Trophy Child - Narcissistic Families

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I like vanilla

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Trophy Child - Narcissistic Families
« on: February 25, 2016, 03:38:11 PM »
I recently came across the idea of a 'trophy child' in narcissistic families. For me it was like a light bulb went off as the concept totally resonated with me.

Before, I had only seen discussions of 'golden children' and 'scapegoat children' in narcissistic families. Although my siblings used to argue that I was a golden child (they now know better), I always felt like I was both gold and scapegoated even though everyone argued that this could not be the case; you must be one or the other (apparently). Largely, the online discussions were also led by scapegoated children denigrating the golden children so I also never felt comfortable suggesting that I might have grown-up in a somewhere-in-between position (anyone on those forums - which I no longer visit - who suggested they might be a golden child got block capital letter responses about how they had not right to express the hardships they too faced in their families  :sadno:).

Now, I am realizing that I was almost certainly the 'trophy child'. I was valued, solely and only, for my accomplishments. So long as I was at the top of my class, so long as I got the solos in band, so long as I was on and won at all of the academic teams (I am terrible at sports), so long as I excelled at everything I did, and so long as I anticipated and met all of my NM's needs and wants (to the exclusion of having any of my own) I was 'valued' and given the illusion of love.

To my siblings, yes, it might have looked as if I were the golden child; they often heard 'why can't you be more like Vanilla?'. However, unlike the true golden child who can 'do no wrong' (in this case my brother who got excuses from our NM for every transgression including some minor crimes - he did not have courage for major ones), I generally could 'do no right'. Similar to the scapegoat, I faced constant criticism, though unlike the true scapegoat (in this case one of my sisters) the criticism and emotional manipulation were covert and subtle; a withholding of - ahem - "love" and approval, a 'are you really wearing that?' type of questioning rather than an outright 'you would choose something that ugly' feedback, but still an eternal 'you are and never will be good enough but you are expected to keep trying'. And try I did, much to my detriment...

Unlike the golden child who was secure in the knowledge that he was 'the best' (though I would argue while he could not, and cannot, see it that position also led emotional problems for him), and unlike the scapegoat child who always knew she was 'the worst' (which of course we recognize as being to her detriment), I lived in a constantly shifting sand of always trying to 'get it right' but never being able to quite do it. My NM made sure to change the criteria of 'did well' so that I could never quite reach the goal. I was going to say it literally drove me crazy, but it did not quite do so. The double bind, however, did contribute to my getting CPTSD.

Has anyone else come across this concept, the 'trophy child'? Does it resonate with anyone else? Why do we not see discussions of it in the 'golden child' vs. 'scapegoat child' articles and forums? I think it really would have helped me to know about this family 'role' before now. I think it will help a lot as I am working through a bit of snag that I am in now in therapy.



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Dutch Uncle

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Re: Trophy Child - Narcissistic Families
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2016, 03:59:18 PM »
I also never felt comfortable suggesting that I might have grown-up in a somewhere-in-between position (anyone on those forums - which I no longer visit - who suggested they might be a golden child got block capital letter responses about how they had not right to express the hardships they too faced in their families  :sadno:).
:thumbdown:
Did any of the children ask for facing the abuse by their not "good enough" parents?
No they didn't.
The Golden Child, for whom "good enough" is failure in the eyes of the parents as much as the Scapegoat is not "good enough", can suffer as much as the scapegoat does.
In particular as far as long term effects are concerned.

Quote
Has anyone else come across this concept, the 'trophy child'? Does it resonate with anyone else?
I haven't heard of it before, but it does resonate with me in this way: Both the Golden Child and the Scapegoat are trophies for the parents. Objects. To the parents it doesn't really matter what the child is, as long as they can 'sell' the label to the outside world. The kid MUST comply. Whatever role is assigned to "it". <--- pun intended.
THAT is the real damage being done, I suppose.

From what I have read on these concepts, it's also pretty common that Golden Children get demoted to Scapegoat, and vice versa.

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mourningdove

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Re: Trophy Child - Narcissistic Families
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2016, 07:09:27 PM »

From what I have read on these concepts, it's also pretty common that Golden Children get demoted to Scapegoat...

This is what happened to me. I didn't want to be either. I was always an object to them and nothing more.

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MaryAnn

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Re: Trophy Child - Narcissistic Families
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2016, 05:59:17 AM »
Same here.... I started off as the trophy child until my sibling was born (a boy).  Then it was like I had fallen off the face of the earth because my father had a boy.  But, because of the eagerness to please, I still had value until the age of 7.  Once I started to be able to think on my own and challenge my father, I quickly became the scapegoat. 

To this day, it is all my fault that my parents do not get along and I have corrupted my mother's thinking, she's too open minded and not conservative enough.  Everything was fine until I started influencing her.  He doesn't even want me to call and talk to her.  While my brother was a disappointment for many years,  but he suddenly turned in to his father's spitting image and had a baby boy.  He is now the "trophy child".  Took my brother until age 40 but my father, at age 70, finally has a child he can be proud of, a daughter in law that is the daughter he never had, and a grandson that is the second coming, a prodigal. 

My childhood definitely had a lasting effect on my life as an adult. I did not understand boundaries and allowed them to be violated constantly in the effort to be accepted by my peers and elders.  I never really understood why life seemed so much more difficult for me, what was wrong with me.  I basically broke 2 years ago and counseling, while it has been tough, has been the best thing I ever did for myself.  I am finally figuring out who I am and what I really want.  Have not found what makes me happy but I at least have hope that I am going to find it.  Couldn't have said that a year ago.

Mary Ann  :hug:

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Dutch Uncle

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Re: Trophy Child - Narcissistic Families
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2016, 06:26:44 AM »
I am finally figuring out who I am and what I really want.  Have not found what makes me happy but I at least have hope that I am going to find it.  Couldn't have said that a year ago.
Wow. Congrats.  :thumbup: Well done.  :applause:
 :hug:

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Dutch Uncle

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Re: Trophy Child - Narcissistic Families
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2016, 06:35:43 AM »
Has anyone else come across this concept, the 'trophy child'? Does it resonate with anyone else? Why do we not see discussions of it in the 'golden child' vs. 'scapegoat child' articles and forums? I think it really would have helped me to know about this family 'role' before now. I think it will help a lot as I am working through a bit of snag that I am in now in therapy.
Do you have a link to articles on "the trophy child"?
I too struggle to identify with either "the golden child" or "the scapegoat", and I cannot identify my brother or sister as such either. Though that may well be since the concept itself is not so clear to me.

I want to do a shameless plug of a thread I once started in this FOO-board: Self discovery - Your role in your FOO
There are some links there to articles that describe 6 "types". Perhaps some of these articles will be of aid to you.

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MaryAnn

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Re: Trophy Child - Narcissistic Families
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2016, 04:59:52 PM »
Hi Dutch Uncle,

Thank you!  Means a lot coming from you.  I have learned a lot from you and others on the forum.  The forum has been a safe haven for me to come to and not feel so alone, know that there are others dealing with the same.  It pulls me back to reality when things are not feeling so real and other thoughts enter my mind.  I am reminded that there are many that are going through the same challenges and struggles.  Thank you for your patience and helping me to understand boundaries.  It has helped me to stand my ground many times instead of allowing others to use me, abuse me over the last several months.

Lol, MaryAnn :hug: :hug:

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Kizzie

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Re: Trophy Child - Narcissistic Families
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2016, 07:04:04 PM »
Hi Vanilla - My B was the GC and I admit I used to envy him until I realized just how much he had suffered in his own way.  He could do no wrong and in the end I think this led him to develop NPD. As the SG and Lost Child I escaped this fate. I ended up with CPTSD which is no prize, but I do have more of a change at recovery than he does and so these days I just feel sad for him.  If he had been the Trophy Child he may not have slipped into being an N.

I would have to say I am the "Trophy Child by proxy" these days because of my successes, but I am certain that were I to 'fail' in the eyes of my FOO, I would be readily reminded in a 'subtle' fashion (mine are covert N's), if  I were in contact with them.  I am NC/LC so I am not as exposed to or concerned with the shifting sands which is a great way of describing it by the way. 

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Phoenix

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Re: Trophy Child - Narcissistic Families
« Reply #8 on: February 29, 2016, 08:07:56 PM »
Wow... this concept of the "Trophy Child" and your story, Vanilla, resonate so much with me... truly.

My father died over Christmas and the drama around the situation brought my younger sister and I much closer in having to deal with it... it also forced us to have to interact with our NMother (we were all in the hospital together for a week until he died). I'll tell the story of that week at another time bc I'm still traumatized from it... but... there was a strange recreation of our childhood roles and dynamics between the three of us mother and two daughters and it was eye-opening to see as an adult... also so helpful bc my husband was present for almost all of it and so for the first time we had a validating witness...

Anyway the horrible situation exposed to me just how much my sister had suffered and also made me confront the fact that I had been the Golden Child... growing up - my mother only cared about me (to the point of terrifying and abusive and incestious obsession) but she couldn't stand my younger sister. She said she had had a second child in case I died - so she would still have one - but she was never interested in her. It also didn't help that I am most likely the product of an affair and am very fair in coloring vs my sister and my dad's other kids who are all very dark and look just like him. I was literally my mother's golden child...

But it wasn't that I could do no wrong... good God could I do wrong... and the wrath was terrifying... but the wrong was to ever have a thought or feeling or accomplishment separate from what she wanted. I was literally my mother's puppet in all things. I had to be the absolute best at everything... but I also had to think like her anticipate her feelings and needs - I had to pretend to be her - but one step ahead. She literally trained me to meet her every need in every way. Through this "attention" - I ultimately experienced more technical abuse than my neglected younger sister because as I got older, my mother viewed me as an extension of herself in her relationships as well and fed me to the men in her life like an appetizer... so I grew up resentful of my younger sister who seemed to avoid the pain and suffering that came with being my mother's "soulmate".

Meanwhile, I didn't realize how my thoughts were being manipulated about her. To this day, in the back of my mind, there is this voice that tells me my sister as the less intelligent, less creative, less attractive... but now - as an adult - since I've been confronted with this... I'm suddenly like, wait... what??? My sister is literally getting her PhD and she is objectively definitely more attractive then i am... does she come across as a creative type? no... but she was also told from birth that she wasn't. She was always made to live in my shadow and it has clearly shaped the way she sees herself and how I see her...

All this rambling though to say... only in the aftermath of my dad's death - when we were trying to determine how to handle our relationship with our mother - did it come to light that my sister was so deeply suffering and I truly had never validated that fact. In my mind, she was the lucky one. She escaped my mother's terror... but in her mind - her own mother couldn't even be bothered to love her... how can she ever feel that she has worth?

So my question is... Vanilla - or anyone else out there... how do you handle sibling interactions? I'm trying to be much, much closer to my sister and make up for all the hurt the best I can. I'm older and while I thought I was often protecting her while we grew up - I now realize that the physical hurts were not what she needed protection from :(
She's getting married and hasn't told my mother (I have returned to no contact since dad's death - but this is the first time my sister has done no contact because she was still financially dependent on my parents) - my husband and I are trying to take the place of parents (which can't truly happen) but we are trying to financially support her and play the role of parents for the wedding...
I have apologized to my sister and owned my misunderstandings about our childhood - she has done the same...
but at the same time... there's that selfish part inside of me that still views it as some kind of competition and feels bitter... as in - how can what she feels ever compare to my suffering?

I don't want to feel that bitterness deep down... she's my only real family - I want to be as close to her as possible... we are the only two people that will ever understand what we went through as children... but our versions are so different... how can we truly come to terms with it and understand each other? Our issues are literally polar opposite coming out of this.

Sorry for jumping on the thread and adding my own issues and needs for support! But thank you for starting it!!! So glad I came back to this site today!!!!