the rescuer to defend the victim, which can move the rescuer into the villain’s place and the villain into the victim’s place.

    The roles often switch and reverse. For example, the narcissistic mother can start out as the villain and the scapegoat as her victim. If you try to become your sibling’s rescuer when your brother or sister is in the villain role, you, instead, become the villain in your mother’s eyes for betraying her. And, she in turn, is now the victim of you and tempts your sibling to become the rescuer to gain mother’s positive attention.

    It is an exhausting emotional game that may never end.

    She can also make active attempts to insure the competition is fierce. She may spend excessive time alone with one of her children, most likely the golden child, instead of including all of her children in an activity or outing.

    She may commiserate with one child about the other’s negative behavior, so that a tag-team competition is set up as well. Some narcissistic mothers intentionally block bonding and encourage competition between siblings. Other narcissistic moms creative a vacuum of neglect where the kids are left to prey upon each other for the meager emotional resources that are available in the family environment.

    Families like this can feel like an emotional desert. The result of tactics like emotional abuse, lies, and neglect, however, ensures her children are always on their toes, working to earn her conditional love.

    The negative feelings you had toward your siblings while growing up can carry on well into your adult life. Siblings may never be close to each other due to the deep emotional scars and animosity they were programmed to feel towards each other by the narcissistic family environment. You may find one of your siblings is unable to let go of the old system and actively keeps the rivalry going. He or she will then miss the value of having a fellow survivor, their brother or sister, who understands what they endured.

    As adult children of narcissists (ACONs), competition between your siblings can decrease if there’s a realization by all parties that what you were taught growing up is not how siblings need act towards each other. Instead, it’s possible to support and ally against the narcissistic mother’s negative behavior. There is sometimes an opportunity to create trust and bonding between adult siblings of narcissists that was not possible as children caught in the destructive narcissistic pattern of parenting.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I never thought of my mother as narcissistic...more borderline. After reading this, I wonder if she was both. This is exactly what she did. Thanks, Copa. More understanding helps.
  3. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Copa.


  4. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Hi, everyone

    I am reposting this article Copa posted for us in September for Quicksand.

  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    This is a great article. The Mother DOES encourage and secretly enjoy the sibling rivalry and strife because the narcissistic/borderline mother is incapable of normal motherly love. There has to be bad guys in her life (in our case, the bad guys were me and my dad). It's that Mean Girls game.You are not in the "in" crowd of the family. Nay-nay-nay!!! ;)

    My sis was desperate for mother love. I was too, b ut not at the cost of being fake to myself, and s he was much meaner to me than to Sis. My brother and mother fairly worshiped one another. My Ma just didn't have enough love in her heart for three kids. She wasn't an adequate mother to any of us though. She failed that task three times.

    Love the article.
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    And then some adult children have a need to hold onto the myth of "Good Mother." That is my siblings. Or those strangers who share my DNA ... bleh.
  7. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    It is a great article, isn't it Serenity? The more I read and learn about why my family of origin works as it does, the less guilty or responsible I feel. Think of the years wasted believing we could change anything about our families.

    I see my mother manipulating everyone at the heart of what is happening to all of us, now. It seems impossible to believe...but then, most mothers don't beat their children.

  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Cedar, it seems they are all cut from t he same cloth. A very dysfunctional mother or father (but usually mother) or both. An inability on the parental part to love all of her kids, especially if one is born differently. An attempt to cause sibling strife that suits the mother. Then the cycle continues with those who do not understand they've been played. It made me feel tons better when I read how often this dynamic takes place, with one person filling the need of taking the blame for the entire dysfunctional family. Usually there is more than one perpetrator too, deciding who is "in" or "out." It is so much like Mean Girls that I kind of call it that in my head.

    We can not choose our FOO, but we don't have to deal with them.That is up to us.

    We CAN choose our family of choice.

    I read a statistic once that made me lol. I do not remember the exact percentage or the exact wording, but I will just say it the best I can remember. I remember grinning all day long when I thought about it. It just tickled me because it's so true, at least for me.

    "A poll was taken by our readers and only 30% preferred having holildays with family over friends." It was written more brutally than that and it could have been less than 30%. It reminded me that it's not just me who finds my FOO undesirable. Does it help to see the numbers? For me it did. This was long, long ago, but I'll bet the FOO lovefest is even lower now.

    Cedar, how vile of her.

    Cedar, this is where I got stuck. My mother didn't beat me. She beat me with her words, which I can still recall in my head to this day. Now these days, I override her words, but it's eerie how our childhood affects us still at age 40, 50, 60, 70. The stuff done to us as a child never 100% dies. That is why I was so so so careful with my own kids.

    "I don't want to be like Mom."

    She helped me be a good parent. In a backward sort of way.
  9. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    In order for one parent to be extremely dysfunctional, the other one HAS to be dysfunctional. Otherwise, the "other" is either going to leave, or force the dysfunctional one to get help. For a minimum, the "other" has to be an enabler.
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Yes. Very, very true.
  11. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    She did, Serenity. The most traumatic and long-term damaging things my mother did to me were the words she left me to define myself with. Out of everything she did Serenity, to me or to my sibs, those words were the most damaging.

    I believed her for sixty years, Serenity.

    Sixty years.

    The stupid banality of evil.

    The horrifying consequences of what she intentionally did, of the words she intentionally spoke over the heads of her own children.

    We would not have been able to recover I don't think, without one another and this site.

    Thank you, every one posting and reading, here.

  12. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I for one with the best psychotherapy (supposedly) one could pay for for years and years, only began recovering the deepest stuff with the help of you guys. Thank you.