Keep It In The Family


The narcissistic dynamic and the effects of our kind are all-pervasive. Nobody is untouched by us in their lives. Whether it is the stranger we smile at in the lift and receive a smile in return, thus gaining a dollop of fuel, the doggedly loyal friend who is in awe of us and does whatever we want or the smitten and confused discarded primary source, we are everywhere. You find us walking down the street, in your workplace, at the bar, in the hospital, in your bed and also in your family.

Much of what is written about our kind appertains to the romantic ensnarement of an unwitting victim who falls madly and deeply in love with us, suffers the cruelty of devaluation and then is tossed aside with no explanation before being hoovered back in and the process begins once more. This is the case because this type of narcissistic dynamic is amongst the most devastating owing to the strength of feeling, the close proximity between narcissist and victim and the period of exposure. The targeting of somebody to be our intimate partner primary source is regarded as the most obvious engagement with our kind and fits the standard model of seduction, devaluation, discard and hoover.

Of course, as I have shown, there is much more than this standard model, with the targeting period, the initial seduction and then the seduction golden period, the stranger zone, the respite periods and so on. Furthermore, there are variances for those who are intimate partner secondary sources or those who find themselves the dirty secret intimate partner secondary source. There is also the situation with inner and outer circle friends who are secondary non-intimate sources who enjoy elongated golden periods and those who a tertiary sources who may experience a short blast of seduction and no golden period or the malice of a malign hoover from the very beginning. Whilst the methodology of our kind has many similarities, there are also many variations dependent on the nature of the source which we are entangled with and this is equally applicable to the family.

Family members are nearly always secondary sources to the narcissist. The majority are non-intimate but in certain instances there are family members who are intimate secondary sources.

Occasionally there may be a situation where a family member is a primary source. These are rarer but certainly not unheard of. Again, these are mainly non-intimate but there are also intimate examples too. If the family member is a primary source, there is a greater likelihood of intimacy than as a secondary source.

The family instance is varied. You may have a narcissistic parent or grandparent, a sibling may be the narcissist, a cousin or your child or children may be narcissists. Blended families may also bring in a step-relative who is a narcissist. The issue of a family member being narcissistic is a wide one, with a variety of permutations and in this article I will be addressing some of the key aspects of the narcissist in a family sense, providing an introductory overview, with later articles focussing on individual areas of this whole dynamic.

There is no seduction when there is a non-intimate relationship between a narcissist and a blood family member. This is because the familial relationship has already created a bond and a sense of obligation which seduction would otherwise create. The narcissist does not need to establish a connection. In all other dynamics with a narcissist, the victim starts out as a remote stranger or a stranger. They may remain in that place and are seduced purely for the provision of a one-off or repeated bursts of fuel. Think the stranger in the lift or somebody who a narcissist flirts with online. This individual may become a secondary source by becoming a friend or a colleague and then be promoted to a primary source thereafter. The promotions may be swift but in order to draw the individual to them to begin with there must be a seduction. This does not happen with the family member

  • You know the narcissist as your parent or grand-parent and you have an established connection with them from birth;
  • You know the narcissist as your child and you have an established connection from their birth;
  • You know the narcissist as a sibling or a cousin and you have an established connection from your birth or theirs, dependent on who is the elder.

This connection creates a sense of obligation.

  • As a parent you are obliged to look after your child;
  • As a child you are obliged to be under the control of your parent;
  • As a sibling or a cousin, you are obliged to be connected to them by reason of blood

Thus the narcissist does not need to seduce the family member to create the bond. The bond has already been established by reason of being a family member. This saves the narcissist considerable work.

The exception to this is where the narcissist wishes to ‘elevate’ the source to an intimate secondary source or an intimate primary source, namely through the commission of incest and invariably it is abusive in nature. For this to happen, the narcissist must engage in seduction to bring about the intimacy. This will involve manipulations to bring about this coercion, isolation from other family members and external influences and the clear use of incentives and more over threats to ensure that the incestuous activity is kept hidden.

The dynamic between a familial narcissist and his or her victim will fall into one of these categories:-

  • An elongated golden period where the victim is always treated well, akin to an inner circle secondary source. This is where the familial victim is treated as a secondary source. This individual will be accorded golden or favoured status. Thus a sibling will be the favourite, the child will be the golden child, a parent will be favoured over the other, a cousin will be seen as a favourite. The position of being golden or favourite is not an exclusive one. It is entirely permissible for the narcissist to have two cousins who are favoured, two siblings who are favoured or a parent to have two golden children. What there must always be when there is one or more relative who is favoured or golden, there has to be a scapegoat relative as well who is of equivalent ‘rank’. Thus with the golden child or children, there will be one child who is the scapegoat, a narcissistic child may favour his or her biological parents and scapegoat the step-parent and so on. This is necessary because the narcissist needs somebody to compare against to create the favouritism. Remember, we always want to deploy contrasts (think being placed on the pedestal and then thrown to the ground, the provision of great sex which is then removed etc) because contrast is the catalyst for better drama, greater emotional output and thus more potent fuel.
  • Where the familial victim is installed as a primary source, they will experience the similar pattern to that of a non-familial primary source, namely a golden period to begin with but then devaluation will follow in due course.
  • An elongated devaluation period which is punctuated by Respite Periods. This is akin to the recognised pattern of behaviour between a narcissist and the primary source. Here the familial victim is subjected to the denigrating manipulations of the narcissist and every so often will experience relief from this state by receiving a Respite Period where a golden period is visited on the victim. The distinction here however is that the familial victim does not experience a golden period to begin with. There is no need for one since there was no need for seduction, this already occurred through the familial bond which exists. This is where the individual is treated as a familial secondary source. The victim is cast as a scapegoat and then favoured. In this scenario there will be vacillation between two sources. Source A is the golden child. Source B is the scapegoat. Source A is then made the scapegoat and Source B becomes the golden child before it changes again.
  • An elongated devaluation period which does not have any respite periods, but the victim gains some relief from the devaluation because they are a secondary source and therefore the narcissist does not call on them with the same frequency for fuel. During those periods when the narcissist is not drawing fuel, the victim is left alone. There is however no positive behaviour towards the victim (as there is when there is Respite Period). This typically occurs between the adult narcissist and adult familial victim because they do not live together and because the victim is a secondary source, so the narcissist is not making daily demands for negative fuel against the victim. However, whenever there is an interaction between the narcissist and the victim it is always negative in nature, the victim is cast as the perpetual black sheep of the family, always the scapegoat.

A familial primary source is rarely discarded but would be demoted to a secondary source, when the narcissist secures a non-familial primary source instead.

A familial secondary source is rarely discarded. If the familial secondary source engages in behaviour which is regarded as traitorous and treacherous by the narcissist, rather than discard the individual (which is less likely because of the familial bond) they will maintain that individual as a perpetual scapegoat instead.

If a familial primary or secondary source tries to escape the narcissist then there will be hoovers using the familial dynamic (other family members will readily become compliant as Lieutenants) in order to draw the individual back under the narcissists control. Escape is usually much harder for the victim because the existing familial bond is especially burdensome to the victim in terms of guilt, wanting to help and having a sense of obligation towards their relative.

Narcissists utilise familial Lieutenants regularly and it is very rare to find a narcissist without one. This might be the other parent where the child is a narcissist or if one of the parents is a narcissist, it may well be a sibling (especially if they are afforded golden child status) who is used and triangulated with the scapegoated victim.

Family members are almost always significant members of the façade. This is because they are in denial as to the behaviour of the member of the family, unable to accept that a blood relation would act in such a manner, preferring not to confront the behaviour, to dilute its effect and minimise it instead.

These are just some of the key elements of a familial narcissistic dynamic and various elements and strands of this will be detailed and focused on in due course.


31 thoughts on “Keep It In The Family

  1. Melmel says:

    Commenting to find this article later when I can give it my whole attention.

  2. Wolfhound says:

    I grew up with an unaware Narc (or perhaps just selfish?) Parent – took me a long time to figure out they needed all the attention. The saving grace is that as we children grew up, moved away, and no longer doted on them, they found sources of fuel outside the family and as adults, they basically leave me alone to live my life (so in that sense, he has never been a “mean” narc to me), so it has turned into neglect punctuated with infrequent calls and conversations all about them.

    The worst part was that I realize I also had a narc sibling. They clashed with my father constantly at every turn and I became the “golden child” and them the “black sheep”. As adults, by far the worst damage done to me has been by my sibling. While outsiders would say we had personality conflicts, blah, blah, I was living an ongoing hell of being held accountable and responsible for all her darkness, which she could unleash at any moment, any time, for any reason. I lived for decades thinking it was my fault and “If I was just a better sister, just a better person, just more patient, just a better communicator, etc.” that we wouldn’t keep having these blowups.

    1. WhoCares says:


      “I lived for decades thinking it was my fault and “If I was just a better sister, just a better person, just more patient, just a better communicator, etc.””

      I am sorry you lived with that for so long. It is true that “outsiders” do not understand. So good that you have found some clarity.

    2. A Victor says:

      Hi Wolfhound, the sibling stuff is so difficult, so tragic even. Coming out of my family, the three of us, myself, a brother and a sister, have virtually zero communication with each other. It is heartbreaking. Our “family” is one of brokenness rather than unity, as a family should be. No answers for you, sadly, but understanding.

  3. Coffee Time says:

    Gonna have a time figuring out my family in this one. Maybe I should save up for a consult instead of a book. Be clogging the blog with tales of my StepNarc here just trying to explain the situation.

  4. April says:

    hg, my mid range ex fiance’s father and sister’s husband are both narcs. If I was disengaged from by my ex fiance do I need to worry about his father and sister’s husband trying to hoover me as well? Would their hoover be their own or as a lieutenant of my ex?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Could be either. As to the level of risk I cannot state without more information and that should be conveyed through a consultation.

  5. Erin says:

    I really enjoyed this article, H.G., I do hope you will write more on the topic if possible!
    I’m a daughter to a narcissist, perhaps 2 (one passed away, but he might have just been an enabler or simply extremely selfish. I’ll never know for sure), and I have become convinced that the children of narcissists are more likely to have their first “important” intimate relationship with another narcissist.
    I also suspect that children of narcs are more likely to remain childfree, but I have found very little on this issue.
    Personally I realised that my sister and I, who alternate between golden child and scapegoat status, reacted very differently… My sister became one who avoids conflict and is now a devoted mother, very vulnerable to guilt-trips, and overall a fountain of love; I stick to my guns, being borderline rebellious as I don’t bow to authority easily and have ZERO tolerance for emotional blackmail, I also have no great desire for children despite LOVING kids and animals and being extremely ethics-focused and a generally extremely loving person. My sister and I are therefore both empaths, but very, very different nonetheless. It would be interesting to see what elements are in common with different types of adult children of narcissistic parents!
    Thanks again for the article, H.G!
    Have a lovely weekend.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      I will be doing Erin and I am pleased you liked it.

  6. Mizanthrawpik says:

    Also, I would like to add that he was taken/ stolen from me and raised by a Greater narcissist, his grandmother on his fathers side.. His father committed suicide about 17 years ago.

  7. Mizanthrawpik says:

    1. Yes, he left his wife, brought his children with him and moved in with me, his birth mother, he lived with me for two years until he recently bought his own home a few months ago.

    2. His birth mother.. me. I feel I am now in the devaluation, discard area..

    Thank you for your quick response.

  8. Mizanthrawpik says:

    This dynamic of family members as primary sources is an interesting one.

    I would like to ask; if an adult, estranged, narcissistic child who has been gone since infancy and returned as a 25 year old man was brought into the familial fold might he target the youthful parent (which results in more of a peer/ intimate relationship as opposed to a parent-child relationship) as a ‘primary source’. What kind of narcissist would this child be? If that’s even possible to answer, I don’t know..

    Thank you for the great article regardless HG.. very enlightening.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Could you clarify what you mean in the scenario?
      1. Is the estranged narcissist now returned to the family?
      2. When you state he is targeting the youthful parent – do you mean his own parent (who is young) or someone else?

      The school of narcissist would not depend on this dynamic but other factors.

  9. Janet says:

    Are most narcissists in the same family the same type of narcissists? Is it usually the case that they are all dominantly somatic or all dominantly cerebral or are families more of a mixture?

  10. Curious codependent says:

    Is it possible for a mid range cerebral narcissist to be faithful or is there always some element of emotional and or physical infidelity occurring?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Will be faithful during the golden period. During devaluation, the risk of physical intimacy between the cerebral and someone outside of the intimate relationship is lower than that of an elite or somatic but there remains a risk. It is more likely to manifest as sexting with someone else when the narcissist is a Cerebral, or engaging with the third party in a way which would be considered intellectual or emotional infidelity. Of course, as I have written previously, people get more hung up about the physical infidelity than the emotional and intellectual.

  11. MsSevyn says:

    HG, I was the third category you listed with two golden child sisters. I escaped and went NC 10+ years ago. Did my mother turn on either of them for her supply? She doesn’t have a spouse and only complains about my dad behind his back.

  12. CLJ says:

    thank you, HG, that’s helpful

  13. June says:

    My brother was/is the golden child. The scapegoat though…that’s my mother, not me. I’ve always been in a weird limbo. Never the pinnacle of my dad’s expectations and hopes the way my brother is, but never the one who was blamed for everything like my mother.

    I was always a scapegoat for my brother though. When he was in a relatively good mood, he’d say he was kidding. When he wasn’t…that’s when he really got nasty.

    It was strange. I felt like he didn’t even like me, and yet he still wanted me around. A great example is the time when my brother made me set the timer on my phone to make ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that I wouldn’t forget to go outside and get on the four-wheeler with him and his friends…only to make fun of my excited squeals and scared screams the entire ride. The best part was when he said at the end that I was such a baby and asked rhetorically who would want me around. Umm…considering the effort made…YOU, little brother?

    Knowing what I know now though…that must’ve been a fuel-fest. 😀 Positive and negative fuel all in one.

    Knowing really helps me not to take the things he’s said personally. Knowing that it’s not about me, it’s about him and what he needs to fill the void inside him. And probably a bit about keeping me in my place so that it didn’t become his. I wasn’t exactly scapegoat-level tormented, but my brother HATES being laughed at. He likes being the one laughing.

  14. CLJ says:

    HG, I’ve thought predatory narcs as incapable of commiting suicide. even if a narc faced incarceration, it’s hard to imagine them deliberately taking their own life. I realize they may threaten suicide in order to manipulate someone, but are there any circumstances that may drive a narc to suicide (not accidental)?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Hi CLJ, it is very rare but I see two instances where it could happen:-

      1. A major fuel crisis which is not resolved; or
      2. A narcissist who has co-morbid conditions which lend themselves to suicidal ideation.

    2. Scout says:

      A UK GP called Harold Shipman was convicted of killing hundreds of his patients for their money. Definitely NPD psychosis, he resorted to suicide to enable his wife to get the insurance money. I wondered if loss of control was also a factor in his decision…?

      1. HG Tudor says:

        Not quite right Scout. Shipman was convicted of killing 15 of his patients in a criminal court. The public inquiry into his actions identified 218 victims which was suspected to be as high as 250. In the criminal trial the standard of proof is high, namely beyond reasonable doubt hence why a smaller number was chosen for the indictment. In the inquiry a flexible and varied standard was adopted namely ; cases in which the conclusion was that the Chairman was sure that something had happened; that it had probably happened; that it had probably not happened; that she was sure that it had not happened; also cases where it was not possible to reach a conclusion on the evidence. Therefore the standard of proof was lower. Ultimately, wherever the figure lies, it is fair to say he was prolific.

        With regard to his wife, it was reported (although never proved) as it was hearsay evidence that Shipman was considering suicide because if he reached 60 his wife would not have received his NHS pension (he was in his 50s when he committed suicide). It wasn’t insurance money.

        His motivation for killing them was not doing so for their money. He actually stole jewellery from them (which was later recovered so he did not even sell it but kept it as trophies). He did not benefit financially from the vast majority of the killings. He was caught over suspicions about the alteration to a victims’ will. This was done relatively amateurish which was at odds with the convincing mask that Shipman adopted with his patients. Many of them were elderly ( which was the overriding demographic for his victims) and many would call his surgery and would wait a week (back then) to see Shipman, such was his bedside manner, than see another doctor. He was disliked by his colleagues however as he was haughty, quick to temper and dismissive of other people’s opinions. A classic example of the maintenance of the facade with his adoring patients, who he then murdered and the ignition of fury exhibited in front of colleagues who questioned him about medical or administrative matters within the medical practice.

        Some people suggested the error with the will was done so he would be caught. I reject that suggestion. More likely he wanted the financial pay-off because he wanted to retire and the fact that he had killed scores of people without any hint of suspicion, allied with his natural sense of entitlement and lack of accountability will have caused him to think he was untouchable. I also think his suicide arose from his fuel crisis and the fact that ultimately he wanted to remain untouchable and beyond justice, so he committed suicide. Certainly many of his victims’ families were upset and angry that he evaded serving a prison sentence of any length and also that suspected victims did not see criminal convictions against him. He is the most prolific serial killer in British history.

      2. Scout says:

        Hello HG, I stand corrected on my fundamental errors about the Shipman murders. I forgot about the trophies… I agree with your assessment on Shipman’s forged signature on the will and his reasons for doing it. What was so insidious about this case was the quiet manner of the murders; there was no gratuitous, sexual violence and hasty body disposals like the West and Moors murders. I remember people trying to grapple with the probable numbers of Shipman’s victims… Whatever was going on in that deluded head he maintained control to the end.
        P.S. there is a gent from my former neighbourhood who is the spitting image of Shipman. Sends shivers down my spine whenever I see him.

        1. HG Tudor says:

          Hi Scout, yes insidious is an apt description.

  15. MLA - Clarece says:

    Very nicely done HG! As you say, many people come here because of an adult intimate relationship leaving them wrecked with no closure. Then like an onion petal, the layers keep peeling back and things can get traced back to a parent, sibling, step parent, grandparent, etc., that also existed in their life at some point.
    I’m heartbroken reading the experiences from some of the readers who’ve had Narc Mothers. (Sarabella, K, Narc Angel, 12345, ABB to name some).
    Just like dying children have the Make a Wish Foundation to fulfill a wish before they pass, I wish I could make an experience for these strong women to go back in a time machine to an age of their choosing for one month, and have a compassionate, loving mother tend to them so they could experience that. Then they could have that contrast. Like Christine Louis Canonville said in her interview with Bree Bonchay, so many victims that come to her for therapy in dealing with a Narc mother, have absolutely no clue what a good mother would even be like.
    You shedding more light on this will only help to get voices heard and educate more!!

  16. A.R. says:

    Thank you HG for discussing the familial bond of narcissism.
    I have no idea when I was being devalued by my father, when I was being seduced (without physical consummation), or at what times he was inducing his elixir.
    I do know he triangulated me with my mother. I know that ever since he left me at the age of 10yrs, I have had to hurdle the obstacles of competition that were his new girlfriends/wives just so I could get to be with him.
    When he lived with us, i was by his side almost always…and when he left it’s as if I never existed.
    Every relationship I have ever had since that time has been in hopes of recreating the desperation & craving i had after he left so I can somehow recreate & resolve the ending.. .finding some closure.
    Goddamn, I hate figuring this out and hurting so much.
    There hasn’t been a single therapist/counsellor, whatever, who has been able to help me see this as clearly.
    Im sick about how vulnerable I feel right now & how sick I truly am and how skewed my perceptions are.
    I hate him for being a narcissist & how he’ll never be able to see this or change.
    I know now I have to change.
    I resent having to be responsible for unravelling the illness of others that was put on me & in me like an injection of some kind.
    I hate how I won’t be able to find the closure I need & that I won’t be able to go NC with him because of the ways I’ve been so deeply manipulated. It’s not fair.
    I never got to be me.

  17. Nicole says:

    How is the golden child selected? Is it usually the same sex child or the oldest or just whoever gives the best fuel?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      That is a good question. Where I have seen golden children I have looked for similarities but I have seen instances where the children are of similar ability but on is chosen as the golden child, I have seen where the less able was selected as golden child, I have see the eldest or elder and also youngest and younger, or a middle child too, selected. It is evident that there will be a logic to the narcissist as how he or she sees that child as golden – it might be because they are the first born, or because they are the most able, or perhaps it is because they look most like the narcissist but I see that it varies from family to family.

      1. Nicole says:

        HG, Thank you for your well thought out response. I am pretty sure that my ex fiancé is a golden child. He is the only boy and the oldest in his family. He’s a clone of his father. Growing up, his father was his Boy Scouts troupe leader and made sure my ex became an Eagle Scout. My ex went to the same college, joined the same faternity and now has the same occupation as his father. His father calls him his “buddy” and he is 29.

    2. MsSevyn says:

      Nicole, I’ve always wondered that too. I was the eldest and the black sheep because she said I was just like my dad. My earliest memories are being defiant and standing up to her. My younger sisters were easy to handle and worshipped the ground she walks on. She said they woke up smiling.

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