The Narcissist Keeps 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.

23 thoughts on “The Narcissist Keeps It In the Family

  1. Zoe says:

    The narcissist I’m dealing with has a family filled with narcissists. His favorite is his brother and the brother’s wife who are well off and also both narcissists. Of course they did not like me. HG do you know why they didn’t like me from the moment they laid eyes on me? And how will their relationship evolve as they get old and grey?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You were seen as a threat to control, unconsciously.

  2. Fiddleress says:

    (Ha, lickemtomorrow, today is Mother’s Day over here – always hated that day, even as a mother myself.)

    I am sorry that your experience with your mother still cuts close to the bone. But thank you for sharing.
    I stopped seeing my mother eleven years ago. I had been putting up with her abuse for too long already, and I could see that she was manipulating my own daughter and setting her against me. That was the last straw. She had tried with my son before, but it never worked with him.
    So I went no-contact with my mother (that was some battle), starting a year after my brother had done so. Then I read a book byf a famous psychiatrist and psychotherapist whose books on narcissism were beginning to have quite an audience here. There was no question whatsoever that my mother was a narcissist. She ticked all the boxes. But that understanding was not enough to shield me from subsequent N encounters – at least one. What HG writes further confirms what my mother was/is, with far more insight (psychiatrists’ accounts are too impersonal).

    Good on you for being able to avoid people that you felt were not right for you. My narcdar was fitted the wrong way round and always went: “Oh, look, here comes the man of your dreams!”. So I am reprogramming it to go: “Mirage ahead, just drive on”.

    Also, being here has given me the definite answer to a question I had, sometimes, briefly: “should I get in touch with my mother again? She is getting old”, etc. The answer is a definite and resounding NO.
    Not long ago, I wrote about her here, extensively, and then was upset for 24 hours, even after all that time. But it didn’t last.
    It does take time to cool off when you have recently become aware of what the hell it was you were subjected to, and I wish you all the best in this too. Having a narc mother is no bloody fun (I like understatements).

    1. lickemtomorrow says:

      Oh my gosh, Fiddleress, I had no idea Mother’s Day was coming up somewhere in the world! I hope that wasn’t too impactful, though it sounds like you’ve done what was right for you and left your mother and her antics behind long ago. Her bringing the children into it I’m sure is another favourite and underhand tactic (i.e. triangulation). Those manipulations know no bounds … even when it comes to their own grandchildren. And I’m sure she would have loved to try and turn them against you. The no contact option is the best way to keep everyone safe.

      I went no contact with my mother almost two years ago. Prior to that we had a family crisis which forced contact again, but before those 6 months I had also been out of contact for about two years. The reason for that is I challenged my mother and the whole family just stopped talking to me. That’s what they do, and I now understand these silent treatments for what they are. It was to bring me to heel, and for once that wasn’t going to happen. It was only the crisis that brought about contact again. Ever hopeful, I thought that could bring us all closer. Now I am not just resigned, but at peace with the fact I will probably never see or speak to my mother again before she dies. I have no qualms about that. Not with what I know now. I have a brother and sister who she has favoured and who are in a position to care for her/cater to her needs. I’ve cut all ties. It’s not what I wanted to do. It’s what I had to do. Enough is enough.

      They, and many others, will never see her for what she is and she’s been very effective at maintaining her facade. I will always look like the ‘bad child’, so might as well seal that deal by going no contact permanently. There nothing to gain by continued engagement except more hurt and frustration. And I won’t accept the on again/off again scenario depending on whether what I say is deemed acceptable. It seems like I’m the only one who is ever held to account.

      I like the idea of ‘mirage ahead’ and I was just talking about the desert here the other day 🙂 I think my narcdar was finely tuned for other women in my life, but the men never seemed to cause a blip … so I was probably a lot like you in that respect, too. “Come get me” was the sign I must have had plastered on my back!

      I’m glad you had a chance to lay down that burden in relation to your mother here. It is upsetting as we recall all the events, but good to know the effects of that don’t last. I think what I’m feeling is vindicated right now, as well as validated. For all the times no one saw what I saw and thought I was wrong. They may never know, but at least here we are able to acknowledge all we went through … the reality of it, the pain belonging to it, and the need to get to the other side. Good to know you are so far along in your journey. I’m moving along as we speak <3

      1. Fiddleress says:

        No problem about mentioning Mother’s Day! It didn’t bother me in the least.

        You are quite right to have no qualms re your mother. I don’t either, no anymore. My brother and I – I only have a brother – were the only ones who understood what she was. Her façade is perfect. She managed to set the rest of the family against us, so they can take care of her since they chose her side. I think she is a Mid-Ranger.

        Now that you mention the desert… I wonder if I see my life as a romantic desert and the only ones that will appear along the way are narcs, to be avoided? Well, a desert for the coming months, anyway. No problem.

        About moving along, I had these lyrics from a song by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on my mind this morning:
        “I am alone, I am beyond recriminations,
        The curtains are shut, the furniture is gone,
        Look at me now, I’m flying, look at me now!”
        (Jubilee Street)

        1. lickemtomorrow says:

          Thanks, Fiddleress, and I very much appreciate your sharing again around your situation with your mother. It’s a very hard thing to admit that you lack that connection and have made the decision to walk away. It does help to know others have experienced the same thing and had to make the same difficult choices.

          It is amazing how well hidden they remain within the family, too, but being a mid ranger has probably kept her safe and I’ll guess my mother is the same.

          I’m with you on the desert for time being, and avoiding those mirages at all costs! HG has sunk a nice deep well for us to drink from while we’re here so let me just lower that bucket again and see what I can pull up from the well today 😉

          Love those words from the Nick Cave song, btw, and thanks for that added bit of inspiration today <3

          1. Fiddleress says:

            And a telling Freudian slip there on my part?
            The lyrics are actually: “I am alone now” – forgot the ‘now’, which is important in the sentence I think; as if I always was alone. Which is not the case, there are plenty of voices whirling through my mind all the time!

  3. Fiddleress says:

    Thank you for this article. It is great to hear that it will be detailed in due course, and I look forward to reading it.

  4. Renarde says:

    Oh dear. Being the child of two narc parents almost destroyed me. My ex almost finished me off.

    My parents are in a marriage of convenience. PN needs my mum because he is lazy. Mum needs his money. It’s as simple as that.

    Growing up, mum would defer to him for everything. This I guess is unusual narc behaviour, the susceding of control. But she knew which side her bread was buttered.

    But my god could she get angry. I had a habit as a child of hiding under my brother’s cot. She used to drag me out by my ankle. Many many years later, I was having sexy fun times with the ex. A thunderstorm was going on. For some reason I stopped. Attempted to crawl across the bed. Get away.

    He then grabbed me by my ankle and hauled me back. In a completely reflex action, I slapped him as hard as I could around the face.

    We looked at each other. I immediately apologised. What my ex had done, inadvertently, had stumbled across one of my PTSD triggers. I was of course punished for that because he was also my Dom.

    I am now talking to both my parents. My mums lack of empathy is astounding. She can trot out some of the right things but there is no emotional intelligence behind them. She sounds nervous. Why? She has to mirror and when she is asked open ended questions with regards to empathy, she really struggles.

    PN is more switched on. He did like my story about my ‘friend’ the other day. At one point he said, ‘Is this going to be nasty?’. You bet. It involves Alex the Axe. ‘Ha ha’. Yeah PN, ha fucking ha. I dont remember you standing up for me when it concerned my children.

    The point I am making is two fold. 1 – You become fully weaponised then 2- You can treat these miscreants in any way you wish. They are unaware and therefore they behave like toddlers.

    You can do this but only if you dont have any strong, residual emotions attached to them.

    When I think of my parents I feel sadness. A loss. Anger certainly. But no love. Love and hatred are two sides of the same coin. I do not hate them. I pity them. Locked together in a version of Dante’s Inferno.

    Which I now will take advantage of.

  5. hopeless says:


    This post was very helpful. I believe I have a malignant narcissist for a sibling and I believe I have been (I’ve limited contact now) a primary source.

    My sibling is a homosexual and we are of the same sex. I’ve often felt uncomfortable because of the level of intimacy (emotional, not physical closeness) demanded by my sibling.

    I have distanced myself from the relationship but because of aging parents it’s impossible to go no contact. My last interaction generated a rage that I’m still confused about.

    In these situations, when you have to deal with a narc sibling who (after reading your posts) I believe is a mid-range narcissist, how do you engage in interactions without giving fuel. I’ve tried to be very unemotional and focus on the subject but the rages are intensifying. In our last exchange there as a threat of physical violence.


    1. HG Tudor says:

      If you organise a consultation I’ll be able to explain a variety of steps that will help you.

    2. Bubbles 🍾 says:

      Dear hopeless,
      I’ve found many a gay to have narc traits along with hissy fits, I always found leaving them alone in time out and letting them get over their thing worked for me ! 🌈
      Luv Bubbles xx 😘

  6. About the eyes says:

    That is the reason I don’t want to see any members of my family (nieces or nephews) anymore. They were and are used as lieutenants by my N. parents (now deceased) and sister (still very much alive).

    1. hopeless says:

      Do you have contact with your N sibling? If so, how do you interact with them without be subjected to rages, threats, and name calling?

  7. FYC says:

    HG, Is the Aquaphor in the knapsack a clue?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      No, Fyc, it is not.

      1. FYC says:

        HG, Thank you for the confirmation. It just seemed an unusual addition to the image so I thought it might be. This is a very important post (one I can particularly appreciate) and I did not mean to detract from it with this question.

  8. Empath007 says:

    I never met my narcs family. I used to Feel so insulted by that… now I’m so happy he kept me separate, as well as me and his friends. Less people to have to deal with in the aftermath. Thank goodness for that compartmentalization.

  9. Pingback: The Narcissist Keeps It In the Family ⋆ NarcTopia
  10. lickemtomorrow says:

    How wonderful, HG! I was hoping you would bring this familial element into focus at some stage. I read about it in Loved and Loathed and thought it was brilliant. And also very hard hitting. I appreciate the fact you pull no punches – this is especially with regard to incest. Always a difficult topic to talk about and confront, you do it with the ease of the logical mind trying to bring forth understanding. It is a hugely emotional topic and devastating to contemplate.

    I could resonate with much of the article, but what stood out particularly for me was this:

    “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.”

    My mother was the narcissist. My brother and sister were her ‘flying monkeys’. Everything you said here is correct and corresponds directly with my experience. I was made the scapegoat/black sheep and paid a very high price for being the only empath in the immediate family. We were in many ways isolated (some of it at my mother’s behest) from extended family. I guess this was a manner of her keeping control, though I had never thought about it that way before. There is so much more I could say, but it will take a book to finally rid myself of these demons.

    So the one thing I would like to say is thank you. I’m so glad you have brought this to our attention.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are welcome.

    2. Fiddleress says:

      lickemtomorrow: we have one more thing in common, besides pride: a narcissist mother.
      I could totally relate to what you said about being the scapegoat/black sheep, and the only empath in the immediate family.
      May I ask you how you came to know about your mother being a narcissist?

      1. lickemtomorrow says:

        Hi Fiddleress, and though I’m sorry you had the same experience, I appreciate you sharing. This one cuts close to the bone for me as I’m sure it does with you. It will take a long time to get over.

        I’ve spent most of my life staggering from narcissistic blow to another. As HG so eloquently explains on so many occasions, we are generally left ‘in a spin’ when it comes to narcs. There is no rhyme or reason (from our perspective) as to why they make us feel the way we do, why they treat us the way they do, and how they get to us the way they do.

        My most recent relationship is what has opened my eyes to this reality.

        During that relationship I had begun investigating the notion of narcissism after a friend was stung badly in the context of a relationship. My instincts had already told me something was badly wrong and I had stepped away from this person much earlier. Although I could never point to narcissism per se, I generally had a gut instinct when it came to people and knew which ones to avoid or that they were ‘game players’. I just didn’t have a name for them.

        Anyway, that situation opened up the can of worms that is narcissism, and I slowly began to put things together as I understood the dynamics. When it came to my mother, I could never put my finger on what was ‘wrong’ with me, though instinctively I knew there was something wrong with my mother. Due to her efforts, the problem always appeared to be with me.

        So, as a conclusion to that long winded explanation, the opening of my eyes to the whole narcissistic dynamic has come only very recently, but all the pieces fit together. There’s no denying it, and it makes perfect sense. For once, my whole life actually makes sense. Previously, I knew that relationship didn’t feel right, but now I’m.finally enlightened as to why it didn’t feel right. I was the victim of a narcissistic mother.

        Several years ago, one of the first pieces I wrote involved this issue (even though I didn’t know what it was then). The focus was on Mother’s Day and of course others wrote these lovely flowery pieces about mothers. My piece opened up the world on this dynamic and the sentence I ended the piece with was “Jennifer hated her mother”. Happy Mother’s Day 🙂

        I’m not sure how long you’ve been aware, but my awareness as you can see now, Fiddleress, is only very recent. I’d be interested to know how long your awareness has been raised. Going by my account, it can take a while.

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