See column on the right side of this website labeled Narcissistic Personality Disorder for a complete list of all NPD related articles and videos.
Narcissistic Parents Divide Their Children Through Triangulation
Written by Randi G. Fine
Conflict is a normal part of family dynamics. The fact that a family argues from time to time does not make it a dysfunctional family unit. What makes a family dysfunctional is the emotional pain and confusion that prevails among its members. Those who grow up in this type of household become saddled with a lifetime of emotional struggles. Some of these struggles are easy to identify, some are not.
Families influenced by narcissistic parents are always dysfunctional. Due to the plethora of crazy dynamics that exist within the family unit, there are many casualties suffered by the children. Not only do they suffer as individuals, the relationships between the siblings suffer as well.
It would seem as if siblings suffering together under the strains of crazy parenting would naturally bond together for support, but that does not usually happen in families headed by narcissistic parents. It is no accident that one of the casualties of the NPD family is the relationship between the siblings.
Narcissistic parents are not capable of loving their children. Children are simply a source of “Narcissistic Supply.” The relationship NPD parents have with their children is one of control and manipulation. There are many tactics used to accomplish that. One common one is called, “Triangulation.”
Triangulation is a deceitful tactic used by the NPD parent to control and manipulate the balance of power in the family system. The goal is to keep the siblings from collaborating in ways that might interfere with his or her calculated objectives. Everything boils down to insuring the parent’s narcissistic supply. Like addicts, narcissistic parents cannot survive without it. They need constant replenishment and will stoop to any level to get their “fix.”
To gain control over the information flow in the family, narcissistic parents create indirect communication between the siblings, putting themselves in the role of “go-between.” In doing that, they control the content of the information, the way the information flows, and the way it gets interpreted. And there are more benefits; with everyone relating directly to them, these parents are always in the information loop and always remains the center of attention.
Since NPD parents cannot prevent all communication between the siblings, they try to create conflict and mistrust between them. They will fabricate information, tell lies, and confide separately in each child, and then tell them to keep secrets from each other. The parent may badmouth one sibling to another. The parent may share information with one sibling, hoping that it will get back to another one and create drama. NPD parents take great pleasure in the upheaval they can create among family members.
NPD parents maneuver in ways that they can never be called on, whether it be the way they carefully phrase their words or the fact that they are careful to make sure no one else witnesses their behavior. They forever remain the innocent. Should anyone try to call them on their behavior, they will erupt into narcissistic rage. Since this rage terrifies the children, over time they learn to do everything and anything within their means to avoid it.
Because of the dynamics of the NPD family, the children easily fall prey to the manipulations of their NPD parent. Attention from the NPD parent, whether positive or negative, is a rare commodity that each sibling must vie for. One sibling’s loss becomes another sibling’s gain. The relationship between the children is sacrificed as each one selfishly competes for scraps of affection and favor from the parent; attention that gets switched on and off at the parent’s will.
Further upsetting the balance of affection doled out to the children is the fact that NPD parents assign roles to their children. There is usually a golden child, one who seems to get the most praise from the parent, a scapegoat, one who is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family, and an invisible child, one who gets neither praise nor blame. These roles are not always stationary. They can shift at the NPD parent’s will.
NPD parents train their children well; the hold they have over them when they are young continues well into their adulthood. That will not change until all the children realize and accept that their parent’s destructive behavior is responsible for all the problems that exist between them.
Adult children of narcissistic parents become a very powerful force if they can unify against their abuser, though this rarely happens. If they do the NPD parent lose all control over them; a fate narcissists fear worse than death.
Other Podcast Shows on Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
- Whether to Forgive or Not Forgive the Narcissist Abuser
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder: What Is It?
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Parent/Child Abuse
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder: The Family Portrait
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Narcissistic Mothers
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Mothers and Daughters
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Answering Your Questions